Leitrim Echoes of the Great War: Book 40 years in the writing due for launch

Retired teacher Padraig Griffin researched Leitrim natives killed in first World War

 

For almost 40 years, retired schoolteacher Padraig Griffin has been documenting and researching those from Leitrim who died in the first World War.

When he started out, he recalls, there were few other than himself and Irish Times journalist Kevin Myers who were interested in the war from an Irish perspective.

His first article on the subject of Leitrim war dead was published in the 1983 Leitrim Guardian, an annual publication.

That year, his adopted home town of Ballinamore hit the national headlines when a garda and an Irish soldier were killed in a shootout with the IRA at Derrada Woods, in December. It was not a propitious time to be writing about Irishmen who served in the British army, and there were other obstacles to such research too.

Pre-digitisation era

In the pre-digitisation era, the only place to research Irish war dead was through the eight-volume series the 1922 Irish National War Memorial Records – and only 100 copies were published.

Griffin bought seven of the volumes from the British Legion, and an eighth from a library in Enniskillen. He filled several jotters and notebooks. “There was numerous errors as I discovered down the years,” he said.

The advent of the internet made it infinitely easier to check and cross-check the names.

Mr Griffin is better known as an athletics coach and administrator. He is a former president of Bord Lúthchleas na hÉireann (BLÉ), and his son Colin Griffin represented Ireland in two Olympic Games – in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012 – as a race walker.

On Monday, Mr Griffin’s book, Leitrim Echoes of the Great War, now almost four decades in the writing, will be launched in Ballinamore by the chairman of Leitrim County Council, Cllr Enda McGloin.

Treaty of Versailles

On Friday, Mr Griffin’s research on Leitrim war dead, along with that of three other local historians, Margaet Connolly, Quincey Dougan and Tom Burnell, was launched online to mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the event that officially ended the first World War.

The Leitrim list of the dead records 353 men and one woman, Staff Nurse Margaret Annie Cox of the Territorial Force Nursing Service, who died in the war.

The database was funded by the EU-funded Leitrim County Peace IV Partnership as part of the Versailles project to mark the centenary.

In Boyle, Co Roscommon, on Friday, a memorial diorama to mark the centenary was unveiled at King House.

The model is a representation of a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery containing more than 4,000 headstones, representing about a tenth of the number of lives lost from the island of Ireland.

It was built by Boyle Mens Shed and is permanently located in the Connaught Rangers Association Room of Remembrance in King House.