Catholic donors praised for help in replacing Co Down war memorial

The unveiling of the new war memorial in Ballynahinch
The unveiling of the new war memorial in Ballynahinch

A group which has finished replacing a giant war memorial has thanked the community at large for making the project possible – including a trio of Catholic chapels.

A newly built version of the obelisk-shaped memorial in Ballynahinch was officially unveiled on Sunday evening with a parade through the Co Down town by the band of the Irish Guards.

Young and old combined in the unveiling party

Young and old combined in the unveiling party

It replaces a nearly identical monument which had been erected at the site over 80 years ago, but which was beginning to crack and crumble.

Several hundred people turned out to watch the ceremonial unveiling of the new one, and Horace Reid – one of the committee members who organised the replacement – offered thanks to those who aided their endeavours.

He also said that parts of the old monument – built in 1934 to honour the dead of World War One – are now permanently embedded in buildings across the area, in tribute to its founders.

While he understands the now-defunct Down District Council ended up giving in excess of the initial £60,000 which it had earmarked for the new monument, he and others had still needed to raise cash from the public.

The band of the Irish Guards led a parade through Ballynahinch before the ceremony

The band of the Irish Guards led a parade through Ballynahinch before the ceremony

“I have to say that the public made our job easy,” he said.

“It was a matter of going along to a football club, church, Orange lodge or knitting club, and saying to them: ‘Look, we have to replace the memorial – it concerns your relatives a couple of generations back.’

“We didn’t have to do any coaxing. The money came out in [large] quantity from all quarters.”

He estimated that about £25,000 was raised from the general public.

Presbyterian and Anglican congregations pitched in, he said, along with the Catholic congregations in the Ballynahinch area – something which he said was “very interesting, and very gratifying”.

“The old business that the dead of the Somme are one-dimensional was overcome,” he said. “People of all creeds got killed in World War One, and now they’re being recognised.”

The old memorial had been the brainchild of Rev Tom Warwick, from the town’s Congregational church, who had worked hard during the Depression to raise cash.

Parts of the old, demolished monument are now embedded in the church hall.

And yesterday, the triangular cap on the old memorial was unveiled at Ballynahinch High School, where it has been embedded in the wall.

Mr Reid addedthat it means they have been able to honour not only the soldiers of World War One, but also “the efforts of a previous generation who in hard times put that memorial up, at some cost”.