Thompson, William Henry
No. 2978, 6th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers, transferred to
No. 489020, Labour Corps
Reported in the Press to have been killed in action on Monday 9 August 1915
Survived the Great War and died of disease on 10 January 1983 (aged 87)
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s)
Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour
In the 23 October 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle it was reported that Private William Henry Thompson (No. 2978) aged 19 and serving with the 6th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers had been killed in action at the Dardanelles on Monday 9 August 1915.
Private William Henry Thompson is commemorated in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s) and in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 627) where it is recorded that one of his sisters lived at 2 Matlock Street, Belfast.
In fact, William Henry Thompson survived the Great War and died of pneumonia on 10 January 1983 (aged 87).
The following information, corroborated by official documentation, has been provided by a surviving family member.
William Henry Thompson was born on 6 May 1895 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards and the name registered on his birth certificate was William Henry Ferguson.
William Henry Thompson was baptised on 28 June 1895 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s) and the name registered on his baptismal certificate was William Henry Ferguson Thompson.
His father, whose name was William Henry Ferguson, had been orphaned as a child and went to live with his grandmother whose married name was Thompson. Thereafter he used the surname Thompson but, when his son was born, he registered his name as William Henry Ferguson. Growing up, William Henry Ferguson was always known as ‘Wee Boy Thompson’.
William Henry Ferguson who was born on 6 May 1895 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards was a son of William Henry and Mary Ferguson (nee McCullough) who were married on 6 April 1885 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s). William Henry Ferguson, a scutcher from Greenwell Street, Newtownards was a son of Henry Ferguson, a stone cutter. Mary McCullough (aged 20) from Movilla Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Robert McCullough, a weaver.
William Henry and Mary Ferguson (nee McCullough) had three children:
Jane (Jeannie, born 1 November 1886 in George’s Street, Newtownards)
Mary Anne (born 23 October 1888)
William Henry (born 6 May 1895 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)
In the 1901 census, the surname recorded for all five members of the family was Thompson.
Jeannie was 16, Mary Anne was 14 and William Henry was 7 when their parents died in 1902:
Mary Ferguson (nee McCullough) died of cancer in Greenwell Street, Newtownards on 3 April 1902 (aged 36). Her daughter Jeannie was with her when she died.
William Henry Ferguson (known as William Henry Thompson) died of paralysis in Down Asylum on 29 October 1902 (aged 41).
Jeannie worked as a maid in a house at Mountpottinger, Belfast and, when the family went to live in the USA, she went with them. Jeannie placed her two siblings in care, Mary Ann with a family who lived in Belfast and William Henry with a family who lived in Potstick Row, Scarva but he wasn’t happy there.
In 1911, William Henry Thompson (aged 15) was living in Dr Barnardo’s Homes, Stepney Causeway, Ratcliff, Shadwell, London. Later he went to Wiltshire where he worked in a creamery.
William Henry enlisted as William Henry Thompson and he served with the 6th Battalion Royal Munster Fusiliers in 30th Brigade of the 10th (Irish) Division at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Severely shell shocked and affected by lice and dysentery, William Henry Thompson was later transferred to the Labour Corps.
William Henry’s sister, Mary Ann, used the surname Ferguson when she and John Thompson were married on 25 December 1911 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral Belfast. John Thompson (aged 24) was a labourer from 67 Jerusalem Street, Belfast and he was a son of John Thompson, a labourer. Mary Ann (aged 22) was from 16 Hemsworth Street, Belfast. John Thompson died of tuberculosis in Belfast Infirmary on 21 September 1914 and was buried in Dundonald Cemetery (Grave F5 919).
Mary Ann Thompson was living at 20 Madrid Street, Belfast when she and Edward Sutherland from 25 Matlock Street, Belfast were married on 16 May 1916 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral Belfast.
At the time of their marriage, Edward Sutherland was a Private in the Royal Irish Rifles and he was killed in action five weeks later. In some records, the date of his death is recorded as 30 June 1916 and in others as 1 July 1916. Lance Corporal Edward Sutherland (No. 7655), 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles was buried in Aveluy Communal Cemetery Extension in France and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
GOD IS LOVE
LET NONE FORGET HOW VAST THE DEBT
WE OWE TO THOSE WHO DIED
Edward and Mary Ann Sutherland had a son, Edward Sutherland, who was born on 8 December 1916. Edward Sutherland Junior died of measles and pneumonia at 28 Central Street, Belfast on 29 November 1919 (aged 2 years and 11 months). His uncle, Private William Henry Thompson, was with him when he died. Edward Sutherland Junior was buried in Dundonald Cemetery, in the same grave as John Thompson.
Mary Ann Sutherland and John Kyle were married on 19 October 1926 and John died on 22 April 1942 (aged 50); Mary Ann died on 3 June 1973 (aged 83) and they too were buried in Dundonald Cemetery (Grave F5 919).
After being discharged from the Army, William Henry Thompson worked for Belfast Corporation as a conductor on the trams and trolley buses in Belfast. He enjoyed racing motorbikes and on one occasion crashed during the Carrowdore 100.
William Henry lived with his sister Mary Ann and, when she was living on the Gilnahirk Road, Belfast he met Elizabeth (Lily) Hill, a farmer’s daughter, of The Burn, Gilnahirk and they were married on 18 September 1929 in Knockbreda Presbyterian Church. Lily was 21 and William Henry was 35.
William Henry and Lily Thompson (nee Hill) had three children, Robert, Irene and Margaret.
William Henry Thompson died of pneumonia on 10 January 1983 (aged 87) and he was buried in Castlereagh Presbyterian Graveyard.
Private William Henry Thompson is commemorated in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s) and in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 627).