Belfast Telegraph

Moving ceremony as towns unite to remember war dead

The Mayor of Newtownabbey, Paula Bradley, heard a moving contemporary account of the death in World War I of the great-grandfather of Drogheda’s mayor, Paul Bell, who served in the British Army.

It was read by local historian, Sean Collins, in Drogheda last Saturday morning as part of a service of remembrance. They joined about 180 other people where Royal Standards were unfurled as former regular army and part-time UDR and RIR soldiers mingled with former troops from the Republic to remember the war dead from both sides of the border.

The war memorial in Drogheda's Mary Street was the venue for the annual event to honour the World War dead.

A coach party from Whiteabbey Royal British Legion — who helped pioneer the event a decade ago — was among the guests.

They came to attention as the Royal Standards were carried to the commemoration at 11am, with around 200 people attending the interdenominational service of praise and remembrance for those who died or were wounded.

As guests of Mayor Bell, civic representatives, including the DUP Mayor of Newtownabbey, Alderman Paula Bradley, laid wreaths to recall the men from all over Ireland who were killed or wounded in the British Army during WWI.

Also attending was DUP Alderman Nigel Hamilton and Cllr Brendan Carlin, a recently appointed Independent member.

They stood as Royal British Legion poppy wreaths were being laid side-by-side with the tricolour wreaths of the Organisation of National Ex-servicemen (ONE) and the traditional two-minute silence was observed.

The symbolism was completed with the Union Flag — incorporated in the Legion's Royal Standard — dipped in tribute as the Irish Tricolour payed respect to a fallen generation.

Former Drogheda Mayor, Sean Collins, who both initiated the revival and has regularly visited Whiteabbey Royal British Legion to liaise on increasing levels of co-operation in such cross-border initiatives, remains the driving force for the commemoration, which is now hosted by Drogheda Borough Council.

“As a historian, I was very impressed by the war memorabilia displayed in Whiteabbey legion branch, which includes a tribute to a WWI Victoria Cross recipient, Lieutenant Emerson, who hailed from Drogheda and from these discussions, the idea of a joint cross-border commemoration grew,” he said.

Whiteabbey's John Dumigan, a former Chairman of the Northern Ireland Royal British Legion, said: “This important tribute to those who served in 1914-18 for the common good has grown from a small party of representatives from Whiteabbey being invited by Sean Collins to take part in the revival of a long-neglected ceremony, to what is now an important annual event.”

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