Northern Ireland news

Life of war hero who co-founded Derry Feis celebrated in Co Tyrone

Ambrose Ricardo

THE life of a war hero who later went on to co-found the Derry Feis was celebrated in Co Tyrone yesterday.

An Ulster History Circle blue plaque was unveiled in honour of Ambrose Ricardo in Sion Mills by his great niece Celia Ferguson.

Born in 1866, Mr Ricardo served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and saw action in India and South Africa during the Boer War. During the Home Rule crisis of 1912 to 1914 he helped to train and arm a UVF unit in Co Tyrone to fight against it.

Whilst serving in Burma in 1893, he married into the famous Herdman family of Sion Mills, who owned the village mill.

The death of John Herdman in 1903 brought Mr Ricardo and his wife Elizabeth back to Tyrone and he became a director of Herdmans Ltd, taking on responsibilities of the mill personnel, the village and the community.

He led 130 men from the mill into battle, and commanded them until after the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was awarded the CBE in 1919.

A philanthropist, he helped co-found the annual Derry Feis and was instrumental in the building of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Sion Mills.

In 1923, he was found drowned after taking his dog for a walk to the reservoir in Sion Mills.

Chris Spurr of the Ulster History Circle, said

"Ambrose Ricardo devoted his time in Sion Mills unselfishly to the public good.

"Already distinguished as a soldier, his philanthropic works in the village have provided a lasting legacy.

"In particular he was responsible for building the Church of the Good Shepherd."

He added that Mr Ricardo's love of music was his inspiration for founding the Derry feis for which he "enthusiastically competed".

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