Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Archives reveal donkey auction

Donkeys were auctioned for Belgian relief charities at the start of the First World War, records have revealed

Donkeys were auctioned off in Ireland as part of efforts to raise funds during the First World War, century-old public records have shown.

A document unearthed by the Public Records Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) has revealed one of the more unusual charity initiatives undertaken during the conflict.

Proceeds from the November, 1914 donkey sale in Bangor, Co Down, were given to the Belgium Relief Fund - an international effort to provide food to a nation suffering shortages under German occupation.

Many Belgians were driven to the brink of starvation as Germany requisitioned supplies to feed its own troops.

The Irish were confronted with stark evidence of this when many refugees from Belgium started arriving on their shores following the outbreak of war in August 1914.

The document, complete with a picture of an auctioned donkey, came from the records of the former Bangor Borough Council.

Alyson Stanford from PRONI said it was just one of many thousands of documents from the period held by the Public Records Office which illuminates the experiences of Irish men and women.

"While working on a remote enquiry, I came across this charming photograph of a donkey with some children," she said.

"It is amazing to find that such charitable actions were being made by local people with all kinds of items, and animals, up for auction with the proceeds going to charitable causes.

"The proceeds of this sale would be given to the National and Belgian Relief funds which had been in the fore due to the outbreak of war in 1914. I hope that at the end of the day a generous amount of money was raised and more importantly the donkey went to a good home."

The war was fought in the period just before Ireland was partitioned. More than 200,000 men and women from across the island served with the fighting forces. Around 30,000 lost their lives.

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