A Wexford student features in a two part Nationwide special this week.
Emily Boyne, from Coláiste Bríde, Enniscorthy, was selected as the county's representative in the first 'My Adopted Soldier' project in which students from all 32 counties adopt and tell the stories of soldiers of World War One who took part in the Battle of the Somme and never came home.
The first of the two part special which was broadcast last night (Monday) programme saw guest presenter Eileen Magnier, RTÉ's North West Correspondent, and cameraman Brian McVeigh follow the students, as they researched their soldier's story and in some cases found living relatives.
They uncovered some intriguing and tragic cases before travelling as a group to the Somme to get an insight into what their soldiers had gone through and to pay their respects at their graves. In many cases it's believed this was the first time that the soldier's story had been told and his grave visited.
The project focuses on the personal stories behind the statistics of war. 'It is an absolute honour to represent Wexford in the project', said Emily. 'It's about time Ireland started to remember the soldiers who fought in WW1 for Ireland, and for us, the future generations.' She said it was horrifying to think that some of those killed in the battle were little older than herself.
Emily's adopted soldier Daniel Murphy, from Kellystown, Adamstown, was killed in action on the first day of the battle on July 1, 1916. He was just 18 years of age.
Emily said Daniel was born to John and Catherine Murphy in 1898. John was a farm servant for a man called John Walsh. He and Catherine had five children together, Daniel being the youngest. Sadly, Catherine died between 1898 and 1901, because according to the census, John was a widower. John, then remarried, however, his second wife died between 1901 and 1911, with the 1911 census showing him again as a widower, but with two more children.
In 1901, the Murphy family lived in 20, Kellystown, Adamstown, which was owned by John Murphy, and by 1911 had moved to 9, Kellystown, Adamstown.
Through her research Emily said she discovered that Daniel's mother Catherine, his brothers Thomas, Patrick and Edward, his grandmother Catherine, his grandfather John and his father John are all buried in the same grave plot in Adamstown Cemetery.
Emily said she heard about the 'My Adopted Soldier' project from her history teacher, Aisling Quinn. 'I would be lying if I said I wasn't interested, so, I went home and wrote the 300 word application and hoped for the best. The competition, in my school alone, was fierce. I knew that any of the other girls could just have easily taken my spot, but I hoped that my excitement and passion had come across in my application.'
Emily said she loves history and had always had a specific interest in the wars. She said that during a visit to relatives in Germany she had spoken to local people about life in Germany during World War Two and the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. During a subsequent visit to France she had visited the town of Oradour-sur-Glane razed to the ground by the Nazis and left as it was in those darkest of days as a silent testament to the horrors of war.
'As time has gone on over the past year, I have realised that there is more history in my blood than first imagined. Not only am I a descendant of the King of Leinster but, my great-grandfather, Harry Lang, was in the original IRA and one of the first hunger strikers. He was also close friends with Eamonn de Valera,' said Emily.
The 'My Adopted Soldier' project is a unique one according to its creator, history teacher Gerry Moore from Glenties in County Donegal. The first RTÉ Nationwide programme meets some of the students as they go in search of their soldier's life story, and those who are working on the website where all research is being uploaded. www.myadoptedsoldier.com. The lasting legacy of the project is a website telling the story of the individual soldiers as researched by the students and it is planned to expand the database, making it a very valuable resource for schools and anyone with an interest in Irish people in World War 1.
In the second programme which is broadcast tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7 p.m., Nationwide travel to the Somme with the students for what is a very emotional experience as they get a sense of what life was like in the trenches and pay their respects to their adopted soldiers and also to the thousands of soldiers who have no known graves.
Before the students departed on their trip they visited Áras an Uachtaráin where President Michael D. Higgins congratulated them on helping to 'write these soldiers back into Irish history'.