Last weekend marked the 100th Anniversary of the start of WW1. It has been on my mind a bit as I watch what is happening today in places like Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, and Syria. I can only hope that one day the world will find a way to have peace, rather than war.
In the UK and the US, France and Belgium, there were big commemoration ceremonies in memory of those who died. Here in Ireland, however, the case is much different. Commemorations are few and far between, though there were a few- like the honor guard at the eternal flame in Dublin’s Merrion Square Park (top video), and the poppies and a short exhibition at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (a tree filled with leaves from those in remembrance below). In General, in Ireland, poppies are not worn, though you can find a few at cemeteries or in churches where memorials to those who died in war are stationed.
You see, WW1 started in 1914 – and on August 4, 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Ireland, was still part of Great Britain – but didn’t want to be. Big names in the Irish War of Independence were speaking out. People like Michael Collins, Joseph Plunkett, Eamon De Valera, James Connolly and many others were speaking out against Great Britain’s rule in Ireland. There were labor strikes in 1913, and Irish Nationalists were forming their own Militias on the back of the lockouts from the strike – pledging to fight for the death.
In light of what was going on politically here in Ireland, WW1, while supported by most Irish people (including churches and newspapers), was not as important as what was going on here at home. Those who joined had many reasons to do so, just like today. Some 200,000 Irish joined the fighting for ideals, they joined for freedom, they joined for a job / paycheck, and they joined for the so called glory of war. Some 30-50,000 died on the battlefields, and it was only recently that a list has begun being compiled at St. Patrick’s Cathedral – book below – and a memorial added at Glasneven Cemetery (just 2 days before I was there).
Veterans of the Great War – in thier own words…
Why the Poppy to remember those who died in war? It comes from the poem In Flanders Fields.
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– written May 3, 1915 by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, after presiding over a funeral of a friend who died at the second battle of Ypres.
In the end, I look at WW1, WW2, and all wars, and how they have shaped our world, and our history. Death is never an easy thing – but death in such large numbers and as a part of such violence… well, Can’t we all just get along?