A major event in Ballymoney for the first weekend in August to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One is set to attract visitors from across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and further afield. The historical event has been developed by Ballymoney and District Heritage Society and is funded by the Lottery Fund “Awards for All NI” and Ballymoney Borough Council and is supported by the Royal British Legion.
Mayor John Finlay and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Mrs Joan Christie, OBE, joined representatives from the local Cultural and Heritage Society and the Royal British Legion last Thursday at Council’s Civic Headquarters to launch the commemorative event.
David McCallion from the Ballyclare based history organization “War Years Remembered” provided a magnificent war horse backdrop for the launch.
The lifesize display depicted a mounted cavalryman in full regalia from C Squadron 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, who were the first into battle, together with a nurse and soldiers in the uniform of the day. Ironically the Irish Calvary were “First to Fight and First to Die” Just before Armistice was signed George Ellison from the 5th Royal Irish Lancers was the last soldier to be killed in action during WW1. He is buried in St Symphorien Cemetery, two miles east of Mons, not more than a few feet away from the very first soldier killed in the Great War, Pte John Parr.
Speaking at the event Mayor Finlay said: “People from this community, like communities elsewhere, enlisted, or were called up, in their thousands. The war years affected everyone’s life in one way or another. It is fitting that in the centenary year we remember the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces in order that future generations are able to live in peace and freedom.”
Over the commemoration weekend various events and displays will be staged in Ballymoney Showgrounds and in the town centre. Included will be displays of World War I vehicles and memorabilia in addition to military displays featuring Irish Regiments of the Great War, and family fun activities. The public will get a sense of the life and times of war, with re-enactments showing soldiers in the trenches, a field hospital and war-time kitchen.
Shoppers and visitors will be met with mounted horses and wartime ladies on bikes. A nostalgic dance in the Royal British Legion Club on the Friday evening brings the curtain down on Friday’s activities. On Saturday a Memorial Service will remember the fallen. This will be followed by a parade of the town, led by the Standards of the Royal British Legion.
In addition to the main public events the Cultural & Heritage Society plan to include workshops for local primary school children in the run up to the commemoration weekend, with the key focus on those from this area who gave their lives.
Noel Anderson, Chair of the Ballymoney and District Cultural and Heritage Society speaking at the event said: “We had a taster at tonight’s event launch of the quality of the material which will be on display over the commemoration weekend. There is no doubt this will create interst and memories in the community. Remembrance transcends all boundaries and this project will seek to create a better understanding of one of the major historical events of our past.”
Visitors to the town during August will also have the opportunity to view an exhibition on WWI at Ballymoney Museum and a touring exhibition by Causeway and Mid Antrim Museum Services, funded by Peace III.