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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Young sleuths track down Willie McBride

Fergus Black

Published 10/11/2012 | 05:00

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The British Ambassador to Ireland Mr Dominick Chilcott is presented with a commentary on the song WIllie Mc Bride The Green Fields of France by St pauls YEP Finglas students and teachers including from left, Nora Kielty(teacher), Aaron Boylan, Jamie Broughan, Principal David Carter and Michael Mc Donagh after laying weaths at Glasnevin Cemetarys Monument to the Two World Wars as the final 104 of 205 previously unmarked graves of Irish men and women who served the British and Commonwealth forces in the two World Wars were commemorated at a ceremony yesterday.Pic Steve Humphreys9th November 2012.

IT'S the poignant ballad about a young Irishman who died on the green fields of France more than 90 years ago.

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The story of Private Willie McBride who died at the age of 19 in 1916 inspired four young schoolfriends to find out more about the hero of the well-known song.

And the boys from St Paul's in Finglas, Dublin, have now presented a bound copy of what became their school project to British Ambassador, Dominick Chilcott.

The four Dublin boys, Michael McDonagh (15), 14-year-olds Ciaran O'Connor and Aaron Boylan and Jamie Broughan (13) from St Paul's School, Finglas, took on their research project as part of the Junior Certificate school programme which is designed to encourage young students to stay on in school.

"Ciaran knew the words to the song so we got the idea to find out more about Willie McBride," said schoolmate Jamie Broughan.

Using the internet and the Commonwealth War Graves data base, the young sleuths whittled down the names of Willie McBrides and established that 10 of them were Irish and that two had died in 1916.

Teacher, Nora Kielty said the boys now reckoned that the hero of the ballad had died on February 10 1916 and was buried in a French cemetery near the town of Albert.

Now, the boys' efforts are about to pay off after the Glasnevin Trust promised to publish their book and sell it in its museum gift shop.

"It was a brilliant way to teach them about World War One and about self sacrifice and all just because of a ballad," said Ms Kielty.

"Now they are going to be authors. They can't believe it, they are thrilled."

Their story unfolded as the last 104 unmarked graves of Irish people who served in the two World Wars were commemorated at a ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery.

The ceremony in honour of Armistice Day commemorated the erection of 39 headstones on unmarked graves and completed a project to mark 205 graves which began three years ago at the cemetery.

Irish Independent

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