‘He used to bring me to put poppies on the memorial in Sligo every year’

Armistice Day: Poppy Langan Hunt remembers her two grandfathers who fought during the first World War

Silent procession: the event was organised by the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company to mark the loss of 607 Sligo lives during the first World War. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Silent procession: the event was organised by the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company to mark the loss of 607 Sligo lives during the first World War. Photograph: Brian Farrell

 

Eighty year old Poppy Langan Hunt from Sligo remembered her two grandfathers on Armistice Day – Thomas Langan who never came home, and John Wallace who survived the first World War and lived to be 95.

“He gave me my name. He used to bring me to put poppies on the memorial in Sligo every year on November 11th,” said Ms Hunt.

Thomas Langan, who died aged 43 in October 1918 in France, had a son also called Tommy, who was one of the Sligo “Noble Six”, an IRA column killed in controversial circumstances on the slopes of Benbulben, during the Civil War, on September 20 1922.

“Can you imagine? His mother lost her husband in the first World War and her son a few years later in the Civil War, ” she said.

She was one of about 600 people who walked in a silent procession along the 2km route from the centre of Sligo to the memorial at the junction of Pearse road and Mail Coach Road, to mark Armistice Day.

No uniforms

The event was organised by the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company to mark the loss of 607 Sligo lives – 602 soldiers and five civilians – during the first World War. The theatre company who had sought volunteers to represent each life lost, had initially planned that the participants would be mostly men aged 18- 40 to “accurately reflect the losses”. On the day women were needed to make up the numbers.

Historian Simone Hickey, who did her thesis on Sligo men who died during the war and whose great grandfather Terrence Rooney was one of those lost, helped organise the event. It was her wish that participants wear the civilian garb of the time and that there be no uniforms or medals.

“My view is that everyone is equal in death. Grief is universal. Whether they were privates or colonels or majors they should be acknowledged. They did not come home and they were forgotten about. This is about bringing them home”.

Niall Henry, artistic director of Blue Raincoat, noted that some Sligo households lost up to five sons, as 5,000 men from the town and county volunteered.