Brickie’s legacy of building peace
WHEN born and bred Limavady brickie Bobbie Forrest visits the Irish Peace Tower in Flanders as part of a North East PEACE III funded project next month, he’ll be returning to the site of his legacy.
The 72-year-old former tradesman was responsible for ensuring the Tower was built in time for a royal unveiling, more than 14 years ago. The Tower was formerly opened by Queen Elizabeth II, Irish President Mary McAlesse and King Albert II of Belgium in November 1998.
When he was interviewed for UTV news in 1998, he told journalist Paul Clarke the Tower was like a child to him and Bobbie still gets emotional when he sees it. “Five and a half months of sleepless nights, and blood sweat and tears went into it,” he said
“Just to think about the sacrifice the 36th Ulster Division and the Redmondites made together, it just puts everything that is happening right now into perspective. A village in Belgium was liberated because people with completely different backgrounds had each other’s backs.”
Weeks before being asked to take responsibility for the Tower project, Bobbie was at the end of his tether on a building site in Derry, struggling to stay warm with the snow on his face.
“That was such a cold day and I remember it was pay day... I told my work mates I wouldn’t be back again after lifting my wages,” he said.
He was lucky to pick up work on a new hospital project in Coleraine the next day and took up a post immediately. About two weeks into the job, the site foreman told him his boss wanted to see him.
“I didn’t know what he wanted and I went up at lunchtime”. “He asked me if I wanted to go to Belgium to build a Peace Tower. My reply was “Try to stop me!”
Bobbie’s interest in contributing to the project traces back to his own father’s military history. “My father was just 17-years-old when he joined the war effort,” he said. “His parents died when he was young and two aunts looked after him. He was hospitalised a couple of times, and when he came home, he learned both his aunts had died from the Spanish flu. Every time I asked him about the war he got teary eyed. He told me not to ask him about it.”
Limavady Community Cohesion Officer Hollie Brown commented: “I can’t believe we have someone as special as Bobbie Forrest coming to Messines. This will be the first time that he has completed the “Messines Experience” delivered by International School for Peace Studies. Bobbie has a wealth of knowledge and photographs of the building of the tower and clearly this has been an important part of his life. I can’t wait to see and hear more from him and to share it with his local townspeople and participants Borough-wide. I feel privileged that Bobbie applied and is able to add so much to this important peacebuilding experience.”
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Weather for Londonderry
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
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Wind direction: South west