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Monday 16 September 2019

Lest we forget: Tribute paid around the country to 49,000 victims of WWI

 

Niamh McCallion, whose grandfather Sgt Patrick Fitzgerald served in India, at Grangegorman military cemetery. Photo: Garrett White/Collins Photo Agency
Niamh McCallion, whose grandfather Sgt Patrick Fitzgerald served in India, at Grangegorman military cemetery. Photo: Garrett White/Collins Photo Agency

Ralph Riegel

Thousands defied wind and heavy rain yesterday to attend Armistice Day ceremonies across Ireland for the 49,000 Irish soldiers killed in World War I.

Almost 50,000 Irish soldiers were already serving in British units when World War I erupted in 1914, including such famous regiments as the Dublin Fusiliers, Munster Fusiliers and Connaught Rangers.

More than 80,000 more Irish then enlisted to fight by September 1915.

But those who survived the war and were honourably discharged in 1918 and 1919 returned to an Ireland totally transformed by the 1916 Easter Rising.

Ceremonies to commemorate those who died in 1914-1918 were staged nationwide, ranging from the biggest ceremony in Dublin to simple wreath-laying services in dozens of towns and villages.

In Cork, a wreath was laid at the war memorial on the South Mall and a special Armistice Day service was held in St Fin Barre's Cathedral.

French Foreign Legion members Phil Hamilton, left and Christy Browne with Second Lt Philippe Jovanovic at Glasnevin cemetery. Photo: Iain White/Fennell Photography
French Foreign Legion members Phil Hamilton, left and Christy Browne with Second Lt Philippe Jovanovic at Glasnevin cemetery. Photo: Iain White/Fennell Photography

To mark the Armistice centenary, a special exhibition entitled 'Cork 1918 - Victory, Virus and Votes' is being staged at the Cork Public Museum.

The exhibition was launched by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Mick Finn.

"The addition of these new artefacts relating to Cork and Ireland during World War I is very timely given the centenary of that war's end," he said.

Ceremonies were also staged in Kinsale and Cobh, the latter of which suffered particularly heavy local losses because of its Royal Navy connections and the Lusitania tragedy just offshore.

A military salute at Glasnevin Cemetery as five Victoria Cross plaques are unveiled. Photo: Garrett White, Collins Photo Agency
A military salute at Glasnevin Cemetery as five Victoria Cross plaques are unveiled. Photo: Garrett White, Collins Photo Agency

The largest bell of St Colman's Cathedral solemnly tolled 11 times on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, followed by a recital on the 49-bell carillon, to commemorate the moment when the guns of World War I fell silent.

Cobh Cathedral's carillonneur, Adrian Gebruers, performed 'The Dead March' from Handel's 'Saul' followed by Chopin's 'Funeral March' in memory of the 15 million people lost during World War I - including the 1,198 who died on the Lusitania in 1915 and the 20 Queenstown men killed in the 1916 Battle of Jutland.

After a memorial Mass, Carrigaline Pipe Band led a special parade to St Benedict's Priory, which was formerly the local headquarters of the US Navy during World War I, where a brass plaque was unveiled.

In Sligo, a total of 605 people dressed in period early-20th-century clothing, each representing a local person who died in the various battles of World War I, gathered for a special ceremony masterminded by historian Simon Hickey.

Students carry telegrams with the names of Cork war victims at a ceremony at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. Photo: Jim Coughlan
Students carry telegrams with the names of Cork war victims at a ceremony at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. Photo: Jim Coughlan

Dublin's Wesley College posted an evocative picture of their 1914 rugby team, four of whom later died in the war.

In Enniskillen, all churches participated in a special armistice event. It was the first town in Ireland to proclaim the armistice in November 1918.

Yesterday it was the most westerly town in Europe to host the 'Battle's Over' memorial tribute.

Monsignor Peter O'Reilly of St Michael's Enniskillen and Lisbellaw attended the special ceremony, which began with special lamps being given to each Enniskillen church at 6am at Enniskillen Castle.

A special prayer service was then held at the war memorial at Belmore Street, the site of the IRA's Remembrance Day bombing on November 8, 1987.

In Fermoy, Co Cork, a special poppy wreath was laid at the memorial erected just a decade ago to the soldiers from the area who died in World War I.

In nearby Kilworth, prayers were offered for one family who endured a loss comparable to those of the Hollywood epics 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'The Fighting Sullivans'. A white marble plaque in Kilworth Arts Centre, formerly Kilworth Church of Ireland, pays tribute to Private Hugo Fleury, Rifleman John Fleury and Able Seaman Robert Fleury. The three brothers died in three different Great War theatres between 1915 and 1917.

In Waterford, a wreath was laid at the Dungarvan war memorial which commemorates the 1,100 men from Waterford who died in 1914-1918.

The renewed interest in Ireland's World War I legacy has sparked a campaign in Limerick for a special city memorial to be created.

Earl of Limerick Edmund Pery, who lost a 23-year-old relative in a 1918 battle, said it was "a shame" that a city the size of Limerick does not have a monument to commemorate more than 1,350 people from the area who died in 1914-1918.

A proposal to build a special memorial wall in the People's Park was rejected by Limerick City and County Council.

However, a revised plan for the memorial is now expected to be reconsidered.

Irish Independent

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