A Donegal teacher has sparked a project which led to an RTÉ Nationwide special entitled “Writing Irish soldiers back into history.”
The unique project ‘My Adopted Soldier’ was created by Glenties teacher Gerry Moore and will be shown on Monday 9th and Wednesday 11th November at 7.00pm on RTÉ One
The project features a secondary school student from every county in Ireland, paying tribute to a soldier from his or her county who died in World War 1.
Guest presenter Eileen Magnier, RTÉ’s North West Correspondent, and cameraman Brian McVeigh followed the students, as they researched their soldier’s story and in some cases found living relatives.
They uncovered some intriguing and tragic cases before travelling as a group to the Somme to get an insight into what their soldiers had gone through and to pay their respects at their graves. In many cases it’s believed this was the first time that the soldier’s story had been told and his grave visited.
The creator of the project, a history teacher at St Columba’s Comprehensive School became interested in the Irishmen who fought in WW1 after discovering that his grand-uncle, Private Anthony Gallagher from west Donegal, had died in the Battle of the Somme.
Gerry began bringing students from his own school who had researched the stories of Donegal men who had died in the war, to visit the cemeteries and battle sites. As the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 approached he thought it would be a good idea to take what had worked so well locally, to a national level and bring one student from each of the 32 counties to the Somme to remember soldiers who had died from every county in Ireland.
In conjunction with the History Teachers Association of Ireland, he ran an essay competition for students in transition year and fifth year and out of a large number of entries, 32 students were picked and each was given a randomly selected soldier from his or her county to research before the trip.
The student chosen to represent Donegal is Finnian Ward who is a pupil at St Columba’s Comprehensive School in Glenties. Finnian researched the story of John Muldoon, a young post-office worker who died in the Battle of the Somme.
A number of students at Gerry’s school helped set up a website for the project which is expected to become a valuable educational resource and which will be added to by further research on Irish involvement in World War 1 – www.myadoptedsoldier.com
The project focuses on the personal stories behind the statistics of war and in the first RTÉ Nationwide programme we meet some of the students as they go in search of their soldier’s life story, and those who are working on the website where all research is being uploaded. www.myadoptedsoldier.com.
Before the students departed on their trip RTÉ cameras followed them as they visited Áras an Uachtaráin where President Michael D. Higgins congratulated them on helping to “write these soldiers back into Irish history”.
In the second programme, Nationwide travels to the Somme with the students for what is a very emotional experience as they get a sense of what life was like in the trenches and pay their respects to their adopted soldiers and also to the thousands of soldiers who have no known graves. The trip had a huge impact on the students and on teacher Gerry Moore who said that in his twenty five years at a teacher, he had never experienced such an emotional roller-coaster.
The two programmes will broadcast in the lead up to and on Remembrance Day (11th November) this year.Tags: