Cairns, William John
Royal Irish Rifles
Died of disease on Wednesday 12 July 1922 (aged 44)
Newtownards (Movilla) Cemetery, Co. Down (Section 3)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
The name Wm J Cairns is listed on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the booklet produced for the Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony held on Saturday 26 May 1934 he is described as a Rifleman in the Royal Irish Rifles. The organising committee of the day decided to include the names of ex-servicemen who died up to that date from what they considered to be war related causes, whether as a result of wounds or disease.
William John Cairns was born on 28 September 1877 in Ford Street, Newtownards, he was baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church and he was a son of John and Anna (Annie) Cairns (nee McKee) who were married on 13 August 1864 in Hillsborough Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Malachy’s). John Cairns (aged 18) from Newtownards was a son of Archibald Cairns, a weaver. Annie McKee (aged 17) from Hillsborough was a daughter of George McKee, a labourer.
The Cairns family lived at 9 Ford Street, Newtownards and later at 39 James Street, Newtownards.
John Cairns worked as a linen weaver, Anna worked as a seamstress and they had at least nine children:
Eleanor Jane (Ellen, born 1 July 1866 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
Archibald (born 4 November 1869 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
George (born 9 May 1872 in Ford Street, Newtownards; in civil birth registration records his name is registered as Archibald)
Anna (Annie, born 16 September 1874 in Corry Street, Newtownards)
William John (born 28 September 1877 in Ford Street, Newtownards)
Alexander (born 20 September 1879 in Ford Street, Newtownards)
Samuel (born 12 September 1882 in Ford Street, Newtownards)
Archibald (born 21 April 1885 in Corry Street, Newtownards)
David (born 7 April 1887 in Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards)
After leaving school William John Cairns worked as a Nursery Foreman and he and Sarah Walsh were married on 29 October 1900 in Regent Street Methodist Church Newtownards. Sarah Walsh from Corry’s Quarter, Newtownards was a daughter of David Walsh, a labourer.
William John and Sarah Cairns (nee Walsh) lived in Ballybeen, Dundonald and had at least five children:
Alexander (born 6 November 1901 in Church Street, Newtownards)
John (born 28 June 1903 in Ford Street, Newtownards)
Ellen Jane (born 6 May 1906 in Ford Street, Newtownards)
Sarah (born 28 June 1908 in Ballybeen)
George (born 5 February 1911 in Ballybeen)
During the First World War William John Cairns served as a Rifleman in the Royal Irish Rifles. He was 44 when he died of paralysis on 12 July 1922 in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) Hospital in Belfast and he was buried in Newtownards (Movilla) Cemetery (Section 3).
William John’s brother, George Cairns, married Agnes Keenan on 24 July 1895 in Newtownards Methodist Church and they had four children – John, Ellen, Annie and Samuel. John Cairns was born on 5 February 1896 in Train View Cottage, Newtownards and he served with the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade during the First World War. Corporal John Cairns was wounded twice, the first time when he sustained a bullet wound to the hand and the second time when he sustained a bullet wound to his chest and lung. He worked as a foreman designer for the Ulster Print Works and was well-known in musical circles. He sang in the choir of Newtownards Methodist Church and was a member of the Orpheus Male Quartet. John Cairns died on Sunday 8 January 1939, due in part some said, to his war wounds. He was buried in Movilla Cemetery and missed being commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial by five years.
[The Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony was held on Saturday 26 May 1934 and the organising committee of the day decided to include the names of ex-servicemen who died up to that date from what they considered to be war related causes, whether as a result of wounds or disease.]
Two of the chief mourners at John’s funeral were his father, George Cairns, and his son, David Wilson Cairns, who was born on 28 December 1921. David Wilson Cairns was educated at Regent House School and he enlisted in 1940. During the Second World War, Pilot-Officer David Wilson Cairns served as a fighter pilot with 250 Squadron and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was married to Jean Sayers and died in 2014.
Archie’s aunt, Eliza Ann Cairns, married John Martin on 21 August 1863 in Fourth Newtownards Presbyterian Church. Eliza Ann Cairns from Newtownards was a daughter of Archibald Cairns. John Martin, a widower and a weaver, was a son of George Martin, a confectioner. Their daughter Agnes was born in Greenwell Street on 1 June 1864. Agnes Martin and Martin Perry, a weaver, were married on 24 April 1886 in Fourth Newtownards Presbyterian Church. Their son, Robert Perry, was born on 15 April 1890 in Mark Street, Newtownards and he worked as a house painter before moving to the United States of America and then Canada. There he met and married Jenny Hyde from New York State. Robert and Jenny Perry (nee Hyde) had a son, Martin Alexander Perry, who was born on 2 January 1913. Robert Perry enlisted in Winnipeg, Canada on 28 October 1914 and his wife Jenny died on 21 December 1914. Throughout the war, Martin Alexander Perry lived with his guardians, Samuel and Sarah Henderson in Chateaugay, New York State. Private Robert Perry (No. 71725) served in Belgium and France and he described conditions in the trenches as almost unbelievable, with soldiers at times standing up to their waists in mud. At one point he sustained a gunshot wound to his left arm resulting in a compound fracture and him being hospitalised. In December 1919, eight months after Private Robert Perry (No. 71725) was discharged, he brought his son home to Newtownards. Martin stayed with his paternal grandmother, Agnes Perry, at 46 William Street until she moved to the USA in 1921 and brought him with her. Robert Perry died in hospital in Woodstock, Ontario on 24 November 1958.