Wexford student in inspiring visit to the Somme
a Wexford schoolgirl is one of 32 teenagers from Ireland visiting the Somme to honour and remember the forgotten Irish soldiers of the Great War.
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.
'It is an absolute honour to represent Wexford in the project. It's about time Ireland started to remember the soldiers who fought in WW1 for Ireland, and for us, the future generations,' said the 16-year-old. 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, who is due back in Wexford from her trip this week, 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.
'Ms Quinn told my class about it and encouraged me to apply. 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 loved history and had always had a specific interest in the wars which added to her excitement about this project. 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.
'I was over the moon when my principal told me that my application into the 'My Adopt a Soldier' programme had been successful,' said Emily who was helped in her research by local historians, Tom MacDonald and Greta Brown.
The Adopt a Soldier project was started by Donegal history teacher Gerry Moore who said he was inspired by the story of his grand uncle, Private Anthony Gallagher, who was killed on the first day of the battle and whose name is on the Thiepval Memorial which lists the names of 72,195 soldiers who died in the Somme and have no known grave.
All 32 students who travelled to the Somme were chosen following the essay competition organised by the History Teachers' Association of Ireland
More details of Emily, her research and Daniel's story, and the other 31 entries, can be found at http://www.myadoptedsoldier.com