Derrykeighan ‘Guiding Star’ LOL 995 recently held a talk and dedication of a new bannerette displaying Pte John Meeke MM who saved the life of Major William Redmond, a famous Irish Nationalist MP.
Davey Gourley (Events officer) from the Ulster Covenant and Historical Society gave a talk describing the Battle of Messines in June Of 1917 when he saved the life of Major William Redmond who was serving with the 16th Irish Division.
“As he bandaged Major Redmond’s wounds the two men came under continued fire. John knew the importance of the officer to whom he was tending, and Major Redmond, conscious throughout, would have known he was in the care of a young Ulsterman.
“As he finished bandaging, John Meeke himself was wounded on his left side. Major Redmond saw the young private bleeding profusely and ordered him to retreat to the safety of the British lines. John refused, openly disobeying his senior officer.
“Moments later, John was hit again. A second time Major Redmond gave him an order to save himself.
“Once more, he refused. He survived his wounds and, when the war ended, returned home to his family at Benvardin.
“John’s brother Samuel had been a prisoner of war in one of the most notorious of the German Prison camps.
“He had been forced to work in the sulphur mines and when he arrived home he was in very poor health.
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A few weeks later Samuel was dead, he is buried in Old Derrykeighan Burial Ground and his grave is marked with a Commonwealth War Graves Headstone. He too is buried beside his brother in the same cemetery, but no Commonwealth War Grave headstone marked his grave having died after the cut off point of August 1921. However thanks to the local community he has now been rightfully honoured with a memorial headstone which pays tribute to such a brave man.
Mr James Creelman (Treasurer) explained: “This event will help to develop and promote greater mutual understanding by developing an evening of reflection, which aim to identify differences and similarities within and between communities – and the sacrifices made by both traditions. This physical legacy (Bannerette) story encapsulates the objectives of the Good Relations programme as it demonstrates the risk taken by an individual to rescue another individual irrespective of religion, class, age or gender. I would like to thank Mr Gourley (Events officer) and the staff and proprietor/s of the ‘Hedges Hotel, Stranocum who collectively helped deliver and manage a successful event.”
In concluding Mr James Creelman added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ballymoney Borough Council and to acknowledge the funding received through their ‘Good Relations Small Grants Programme’ for this project.”