South Dublin and the Battle of the Somme

The South Dublin and the Battle of the Somme Exhibition was launched by Mayor Guss O’Connell at the County Library, Tallaght last Friday morning, 4th November.

This exhibition is part of South Dublin County Council’s Decade of Commemorations events in which we remember the pivotal decade of 1913-1923.

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Cllr. WIlliam Lavelle, Daniel McLoughlin (Chief Executive, South Dublin County Council), Mayor Guss O’Connell, David Power (South Dublin Libraries) and Bernadette Fennell (County Librarian, South Dublin Libraries) pictured at the exhibition launch.

South Dublin Libraries staff have found 12 known men from the current South Dublin County area who were killed in the various battles of the Somme campaign and their stories are illustrated here using contemporary documents and photographs. There may have been more who were recorded as having been from Dublin with no parish mentioned. More from the county area would have survived the Somme and went on to fight and die in further campaigns in the next two years. Still more would have survived the entire war and returned, traumatised, to a changed Ireland that would have been unrecognisable compared to the one they left.

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There are trench maps on display showing the location of the men’s deaths, and the original War diaries which were written up by officers in charge and these detail the actions of the various “South Dubliners’” regiments in the day . Again the statistics for South Dublin reflect those of the country as a whole. The vast majority were killed in and around the village of Guillemont where the 16th Irish Division were involved in days of slaughter to take the heavily-defended villages of Guillemont and Ginchy.

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Speaking at the launch, Mayor O’Connell said, “The South Dublin men commemorated here are a microcosm of the island of Ireland’s participation in the Great War. As with the participants in the 1916 Rising, all walks of life are represented here. We have a Trinity medical student, a quarry worker, some general and agricultural labourers, a Vicar’s son and the son of a Barrister-at-Law. The streets of the villages they left for the last time would look very familiar to us today.”

South Dublin County Council, through its library service, is delighted to host this exhibition as part of our Decade of Commemorations activities. It will run at the County Library, Tallaght until Wednesday 30th November 2016.

We are very interested in finding additional names of those locals from South Dublin County who died at the Somme (between the 1st of July and the 18th of November 1916) and who we may have missed because they were listed on official records as having been from Dublin instead of the village from which they came.

If you can help, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact: localstudies@sdublincoco.ie

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Manchester Guardian – Rare 1916 Images now online.

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The early 20th century saw the beginning of the soon-to-be widespread use of photography in newspapers and periodicals. Magazines such as The Sphere, Irish Life and the Illustrated London News brought pictorial accounts of news from distant lands into people’s homes, and the photographs alongside the text enhanced the readers’ experience enabling them to “see” world events as well as read about them.

During the period 1914 to 1919, the Manchester Guardian newspaper published a series of pictorial supplements which contained an account of every action of the First World War as it happened. Profusely illustrated with maps, artwork and photographs, they remain an invaluable source of contemporary accounts of every action that took place in that conflict, from the Western Front to the Balkans and the Middle East.

South Dublin Libraries have acquired all nine bound volumes of this unique historical resource and these are available to consult in the Local Studies section of the County Library, Tallaght.

Alongside the main theatres of war, it covers the “Dublin Rebellion” as it was then called using nowadays rarely-seen photographs of the 1916 Rising. These images are now viewable on South Dublin Libraries’ “Source” digital archive and we present some examples here.

Here is an interesting photograph of the east side of the Four Courts after its bombardment in 1916. Six years later it would be targeted again, this time by the forces of the Free State:

Behind the soldier to the right you can just about see a torn recruitment poster. Here is the poster as it would have appeared immediately after being put up:

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Here is a scene, from a location nearby, of British Army Lancers rounding the corner at the junction of Church Street and Merchants Quay – about to cross Father Mathew Bridge (then known as Whitworth Bridge):

The photo is interesting, as the only record of Lancers in this area is from the first day of the Rising when a troop of the 5th and 12th Lancers was escorting an ammunition convoy along the north Quays. The lancers came under fire from the 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers under Ned Daly who were occupying the Four Courts. They dismounted, let the horses free and carried the ammunition boxes into the Medical Mission building opposite the east side of the Four Courts. The building still bears the scars of rifle fire on its façade.

This strange vehicle located outside the Granville Hotel on Sackville (O’Connell) Street is an early version of the armoured car. The vehicle was comprised of a locomotive boiler on the back of a flatbed truck. They were built by the Great Southern and Western Railway Works in Inchicore by order of the British Military, and had a line of four openings on either side through which a rifle could be aimed.

You would be forgiven for thinking there are more than four apertures. However if you look closely you will see that the “holes” above and below the middle row – and every second one on the middle row – are dummy openings painted on to confuse snipers. In the background is another recruitment poster.

To view all 24 Manchester Guardian images from 1916, click here:

http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/browse?type=author&value=The+Manchester+Guardian+History+of+the+War+1914-18

If you wish to view the original volumes, please ask at the desk in the County Library.

World Poetry Day: Gallipoli by Michael J. Whelan

As today is World Poetry Day and to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the Dardanelles (Land) Campaign this time next month April 25th, I offer this poem, which I wrote after my visit to the Gallipoli Peninsula a few years ago.

The poem was inspired by my visit and also by the poem of the same name ‘The Irish at Gallipoli’ written by Irish Poet Francis Ledwidge before he was killed during the war on the Western Front. Ledwidge had seen the worst of the sufferings experienced by 10th Irish Division after the Suvla Bay landings in August and had penned his poem, while on a troopship sailing past the ancient city of Troy. The Irish and the other allied soldiers who served at Gallipoli had a healthy respect for the Turkish soldiers they fought in 1915.

The Gallipoli Peninsula today is a national park holding the graves and unmarked remains of thousands of soldiers on both sides who perished there. The poem is also a recognition of the, until recently, forgotten story of Irish soldiers lost during the conflict and to subsequent Irish historiography.

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(After a visit to the battlefields -2011)

Today I stood above the Aegean Sea
listening for echoes I could not hear.
The silent tempo of the ground
resonates still on unnatural landscapes.

The zig-zag lines where dead men toil
dug deep into blood smeared soil,
buried now with their bones
on beaches and gullies where once
they fought the Turk,
stormed the shores and hills as if thrown
against the wind by Agamemnon himself.

The silence bade me look towards Troy
across the Straits from Helles,
I still could hear no voice, nor thunder in the sky
except the launching waves
pushing ancient pebbles up the beach to rest,
where once they drowned the hearts of men.

Then behind me I could feel it,
the noise of peace and echoes of war
in a thousand monuments to the dead,
stretched out in marching order.
And there, watching me, my shadow
took on the specter of a ghost and spoke,
‘Like Hector I was the defender
brave and virtuous – but of Irish stock,
I am the soldier my country forsook.’
And in response I said

‘I have come at last to pay my respects,
I have come to take you home!’

Michael J. Whelan

Michael J. Whelan lives in Tallaght and is an award winning poet, writer and historian. For more about Michael and his work, please see his blog

Ballyroan Library hosts WWI Exhibition

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Back by Popular Demand!

The Great War Exhibition travels to Ballyroan Library

Orchardstown Avenue, Rathfarnham

Exhibition runs until December 23rd 2014.

Following the recent run of the very successful “Ireland and the Great War” exhibition in the County Library in Tallaght, it has now travelled to Ballyroan Library and will be on display in the exhibition space there until the 23rd of December.

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Each piece in the exhibition tells a story, especially so the Irishmen’s service medals on display. These were issued after the war with the recipient’s name and number impressed on the edge (and on the back in the case of the 1914 and 1914/15 Star). This has enabled their stories to be researched and retold. They are remembered and presented here in an attempt to personalise the tragedy that was the Great War.

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As before, the exhibition includes a concise timeline and a set of information panels courtesy of the Imperial War Museum covering the main battles, plus seven panels by the Local Studies section, detailing aspects of the conflict that uniquely affected Ireland

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The exhibition serves as a tribute to the many hundreds of thousands of men and women of both sides who perished in the conflict, each one leaving grieving parents and next of kin. It also commemorates those who returned, mentally and physically scarred by their experiences, to a world utterly changed by the war.

Launch of Landscapes of War and Peace

The launch took place on Monday night, of ‘Landscapes of War and Peace 1914-2014: War Poetry and Peacekeeping’ by Michael J. Whelan.

This exhibition, which is part of the Red Line Book Festival, includes an Irish soldier’s poems and images inspired by the poets of the Great War and his own peacekeeping duties in modern day conflicts in the Middle-East and Balkans. Also being exhibited are historical artefacts and documents of family history over the past 100 years, poems and other paraphernalia from World War I and UN Peacekeeping duties.

Thank you to Mayor Fintan Warfield and Brigadier General Paul Fry who launched the exhibition.

The exhibition can be viewed at the County Library, Tallaght until 23rd October 2014, during library opening hours.

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Mayor Fintan Warfield launching the exhibition

Mayor Fintan Warfield launching the exhibition

Michael J Whelan with David Power (South Dublin Libraries), Brigadier General Paul Fry and Maria Donohoe (South Dublin Libraries)

Michael J Whelan with David Power (South Dublin Libraries), Brigadier General Paul Fry and Maria Donohoe (South Dublin Libraries)

Mayor Fintan Warfield with Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland

Mayor Fintan Warfield with Ambassador Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland

Photos by David Power

Culture Night 2014 at South Dublin Libraries

This Friday, 19th September is Culture Night and Tallaght, Ballyroan and Clondalkin Libraries are open late with special Culture Night events!

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Join us at the County Library, Tallaght  from 6-8 pm for a commemoration of World War I, with a display by the Irish Great War Society, guided tours of our Great War Exhibition, and an Edwardian Tea Party! All welcome, please phone us on 01 4620073 (or email talib@sdublincoco.ie) to book. Edwardian dress is optional but encouraged!

Courtesy of the Irish Great War Society

Courtesy of the Irish Great War Society

Ballyroan Library also has a Great War theme with their Culture Night event. Padraig Yates, historian and author of A City in Wartime: Dublin 1914-1918, will give a talk titled ‘Was the Great War Good for Ireland?’ at 7:30 p.m.. To book, phone 01 4941900 or email ballyroan@sdublincoco.ie.

Meanwhile, Clondalkin Library will be reliving Clondalkin’s showband days with a very special event where Carl Philips and his Band will be playing the showband hits of the 50s and 60s. There will also be a display of memorabilia from the Mayfair Ballroom and Clondalkin’s other dance halls. Don’t miss this! Call 01 4593315 or log onto http://www.culturenight.eventbrite.ie to book your place.

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All events are free of charge.