Mayo is preparing to mark the centenary of World War I with events taking place across the county throughout the year.
According to military historian Michael Feeney from Castlebar, World War I, often referred to as the Great War, affected hundreds of families all over Mayo.
At least 1,100 Mayo born men and women were killed in the four-year global war.
“Hundreds of young men, and some women too, left their homes in towns and villages in all parts of Mayo and volunteered to fight,” he said. “Most of them never returned to Ireland and they are buried in the battlefields of Europe.
“Many people aren’t aware that this war affected us so much here in Mayo. It’s very important that we mark the centenary.”
Mr Feeney’s own grandfather was killed in the war in 1915 and is buried in northern France. This is what sparked Mr Feeney’s interest in researching and remembering combatants from Mayo.
He said there are still families in the county who are searching for information on what happened to their ancestors who went off to war.
“We have records for over 1,100 soldiers who died whilst serving with the Allied Forces. Most of them served with the British forces but large numbers also served and died with the American, Australian and Canadian forces.
“There are others we don’t know about. We are still researching and finding new records on Mayo men who volunteered in cities in Britain, America, and Canada. In many cases, they enlisted and were never heard from again.”
It is expected that Mayo County Council’s Strategic Commemoration Committee will be organising the centenary events.
Mr Feeney said the Mayo Peace Park Committee will be offering every support to them and would like to work in partnership and cooperation to prepare a detailed program of events.
“Appropriate lectures, or events, could and should take place around the county in places like Belmullet, Charlestown, Swinford, Attymass, Kilkelly, Louisburgh, Westport, Crossmolina, Ballina, Achill, Foxford and elsewhere, as these communities suffered greatly as a result of the war.”
Mr Feeney said it would be timely to honour the brave people from these towns and villages who died or were killed, fighting what was termed ‘the war to end all wars’.
Such commemoration will require local involovement.
He called on people who are interested to get in touch with their ideas and suggestions as soon as possible.
“To date we are considering hosting a small Mayo peace concert, a significant period play, lectures at a number of venues around the county, and a major event to mark the actual centenary in August.”
To contact the Mayo Peace Park Committee, email [email protected].