World War I Armistice centenary marked at the 11th hour in Portlaoise

Seamus Dunne

Reporter:

Seamus Dunne

Corporal John Conroy was killed in World War I at the Battle of the Somme in August 1916. He was just 21.

Last Sunday, November 11, young Steven Conroy recited a poem during the annual Armistice Day commemoration ceremony at the War Memorial in Portlaoise.

Thus was bridged a 102 years’ gap. Steven, from Summergrove, Mountmellick, is a great, great-grandnephew of John. His home was at Manor Lane, Mountmellick.

It was on the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 that the guns fell silent on the Western Front, ending four years of slaughter.

On the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 2018 a congregation packed into St Peter’s Church in Market Square, Portlaoise, for a service to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

In St Peter’s Church are volumes containing the names of all Irishmen killed in that terrible conflict. They include many from Laois.

Rector Canon Peter Tarleton conducted the service. In attendance was County Council Chairman John King. Piper Stefan O’Reilly, from Dublin, and bugler Michael McLoughlin, from Tubber, Co Offaly, added poignancy to the occasion.
Joy was mixed with sadness at the service - because, earlier, all had rejoiced at the baptism of Alexander Kevin Peavoy, from Ballycarnan.

At the War Memorial, Noel Ryan did his customary job of selling poppies. The Memorial, unveiled by Lord Castletown in 1928, honours the dead of the Leinster Regiment’s 4th Battalion.

As the First World War generation faded away, the structure fell into decay. Then, in 1990, after a lapse of many years, the Armistice Day ceremony was revived in Portlaoise. In 2001, the Monument was relocated from Tower Hill (Bank Place) to a special site at Millview, and it was refurbished.

Michael Thompson, of Post 27 (United Nations veterans), welcomed everybody to the ceremony at the War Memorial which was blessed by Canon Tarleton.

After Joe McEvoy, also of Post 27, had laid a wreath, the large and representative attendance observed a minute’s silence for the thousands who never returned home from the Western Front and other killing zones of The Great War. Michael McLoughlin sounded the Last Post and Reveille. Stefan O’Reilly played the national anthem.

Council Cathaoirleach Cllr John King told the gathering he was proud to stand at the Memorial a century after the guns had ceased firing on the Western Front. He noted how veterans, many from Laois, had returned to a very different place after the war. He welcomed the fact that we were now remembering them.

Tony Flanagan, Post 27, recalled the work of the late Kathleen O’Brien, who died in 2017, for the annual Armistice Day commemorations.

“We are honouring the young men and women who died in the First World War. Without those people who gave their lives, we might not be here today,” he said.

Mr Flanagan and Canon Tarleton organized the ceremony. Present was Post 27 Chairman Fred O’Reilly. His uncle, Tom Briody, a member of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, was killed on the Western Front in October 1915.
Parade Marshal on Sunday was Jim Shiels.

In charge of the colour party was Donie Molloy.

Photographer Alf Harvey covered the event for the Leinster Express.