One hundred years ago this month, the inhabitants of Lisburn hosted a civic reception to honour local-man Nelson Russell (1897-1971), the winner of the town’s first M.C.. Russell, who grew up in Clonevin Park and attended Friends’ School, was awarded the honour for leading a ‘daring’ daylight raid on German trenches in April 1916 while an eighteen year old 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
At the reception, which was held in the Old Town Hall and attended by Lisburn’s leading citizens, the young officer was presented with a large silver ‘Loving Cup’ and an illuminated address (See picture). While speeches praised Nelson Russell’s bravery, his own words reflected on the losses of Lisburn’s 11th battalion Royal Irish Rifles ‘who had made such a glorious name for itself on the 1st July’. Nelson Russell’s close friend Quintin Dunlop, a teammate at Lisburn Cricket and Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, and a classmate at Friends’, was also killed at the Somme.
Having survived the Great War, Nelson Russell went on to become Lisburn’s most distinguished soldier in the twentieth century, commanding the Irish Brigade in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War. He retired as Brigadier Nelson Russell MC DSO CB in 1950, later serving as Serjeant-at-Arms in the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont.
The ‘Loving Cup’ and the Brigadier Nelson Russell collection features in the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum’s exhibition, ‘The Somme, Our Story’. Open Monday to Saturday, 9.30-5pm. Free admission.