Williamite soldier to get Shankill memorial

Sam Coulter (left) and Bobby Foster at the Shankill Graveyard where a tablet will be erected in memory of Williamite soldier Corporal William Smith
Sam Coulter (left) and Bobby Foster at the Shankill Graveyard where a tablet will be erected in memory of Williamite soldier Corporal William Smith

One of King William’s troops will have his final resting place marked with a memorial tablet following a chance discovery by the Orange Order and a Belfast historian.

Corporal William Smith died while serving with the Williamite army as it prepared to face King James at the Battle of the Boyne.

‘Afterwards Rev Davies said he proceeded into the town to watch the King’s artillery’

Belfast historian Bobby Foster

His death in June 1690 had remained unnoticed and forgotten until the trustees of West Belfast Orange Hall and Bobby Foster found a reference to the Shankill Graveyard in a clergyman’s journal.

The Very Reverend Rowland Davies LL.D, chaplain to the Williamite cavalry who later became the Dean of Cork, records how he was tasked to carry out the burial service at Shankill.

Rev Davies’ journal covers the period March 1688 to September 1690 and is of great historical significance.

Mr Foster helped examine the journal’s contents and said the exciting discovery highlights the importance of the once vast burial ground.

“Back then, the Shankill was a hefty size of a graveyard and covered a large area of the Farset River that Belfast is built on. In his entry for June 10, 1690, Rev Davies said: ‘In the afternoon I went to the mountain’s foot to bury Corporal Smith of Captain Coote’s troop, which I did at an old burying place, within one half mile of Belfast, called Shankill’. Afterwards he said he proceeded into the town to watch the King’s artillery coming though,” Mr Foster added.

The memorial stone will be placed adjacent to a known grave marked by a sandstone headstone from the same era. Rev Davies – whose daughter Martha was married to the army officer and ‘traitor’ of the Siege of Derry, Robert Lundy – also wrote of the burial: “At rest within sight of an Orange encampment; at rest in the company of fellow comrades through the ages; at rest neath the shade of the trees.”

As well as the Williamite troops, and at least one Boer War veteran, the ancient graveyard contains the remains and headstone of Sergeant John Brown of the 17th Lancers who took part in one of the most famous cavalry charges in military history – the 1854 ‘Charge of the Light Brigade.’

The marble tablet in memory of Cpl Smith will be unveiled at a service carried out by Rev Dr William J Malcolmson, chairman of the trustees, on July 12 at 2pm.

• Meanwhile, Williamite history is being brought to life in Co Antrim on Saturday (June 13) with a parade and pageant to commemorate the 325th anniversary of the King’s landing at Carrickfergus.

Re-enactors in period costume will leave the town hall at 12.20pm and parade to the castle. Afterwards, King William, along with dragoons and foot soldiers, will make his way through the town to Marine Gardens.