Private Robert Morrow V.C.
The Newmills War Hero
Memorials : The Newmills Memorial
Within days of the war starting, villages across Britain were compiling lists of their men who were in the armed forces and posting their names in churches and newspapers. As the war continued, these slowly turned into lists of casualties.
Within a few years of the war ending, almost every town and village in the country had its war memorial, as did schools and factories to record the names of those who did not return. This was something the old soldiers could accommodate and each Remembrance Day became an opportunity for private grief and public pride.
Within days of the war starting, villages across Britain were compiling lists of their men who were in the armed forces and posting their names in churches and newspapers. As the war continued, these slowly turned into lists of casualties.
Within a few years of the war ending, almost every town and village in the country had its war memorial, as did schools and factories to record the names of those who did not return. This was something the old soldiers could accommodate and each Remembrance Day became an opportunity for private grief and public pride.
Newmills Village
The first mention of erecting a memorial to Private Robert Morrow V.C. appeared in the Tyrone Courier dated 23 September 1915. The newspaper report (Figure 8.01) mentions that a committee had been formed by the people of Newmills to receive subscriptions towards the memorial.
On the 20th January 1916 there was a report in the Tyrone Courier which gave details of the Morrow Memorial Fund, as it was to be called (Figure 8.02). It was decided a scheme should be set on foot for the perpetuation of Robert Morrow's memory. It was agreed that a subscription list should be opened to provide funds for a suitable monument to be erected in Newmills, his home being in the immediate neighbourhood, and also to provide some increase in income for his widowed mother who lives alone on a small farm, and is practically dependent on her own exertions. The committee stated:
'She is advanced in years, and the committee feel that the mother of such a gallant young Irishman should be placed in a position of comparative comfort for the remainder of her days.'
The committee appealed to the people of Tyrone to come forward and assist them by their valued contributions to bring this projected memorial to a successful conclusion and said they were confident the appeal would not be made in vain.
Subscriptions were to be sent to the treasurers Messrs Robert Daniel J.P., Derryvale; or Anthony Dudgeon, Gortin House, Coalisland. Donations could also be forwarded through the Tyrone Courier newspaper office in Dungannon. Both were prominent members of the local community.
So from the initial idea of simply creating a monument it was decided to ask for annual subscriptions which would initially build a memorial and thereafter help support Mrs Morrow.
Less than a month later, on 17th February 1916, a 'second' list of donations was printed in the Courier (Figure 8.03). It is believed the 'first' list of donations was an initial swathe of donations when the committee was formed in September.
One month later, on 16h March 1916, a third list of subscriptions was published. (Figure 8.04).
No more reports appeared in the local newspaper about the Memorial until 21st March 1918 when a final list of subscriptions was published. (Figure 8.05). Amongst the more interesting aspects of this is a reference to a payment of 48 pounds to Purdy and Millard on 18th December for the Monument. It is not possible to say if this was the balance in full or a deposit.
The monument was designed and prepared by Messrs Purdy & Millard, Howard Street, Belfast. Purdy and Millard was founded by two English born architectural sculptors, Gabriel Fisher Purdy (1850-1920) and Charles Turner Millard (1852-1938) who relocated to Belfast before 1880.
advertvertisement placed in a local newspaper by Purdy and Millard, Sculptors, Howard Street, Belfast
The company had worked on other monuments and memorials. One of these was the Scottish Provident Institution in Donegal Square, Belfast, where they created the carvings on the front of the building. They also worked on the chancel furniture in St Anne's Church, Dungannon in 1910. Purdy & Millard had also apparently built the heated swimming pool on the ill-fated Titanic. It was the first of its kind on a luxury ocean liner.
In comparison to the Dungannon Memorial (1922), the Moy Memorial (1925), the Cookstown Memorial (1927) and the Stewartstown Memorial in (1921), the Newmills Monument was completed in remarkably quick time.
The monument itself was described as about 12 feet in height, and composed of finely axed Newry granite, standing on a 3ft 8in. square base, surmounted by two unpolished bases supporting the dies tone and shaft. The die stone is polished.
The Memorial to Private Robert Morrow VC in Newmills Village
A report in the Newsletter on 16th July 1918 reveals the memorial was unveiled in July 1918. (Figure 8.06). It was erected in the middle of the village of New Mills and was within sight of Robert's birthplace at Sessia. The memorial project took less than three years from it its initial inception in September 1915 to its unveiling.
In the village of Newmills, County Tyrone, within sight of his birthplace at Sessia, a memorial has been erected to the late Private Robert Morrow, V.C., 1st Battalion (Princess Victoria's) Royal Irish Fusiliers, who obtained the V.C. for his gallantry at Messines on 12th April 1915, but was killed at St Julien on 25th April. His was the first V.C. ever bestowed on the old 87th, and Private Morrow has also been awarded the Medal of St George by the ex-Emperor of Russia. The project of a memorial was warmly taken up by the people of the locality. The monument, which was designed and prepared by Messrs Purdy & Millard of Howard Street, Belfast, is about twelve feet in height.
On the front face which is raised in relief the crest of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, surmounting the following inscription:-
To the Memory
Of
Private Robert Morrow V.C.,
1st Royal Irish Fusiliers,
honoured by his King
for gallantry at Messines,
Flanders, 12th April 1915.
Inscrption on the Memorial to Private Robert Morrow VC in Newmills Village
Not everyone was happy with the memorial however. A letter to the Editor of the Tyrone Courier which was published on Thursday 4 September 1919 (Figure 8.07) expressed some reservations. The letter came from Delmege Trimble, who was the Assistant Editor of the 'Faugh-A-Ballagh' at the time. The 'Faugh-A-Ballagh was the newsletter of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, based in Armagh.
"Dear Sir, I only saw the monument erected to the late Private Robert Morrow, V.C., the other day and I was very much surprised to see that the inscription (1) did not state he was a native of Newmills and (2) did not describe the deed of great gallantry for which he received the Victoria Cross. This was (I quote the official word of the London Gazette) – 'For most conspicuous bravery near Messines on 12th April 1915, when he rescued and carried successively to places of comparative safety several men who had been buried in the debris in the trenches wrecked by shell fire.' The words on the Monument 'Decorated by the King for gallantry' do not describe the great bravery of a man in digging comrades out of dug-outs in the trenches wrecked by shell fire under a rain of shells. I trust the local people will have the omission remedied and the deed of the villager fully stated. Yours faithfully, Delmege Trimble."
The VC Memorial became the focus of the annual Remembrance Day commemorations thereafter for the village and remains to this day, when the wreath laying ceremony takes place in November every year.
On 3rd November 1988 however, only a week before the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, the memorial was accidentally smashed by a petrol tanker. The driver of the large petrol carrying lorry was negotiating a bend in the centre of the village when the side of the large vehicle caught the memorial and brought it crashing to the ground.
The local postmaster, Carl Robinson, stated that it was the third time the memorial had been knocked down. Although details of the previous two events are vague, it is reported that a tractor was involved in one of the incidents.
The petrol tanker which caused the damage was owned by Burmah Oil Company and Mr Robinson stated that the company had undertaken to have the memorial restored. Dungannon District Council workmen replaced part of the stonework to leave it ready for the wreath laying event, Mr Robinson added.
Damage to  the Memorial to Private Robert Morrow VC in Newmills Village
The incident was reported in the Tyrone Courier dated Wednesday 9th November 1988 with the headline "Newmills Memorial Smashed – but Remembrance Day goes on." (Figure 8.08)
Robert Morrow V.C. © 2015-18
National lottery