23 May 2022

Moneymore war nurse among those honoured in new plaque

A plaque honouring the nurses who served in the First World War has been unveiled in Belfast.

Moneymore war nurse among those honoured in new plaque

Heather Thompson and Belfast Mayor Frank McCoubrey unveiling the plaque.

A County Derry nurse is among those who have been recognised on a new plaque commemorating nurses who served in the First World War.

Rachel Ferguson, from Moneymore, was one of a number of nurses whose stories have been honoured through the unveiling of a new plaque at Belfast's City Hall.

The plaque is the result of a campaign by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland's History of Nursing Network who researched over 100 names of nurses who served on battlefields.

Born on December 29, 1886, in Ballygoney into a farming family, Rachel was the youngest of eight children. She qualified as a staff nurse in 1915 and immediately volunteered for service.

Initially stationed in Salonika, Greece, she became unwell in 1917, but returned to extend her service by six months, or until her services 'were no longer required, whichever should happen first'.

Rachel was transferred to Italy in November 1917, where she served until her death from pneumonia in June 1918. She was buried in Bordighera Cemetery.

Rachel Ferguson

A book featuring the nurses' stories – Nurses' Voices from WW1: The Northern Ireland Connection – was also published last year.

Heather Thompson from the group said it was a privilege to attend the unveiling of the plaque.

“The plaque is dedicated to all nurses who came from our island and served in World War One,” she said.

“It has been such a worthwhile and enjoyable project for all our group to be involved in, and the plaque is a perfect way to bring our project to a close.”

RCN Director in Northern Ireland, Pat Cullen, said the bravery and courage shown by nurses during wartime is now being recreated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is fitting that this plaque has been unveiled this year during which we have all seen the bravery and courage displayed by nurses today as they battle through the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.

“There are fascinating stories which our History of Nursing Network discovered through their research, but what is certain is that these courageous nurses were trailblazers of modern nursing.

“Sincere congratulations to all of those involved but in particular Margaret Graham, Chair of the Network and Heather Thompson who led the work on WW1.

“It is so important that we remember the lives of those who have gone before us.”

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