Belfast Telegraph

Co-op admits 11ft war memorial dating back to 1920 is missing from former York Street store

By Rebecca Black

A war memorial built to mark the sacrifice of shop workers who died fighting in the First World War has disappeared.

The 11ft tall oak, bronze and brass statue was commissioned by the Co-operative in Belfast to commemorate its employees who died in the Great War.

It was unveiled in 1920 in the form of an island pedestal gracing the entrance lobby of the former Co-op store on York Street.

In an article about its unveiling on Wednesday 22, 1920, the Belfast Telegraph described it as being four feet square at the base, standing 11 feet high.

At the angles of the base were four circular Corinthian columns with panelling between each of the four sides.

It bore the names of the 12 local Co-op employees who died in the First World War, as well as the 64 survivors.

Those who died were John Alexander, Robert J Ball, Joseph Donnelly, Charles Elder, Arnold Hayden, Thomas Magowan, Alexander Morrow, Thomas Moore, James Ruddick, Robert Wallace, Thomas Wardlow and Thomas Watson.

The Co-op memorial stood proudly in the York Street store until June 1990 when it was placed into storage at the Co-operative Distribution Centre and Head Office in a Carrickfergus industrial estate.

However, it has now come to light that it has since disappeared. Erskine Holmes from the Northern Ireland Co-operative Society urged anyone with information about the memorial's whereabouts to come forward.

"We intend to replace the plaques with the names at least," he told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

"We have nowhere to focus on Armistice Day although the stores observe a two-minute silence."

A spokesman for the Co-operative Group confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that the memorial has gone missing.

"Regrettably the War Memorial appears to be missing and we are currently considering what is the best course of action going forward," he said.

Background

The Co-operative converted a former Gallaher's tobacco factory in York Street to create its main base in Belfast from around 1910. From 1920, a war memorial took pride of place facing the main entrance. The island pedestal bore the names of 12 local Co-op workers who died in the war and 64 survivors. The memorial survived the Belfast Blitz and a massive IRA bomb in 1972. In June 1990, the York Street store closed down and the memorial was then placed into storage. But since then it has disappeared.

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