Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade & Clare Deputy Pat Breen T.D. was present in Iveagh House on Tuesday night last (17th December 2014) when a century later, the Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 1914 was remembered.
The former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese delivered a lecture to mark the event. The Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan T.D. hosted the remembrance while the British Secretary of State, the RT Hon Philip Hammond MP was also in attendance.
The “Christmas Truce” is the term used to describe Christmas Time on the Western Front a hundred years ago when the guns fell silent and when soldiers from all sides stepped out from their trenches, shook hands and took a break from hostilities for Christmas with some claiming that even a football match took place between the sides during the truce.
Speaking about the event, Deputy Breen said that ‘It is very important that we remember and reflect on the events that took place in the trenches on the Western Front over 100 years ago. Many Irish Soldiers died in the Great War and it is a testament to the strong relationship that now exists between the Governments of Ireland and the UK that we can join together to mark this event.”
During her lecture, former President Mary McAleese recalled how music inspired the French and German Troops during the Truce. “At one location along the Front, A French Captain, who happened to be a musician, organised an orchestra of fellow soldiers who had brought musical instruments to the trenches. An invitation, announcing a musical performance for 5.00 pm. was tied to a rock and hurled into the German trenches. On the appointed hour, armed with only a baton, the French Captain mounted the parapet, and from there conducted a concert in the most unusual of settings. On its conclusion his counterpart stepped forward from the German trenches and gave a salute, the cheers of soldiers from both sides.”
“It was fitting therefore”, Deputy Breen said “that on the night when we were remembering these events, that music and song was also very much part of our commemoration. And it was a fellow Clare man, Jerry Lynch, from Kilfenora, who sang a very powerful rendition of the Cormac Mac Connell pinned song ‘A Silent Night Christmas 1914”. accompanied by the Island of Ireland Peace Choir which really moved everybody present on the night.”
‘They slowly left their trenches, we left ours. Beneath tin hats the smiles bloomed like wild flowers. With photos, cigarettes and flasks of wine; We made a soldier’s peace on that front line. Their singer was a lad of twenty-one; We begged another song before the dawn, And sitting amid carnage, death and fear, he sang again the song all longed to hear.’
Deputy Breen added “The words of this song evoked vivid images of those events a hundred years ago, and it was a great honour for Jerry to perform on the night. And afterwards, when he met with the former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, he presented them with a copy of his CD.”
As we approach Christmas Day, my Christmas wish is that the events of 100 years ago, which can teach us so much about the true message of Christmas will inspire others and that everybody at home and abroad will be able to enjoy a very peaceful Christmas this year.