Belfast Telegraph

Bronze bust of Great War VC hero to be erected in Lurgan after public raises £25,000

By Brett Campbell

A bronze memorial will be erected in the home town of a First World War hero from Co Armagh who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously.

A bust of Private William McFadzean will be installed on a granite plinth in Lurgan close to where the 36th Ulster Division soldier was born.

Secretary of the William McFadzean Victoria Cross (WMVC) Memorial Group Lexi Davidson praised the generosity of the public who have been engaged in fundraising efforts.

"We set this group up last year with a target of £25,000 and we have almost achieved that," he said.

"It demonstrates how strongly people feel about remembering the selfless sacrifice which William made and now it will never be forgotten."

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council granted planning permission for the sculpture, which will soon be erected at High Street in the town.

The WMVC Memorial Society commissioned Scottish artist Helen Runciman to create the tribute to "a true soldier of Ulster" who gave his life in the Battle of the Somme.

A hundred limited edition miniature cold cast replicas, which are available for pre-order, have almost sold out.

The eight inch busts are on sale for £120.

"We were lucky to unearth previously unseen pictures of William which are owned by a private collector," Mr Davidson said.

"The precision involved means it's a slow process, but it's going into the foundry next month."

The sculpture will be unveiled on October 9 on the street where William was born on the same day in 1895.

His father William, a linen yarn salesman from Dundalk, and mother Annie later moved to the Cregagh area of Belfast and became worshippers at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church.

Young William took up an apprentice at Spence Bryson & Co Ltd on Great Victoria Street after leaving Mountpottinger School in 1908.

His build and height saw him excel playing junior rugby for Collegians, but his physique also marked him out as a bomber when he enlisted into the 14th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles on September 22, 1914.

Within two years he was preparing for an attack on the assembly trenches close to the front line in Thiepval.

On July 1, 1916 a box of grenades which were being distributed among the men fell resulting in several safety pins becoming detached.

With no regard for himself, McFadzean threw himself on top of the bombs before they exploded and was killed instantly.

Although one other man was injured, McFadzean's courage and sacrifice saved the lives of all the other soldiers in the crowded trench.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition of the "most conspicuous bravery" and is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme at Thiepval.

A citation, printed in the London Gazette on September 9 1916, stated that "he well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment's hesitation he gave his life for his comrades".

The medal was presented to his father by King George V at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on Saturday, February 28, 1917.

His was the first of four VCs awarded to the 36th Ulster Division for heroic actions on the same day.

Belfast Telegraph

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