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Jacqueline O' Brien
Jacqueline O’ Brien

The Galway First World War Memorial Company Ltd, would like to thank Jacqueline O’ Brien for kindly donating part of her research on Fallen Soldiers to our website and database. Jacqueline O’Brien is a native of Galway City with a deep interest in many aspects of its culture. Jackie, as she is known, is a psychiatric nurse by profession working in Galway. Apart from her daily duties, she has managed to make serious contributions to the history and archaeology of Galway. The city, county and city and county, and indeed, the country has greatly benefited from her work. She has been co-researcher on over twenty-five books and numerous articles and projects   The fruits of her labour have been extremely well received and recognised by those within the historical circle. The plans for many books, projects, shows and ceremonies were hatched in Jackie’s kitchen over a cup of tea, and at times, something a little stronger. Jackie was involved in a number of important archaeological discoveries, such the medieval church at St. Clerans, near Craughwell and mile stones at Roscam.

Jackie became a committee member of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society in 1998 and served on the committee for a number of years. She helped organize the very successful Irish Millennium Archaeology Conference, which was held on 1 April 2000 in the Menlo Park Hotel. The speakers came from all over Ireland. Jackie was the first committee member to propose that the society should set up an internet website. Her idea was later introduced and was an immediate success with queries and ‘hits’ coming from all over the world.

There were many areas of heritage explored during those early years among them the Great War (1914-18) from an Irish perspective. Together with William Henry, Jackie produced the very successful Town Hall Show, Forgotten Galway Heroes of the Great War. This also included a Great War exhibition in the theatre on 20 October 2005. The exhibition included original weapons, uniforms and many other artefacts used during the war, most from the Ambrose Joyce collection. It was fully supported by Galway City Museum and the Irish Army, members of which also attended in an official capacity. War footage from the Imperial War Museum with images of local men who fought were superimposed on the footage and gave the audience a feeling of just how close the war was to Galway.  Various guest speakers recited poems and letters from soldiers at the front.  Others who took part in this show included Ronnie O’Gorman, Liam Nolan (RTE), Ultan Maken, Shane O’Brien and Donal Ward.

Jackie was also involved the research from the following books, Galway and The Great War; Forgotten Galway Heroes of the Great War (Mercier Press); and was co-author of The Galway Great War Memorial Book (Galway City Council). Drawing together a variety of printed and electronic sources, newspaper articles and archival material, as well as the input of many of the families of those who fell in the Great War, this work highlights the meticulous research of the authors. It resulted in most comprehensive listing of war dead from the city and county of Galway. It was during this research that Jackie made the proposal to have these men remembered in an Ecumenical Remembrance Service. Thus, the Galway Ecumenical Remembrance Service: Remembering Galway People Who Died in the Great War was organised.

The service was held on Saturday 3 November 2007 in the New Cathedral.  The Most Rev Dr. Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway was the main celebrant. The service began with an Irish Army piper leading the procession, which included an Irish Army colour party; followed by the Sword and Mace borne before the Mayor of Galway City, Councillor Tom Costello and the Galway City Councillors. These were followed by Councillor Sean Canney, Mayor of County Galway and Galway County Councillors and Civic Officials. The Irish Flag was mounted in the Sanctuary. The second procession was led by a Cross bearer; children related to soldiers who were killed in the Great War carried the Galway’s Great War Memorial Books 1914–1918 and placed them on a table before the High Altar. These were followed by clergy from various denominations, Church of Ireland (Patrick Towers); Methodist (Cloadah Yambasu); Catholic Church (Monsignor Sean Flaherty, Fr. Eamonn Monson, Fr. Alan Burke and The Most Rev Dr. Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway). Both processions received an Honour Guard from the Irish Army as they proceeded up the main aisle of the Cathedral. The Galway Youth Orchestra played ‘Nimrod’ by Elgar as the second Procession proceeded towards the Sacristy.

The service was covered by the RTE Nationwide crew and by many members of the local and national media. The Cathedral was awash with the colour parties of the various regimental military and civil associations attending.  The feedback from all who attended the event, both military and civil was absolutely fantastic. This combined with the overwhelming support of both City and County Councils, Irish Army and Garda gave people much to think and talk about. The Ulster contingent were seriously impressed, so much so that they stated that it was another step forward for the ‘Ulster Peace Process’ given that the service was the first of its type to be held a Catholic Cathedral in the Republic of Ireland. It was announced on the ‘air-waves’ that ‘Galway leads the way.’ The following extract is from a letter congratulating Jackie and Co., was written by a student of theology attending the event: ‘The liturgy was the best I have ever attended anywhere, including Rome itself.’ Complements were also extended to Galway City Council; Galway County Council and the Irish Army for the foresight in supporting this event and associated projects.  Congratulations were also received from the Garda, NUIG and the Irish Army. Brigadier-General Padraic Callaghan, (GOC 4th Western Brigade) extended his personal congratulations to all concerned and stated that it was the ‘finest service’ that he had ever attended.  He also stated that it was the day that Ireland matured.  The Lieutenant of the Military Honour Guard stated the he had commanded Honour Guards for the President and visiting Heads of State, and while he was extremely proud of this, ‘the Cathedral on Saturday was my proudest moment.’

The service was followed by the unveiling of a memorial stone to all Galway soldiers and sailors who fought in the Great War of 1914 – 1918.  The stone was unveiled by Councillor Tom Costello, Mayor of Galway City and Councillor Sean Canney, Mayor of County Galway at County Hall, Prospect Hill.  The Irish Army Honour Guard took their place before the memorial stone.  Again the Last Post & Reveille was sounded by Peter Rabbitt. It was  a day when Galway and Ireland made history and also the day that the Galway Great War Memorial Book 1914 – 1918 was officially announced. It was published by Galway City Council and Galway County Council jointly. The book contains an introduction to the Great War and the Roll of Honour of Galway servicemen who died in the war.  It was a proud day, as it was the culmination of many years of research; the dream of a memorial service, monument and memorial book was finally realised. The day’s events concluded with a reception held in the County Hall. Jackie continues her involvement in history; she designs the covers and choses the titles for some local books and is planning new future ventures and adventures.