IN AUGUST 1914 five hundred Kilkenny men marched from the St James Barracks to the train station to make their way to fight, not to defend England, but to defeat Germany.
Cllr Betty Manning has proposed that a monument be built to the Kilkenny men who fought in the Great War. Her proposal has received cross party support. Noel James Bourke has researched the number of casualties that Kilkenny men suffered in the War to produce a report supporting the call for a permanent monument. Mr Bourke’s research based on figures from His Majesty’s Stationery Office puts the number of Kilkenny dead at 900.
Mr Bourke has also uncovered the Kilkenny Journal contemporary report of the troops leaving Kilkenny for the War giving an insight into the emotional scenes that surrounded the departure. The Kilkenny Journal reported “The war fever which has Europe in its grip displayed symptoms in Kilkenny this week, when following the declaration of hostilities by Great Britain, the mobilization of the local Reserve Forces was undertaken. On Wednesday last the city was seething with excitement, which was inaugurated by the marching through the different streets of a Rifle Squad of the Royal Artillery probably as a demonstration. The post bore a heavy cargo of blue documents addressed to people who are never heard of except in times of great emergency, and presently the streets were filled with wailing women and children whose husbands and fathers were called upon to fulfil their obligations, not to defend England, but to help the country in its war against Germany.”
“On Thursday 6th August 1914 the Battalion numbering about 500 under the command of Col Mervyn de Montmorency, Major Lindsay Knox JP, and Capt. J.E. Blake Loftus JP assembled at the Military Barracks where they had been detained for some time previous to their departure. Shortly before 4 o’clock they marched to the railway station led by the Pipes Band of the Regiment and on the line of march they received encouraging cheers from the spectators. There were many pathetic incidents as the train departed, of fathers, mothers and children giving a farewell to their nearest and dearest who have gone to the seat of War. As the train was leaving the platform loud cheers were raised for John Redmond and the Volunteers, and were heartily responded to by the crowd.”
The soldiers heading to war seem to have been supported by the local population, but since independence the country has failed to recognise the sacrifice made by Irish soldiers in the Great War. Mr Bourke believes that the time has come to erect a permanent memorial.