The first ever Remembrance Day ceremony at Ballina’s War Memorial at Green Park on Killala Road took place on a wet and windy Sunday morning, November 8th, before a large and representative gathering of the local community.
Descendants of those who had fought in The Great War, and other wars, were joined by both public and church representatives for a fitting and memorable wreath-laying tribute at the War Memorial in Ballina that was opened by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in June.
Remembrance Sunday has always been celebrated in St. Michael’s Church in Ballina, but this year with the opening of the town’s War Monument it was the first opportunity for the wider Ballina community to remember the 182 men from the town and district from all traditions who died in the First World War.
Indeed, it was as if the rainstorm that accompanied the ceremony was washing away decades of denial of the courage and sacrifice of those young men of all faiths and backgrounds, as those present, many for the first time wearing the poppy, began to make their way to St. Michael’s Church to join the congregation for the annual Remembrance Sunday service.
The Ballina Brass Ensemble brought the ceremony to a close with a wonderful rendition of the jaunty song, It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, the marching song of The Connaught Rangers, and
composed by English-man, Jack Judge, the grandson of an Irish emigrant from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.
And, as the sun broke through the dark clouds, that song, so evocative of the Great War era, perfectly captured the mood of solemn remembrance and personal reflection.
Army Colour Party
The ceremonies were attended by local politicians, including, Dail deputies, Michelle Mulherin and Dara Calleary, Cllr Gerry Ginty, Mayo County Council; and local church representatives, Rev. Stephen McWhirter, Rev Fr. Gerry O’Hora and Rev. Fr. Gerry Gillespie.
A Colour Party from the 28th Inf. Btn., RDF, Irish Army, consisting of Lieut. Thomas Gilmartin, Castleconnor; CS Michael Hunt, Ballina, and CQMS John McDonnell, Ballina, were also in attendance at both ceremonies.
A member of this party, CS Michael Hunt, laid a wreath on behalf of the Hunt and O’Brien families, in memory of his great-grandfather, Pioneer, William O’Brien, 3rd Special Battalion, Royal Engineers, No. 130286, who died of wounds received on 1st March 1917, and is buried in Willers Station Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Also to be remembered was Pte. Edward Grehan, No. 7754, 2nd Battn. Connaught Rangers, Garden Street, Ballina, who died in battle on the 8th November 1914., and is remembered with honour on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.
The speakers included Rev. Stephen McWhirter, Deputies Mulherin and Calleary, Noel Gillard, Ballina Comrades of The Great War 1914-1919, and PJ Clarke, Chairman of the Ballina Comrades of The Great War 1914-1919.
Trumpeters from the Brass Band Ensemble, under the direction of Jackie Grehan, played the Last Post and Reveille at the War Memorial and later during the service in St. Michael’s Church. The ceremony concluded with the raising of the Irish flag.
In St. Michael’s Church, during the Remembrance Sunday Service, a wreath was laid at the church’s war memorial by PJ Clarke and members of the Ballina Comrades of The Great War carried flags into the Church.
The chief celebrant was the Reverend Rev. Jen McWhirter, who in remembering those who had died in wars, reminded the congregation not to forget the great sacrifices being made today by members of the Irish Defence Forces on peacekeeping duties for the UN throughout the world
After the service, there was a further wreath-laying ceremony in St. Michael’s cemetery at the family monument of Capt. John James Shannon, R.A.M.C., Cloona, died in action in Palestine, on 29th November 1917. He is also remembered with honour in Ramleh War Cemetery, Israel. The Colour Party provided military honours at the cemetery.