Housing Executive provides funds to commemorate Belfast family divided by Rising and Somme

Banners commemorating the Corr family from the Ormeau Road, whose members were involved in both the Rising and the Somme. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

BANNERS to commemorate the Easter Rising in south Belfast remember one family which saw itself divided by the historic events of 1916.

The Corr family, from Ormeau Road in the city, found themselves in an unusual position - with two sisters joining the Rising preparations in Dublin and a brother killed later the same year at the Somme.

Banners to remember the family as part of the Rising commemorations have appeared on the lower Ormeau Road in recent weeks and form part of a history exhibition, which is in part funded by the Housing Executive.

Of 11 children in the Corr family, five played a key role on different sides of battles during the most turbulent period in recent Irish history.

Henry Corr joined the Irish Volunteers and was involved in the Rising, while his sisters Elizabeth and Nell Corr both joined Cumann na mBan and "disgusted at the pro-British sentiment in Belfast", decided to travel to Dublin to take part in the rebellion.

The sisters headed to Liberty Hall and met the leaders of the Irish Citizen Army, later running dispatches around the city and staying at the home of Countess Markiewicz during the Rising week.

In an eyewitness account, Elizabeth Corr recalled: "James Connolly came from another part of the building, and said smilingly, 'Well, girls, we start operations at noon today. This is the Proclamation of the Republic'.

"It was still wet from the press, and we all read it with wildly beating hearts."

The Corr sisters left Dublin on the morning of Easter Monday to bring dispatches north and were later awarded military pensions for the role they played in the Rising.

The sisters' remarkable story is also to form part of a BBC NI documentary Faoi Gheall ag Eirinn (Pledged to Ireland) which will be broadcast on BBC2 on Sunday April 3.

However, as the sisters were rebelling against British rule, two brothers were fighting for the Empire.

George Corr was killed fighting for the Australian Army during the Battle of the Somme, while another brother Charles, fought for the Canadian armed forces.

He survived the war and returned to Canada, having been gassed several times on the Western Front.

Supported by Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group, the Housing Executive has also provided £12,500 funding for the project.

A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said: "The Housing Executive has funded a mural and 22 banners, which complement a wider project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which aims to create a focus on heritage rather than a potentially insular and divisive time in Belfast.

"It also creates an opportunity to explore a shared heritage and give people a fascinating insight into events in Belfast, Ireland and the world during 1916. The wider project includes an exhibition, The Corr Family – Witnessing History, due to be hosted at the Ulster Museum and the Linen Hall Library."

The exhibition will run at the Linen Hall Library from April 5 until April 30.


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