A special fundraising campaign was used to ‘pull the support’ and raise money to erect a statue in Lower Square in Kilkeel in honor of a World War I Victoria Cross recipient.
Planning approval has already been granted for a life-size statue of Kilkeel-born Sergeant Major Robert Hill Hanna in the heart of Co Down fishing port.
Hanna won the VC in August 1917 when he led his men under heavy machine gun fire to capture a German foothold at Lens in France. He was 30 at the time.
It should cost around £ 40,000 to create the Portland Stone statue. It will also rest on a granite rock in Le Morne to reflect its roots in Le Morne and made by stonemason David Weir.
Fundraising for the project is being led by the Ulster Scots Schomberg Society in Kilkeel.
Around 30 people, including members of the society and local community of Morne, as well as those close to Robert Hill Hanna VC, embarked on an epic 15-mile hike to Northern Ireland’s highest peak, Slieve Donard, as a weekend to raise funds for the statue.
They started the hike from Robert Hill Hanna’s farm, Hanna’s Close, outside Kilkeel, carrying a commemorative Lambeg drum specially designed to honor the veteran, weighing between 16 and 18 kg.
The Robert Hill Hanna VC Memorial Lambeg Drum is owned by Kilkeel man John Hanna, who is a distant relative of Robert Hill Hanna VC.
It was produced by Bertie Brown, man of Ahogill, and painted by Norman Carlisle, of Sandy Row, in 2000.
John had previously accompanied Robert’s son Bob Hanna in 2017 to lay a wreath at the graves of VC winners in Vancouver to mark the 100th anniversary of Robert Hill Hanna winning his VC.
A representative of the Schomberg Society said: “On Saturday’s course, our team drove past the building that was Robert Hill Hanna Primary School in Ballinran and stopped to drummer Robert Hill Hanna VC Lambeg in this place as part of the sponsored walk. .
“Robert Hill Hanna was a Scotsman from Ulster whom many are very proud of today in the Kingdom of Morne and the Schomberg Society believes this statue will be a fitting tribute to the memory of one of Kilkeel’s best sons and Ulster.
“From one of the first Scottish families to settle in Morne in the 17th century, Robert Hill Hanna emigrated to Canada before the outbreak of the First World War. However, he has maintained close ties with his hometown of Kilkeel, returning on the occasion to visit friends and family. ”
Mr. Hanna was born in Aughnahoory in 1887 before emigrating to Canada at the age of 18 where he worked as a lumberjack before enlisting in the Canadian army in 1914.
After the war he came back in Canada and ran a logging company. He died at the age of 79 and is buried in Burnaby, British Columbia.
A VC memorial stone was unveiled at his birthplace on the award’s 100th anniversary in 2017.
If you would like to make a donation or contribute in any way to the erection of a statue in his honor, please contact the Schomberg Society.
Donations can be made through the Schomberg Society’s “Go Fund Me” online page using the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/robert-hill-hanna-victoria-cross-statue-kilkeel