Village’s walking trail recalls stories of First World War

Artist Wendy Cromie (right) with Zena McAllister of the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War group.
Artist Wendy Cromie (right) with Zena McAllister of the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War group.
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A unique walking trail map featuring sites associated with the First World War has been launched in the Co Down village of Killyleagh.

The free colour guide features water colour paintings by Killyleagh artist Wendy Cromie and was compiled by the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War group with funding support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Ulster Volunteers line up in front of Killyleagh Castle. Many were to die at the Battle of the Somme.

The Ulster Volunteers line up in front of Killyleagh Castle. Many were to die at the Battle of the Somme.

The trail takes visitors around the streets of the village, featuring some of the key sites, buildings and historic places connected to the Great War.

One of the stories it tells is of the heroism and the tragic end for many men from the Ulster Volunteers, who lined up at the front of the iconic castle in the village in 1913, as they fought and died with C Company of the 13th Royal Irish Rifles at the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

“In the years running up to what was to become the First World War the castle was the focal point of events. Members of the Ulster Volunteers, formed to resist Home Rule, trained within the castle bawn,” a spokesperson for the group explained.

“The owner of the castle at the time, Colonel Gawn Rowan-Hamilton played a pivotal role. When war was declared, it was the colonel who inserted a notice in the Down Recorder in September 1914 encouraging volunteers to enlist and fight for King and country. He was to pay a heavy personal price. His only son, the heir to the castle, Archibald, was killed while serving with the Irish Guards at the Battle of Loos in 1915. He was 38 years old.

“This is but one of the fascinating stories we have gathered from information based on a series of guided war walks in the village held between 2014 and 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War,” the spokesperson added.