Belfast Telegraph

Robinson set to unveil new Battle of the Somme mural

by Natalie Irvine

A mural in memory of the Sydenham men who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War, is to be unveiled to the public this weekend.

The First Minister, Peter Robinson, will be among the guests invited to the official launch of the historical work of art this coming Saturday, July 10. A parade of six bands will commence from Inverary Bowling Club en route to the mural, at approximately 7pm.

The mural which is featured on the gable end of a house facing Sydenham train station, is the result of an intergenerational community history course, organised by Sydenham Community Development Agency (SCDA).

David McConnell, community development officer for SCDA, said: “There was a range of local people involved in this, from kids, right up to 85-year-olds. We ran an eight-week local history course earlier this year with Sydenham Historical and Cultural Society, Knights Pensioners group, Blues and Royals flute band and the Sydenham Young Ones — I would say over 50 people took part.

“Participants of the course were given the opportunity to research the lives of the 28 men from Sydenham who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme. At the end of the course it was discussed how best to remember them — that is how the decision to create a new mural came about.

“This particular wall where the mural is set to be, used to have paramilitary gunmen on it. After this, there then was a mural to commemorate the Battle of the Somme, but a lot of people in the area still associated it with the paramilitaries.

“As a result of this course, everybody has had an input and learned their local history for themselves. The names of the men from Sydenham who died in the battle, and the regiments they were in, will be featured in this new mural.”

Mr McConnell said they had been refused funding from the ‘Re-imaging Communities’ project because the mural would have names on it, but the local community rallied behind the cause.

The Battle of the Somme in World War I is catalogued as one of the bloodiest military operations ever recorded. The opening day of the battle on July 1, 1916, saw the British Army suffer the worst one-day combat losses in its history — nearly 60,000 casualties.

After the parade this Saturday evening, a wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph in front of the mural in memory of the Sydenham soldiers will also take place.

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