By Catherine McGinty
Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin remembered all Inishowen people killed or injured in World War One at a special Mass in the peninsula.
The ceremony took place in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Muff on Friday evening and was followed by the unveiling of a plaque at Saint Patrick’s Church, Iskaheen.
The occasion held personal significance for Archbishop Martin, who said the Mass for the repose of the soul of his granduncle, Edward Doherty.
In his sermon, Archbishop Martin recalled his granduncle’s death, a century ago last week.
The Derry-born head of the Catholic Church in Ireland said: “My grand-uncle, Edward Doherty was killed while fighting on the Western Front. I found his grave last year, while on a visit to the battlefields of World War One with Archbishop Richard Clarke and a group of young Catholics and Protestants from north and south.
“My grand-uncle is buried in Canada Farm Cemetery, about five miles outside Ypres in Belgium. I knelt down and prayed at the white Portland headstone, which reads: Gunner E Doherty, Royal Garrison Artillery, 19th September 1917, age 33.
“Uncle Eddie had left Meedenmore, County Donegal, a few years earlier to find work in England and he ‘signed up’ like thousands of other young men of his age. He was tall and strong. Used to hard work on the farm or in the Middlesbrough docks, now he found himself learning to operate the heavy guns of war.
“His sister, Catherine, my grandmother, often spoke of him. Among the family treasurers, she kept a postcard he had sent from Southwark, England, not long before he disembarked for mainland Europe.
“More poignant still is the letter from a Reverend E Devas, the chaplain who wrote to my great granny, to confirm her son, Edward had died in action, but reassuring her he had received a Catholic burial in a blessed grave with a proper cross.’”
Archbishop Martin said his granduncle lay in Flanders fields, with half a million young men who perished in the “infamous Battle of Passchendaele”.
Archbishop Martin continued: “I tell Edward’s story tonight conscious that many of you have similar stories handed down in your own families of men from all over Inishowen who died or were injured in the so-called ‘Great War.’
“When I visited Flanders, I promised I would come here to Inishowen and offer Mass for their souls. Sadly, because of the cruel and crazy tensions of our own history of conflict, the many thousands of Irish Catholics who died in the First World War have perhaps not been adequately remembered.
“For decades the fact that Irish Catholics and Protestants fought and died, side by side, was somewhat neglected - perhaps conveniently – by all sides. People preferred to cling on to a history of difference and separation, rather than recognise and embrace our shared story of common suffering.
“In celebrating this Mass, and by our unveiling of a simple plaque at Iskaheen in honour of all those from Inishowen who died in the First World War, I am hoping that together this evening we are taking a small step in building greater understanding and reconciliation, whilst acknowledging the sacrifice and bravery of our ancestors who so selflessly gave up their lives.”
He concluded: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.’ Amen.”
If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email [email protected] or [email protected] at any time.