Local historian and author Terry Reilly has penned a new play telling the stories of the Ballina men who fought and died in the trenches of World War I and the families they left behind.
The play, We’ll Be Home Before Christmas, is to be staged in the Ballina Arts Centre this November.
Mr Reilly, who edited The Western People for 27 years, is no stranger to writing for the stage. He co-wrote the hugely popular On a Wing and a Prayer musical with Tommy Marren, which told the lifestory of Monsignor James Horan and his dream for an airport in Knock.
This new project, which has been two years in the making, deals with much more sombre subject matter.
“It follows the soldiers from Ballina into the trenches and also relates to events back home at the same time,” explained Mr Reilly. “All of the characters are based on real people from the town, so there will be people in the audience who are the children or grandchildren of these characters onstage.”
Mr Reilly has been researching the 200 townspeople who fought and died in the Great War for more than 30 years and has written extensively on the events of World War I.
He said he wanted to commemorate those individuals and also their families who kept the homefires burning while their loved ones fought in Europe and beyond.
“It is a tribute to the people who went off to war but also to the people who stayed at home,” he said. “It wasn’t easy on any side, particularly on the wives and children. Their husbands went off to the trenches and some of them never returned.”
The two-act play is expected to attract considerable interest locally and tickets for We’ll Be Home Before Christmas are already on sale through the Ballina Arts Centre. The play will be performed over four nights from November 13 to 16.