TO COMMEMORATE the centenary since the start of the Great War, Carlow College, St Patrick’s, recently hosted a World War 1 memorabilia day. The main purpose of the event was to create a record of the contribution by men and women from Carlow, Kilkenny and the south-east to the war. From the moment the doors opened until the 4pm close, people flocked in with their memorabilia. Stories of those who contributed to the war were told and recorded and letters, medals, photographs, postcards and all sorts of mementos and ephemerae were digitally scanned.
Speaking about the event, Elaine Callinan, lecturer in history at Carlow College, said: “It was a very interesting and informative day that allowed for a huge range of war materials to be documented, so we now have far greater knowledge of how the war impacted at a local level. All the items brought in were significant and the event brought history to life as the humanity was put into the story of the Great War.”
Some of the stories involved Carlow men fighting on the Western Front, in Gallipoli and at sea. Tommy Alcock told of his uncles James and Timothy Quigley of Bridewell Lane, who had volunteered to join the army in 1914 when the war broke out. Timothy was a naval officer, who was killed in action on the HMS Raglan near the end of the war in 1918, aged only 23. His brother survived the war and opened a family bakery business at Wellington Bridge in Carlow. Ann Hayden of Tinryland told of her three granduncles: John, Christopher and Joe McCullough. Christopher and Joe both survived the war, the former having survived the sinking of the HMHS Britannic in 1916. However, John McCullough, 31st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was killed in action in Flanders on 4 October 1917. Peter Fleming, Tullow, explained that his grandfather, Peter Doyle, had a lot of experience in weaponry and machine guns in the war and served in the Machine Gun Corp from 1916. Helen Fegan Joyce explained that three of her five uncles from the Anderson family joined up for the war: Charles, Matthew and Arthur and, thankfully, all survived and returned home. Anne Byrne of Leighlinbridge said that her granduncle James Byrne, who served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers, was killed in action early in the war, November 1914, in France, aged 33 years. Tinryland woman Frances Byrne’s grandfather Joseph Crowe had been employed in Browneshill House estate working with horses.
The landlord informed the male employees that they were going to war, so Joseph enlisted as a mounted soldier serving with ‘The South Irish Horse’, and subsequently fought in the Battle of the Somme. Joseph’s accounts of life in the trenches talk of the ground being filled with water, rats and piled-up bodies.
One of the most interesting, if rather macabre, stories was told by Kathleen Dowling of Old Leighlin about her grandfather Patrick Moran. Chloe Conlon, a student of history at Carlow College, said: “He and a number of colleagues, who were fighting in France, were particularly thirsty one day and so drank from a nearby stream. Suddenly, they realised that the water was full of bloody dead bodies of soldiers only a short distance upstream from where they were drinking. Fortunately, Mr Moran survived, going on to save a French woman from a burning house and, later, he was hit by a bullet to the head, but his helmet saved him.”
There were even war diaries from the German side brought by Joseph Redmond of Palatine, who is a collector of diaries.
The World War 1 memorabilia day also had a range of lectures and exhibitions. Carlow County Library displayed materials from its local history department, including newspaper articles and recruitment adverts from the Nationalist & Leinster Times. Co Carlow Military Museum had an array of war medals and soldiers’ uniforms and the Delany archive and Carlow College collections displayed documents and ephemera from the war, including trench art made from bullets. Dr Margaret Murphy informed on how soldiers cooked and ate in the trenches and visitors could sample food from World War 1.
“All-in-all, the event was a great success,” stated Fintan Morris, lecturer in Irish and European history at Carlow College. It hoped to show the collection of photographs, medals, letters, and postcards in a digitised collection in Carlow College.