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A story of real loss and grief behind every name

The unveiling of the War Memorial in Castle Gardens in 1923.

The unveiling of the War Memorial in Castle Gardens in 1923.

This Sunday July 1 Lisburn's War Memorial in Castle Gardens, which was recently cleaned and new names added, will be rededicated In anticipation of the event, Rev Canon Alex Cheevers, Chaplain of the Royal British Legion in Lisburn, shares some of the stories behind the names on the stone memorial and tells of the day, in 1923, when it was unveiled for the first time

TODAY they are names carved in stone on our City War Memorial in Castle Gardens in Lisburn. Names from as long ago as 1914, right up to more recent times.

Many of the young people going in and out of the College across the way, or standing around the Memorial, may not give those names a second glance or thought yet behind every name on the Memorial is a story that reflects an enormous amount of personal grieving.

One such story is that of James Dunleavy, the great-grandfather of former Mayor of Lisburn, Alderman Seamus Close. James Dunleavy was born at Blaris in 1864. He married Agnes Close, and they lived in the Antrim Street area of Lisburn. They had three children, Sarah, Kate and Jane. James served in the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, and again in the First World War.

On Lisburn War Memorial he is listed as Rifleman, but the Roll of Honour shows him as Sergeant. He was in the 11th Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers), and arrived in France around October 4, 1915. He went into action on the opening morning of the Battle of the Somme, July 1 1916. He was killed as he advanced with his Battalion, being one of those who have no known grave.

He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, near to where he was killed. He had served a total of 18 years in the Army, and was 52 years of age older than the average casualty

The wooden cenotaph erected in Market Square Peace Day celebrations in 1919.
The wooden cenotaph erected in Market Square Peace Day celebrations in 1919.

When James Dunleavy and the other fallen from the Lisburn area were first commemorated it was at a temporary wooden War Memorial placed in Market Square. It had been put in place and dedicated on August 16, 1919, just nine months after the end of the First World War.

The grief in Lisburn families was so enormous there was a need to give people a focus for their tears.

That Memorial was in place until the present, permanent Memorial was erected, and then unveiled and dedicated on Saturday April 28, 1923. It was a momentous day for the grieving families of Lisburn.

The Lisburn Standard reported that around 200 wreaths were laid that day by all kinds of dignitaries, and by grieving families remembering their loved ones. But I personally am pleased that they also mentioned that "a poorly clad little girl came forward and laid a little posy of natural flowers she had gathered in the fields."

The day of the unveiling and dedication of the Memorial with its 266 names was very much a civic day. All business in the town was suspended from just before the ceremony. The Chairman of Lisburn Urban Council, Mr. Ezekiel. Bullick, opened the proceedings, and a hymn was sung, led by the Temperance Silver Band.

The Service was conducted by the local clergy. Major General Sir Oliver Nugent, who had commanded the 36th Ulster Division for two and a half years in Flanders, was the honoured guest and he officially unveiled the Memorial. The memorial bore the names of those from the Lisburn area who had gone off voluntarily, without conscription, to serve their country. And they had paid the ultimate price.

The War Memorial was officially handed over that day into the care of Lisburn Urban Council. Since then they have been responsible for its maintenance and for having names added. On July 1, the newest names to be added to the memorial will be unveiled.

Ulster Star
29/06/2007