World War One at the Guildhall

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The Guildhall is this week hosting a special exhibition that sheds light on the shared experience of the Unionist and Nationalist communities from the North West during the First World War.

‘Orange and Green - Derry and the First World War’ is being hosted by the Templemore Great War History Society and runs from June 5th – 11th from 10am to 5.30pm each day.

The event coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Messines today (June 7) where local men from both traditions fought and died together in Belgium.

The Unionist community in the city have a long tradition of recognising and remembering the conflict but local historian Seamus Breslin said more Nationalists are now acknowledging the role of their community.

“The First World War changed the world and Derry was greatly impacted, over 1,000 people associated with the city died and thousands more were injured,” he noted.

“Over time the experiences, sacrifices and memories of World War One gradually became absorbed into the Unionist community in Derry but times have changed and a shared story is emerging and gaining acceptance.

“This exhibition aims to promote peace and reconciliation, shed some light on a history frequently avoided and hasten the day when all sides can join in inclusive commemoration of the sacrifices made by so many.”

The Orange and Green exhibition began its life in 1996 as ‘The Sure Confusing Drum’ named after a Seamus Heaney poem that explored the nationalist community’s role in WW1.

It focused on the dilemma many Irish nationalists faced in the war about whether or not to serve for the perceived traditional enemy of the British forces.

The exhibition has changed over time and in its updated form reflects on the two traditions that went off to war side-by-side and on their motivations, allegiances and aspirations.

“Local men became involved in the war effort for a wide variety of reasons and motivations,” Seamus continued. “Many went for social and economic reasons, some for religious or political beliefs while others sought comradeship and adventure.

“The Templemore Great War History Society and Guildhall Press have developed this exhibition to contribute to the understanding of this momentous period in our collective history.

“Our objective is that a conflict remembered by Unionists as the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and by Nationalists who went to right for Home Rule and the rights of small nations can be remembered with honour by all combatants.”

Orange and Green is in the Guildhall from Monday June 5th until Sunday June 11th from 10am until 5.30pm each day and admission is free.

Further information on the project is available at www.ghpress.com/wwi, the Derry City Nationalists and the First World War Facebook page and on the Youtube channel Nationalist Derry World War One Gavin Patton Films.