Earlier this month we displayed 3,129 small crosses on the Parade Lawn outside Kilkenny Castle. Each cross was dedicated to the memory of a person from Kilkenny who served with the various forces in World War 1. Most were natives of Kilkenny, some came to live here for work or family reasons. They served as soldiers, sailors, nurses, doctors, clergy, airmen and firemen with the forces of the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. 870 lost their lives during the war, 338 of these having no known grave, many were lost at sea. An additional blank cross was laid to represent both those with no known grave and also those who should be on our list but who are unknown to us at present.
On Sunday 9th August we held a short Remembrance Ceremony to launch the display. The ceremony was very well attended and we would like to thank those that attended for their support. Wreaths were laid by Kilkenny County Council Cathaoirleach Mary Hilda Kavanagh and (representing Mayor Joe Malone) Councillor Andrew McGuinness. In his opening speech committee member John Joe Cullen said “their sacrifice helped shape the world we live in. They left this city & county of their own free will, some for adventure, some out of friendship, but most of all they went out of economic necessity to get a steady wage or help rear a family. War is never glorious but sometimes battles need to be fought for civilisation. The men and women who are represented on these crosses are our own flesh & blood. They lives & loved like us, having brothers & sisters, mothers & fathers. Their families had to endure their loss, and our history dictated that they could not be mourned in public for fear of reprisal.”
In her speech the Cathaoirleach said “Our country is now in the midst of an important Decade of Centenaries where we reflect on and commemorate the seminal historical events that had such an impact on this history of our country during the period 1912-1922. A key facet of this Decade of Centenaries programme is its inclusive nature where we honour the different experiences and traditions that impacted the lives of families and communities on this island over the last one hundred years.” She also referred to the difficulties many of the survivors had on their return saying “Many of those who did return home came back to their families with serious injuries, sometimes physical, sometimes psychological, sometimes both. Many found it difficult to talk about their experiences and in some respects, their stories did not fit the narrative of the new Ireland emerging in the aftermath of the Great War. This must have added to their pain and trauma and to the hurt of those who had been bereaved on the killing fields of Europe, North Africa and Asia. Others drew on their experience in battle to fight for Irish Independence and to join the new Free State Army. Commemorations offer comfort, dignity and respect to those who have been directly affected by conflict. For the rest of us, a commemoration such as this one provides an opportunity to reflect.
We continue to live in a dangerous world, more dangerous today than it has been in recent decades. Peace cannot be taken for granted but must be valued, nurtured and preserved by all of us. We owe that to the memory of those we commemorate today.”
We are indebted to so many people for their help in putting this display together. OPW Kilkenny Castle, Molloy’s of Callan, Dunreidy Engineering, The Men’s Shed and Anne Jones, Enviroclad, Fran & Maeve Egan, Enniscorthy Historical Reenactment Society, Finbarr McCarthy, Modern Printers, Kilkenny Local Authorities, John Kenny, Bridget Corcoran, SOS Kilkenny and authors Tom Burnell (Kilkenny War Dead) and John Kirwan/Niall Brannigan (Kilkenny Families in the Great War) whose books were used to compile the lists of those who served.
In his closing speech committee Chairman Donal Croghan reminded us that the ultimate goal of the committee is the erection of a permanent memorial to Kilkenny’s Great War dead with the name of each of those lost engraved in stone. This memorial will be located in St Mary’s Graveyard just off of High St. You can help us with the funding for this Memorial by donating via the website. All donations no matter how small are gratefully received.