Brigadier General Ambrose Ricardo was born in 1866, a great grandson of David Ricardo the famous economist. He was of Sephardic Jewish ancestry and grew up at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, now the home of Princess Anne.
Ricardo served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and like many of his contemporaries saw service in India and in South Africa during the Boer War.
His marriage in 1893 to Elizabeth Alice Herdman led Ricardo to retire from military life to take up the post of Director of Herman’s Ltd. in Sion Mills in what is now Northern Ireland.
He went on to co-found the annual Londonderry Feis (an arts and cultural festival) and was instrumental in the building of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Co. Tyrone.
Brigadier General Ricardo was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and three bars for gallantry during his military service and was adulated for his exceptional organisational skills.During the 3rd Home Rule Crisis in Ireland (1912 to 1914) he would go on to help train and arm a unionist militia in Co. Tyrone opposed to Irish independence.
In the late summer of 1914 following the outbreak of World War One, Ricardo anticipated the formation of the 36th Ulster Division and raised two companies of men, constituting the nucleus of the 9th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The 36th Ulster Division served with great distinction during the First War and fought with notable gallantry at the Battle of the Somme.
Ricardo not only raised a significant body of volunteers to fight against Home Rule in Ireland (a force which subsequently served in the war against Germany) he also went on to lead the Scout movement in Ulster and supported a nine-county settlement to the partition of Ireland.
Brigadier General Ricardo died in 1923, two years after the creation of the State of Northern Ireland.
Israeli flags fly in many unionist areas in Northern Ireland in solidarity with the Israeli people and their stand against terrorism. Many will know that Chaim Herzog, 6th President of Israel was born in Clifton Street in Belfast. Perhaps fewer will be aware of Ambrose Ricardo, his Sephardic lineage and his contribution to Irish and British history.