Belfast Telegraph

New book to tell stories of blue plaque recipients

By Amanda Poole

When your eye is drawn to one of the Ulster History Circle’s commemorative blue plaques do you instantly recognise the name of the person being honoured ...or are you left scratching your head?

If it’s the latter, then help is now at hand.

A new pocket guide detailing the achievements of 115 blue plaque figures whose remarkable lives span six centuries was launched at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast last night.

The guide lists the men and women who have contributed to our heritage and history and where in our villages, towns and cities their blue plaque can be found.

Ulster History Circle member Wesley McCann, who edited the new guide, said it was important that people who made a significant contribution to our life and culture are remembered regardless of the current level of their fame.

“The people honoured have made a real contribution to all our heritage and history.

“Some are world renowned, such as Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and CS Lewis.

“Others are little known outside their own community, but nevertheless deserve to be remembered for what they achieved.”

Mr McCann said the new guide is a valuable resource for residents, historians, academics and tourists.

“It’s a 36-page pamphlet that covers from our very beginning in 1983 to the end of 2009.

“It’s in a pocket book format, so it’s very easy to carry.

“People can pick up a copy from all libraries, museums and tourism centres.”

For further information visit www.ulsterhistory.co.uk.

JAMES JOHNSTON 1903-1991

Plaque at: 55 Knock Road, Belfast

Leading tenor James Johnston was the son of a Belfast butcher who had no formal musical training but starred in more than 850 performances in 24 leading roles at Sadler’s Wells. His final performance at Covent Garden was in a production of Carmen in 1958. After that he returned to his butcher’s shop in Sandy Row.

TIMOTHY EATON 1834-1907

Plaque at: 48 Main Street, Portglenone

Eaton was born near Ballymena and emigrated to Canada as a young man. With his two brothers he opened a general shop in St Mary’s, Ontario. In 1868 he moved to Toronto where he set up a store based on the principle of cash sales at fixed prices. This developed into one of the biggest department stores in North America.

FRANCIS CHESNEY 1789-1872

Plaque at: 6 Sabbath Road, Kilkeel

Born near Annalong, Co. Down, Chesney went to Egypt in 1829 to explore the possibilities of Egyptian and Syrian routes to India and reported the feasibility of a Suez Canal. The French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps undertook the project and at the opening, on November 17, 1869, referred to Chesney as ‘the Father of the Canal’.

BARNEY HUGHES 1808-1878

Plaque at: 11 College Sq North, Belfast

Born in Armagh, Barney Hughes had become Belfast’s leading baker by the 1840s. He produced cheaper bread for the populace during the Famine and became best known for ‘Barney’s bap’. A philanthropist and the first Catholic councillor, his hatred of sectarianism and attempts at mediation won the admiration of his fellow citizens.

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