Town Victoria Cross hero to be honoured with special paving stone

William McFadzean INLM32-017
William McFadzean INLM32-017

Lurgan’s Victoria Cross hero William Frederick (Billy) McFadzean (20) is to be honoured by a special paving stone in the town of his birth.

On Monday night the borough council decided to take up the offer by the British Government for a special stone to be laid in the home town of every UK soldier awarded the VC, as part of World War One centenary events.

The provision of the stones will begin next year with 28 unveiled throughout the UK, and that of Rifleman McFadzean will be provided on July 1, 2016, the 100th anniversary of his heroic death on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

His citation for winning the most prestigious award for gallantry reads – ‘No. 14/18278 Private William Frederick McFadzean, late of the (14th Battalion) Royal Irish Rifles. For most conspicuous bravery. While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack (at Thiepval Wood), the box slipped down into the trench, which was crowded with men, and two of the safety pins fell out.

‘Private McFadzean, instantly realising the danger to his comrades, with heroic courage threw himself on the top of the bombs. The bombs exploded blowing him to pieces, but only one other man was injured. He well knew his danger, being himself a bomber, but without a moment’s hesitation he gave his life for his comrades.’

Private McFadzean’s father was presented with his son’s VC by King George V in Buckingham Palace on 28 February 1917. His Victoria Cross is displayed at The Royal Ulster Rifles Museum in Belfast.

Councillor Carla Lockhart said she had been in touch with the relevant authorities to ensure that the scheme included Northern Ireland VC winners. She added, “William McFadzean’s birthplace was Lurgan, and we are so proud to have him as one of our distinguished sons.”

She proposed that the council officers should liaise with the Northern Ireland Office to organise the event.

Councillor Lockhart added: “The positioning of the paving stone in my mind is key and I believe it is important that we work with the local Royal British Legion to ensure that the stone is laid in a dignified, respectful honourable manner.”

Councillor Ronnie Harkness pointed out that soldiers from all over Ireland had won the VC in World War One, and he suggested that a British Government scheme where a pupils from every school in GB were offered a trip to The Somme should be extended to Northern Ireland.

And Councillor Johnny McGibbon said that “in this decade of centenaries”, Edward Costello, the only volunteer from The North to be killed in the Easter Rising should also be honoured. He added that Edward Costello had worked in Johnston Allen linen factory, and “that everyone across the board should be remembered”. Costello’s home was in Castle Lane and his wife Annie remained in Lurgan until her death in 1959.

Commenting on the news that Private McFadzean would be commemorated with a special paving stone, chairperson of the Lurgan and Brownlow Branch of the Royal British Legion Roberta McNally, said “I am delighted with the news that these valiant, courageous men who were awarded the Victoria Cross for their bravery are being commemorated in this way. It is important that we remember them for their bravery and for the sacrifice they paid for King and country.

“A paving stone will forever serve as a reminder of the sacrifice paid in the Great War and will seek to educate the youth of today and generations to come of he sacrifice made by so many that we might have peace.

“William McFadzean gave his life for his comrades and this is a sacrifice we cannot afford to forget.”