Castleton Lanterns was pleased to receive invitations to attend the Commemoration Service at St Anne’s Cathedral on Monday evening, 4th August 2014, the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Six of us from Alexandra joined Karen at the service which was very well attended. There were several dignitaries there including the Deputy Mayor of Belfast, TDs, the First Minister, Secretary of State and HRH Duke of York.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Reverend John Mann called us to remember the men from all parts of this island who lost their lives whilst being conscious that the striving for peace is still a pressing necessity in our day. Heather Humphreys TD read one of the bible readings, as did the Duke of York.
A poem written by Mrs Susan Adams of Lisburn after her son was killed on 1st July 1916, was read by Jeffrey Donaldson.
…In a far distant land though his body now rests,
Far from his home and the ones he loved best,
Still deep in our hearts his memory we’ll keep,
Sweet is the place where he now lies asleep…..
…They laid him to rest in the land of a stranger,
Where the guns and the cannon disturb not his sleep,
While his fond loving mother away in old Ireland,
Mourns for her son as her vigil she keeps…..
The hymns included old favourites such as ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’, ‘Be Thou my Vision’ and ‘All People That on Earth do Dwell’. During the service, cadets of the Army, Navy & Air Force and two school children lit 5 candles to represent the 5 years of the First World War. The Duke of York then lit a single candle beside a book containing the names of the Irish War Dead of World War 1. Music from the Choir included ‘Dido’s Lament’ by Purcell and Faure’s ‘In Paradisum’.
The sermon itself, delivered by the Most Reverend Dr Richard Clarke, Primate of All Ireland, was thought-provoking, as he spoke of the ‘fusion of emotions over the Great War – sadness at the loss of so much life; pride in the unselfish actions of so many people; and horror at the inhumanity which always accompanies war’. He also said another emotion should be a determination that if the Great War was not a war to end all wars, people should strive to bring peace and light into the world.
The Archbishop also talked of modern day conflicts. ‘We cannot spiritually separate the violence, the carnage, and the suffering of the innocent that is under our gaze today – whether in Gaza, in Israel, in Syria, in Ukraine or in Iraq – from our memorialising of the beginnings of the First World War’ he said. ‘War must always represent the abject failure of the human spirit and of humanity itself. It can never be other and we should never pretend it is other.’
After the singing of ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’ we all stood for an act of remembrance led by Mervyn Elder, President of the Royal British Legion. Before the service concluded with Bach’s ‘Fugue in E flat (St Anne)’ reflections were brought to us by representatives of the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish communities.
It’s very difficult to visualise the numbers of men and women who died in the First World War, even the numbers of those from this island who died. We remembered them just the same. We remembered those who came home to a different world, to a world where women had a greater role, where the class system was not as defined, where there was little work and where the political situation had changed and some were ostracised in their own areas. We remembered those who came home and had to live with their memories of comradeship and horror and carnage.
We remembered especially the Castleton Lanterns men who died, those whose faces we know from the photos, whose wives and children we have photographs of, whose regiments and ships we have identified, whose stories we can now tell. We remembered them all at that service and at the Candlelight Vigil at the City Hall later that evening and we will always remember them.
Words: Faye Rice
Photos: Heather McCracken