Monumental day as war dead honoured
THEY died fighting for a foreign flag, and on Sunday, almost a 100 years from the day the war to end all wars began, the 874 Wexford men who fell in World War One were finally honoured by the county of their birth.
To the haunting sound of the Last Post played on a bugle, Wexford honoured its war dead with the laying of wreaths at the dedication of a memorial at the monument to John Redmond, whose nephew Willie was amongst the fallen, the best known of the Wexfordmen who fell in the Great War which claimed 35,000 Irish lives.
'This is one of the first civic recognitions of the Irishmen and Wexford men who fought and died during World War 1,' said Mayor Cllr. Jim Allen, who laid a wreath of red poppies at the monument, another piece of symbolism in an Ireland of tomorrows reconnecting with a past that had almost been air-brushed from our history, of a recognition of the sacrifices made by men who returned home from the war to hostility and in some cases violence.
Among those taking their part at the solemn and diginified ceremony were uniformed sailors from HMS Charger, the first British Royal Navy vessel to visit Wexford Harbour since 1921.
The wording of the memorial, laid flat in the soil of Wexford at Redmond Square, many miles from the foreign fields where most of the county's war dead remain, says:
'In memory of all from the Town and County of Wexford who fought and died during the Great War 1914 -1918'.
It is a starkly simple message and one that has been waiting many years for its pride of place in town and county.
There was no sign of Jeffrey Donaldson, from the Democratic Unionist Party, who Cllr. Allen said had been invited at the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In his address, the mayor mentioned just a few of the souls who died in the fighting between 1914-18, including his great grandfather Michael Golden lost when his ship was torpedoed by a submarine on the way back from Gallipoli where so many Wexford men were killed in the early years of the war.
The mayor spoke to of the sacrifice made by so many towns, villages and streets in Wexford - 12 men from Rowe Street were killed and nine from Bridge Street alone in Wexford town alone, the losses to local communities hard to comprehend.
More than 200 people turned out under suitably leaden-grey skies to witness this bit of history being made.
Organised by Wexford Borough Council and the Royal British Legion, the ceremony was meticulously choregraphed with Town Clerk Pat Collins as master of ceremonies.
Both Ministers Brendan Howlin and Paul Kehoe were there, laying wreaths on behalf the government and the Department of Defence. Guests from the United States and the embassies of the U.K. and the USA were also present.
U.S. and Irish veterans were among the 'old soldiers' parade with standards and banners representing the units in which they once served while a colour party from the defence forces, which led the parade from Selskar to Redmond Square, flanked the monument for the duration of the ceremony.
Fr. Jim Fegan and Rev. Arthur Minnion conducted the eucemenical service which included a lament by Thomas Moore and an exhortation and silence read by Major General The O'Morchoe, the President of the Royal British Legion in Ireland.
Pipers from the New Ross and District Pipe Band played the national anthem, Anthony Nolan the bugle, Michael Londra sang and Eanna McKenna provided the music, which included the moving hymn oft sung at times of remembrance 'Abide with Me,' the words of which were written in 1847 by Henry Francis Lyte, the onetime Rector of Taghmon.