Some of the cast of' In the Footsteps of Heroes
IT must be difficult if not impossible for today's generation of young people to understand what encouraged so many young men, willingly and indeed eagerly, to join the armed forces and participate in the bloody relentless struggle that characterised the war of 1914-1918. Yet, join they did in great numbers and went cheerfully off to fight for King and Country in a war that was to claim the lives of some 70,000 men in the Irish Divisions.
Like so many other towns in Northern Ireland at this time, Lisburn and surrounding areas would lose over 900 young men during the Great War with some 130 paying the supreme sacrifice on the first day of fighting at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916. Amongst these were brothers Thomas and Samuel Wells from Lougheran, Lisburn both Riflemen in the Royal Irish Rifles, both killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The Wells family were not alone in their grief with many, many more mothers and fathers throughout Northern Ireland, receiving that dreaded Telegram bearing news similar to that of the Wells family.
The World War 1 & World War II musical stage production entitled 'In the Footsteps of Heroes, from the Somme to D-Day' which pays tribute to the men and women who fought in both World Wars, portrays that bloody Battle on stage during their performance in the Lagan Valley Island, Lisburn on Saturday February 4. During the scene, the men of the 36th Ulster Division go over the top in a hail of shell and gunfire only to be mowed down by German machine gun fire.
The first half of the show focuses on World War I and follows the footsteps of a young 17 year old recruit from the initial recruitment drive, his training in Finner Camp, Donegal, through to the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and then finally to news of his death in 1918 when his mother receives the 'dreaded Telegram'. The other character, who was a nurse with the North Tyrone Ulster Volunteer nursing Corps, is played hy her Grand daughter. At the outbreak of WWI in 1914 at the age of just 19 years, Miss Harkness, from Plumbridge, was chosen as one of several nursing staff from the area to go to Pau in Southern France to nurse the wounded. She was specifically chosen because of her understanding of the French language which would have been part of the selection criteria. The hospital was first known as 'The Co Tyrone Hospital' and later the 'Ulster Volunteer Force Hospital'.
The show also features a sketch depicting the Xmas truce of 1915 when both sides ceased fighting, met in noman's land and exchanged Christmas gifts. The Tin Hat Tenors captivate the audience with their rendition of 'The Christmas Truce' concluding with an enchanting performance of Silent Night in German by Nicola Moody. The second half of the show focuses on WWI and we commence with one of Winston ChurchilTs famous speeches 'We shall fight them on the beaches'. Whilst the second half is very upbeat with the fabulous 'Nicola Moody & The Moodettes', who model themselves on the Andrews Sisters, performing foot-stomping American style numbers, it still retains a sense of reverence and remembrance for the men and women who fought and died for their country.
Mr Porter stresses that whilst the show is suitable for aged 12 years and over, it does contain loud explosive sounds and graphic scenes of dead and wounded soldiers.
Tickets are currently on sale from the Box Office on 02892 509 254 or online at www.tickets.lisburncity.gov.uk and as the performance runs for one night only, early booking to avoid disappointment is recommended.