A BRICKLAYER responsible for building a peace tower on the site where thousands of soldiers died during the First World War will make an emotional return next month.
Co Londonderry man Bobbie Forrest will travel to Messines in Belgium as part of a North East Peace III-funded trip, where he will revisit the Irish peace tower he constructed more than 14 years ago.
The 72-year-old was inspired to help build the tower by his father’s military history. The Limavady man’s dad was just 17 when he joined the Army but, as Bobbie recalls, he got emotional when asked about his time at war.
After being headhunted for the project, Bobbie said he jumped at the chance to be part of something so special. “He (the site foreman) asked if I wanted to go to Belgium to build a peace tower,” he said. “My reply was, ‘Try to stop me’.”
The Irish peace tower was formally opened by the Queen, Irish president Mary McAleese and King Albert of Belgium in November 1998.
Speaking just after the tower was completed, Bobbie said it was a symbolic piece of work.
“Five-and-a-half months of sleepless nights, and blood, sweat and tears went into it,” he said. “Just to think about the sacrifice the 36th Ulster Division and the Redmondites made together, it just puts everything that is happening right now into perspective. A village in Belgium was liberated because people with completely different backgrounds had each other’s backs.”
Limavady community cohesion officer Hollie Brown said she was delighted the tower’s creator could join them on their visit. She said: “I can’t believe we have someone as special as Bobbie Forrest coming to Messines. Bobbie has a wealth of knowledge and photographs of the building of the tower and clearly this has been an important part of his life. I can’t wait to see and hear more from him.”