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The Digger unearths the story of one Lisburn family and the Ulster Covenant

JAMES Cherry, a tailor, was the son of Moses Cherry, a weaver and Mary Ann Parkinson. James married Agnes Topping from Broomhedge in 1877 at Lisburn. James had a business at 79 Bow Street, Lisburn and in 1888 it was described in an old street directory as a "general drapery, tailoring, gentlemen's furnishing, dress and mantle making" business.

Coincidentally the Lisburn Standard carried an advert for James Cherry's after season sale of drapery goods in the September 21 1912 edition, appearing on the same page as the "Ulster Day" announcements. In later years 79 Bow Street would have been known to many in Lisburn as J Patterson 's the chemist.

I was told recently by a family member that James Cherry built the house known as Violet Vale, located at 119 Hillsborough Road, Lisburn, sometime before the Great War. He had intended to give one half of the house to his only son James Alexander Cherry. Another son, William Thomas, had died in infancy.

James Cherry's (senior) wife Agnes and daughters Jeannie, Ethel and Edith Cherry, all signed the Covenant in 1912 at the Grain Market in Lisburn.


James and Agnes Cherry had a son, James Alexander Cherry, born at Bow Street on 12 January 1892. The Lisburn Standard dated Friday October 2 1914 tells us that James A Cherry (junior) had "been managing a branch shop in Enniskillen for Mr Parker a pharmaceutical chemist."

It was reported that he had been a member of the Enniskillen Battalion of the UVF and had joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was asked "if his parents would approve of him throwing up his situation and joining the colours" to which he replied, "I don't think my parents would desire me to be a coward".

James was never to occupy the house at Violet Vale. Almost three years later, on September 1 1917, the same newspaper reported the death of James Alexander. He had been killed in action on August 16 1917. He had been previously wounded at the Battle of the Somme on July 1 1916. He had been a member of the CLB at Christchurch, Lisburn.

James Alexander Cherry's medals and First World War death plaque, sometimes referred to as the "dead man's penny", are still in the possession of the family. I was told that one of James's sisters was a regular visitor to Enniskillen to view his name which was inscribed on the town's War Memorial.

The family were to experience more trauma in the years ahead. The Lisburn Standard dated Friday August 27 1920 covers the story of the serious rioting that occurred in Lisburn after the murder of the Royal Irish Constabulary District Inspector Oswald Swanzy. Numerous businesses and homes in the town were destroyed.

We are told that Mrs Cherry and her two daughters had to be bundled out of their shop and home in Bow Street, Lisburn without a change of clothes to prevent them being burned to death.

The paper reported that her husband never really got over the loss of his son. James (senior) died on May 18 1919 and a daughter Jeannie died a short time later on February 19 1920. The obituary in the Lisburn Standard dated May 23 1919 for James Cherry (senior) records that he had "carried on business for upwards of forty years in the town' and had been "a member of the old Town Commissions Board and a Freemason".

The headstone on the family grave at Blaris Old Cemetery records the deaths of the Cherry family. It had been erected by James Cherry in memory of his parents Mary Ann Cherry, who died on January 22 1896 and Moses who died on January 6 1899.


The family burying ground of the Cherry family is located at Blaris Old Cemetery, bears the words `Rock of Ages'.The headstone also records the dates of the death of both James and his wife Agnes, infant son William Thomas, son James Alexander, and five daughters Jeannie, Ethel F, Edith C, Miriam A (Davidson) and Elsie.

Elsie Cherry, who died on December 22 1982 was a well known retired primary school teacher in the Lisburn area when she died.

A word of thanks to Pat Geary from Lisburn for the provision of some of the details relating to James Alexander Cherry. Pat is behind the Friends' School, Lisburn War Memorial website. It contains lots of useful information and a searchable database and casualty list of those people who died in the First World War.

This will be of particular interest to anyone who has had a relative from the Lisburn area killed in the First World War. It can he accessed at

Thanks also to the Deputy Keeper of the Records, Public Record office of Northern Ireland for the granting of permission to publish items from the UUC archive - The Ulster Covenant. (PRONI reference D1327/3).

The family burying ground of the Cherry family is located at Blaris Old Cemetery, Lisburn. It bears the words `Rock of Ages'.

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