“As the people of Ireland , North and South prepare to remember the fallen of Ulster and Irish Divisions at the Somme 100 years ago , we would like to thank the man who made it possible.
In 1975, a leading French academic, Professor Rene Frechet contacted a Belfast pediatrician and author Dr Ian Adamson on the publication of Dr Adamsons book “The Cruthin – The Ancient Kindred “. Building on this relationship “ Dr Adamson helped found several community organisations including The Farset Youth Project.
Building on this European theme, with assistance from Tomas, Cardinal O Fiaich, Farset took a group of teenagers from the Shankill , Falls, Tallaght and Inchicore through France to follow the footsteps of Ulsters great Christian, St. Columbanus of Bangor . Returning home Adamson de-toured to the dilapidated
Ulster Tower explaining to the teenagers the role all Irishmen played during WW1 in France, Belgium and the Dardanelles.
From this Farset Project a Somme Association was initiated , on July 1st 1986, hosted by Mayoress Rhonda Paisley. Dr Adamson was to propose that complexes close to the Ulster Tower be built , Thiepval Wood be purchased and Helens Tower be opened to the public to honour both Unionist and Nationalist who fought at the Somme. Assistance was secured from Dr Paisley, the European Parliament, French Embassy and the Common wealth War Graves Commission.
On September 12th 1986 , Dr Adamson with Dr Paisley, F.Proctor, and J.Hewitt visited the Somme battlefield, Ulster Tower and Beaumont- Hamel. It was proposed that the Ulster Tower be re-opened with provision of oral documentation and photographic displays. Back in Belfast’s Old Town Hall on 17th November 1919, Sir James Craig proposed a memorial for Ulsters fallen , the Ulster landmark , Helens Tower seemed an ideal template . Standing 70 feet tall on the German front line the tower was the first official memorial erected on the Western Front, being dedicated on 19th November 1921. By the 1980s with the tower in disrepair Dr Adamson convened a meeting of the Farset Somme Project on April 21st 1988, then employing D.Campbell as Supervisor and J.Hewitt as Manager the Project pushed ahead, then on 21st June 1988 at a press conference in the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum the re-opening of the Ulster Tower was announced, this then took place on July 1st 1988 with Dr Adamson as Chairman overseeing the arrangements.
Later as a guest to Kensington Palace with Sir Robin Kinahan , Dr Adamson consulted with HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester who agreed to re-dedicate the Ulster Tower, on July 1st 1989. In 1990 Dr Adamson formally established The Somme Association with The Duchess being its first President . In 2004 Dr Adamson visited the Duchess shortly before she passed, her son, HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester agreed to carry on her role , having opened The Somme Heritage Centre, Conlig. The Centre also contains an exhibition on Nationalist and Republican Ireland as part of our shared history.
As Founding Chair of the Somme Association Dr Adamson travels to France and Belgium each year since its inception to remember those from throughout Ireland who fought and died there. HRH The Duke of Gloucester has officiated several times , also meeting with Irish President Mary McAleese in Turkey. Dr Ian Adamson also was the first to lay a wreath on behalf of the Somme Association on the grave of Major Willie Redmond at Locre.
On September 10th , 2007 at an exhibition in The Somme Heritage Centre Irish President Mary McAleese and First Minister Dr Ian Paisley shook hands , a symbolic milestone on the road to reconciliation ,saying , “ congratulations to Dr Ian Adamson and all members of the Somme Association for this labour of love “. This key event was to pave the way for the visit of her Majesty The Queen to the National Irish War Memorial, Longbridge, on 18th May 2011 where Dr Adamson again represented The Somme Association .
It has been an honour to work with Dr Adamson OBE , Paediatrician , Lord Mayor ,Author and visionary community representative without whom we would all not be able to properly commemorate the fallen of the Somme in this centenary year.”
R Williams – Chair – Dalaradia Historical Group