Belfast Telegraph

Belfast family's pride in relative who gave his all

By Nevin Farrell

A proud relative of one of the first men from the island of Ireland to sign up to fight the Germans in 1914 is tonight due to take part in a candlelit vigil at Belfast City Hall to remember his sacrifice.

Private William Mulholland left Cavendish Street in the Falls Road area of the city, on this day 100 years ago – the day war was declared.

And little did the 26-year-old policeman know then what his fate would be but just three months later he was killed at the first battle of Ypres on November 6, 2014.

The soldier – who despite having such a short military career had already picked up three medals including the Star of Mons – was the great uncle of Belfast woman Margaret Harrison (48) and she is proud of his sacrifice.

"William was one of the first people to leave from these shores to take part in World War One and in fact left on the first day of the conflict and to mark that I have already bought my candle from Marks & Spencer and will attend a candlelit vigil in his memory at City Hall," explained Margaret.

William was part of the British Expeditionary Force which first set off to mainland Europe.

He was born in Sligo in 1886 and in 1908 joined the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in which his father had also been a member.

The RIC had an association with the British Army in the years before the war and William was one of just 70 police officers in Ireland called up on the first day of the declaration of hostilities.

In a poignant letter home, written on October 19, 2014, William wrote: "There are plenty of police from Ireland out here. The first man to be killed was an RIC man named Molloy from Co Fermanagh.

"I hope it will soon be all over, and that we will get back safe and sound to our old comrades again. We will, with God's help."

Soldiers' stories

Ulsterman Sir John Dill was one of the most celebrated soldiers ever in the British Army, having been mentioned in despatches eight times during the First World War. The son of a Lurgan bank manager, Dill later headed Britain’s joint staff mission to Washington in the Second World War and was buried with military honours at Arlington National Cemetery.

John Meeke was a true blue Ulsterman who will be forever remembered for trying to save the life of famous republican Willie Redmond at Messines in June 1917. Meeke, a stretcher bearer, was injured but went to the wounded Republican MP’s aid on the battlefield. Redmond died several hours later, but Meeke survived.

Best friends James Taylor and Billy Ferguson joined up on the same day and pleaded with the authorities to keep them together. However, it didn’t happen and Billy was killed four years later. James survived and spent a lifetime seeking Billy’s last resting place. In 1996, at the age of 98, he finally found his old friend’s grave.

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