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Talk to focus on Strabane 1916 connections

09 June 2016

Local historian John Dooher will be shining a light on the events of the First World War and its impact on the Strabane area during a special talk taking place in the Strabane Library on Wednesday June 15.

The fascinating talk will focus specifically on the period from 1914–16 and the pre-war period when Home Rule was a major concern among the Nationalist and Unionist communities. According to John the outbreak of war in some ways became a unifying issue which took precedence over traditional divisions between local communities for a period:

“The outbreak of WW1 saw a coming together of the political movements and in early August 1914, when reservists were called up for military service, the local UVF and IVF met up and marched together to the railway station to cheer off the troops going to War,” John recalls.

“And such co-operation was carried on at local level throughout the early years of the conflict. War Relief committees, local recruiting committees and other support groups for the War drew their membership from both communities and there was little apparent dissent at such harmony. Both local newspapers were highly supportive of the war effort and generally praised the joint enterprises to help out. In 1915 the recruiting campaigns were extensively covered in both papers and little sign of disharmony was allowed to appear.”

The talk is just one of a series of events taking place locally marking the 1916 Centenary and some of the most significant historic events of modern times which naturally impacted on families throughout the district. During the talk John will also explore how the local republican movement of the time was affected by the wider conflict.

“War news was carried in the local press and the reports emphasised the increasing casualty lists from 1916 onwards,” he explained. “The family connections of many of the wounded and the dead were often provided and it’s remarkable how many families had multiple members in the fighting. Enlistment had been relatively high in Strabane in the early years of the War and it was often held up as an example to other towns.

“By late 1915, however, there were increasing signs of war weariness and fears of conscription being imposed. This was seized upon by the anti-War Irish Volunteers and a small number of units had been established in the Strabane area by the end of the year. Despite this the RIC intelligence reports suggested that there was little danger of active opposition and the failure of Tyrone Irish Volunteers to fire a shot during the 1916 Rising seemed to bear this out.”

The Tower Museum Remembering 1916 Programme commemorative talks series has been organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council in conjunction with the Nerve Centre’s Creative Centenaries programme commemorating the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme. It explores the local stories and prominent figures of the time. The Tower Museum is currently hosting the 1916: Untold Stories Exhibition featuring some fascinating accounts and memorabilia of the time reflecting the experiences of local people affected.

The talk takes place at 7pm on Wednesday June 15 in Strabane Library and entry is free.