Children return war victim’s medal to family

Pupils washed service medal in Coke

Philip Hynes, pictured with pupils from  Scoil Cholmcille in Termon, Co Donegal, is reunited with his granduncle’s first World War  service medal.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

Philip Hynes, pictured with pupils from Scoil Cholmcille in Termon, Co Donegal, is reunited with his granduncle’s first World War service medal. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times

 

the first World War have been reunited with his service medal a century after his death – all thanks to the detective work of a Co Donegal primary school.

The unusual story of Philip Hynes’s medal was revealed yesterday when Scoil Cholmcille in Termon was named the winner of an All-Ireland “Decade of Centenaries” schools history competition.

The medal was discovered by local man Benny Gallagher last summer while digging in his garden.

What appeared on first inspection to be a toy sheriff’s badge was handed over to Christy Gillespie, a teacher and historian in the school, who got his pupils to clean it using Coca-Cola.

Same name

Philip Hynes

The connection prompted further inquiries into the Hynes’s military background, and how the medal ended up on a patch of land near Glenveagh National Park nearly 300km away.

Hynes, who was trained as a “bomber” or grenade thrower, died in Flanders on August 15th, 1915. His mother was presented with his medal and it was given to his nephew Phillip Hynes jnr, who fought in the War of Independence and later joined the Irregulars.

During the Civil War, he hid out in Co Donegal and “it’s thought he just lost the medal,” said Ms Hynes. “They were on the run and moving from house to house.”

IRA veteran

The journey had helped the family to reconnect with the past, he noted. His grandfather Edward was gassed in the first World War and died of his injuries in 1921, while another grand-uncle fought in the war and survived.

The project entitled It’s a long way to Tipperary – The Mystery of the Medal landed the top prize in the competition, run jointly by the Departments of Education in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Seven other schools won category prizes, including the multicultural Summerhill primary school in Athlone. Its fifth class, comprising children from Indian, African, Polish and Irish backgrounds, researched the 1921 Cornafulla ambush and the controversy surrounding the burial of its victim James Tormey.

At a time of heightened concern over the status of history teaching in schools, the president of Royal Irish Academy Mary Daly, who chaired the judging panel, praised the high quality and originality of the entries.