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Plaque naming West Cork's 121 WWI war dead is unveiled in Bantry church

November 22nd, 2018 10:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Rev Paul Willoughby and Angela Muckley with the newly unveiled First World War memorial plaque in St Brendan's Church in Bantry. It lists the 121 names of West Cork men who died in WWI and is the result of four years of research by Canon Willoughby. (Photo: Tony McElhinney)

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ARMISTICE Day 2018 was marked in Bantry with a special ecumenical service at St Brendan’s Church. 

The high point of the ceremony was two minutes of silence at 11am followed by the unveiling of a new WWI memorial plaque. 

Rector Canon Paul Willoughby spent four years researching the history and background of all those from his parish area who died in that conflict. 

In that research he discovered that 90 young men from Beara, Bantry, Durrus and Kilcrohane had died and that a further 31 were buried in the local cemeteries. The new memorial, which lists each name, was dedicated to peace and to the memory of the 121 from this parish of all denominations, faiths, traditions and religious backgrounds who died in the dreadful conflict and also those from other places who are buried in cemeteries in the parish. 

Canon Willoughby said afterwards that his motivation for this project was borne from his own family circumstance. ‘My great uncle Charles died on the 17th of June 1916 at Ypres. He is buried in a grave at Essex Farm Cemetery, close to where he fell. He is remember by our family, and formally in his own parish church at Tinahely in Wicklow and also, more recently, at the Wicklow War Memorial at Woodenbridge.’

He added that his wife’s great uncle Harry Green is also buried at Ypres, in New Ireland Cemetery. ‘We visited Ypres in April 2018 and had the opportunity to visit those immaculately kept cemeteries and  to attend the ceremony at the Menin Gate. It is so important that people have an opportunity to remember, a place to go, be it a grave or even a name inscribed on a solemn memorial,’ he said. 

Canon Willoughby added: ‘The names on our new plaque are all local names, from local families. It is so sad to think that 107 young men from the parish went to war and died, four pairs of brothers among them and one aged 15.’

Among those who attended the ceremony at St. Brendan’s Church were families whose names were inscribed on the new plaque. Frances Jennings of Rooska remembered her uncle Tommy (Baker) who died on the Western front in July 1917 and is buried in Belgium. 

Ecumenical guests of honour were Angela Muckley whose uncle Richard Barrett died aged 20 at the Western Front in September 1916. He has no grave, but like so many of his fallen comrades, he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial at the Somme. Another guest of honour was Tommy Mullins, whose uncle Michael O’Neill survived the war and died very shortly after arriving home to Ballycomane, Durrus. 

Later that day a small group travelled onwards to Maulinward Cemetery for prayers at the grave of Michael O’Neill. 

The plaque was unveiled by Angel Muckley, Tommy Mullins, Robert Fennell of Goleen who has provided invaluable assistance to the project, Sandra Dukelow, whose father in law survived the war and Andrew Coleman of Bandon, who was the guest speaker. Andrew, in a powerpoint presentation, told of his own involvement in local history and shared many stories.

On the new plaque is included a quotation from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of modern Turkey, who fought against the allies. 

He wrote the following piece as the world came to grips with the aftermath of the war and the reality of the carnage sank in and the decision was made to bury the dead where they fell. 

‘Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets (Turkish soldiers)  to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.’

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