Saturday 19 October 2019

WWI soldiers killed in action honoured in Michael's book

Author Michael Fottrell with his niece and nephews, Roderick, Emmett, Leonora and Ruairí Ryan
Author Michael Fottrell with his niece and nephews, Roderick, Emmett, Leonora and Ruairí Ryan

David Looby

Author Michael Fottrell has released a book about 207 soldiers from New Ross Town and district who died during World War I.

The book was launched by Mark Minihan at New Ross Library in front of a large crowd of 70 people.

Called `Will We Remember Them?' it runs to over 460 pages and lists 207 soldiers and sailors who lost their life in the war.

Michael first got the idea to write the book at a World War I commemoration event he performed at in November 2014 with the New Ross Singers. 'We sang a song specially commissioned for the war dead called The Armed Man at St Mary's Church and there were historical society speakers. It really made an impression on me. They lit a candle for a lot of the men who died during the war from the New Ross area. That sowed the seeds for the book.'

Michael came up with the title as a way to highlight how the men's deaths were not spoken about in public after the war for decades. 'It wasn't politically or socially acceptable to honour these men or to talk about the war. I started reading up on the men who fought in the war in 2015 and found a book which categorised them. The book featured four to five of them on a page. I got the idea that to give them dignity I would give them a page of their own so their descendants could look at them on their own page. They made a sacrifice insofar as they got shot, not insofar as war for king and country. 80 per cent of them fought to extricate themselves from extreme poverty.'

Using research gleaned from books and contemporary documents, Michael worked on the book over three years, uncovering the unique stories of each of the 207 soldiers.

'One man from Cross Lane went to South Africa. He volunteered to fight in North Africa where he was killed. Another man changed his name from Zimber to Cairns. His family were watchmakers who had emigrated to Ireland and he didn't want to have a German name fighting for the British Army. Michael said he was astounded by the response he got at the launch. To see the cross-section of people. One man had a "dead penny", which is a very large coin given to the families of anyone who died in the war. It meant something to him to be able to show it to someone who could empathise.'

The book will be sold at the Dunbrody Visitor Centre, Nugent's and Nolan's in New Ross.

New Ross Standard