Thursday 15 November 2018

Rescued images of Great War heroes go on show

Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Pictures of WWI soldiers from the Sligo area which are being used in the News from the Past exhibit.
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

Images of dozens of Irish men who fought, and in many cases died, in WWI which were discovered in a dump have finally gone on display.

The photographs of soldiers from the Sligo area were almost lost forever after they were thrown out when the photographic studio where they were taken closed down.

However, they were rescued from a local dump by a keen-sighted local and preserved. A total of 71 of the images of the men in uniform have now gone on display as part of the News from the Past exhibition which is running in Sligo.

Extraordinary

"It's quite extraordinary that they were found. We don't know who they are, but they were taken around 1914 and we believe most of them were taken in the shop in Sligo," said Hugh Trayer, project manager of the exhibition.

"They were thrown out when the studio closed down because they were of no perceived value but thankfully they were discovered in the dump and saved."

It is not known how long the old photos, which were on individual large glass plates, had been in the dump. They were discovered in Finisklin dump around 20 years ago by a man walking his dog. He subsequently told local man Alex Foley about them.

Mr Foley trawled the area and recovered a large number of the plates before coming in contact with another collector who had also gathered up a number of the photo plates.

Over the years Mr Foley amassed 1,500 photos that had been discarded.

The exhibition includes the names of the 558 Sligo men killed in combat.

Also on display are stories of Sligo men who fought during WWI, including letters and postcards from soldiers fighting in France. There are also two rolls of honour which hung in a shop and mill in the county in tribute to workers who had gone off to war.

Among the stories is that of Joseph O'Beirne, from Collooney, Co Sligo, who died just days after Armistice Day.

The young man had emigrated to the US to find work when he was conscripted into the US army in 1917. On November 5, 1918 he wrote his last letter home telling his family he was okay.

However, on the eve of the Armistice he was seriously wounded by bullets in his thigh and breast. He was brought to a military field hospital but died of his wounds on November 19.

"His letter arrived home after news of the Armistice was known. His family thought he had survived the war but sadly he was already dead.

Commemoration

"A few days later they received the news from Washington," said Mr Trayer.

Families of the soldiers gathered for the commemoration yesterday included those paying tribute to men who went unremembered for close to a century. "Many families did not know their own history, it varied depending on the family. If they were from a Protestant tradition then they probably knew a lot more of what went on.

"If they were from a Roman Catholic background it was slightly different, some knew exactly what had happened, and for others it was a big blank," added Mr Trayer.

As part of the exhibition a book of condolences to commemorate men who died 100 years ago has also been opened. It has so far gathered 1,700 signatures and will be presented to the British Legion at the end of the exhibition.

The project also includes an online list of all soldiers who died in the war allowing people to check surnames and areas for their lost relatives.

They can be checked at www.newsfromthepast.ie.

The exhibition, News from the Past, commemorating the people of Sligo's involvement in World War I will run at the Sligo County Museum until September.

Irish Independent

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