Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland village's pride as names of its war dead added to memorial

By Mark Edwards

A war memorial in a Co Fermanagh village, thought to be the first ever erected in Ireland, has been restored to carry the names all local soldiers from the area who died in the World Wars.

The people of Brookeborough have been working for the past two years to restore the monument to its former glory after being given a grant by the War Memorial Trust.

Arthur Ovens, chairman of the war memorial committee, said the village was very proud of the restoration.

"It was built in 1901 as a memorial for the Boer War and there were three names on it for that war," he explained.

"We have now put 47 names on it for the First World War and 12 for the Second World War.

Mr Ovens said that the work started after the War Memorial Trust in London got in touch about commemorations of the Great War as it had funding of £30m available for projects.

He added: "We were the first village in Ireland, and possibly the first in the British Isles, where a war memorial was put up.

"The trust asked us if we would take on a project restoring it and putting the names on it. So we formed a committee and we have been working on it for the last two years. We are very pleased with it. It turned out very well."

The memorial was originally unveiled in August 1901 while the conflict in South Africa was still going on. Originally three names were inscribed on the monument, which is affectionately known as 'The Bear' in the village.

They were Sergeant William Brown, Trooper William Palmer and Private Robert Noble.

Now the names of all the men from Brookeborough who died in the 1914-18 and 1939-45 conflicts are on a bronze plaque added to the foot of the memorial.

The newly-restored monument was unveiled at a dedication ceremony on Sunday, with clergymen from the Church of Ireland, Methodist and Catholic Churches attending.

The committee asked Enniskillen man Clive Johnston to carry out the research and publish a book about the soldiers.

Mr Ovens said: "We have brought the book out to tell their stories and it has gone down very well. There are quite a few of the relatives still associated with the area.

"We tried to have the project as cross-community as we could. A third of the names were Catholic and the rest were Protestants. We are very proud of that."

Mr Ovens, who was born in Brookeborough, added that no one is sure why the memorial is known as 'The Bear', but said one tale may explain it.

"We heard a story from a local man in his 90s that there used to be a sign near where the memorial was that said 'Bear Left For Belfast', but we do not know whether that is true or not," he said.

"But it is the most plausible story we have heard."

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