Lurgan, Craigavon, Craigavon, Northern Ireland
I visit Lurgan fairly regularly and used to live locally (I played rugby for the local Rugby Club for a few seasons) yet I had never seen the plaque feaured in the photo. As you can see, it is a memorial dedicated to Rifleman William McFadzean of 14th Company, Royal Irish Rifles, who was killed on 1st July, 1916 in circumstances which led to him being posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. If you are not aware, the VC is the highest gallantry award available to Service personnel and requires an exceptional act of courage. That the 20 year old Rifleman possessed that courage is not in doubt. I will let the citation for the award of the medal speak for itself.
"For most conspicuous bravery. While in a concentration trench and opening a box of bombs for distribution prior to an attack, 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."
I actually feel a certain association with this man. Although born in Lurgan, the census of 1911 shows him as a 15 year old scholar living in the Cregagh area of Belfast, which is where I was brought up. A little research also shows that he played for rugby for Collegians RFC which is the former pupils club for Methodist College, Belfast which I attended. Although I cannot be certain, it appears likely that he was educated at the same school as me.
If you happen to be walking down Union Street, pause for a second at the Town Hall, have a look at this and think of what it must have felt like to lie down on a box of bombs. An amazing story.
Looking at the 2010 version of planxty (i.e. me) you would probably find it quite hard to believe that I was once a fairly fit rugby player, and one of the clubs I played for was Lurgan. Although I was living in nearby Portadown and should probably have played for them, one of my best friends was playing for Lurgan and persuaded me to join there and I am very glad I did. I had several very enjoyable seasons there in the early 1980's before I moved to London. If I ever get round to buying a scanner, I might even produce photographic evidence here of my playing days, so watch this space!
I returned after a number of years recently and was delighted to be welcomed by a few of my old team-mates, all now long-retired like myself but still happy to go along on a Saturday and shout (mostly) helpful comments at players and referee alike. It really is an education standing on that touchline.
If you are still fit enough to play, new members are always welcome and if you have youngsters there is a very good mini rugby programme with the teams known as the Lurgan Tigers. Again, new members welcome.
In the summer months, should your taste run to the more genteel sound of willow on leather, the Club is also the Lurgan Cricket Club. Whatever time of year you visit, you can be assured of a friendly welcome in the cosy clubhouse.
Equipment: For rugby players, shirts are available but you should provide the rest of your own kit.
If your tastes run to football (soccer for those of you who use the term), and you are in Lurgan, the thing to do is get yourself down to Mourneview Park and watch Glenavon.
Glenavon have a long history, having played their first game in 1895 (against Linfield Swifts) and after having used several grounds they eventually settled in their currnet location, which they eventually purchased outright in 1924. For many years, the stadium also doubled as the local dog racing track. Dog racing has always been popular here as evidenced by the famous old poem "Master MgGrath".
In 1950, the princely sum of £1,000 was expended to upgrade facilities and improvements continued to the point where Mourneview is certainly one of the better grounds in Northern Ireland. They are particularly proud of the new floodlighting system, installed in 2002.
Unfortunately, at time of writing (October 2010) results have not matched the facilities and the team are languishing just above the relegation zone. However, they are still above their fierce local rivals Portadown, which should please the faithful.
Equipment: All you need is warm waterproof clothing to watch. This is Northern Ireland after all!