Moving ceremony as the town remembers war anniversary

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A moving ceremony will take place in the centre of Portadown on Monday night (August 4) to mark the centenary of the date when Britain declared war on Germany and the First World War began.

The declaration was made at 11pm (midnight German time) and was met with a huge wave of enthusiasm through Britain, which waned somewhat as the reality of the war sank in, millions perished and little was gained by the 1914-18 conflict.

Here in Portadown, there are 321 names on the War Memorial of victims of the First World War, and every one of their names will be read out in the order of which they appear on the memorial – on a street-by-street basis, followed by the surrounding townlands.

Every street in Portadown was affected, with so many perishing, countless injured and many who came through unscathed.

A century later, the town is still affected, as the third and fourth generations have so many stories to tell, and with so many making the trip to the battlefields where grandfather, great-grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers made the supreme sacrifice.

Not only did the town lose so many brave young men, but there is no way knowing how profoundly the after-shocks of war affected towns and villages all over Britain, with the Fallen denied the opportunity to help propagate future generations.

Monday’s ceremony starts at around 10pm, and will continue until after 11pm when the momentous declaration was made.

It will begin with an Act of Worship conducted by Rev Canon Jim Campbell, Rector of St Mark’s Church of Ireland.

It is planned that Upper Bann MP David Simpson will begin the reading of the 321 names, followed by members of the Portadown branch of the Royal British Legion, including the officers – President Pete Hodgson, acting chairman Billy Stewart, secretary Ronnie Hynes and treasurer Sam Thompson.

The reading of the names should take around 25 minutes.

It will be tinged with an added aspect of sadness, with the passing at the weekend of Portadown Royal British Legion Chairman Tom Hunter, whose remains were due to be cremated yesterday (Thursday).

With the street names in alphabetical order on the memorial, it will begin with the name of Pte Robert Cooper (Australian Forces) of Atkinson Avenue.

After the streets come the townlands, and Seagoe (then an outlying country area) will be last, with the name of Pte Joseph Flanagan the final one to be read out.