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Tuesday 21 October 2014

Taghmon ready to honour its war dead

Published 16/08/2014 | 12:00

Seamus Seery and his son Joe, who wrote an article for the Taghmon Historical Journal about the war connections.
The stone in St Fintan’s cemetery.
The stone in St Fintan’s cemetery.

THE village of Taghmon is to commemorate its First World War dead later this month with the unveiling of a monument at St Fintan's Cemetery.

Taghmon Historical Society's Seamus Seery and Paddy O'Reilly are the 'architects' of the monument, which has been in the planning since 2003.

While long an aspiration, it has only come to fruition in recent times because of the sea change in Irish politics, especially in Northern Ireland.

For many years, the role played by the Irish in the 1914 to 1918 war had been a hidden history.

Seamus, who with his son Joe wrote a detailed article in the Taghmon Historical Journal on the village's connections with the war, said that for a long time and even during its latter years people were too afraid to mention it, with many just content to receive a shilling a week from their sons at the Front.

This was a far cry from the early days of the conflict when villagers like Mike Martin joined up and were proud to serve.

The Seerys quote Mike Martin, then a corporal, appealing to his contemporaries in a letter to Sgt Donohoe and the recuiting staff for Wexford 'to place to one side the football and the playbook and take up the sword, to play a great fight in the cause of liberty and justice'.

'They will no regret it, I can assure them, and when afterwards they asked what they did in the Great War they can answer with pride – I have played a man's part, I did my bit.'

They make the point that 'Mike Martin would have been horrified to read the views of today's historians concerning the utter carnage of the Great War'.

Indeed Taghmon was fully behind the war effort and its sons fighting in foreign fields as can been seen from a contemporary report in the Free Press headlined 'Four sons with the colours'.

'Taghmon's contribution to the fighting forces is fairly large, and among the brave boys at the front are the four sons of Mr and Mrs John Monaghan, of Taghmon. Adam Monaghan, who was working in Wales at the outbreak of war, joined the Wiltshire Regiment and is at present on active service.

'He was a talented young man and composed poems of happenings in his native district. Since he went to the firing line he wrote an excellent poem entitled 'Tommy in the Trenches'.

This poem will be one of the features of the new monument to be unveiled at St Fintan's, which will flank a memorial stone with the names of the 15 men from the village who were killed in the war, a third of those from Taghmon who served.

None of the Taghmon men who fell in the war are buried in the village, like so many who died in the conflict they are buried near where they fell in foreign fields.

The Seerys say there was considerable support for the war effort in Taghmon. While the educated and Anglo-Irish classes usually supplied the officers, those who joined up, on a whim, as a result of intensive recruitment were in the majority and were usually from the socially deprived classes. As a result they enjoyed the unusual status of being regular income earners and this made an enormous difference to the standard of living of their families.

A report in 'The Free Press' describes how Taghmon 'renders substantial assistance to the Wexford Soldiers and Sailors Comfort Fund'. It gives details of donations to the fund by 90 local people and included such items as rolls of butter, sacks of potatoes, chickens, cigarettes, bottles of wine, knitted socks and cushions provided by the Mercy Convent, Wexford.

In 1917, the year after the Easter Rebellion and the executions that followed, support among the local populace seems, on the surface at least, not to have waned. 'The Free Press' of February 24 describes a visit to Taghmon by the Irish Guards band, effectively a 'recruiting sergeant' for the army.

'On Friday last the pipes and drums of the Irish Guards visited Taghmon, where they were made most welcome by all assembled for the local fair, and delighted the audience by their fine playing of jigs and reels.'

The report does not say how many people signed up doing the visit.

The unveiling of the memorial is due to take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 31, following the patron.

Seamus Seery said he hoped that more than 1,000 people would be present to pay homage to those from Taghmon who fell in a war that began 100 years ago this month.

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