Portadown’s special week of events marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One began on Sunday night when St Mark’s Church of Ireland was packed to capacity for a moving and emotional service.
A highlight of the service was the laying up of the Old Standard and the Dedication of the New Standard of the Royal Irish Fusiliers (RIF) Old Comrades Branch – which involved the officers of the branch and the town’s Royal British Legion officers. It was led by Colonel Arthur Reid, president of the Old Comrades.
The service was conducted by Rev Canon Jim Campbell. The praise was led by the church choir (organist Stuart Nelson) and St Mark’s Silver Band (conductor James Parks). Canon Campbell was assisted by members of the town’s main churches and a wreath was laid to commemorate all who had died in the 1914-18 conflict.
Another moving aspect was the reading by local historian Richard Edgar, from the Portadown News of the era, the reports from the Front, soldiers’ letters, and accounts of great acts of bravery by those who never came home.
Craigavon Mayor Colin McCusker and several robed members of the borough council attended the service, as did Stormont DRD Minister Danny Kennedy. Also attending were – Royal British Legion officers: President Major (Rtd) Pete Hodgson; chairman William Stewart; secretary Ronnie Hynes; treasurer Sam Thompson. RIF Old Comrades: President, Col Arthur Reid; chairman, Sam Thompson; secretary, Wavel Hobson; treasurer, William Doyle; standard bearer, Daniel Steele.
Instead of a sermon, there were three reflections, the subjects being ‘The Soldier’, ‘The Medic’ and ‘The Padre’, and throughout the service there were contributions by the various members of clergy.
Pride of place on the front cover of the full-colour Order of Service was given to three Divisions who fought so bravely in 1914-18 – the 36th (Ulster) Division; the 16th (Irish) Division; and the 10th (Irish) Division.
And on the back were colour pictures of the 16th Irish Memorial Cross at Wytschaete, Belgium; The 36th Ulster Tower, Thiepval, France; and the 10th Irish Memorial in Yugoslavia (now Macedonia).
The processional hymn was ‘All people that on Earth do dwell’, during which the standards were received and the recessional hymn ‘Soldiers of Christ Arise’.
The welcome and introduction on the Order of Service summed it up – “We welcome everyone to this special service at St Mark’s, particularly the clergy and members of the local Church of Ireland, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian congregations and from other churches. Also welcome are those who represent civic life of our borough, members of the Royal British Legion and members of the Loyal Orders, and all others here to remember and reflect on this solemn occasion.”