Touching story of Dublin's very own War Horse is brought to life

Alan O'Keeffe

DUBLIN'S very own 'war horse' could finally become a tourist attraction more than a century after receiving a full military funeral.

The huge success of Steven Spielberg's movie War Horse has awakened public interest in horses caught up in historic battles.

Tourists are now being invited to visit Dublin's most unusual war grave -- the burial place of a horse named Vonolel.

The white Arab charger was decorated with three war medals and was buried at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. The horse was even given its own headstone with a poem included in the epitaph.

The horse's medals included The Kandahar Star, won during a huge battle in Afghanistan in 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War which resulted in almost 3,000 casualties.

The horse was the charger belonging to British force's commander Frederick Roberts, who was later promoted to Field Marshal and became an earl.

The horse was bought in India in 1877 and Roberts grew to love the animal. When Roberts was transferred to Dublin as commander-in-chief of the army in Ireland, he brought his horse with him.

Vonolel was retired to the Curragh in Kildare and died at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham in 1899. The heart-broken Roberts ensured the 29-year-old horse received a full military funeral, including a volley of shots over the grave at the Royal Hospital.

The headstone bears testament to the horses military exploits and character. A poem includes the lines: "Dumb creatures we have cherished here below/Shall give us joyous greeting when/We pass the golden gate/Is it folly that I hope it may be so."

The story of Vonolel is recounted by city guide Donal Fallon on a video on the website.

Tom Rowley (27), who created the site with friend Andrew Flaherty (28), said: "Visitors who enjoy the story on Storymap may make their way to Kilmainham to see the grave for themselves."

The website creators have revived Ireland's age-old tradition of storytelling by enabling the public to enjoy Dublin's many lesser-known stories told in mini-movies.

The pair have already filmed 40 stories varying for, and are seeking assistance to fund the development of a smartphone app.

They hope the app will allow people to explore Dublin and listen to the stories at the same time.