OUR WAR MEMORIAL (3)

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

 

As might be expected, the Memorial caused some controversy in the locality. When members of the regiment initially sought to honour their fallen comrades, the Finance Committee of the Queen's County County Council recommended that a site should not be granted. The issue became something of a political football until, following a full meeting of the Council in 1926, permission was granted by 13 votes to 7. And so the Memorial - designed by architect Thomas Scully and built by Thomas Hearne & Son (all from Waterford) - went ahead. But that wasn't the end of it. The cement was hardly dry when a pseudonymous writer to the The Irish Times (November 22, 1928) wondered why it was "made of Carlow limestone when the Queen's County limestone is the nicest of all?"

     

In 1990, after a lapse of many years, an Armistice Commemoration was revived at the Memorial and is now an annual event, attended by civic, religious and military figures, townspeople and, most fittingly of all, descendents of those who died in the war. In 2001, the County Council decided to relocate the Memorial and so, stone by stone, it was dismantled and rebuilt in what is now officially known as The Memorial Park in Millview. At the time, there was considerable controversy, with some believing that the move was simply to facilitate commercial developments in the Church Street area but, personally I feel that the Council got it exactly right and the new location is much more conducive to reflection and remembrance of why the Memorial exists in the first place.

Around this time too, a panel commemorating United Nations troops was added to the Memorial, something which I think has compromised its aesthetic integrity. Since 2008 however, the Memorial Park also features a separate and beautiful Memorial to those who served with the United Nations and the effect is one of enhancing what I think is potentially one of the town's loveliest civic areas. But one note of complaint: on more than one occasion, the site had almost as many dandelions as blades of grass. Of course I am exaggerating, but I still feel that more regular maintenance would not go amiss.

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The Great War has inspired countless artistic endeavours in all disciplines and I will conclude by recommending two which mean a lot to me. I feel proud that one of the very best WWI novels I've read is by New York-based Mountmellick man, Tom Phelan. Moving from the tranquility of the Irish Midlands to the horrors of Passchendaele and Ypres, The Canal Bridge paints an unforgettable picture of what men and animals endured. The song Never Any Good by Martin Simpson is only indirectly connected with the war, but I can never listen to its depiction of a wonderful, infuriating, affectionate, flawed Everyman and remain unmoved.

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