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Plaque and statue for Somme hero who won Victoria Cross

By Cate McCurry

Published 28/06/2016

The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Robert Quigg during the royal couple’s coronation visit to NI in 1953
The Duke of Edinburgh talks to Robert Quigg during the royal couple’s coronation visit to NI in 1953
Hero: Private Robert Quigg

A Somme hero who went into no man's land seven times to search for his commanding officer will today be remembered in the Co Antrim village where he lived.

A blue plaque will be erected to honour Robert Quigg almost 100 years to the day his bravery won him the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will also unveil a bronze statue to the hero in a separate ceremony in Bushmills, which was his hometown.

The life-size statue of the Causeway coast's Somme hero was created by renowned sculptor David Annand.

Robert Quigg's niece, Jean Gibson, will unveil the Ulster History Circle blue plaque outside the school that he attended as a young boy.

The new statue will be in the centre of the village, looking towards the war memorial that commemorates more than 20 of his local comrades who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Mr Quigg was born in 1885, in the townland of Ardihennon, and attended the school from 1892 until 1898, after which he worked around local farms and then on the nearby Macnaghten estate.

When the Great War started in August 1914, Robert enlisted in the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles.

Mr Quigg was awarded the Victoria Cross for the most "conspicuous bravery" on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

His citation described how he advanced to assault the German lines with his platoon three times.

Early the next morning, after hearing a rumour that his platoon officer was lying wounded in no man's land, he went out seven times to look for him, under heavy shell and machine gun fire, each time bringing back a wounded man.

He dragged the last man in on a waterproof sheet from within a few yards of the start of the enemy's position.

Mr Quigg worked to find the officer for seven hours, eventually becoming so exhausted he had to give up.

The platoon officer was Sir Harry Macnaghten, the son of Lady Macnaghten, who owned the estate on which Robert worked before the war. His body was never found, but Sir Harry is remembered at the Thiepval Memorial in France.

In January 1917, Mr Quigg returned to a hero's welcome in Bushmills after being presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Sandringham.

Lady Macnaghten presented her former employee with a gold watch for his efforts to find her son.

Robert lived in the Bushmills area until his death on May 14, 1955. He was buried two days later with full military honours at Billy Parish Church. His headstone is etched with the words: "In memory of Sergeant Robert Quigg, Royal Irish Rifles, who won the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery at the Battle of the Somme."

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: "Robert Quigg is being commemorated almost 100 years to the day his valour won him the Victoria Cross.

"On a day of commemorations in the Bushmills area, the Ulster History Circle is delighted to honour this hero of the Somme with a blue plaque placed on the former Causeway National School, which he attended as a boy.

"The circle would particularly like to thank the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards the plaque."

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