1st Committee Group Photo 22nd of August 2002
This is a photo of the first Mayo Peace Park committee , it was taken after the public meeting held in the Welcome Inn Hotel, Castlebar on Thursday the 22nd of August 2002.
Pictured rom the left are John Fair, Eugene Lavin, Mona Dempsey, Carmel Hughes, Mary Mongan, Stuart Ryan, Michael Feeney,Gerry tierney RIP, Ron Howko, Patrick Huddy, Ernie Sweeney, Dan Dempsey RIP. Anthony Ryan. Unfortunately some other members of the initial committee had departed before this photo was taken. amongst those absent were Johnny Mee, Sean Horkan, Stephen McLaughlin, Capt Donal Buckley, Jackie & Bernie Rumley, Fergus McEllin, Henry Moroney, Michael Garvey, Chuck Dunford and John Ryan.
How it all Began
Private Patrick Feeney from Castlebar, was called to arms, at the outbreak of world war one, as a former soldier and reservist, he really had no choice in the matter, he rejoined the famous Connaught Rangers Regiment, and very soon he was out on the battlefields of Europe. Patrick was a very happily married man at that time, he had a loving wife named Maria & together they were rearing six young children.
On the 22nd of July 1915, he was killed in action, the sad news of his death arrived by telegram from the war office, strangely enough it was the memory of his sacrifice and his untimely death that was the catalyst for the erection of the Mayo Peace Park, Garden of Remembrance.
The reason for this was that his grandson Michael Feeney had kept his memory alive over the years, he could not understand why people like his grandfather and indeed the many hundreds of other Mayo people who served and died in the two major world wars, had not been properly recognised or commemorated in their home place.
In the early 1980’s, he started researching the names of those from the Castlebar area who were killed in the war, he was quite shocked with the huge amount of Mayo born casualties, he was gathering and yet no one else seemed to know anything about them.
In 1988, he wrote an article in the Castlebar Parish Magazine and in that article; he suggested that a proper memorial should be put in place to commemorate the forgotten war dead. He continued to gather names and information on the Mayo born casualties and gradually he built up a huge data base of those who had died or were killed in action.
However, it was not until 1999, that he launched what was for him a very personal campaign, when he wrote a letter to the Connaught Telegraph Newspaper, outlining the reasons for such a memorial, he pointed out that the county had suffered greatly and he stressed how this had effected many hundreds of Mayo families.
Mayo’s War Dead
Public Letter to the Connaught Telegraph, October 1999
I write to the Connaught Telegraph Newspaper in an effort to highlight what I consider should be a priority project for the millennium. I would like to make contact with anyone who agrees with my proposal.
The past century has brought about many changes, so many things have happened over the past 100 years. In the context of Castlebar in particular and Mayo in general, the most traumatic occurrence was the loss of life which took place in world war one 1914-18.
A number of families lost a father, son, brother, uncle, or relative in that war. This was not surprising given that Castlebar was a garrison town with strong military connections. I openly invite anyone who is interested in the subject to contact me with a view to listing the people of Castlebar and Mayo, who lost their lives in the war. The names of those on the list would be a sobering reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for world peace.
The inscription on my own grandfather’s grave reads; “Gone but not forgotten”. In Castlebar and throughout Mayo those who lost their lives in World War One have been forgotten and ignored. It is as if they never existed – we simply choose to ignore them.
I am putting it up to Castlebar Urban Council, Mayo County Council and the millennium project officer John Maughan, to examine the extensive list of those who fought in the battlefields of Europe and gave their lives in the cause of world peace in the First World War.
In every town and village in Europe people are proud of their war dead, and justifiably so. They answered the call when civilisation was threatened and should be remembered with pride and gratitude.
In Castlebar and County Mayo to our shame we don’t share the pride of those people in other lands. There is no memorial, building or plaque to remember their heroic deeds.
In my personal opinion no single event in the past century affected this town and county in such a profound way as World War 1 with its devastating loss of the lives of young Mayo men.
We now have an unique opportunity to redress the situation with funds available, to show our respect for those young men who gave their lives so the world would be a better place in which to live.
The political climate in this country has changed, people of all political shades have come together in a unified fashion to bring peace to our county.
Why not honour the men from Mayo who gave their lives for peace in the trenches of France, and other places in the grim days of the 1914/1918 war, good Castlebar and Mayo men all.
I have made my case. Hopefully there are public bodies and private individuals out there who will answer the call. If they do they can contact me.
The Mayo News, October 27th 1999
Castlebar man, Michael Feeney, has suggested that as a New Millennium project, we in Mayo should resolve to commemorate those of our young men who fought and died in the First World War. It is a timely suggestion, as Michael points out the flower of Irish youth marched off to give their best for the concept of freedom in that dark struggle of 1914-1918.
Many died and are buried in nameless graves across the battlefields of Europe; some returned, not it has to be said as heroes, but portrayed as supporters of the crown and quite unfairly vilified for having fought England’s War.
Small wonder that they were hurt and baffled by the changed mood in Ireland, on their return, when the first seeds of independence were beginning to sprout and when to have supported the oppressor, as it was thus viewed was seen as a betrayal of the national cause. Much of the residual bitterness of the aftermath of that war has now disappeared. Last year, Mayo stone was donated for the erection of Peace Tower at Flanders, the contribution of Irishmen and Women in the great war is at last been recognised and appreciated; their since of courage and sacrifice is finally being honoured. For eighty years their story has been untold, their remarkable bravery written out of the history books.
Just as the century started with the Great War, it is only fitting that here in Mayo, we should close the century by remembering our people who fought and fell in that “ war to end all wars “ (so it was thought), If there are others who share Michael Feeney’s view that it is not yet to late to pay a tribute to the forgotten dead, then perhaps now is as good a time as any to start. Michael Feeney lives in Milebush, Castlebar, and would be glad to hear from you.
By the Listener
That very same year, the Irish Government in its wisdom, allocated serious funding to each Irish county to develop suitable millennium projects, to mark significant events of the previous century, he submitted an application for a memorial but this was rejected by those responsible for allocating the funding. It appeared that no one was listening or wanted to know about Mayo’s forgotten war dead.
In November of 1999, he pushed ahead and organised a special memorial Mass and Remembrance Day Service at the Church of the Holy Rosary Castlebar, this was said to be the first memorial service that was ever held in memory of the Mayo soldiers who had lost their lives. It provided a platform to highlight the situation and it gave a voice to the families of the forgotten soldiers. It lit a flame that burned brightly ever since.
Another huge benefit was that two local men Johnny Mee and Ernie Sweeney volunteered to assist his campaign and very soon they had identified a suitable site for the memorial, the problem they now had was to establish who actually owned the land, which even though it was derilect at the time, was still valuable property in the centre of the town. This problem sorted itself out, when Mr Gerry Casey from Castlebar who owned the back portion, donated it for the project, it took a much longer time and a legal search to establish who owned the front of the site, however good fortune smiled again as Mayo County Council were the registered owner's, and they willingly donated the rest of of the site, all free of charge. The support, assistance and vision of the then Director of Services for Mayo County Council, Mr Ray Norton was crucially important at that time.
Michael Feeney, called a public meeting on Thursday the 22nd of August 2002, he wanted to to set up a formal committee to raise the necessary funds and develop the memorial; the Mayo Peace Park was formally registered as a charitable body in Ireland.
Mr Michael P. Walsh an architect from Balla, offered his experience and assistance for the project and he prepared the initial plans and drawing’s, Mayo County Council's architectural and engineering services then came on board and they played a major role with the overall project, Ms Siobhan Sexton prepared the documentation for the acquisition of planning permission. Mayo County Council & Castlebar Town Council gave the project it full blessing & support.
Mayo County Council were represented on our committee by Mr Peter Gill , that in itself was a major boost, he was fully committed and suportive. We as a committee were extremely fortunate to have had such a helpful person to advise and assist the project and see it through to fruition.
Mr David Moran, from Newport was engaged and he played a huge role in designing the virtual tour and on the preparation of the list of the fallen for our web site and for the memorials in the park. The virtual tour he designed is still on this website and one can see from this, how well he had projected the park would look like when it was completed.
Mr Michael O Malley, the public works contractors, carried out the initial earthworks, levelling and site development as well as building the boundry wall.
There is however no doubt but that Mr Tony Munnelly of Kilcross Construction Ltd, was the man who really put a shape on the overall plan, he and his staff, done a tremendous job of work in what was a difficult site, everything was done to perfection, the building of the main memorial wall and all the other memorial base's and paving contracts.
The firm of Feelystone from Boyle, won the memorial work contract they completed all the complicated inscription work on the black granite memorial's and they installed everything on time and to our complete satisfaction.
The firm of William Coffey & Son from Westport played a huge part in adding in all the memorial seating, plaques and additional names .
Whilst the primary aim of the memorial was to commemorate those who served and died in the world wars, with the Allied and Commonwealth, Forces, the committee agreed it should commemorate the Mayo born members of the Irish Defence Forces, who served and died on United Nations Peacekeeping operations and that it should also commemorate the members of “An Gárda Síochána” who served their country in their role as peacekeepers at home and abroad.
Later on a special plaque was erected to remember some other Mayo born soldiers who died in different foreign wars and conflict 's around the world.
The Mayo Peace Park Committee also erected a special memorial in the park to commemorate all who died in the cause of Irish Freedom. This was kindly sponsored by Castlebar Parish Council.
The individual memorials, the seating memorials and the plaques were kindly sponsored and we as a voluntary community committee want to express our sincere thanks to our sponsors.
We thank Mayo County Council and Castlebar Town Council for their wonderful support and assistance. Castlbar Town Council have now taken over the ownership of the memorial and carry our the general maintenance to a very high standard.
The President of Ireland Mary McAleese officially opened the Mayo Peace Park, Garden of Remembrance on Tuesday the 7th of October 2008.
Official Opening Ceremony of the Mayo Peace Park (Collage).
Dignified Reflective Place
The Mayo Peace Park is a quite reflective place for the families of the fallen to visit, it does not in any way seek to justify or glorify war; its primary purpose was to commemorate a forgotten generation of local heroes from county Mayo who fought for world peace in their time.
May their eternal souls rest in Peace
Last Updated (Sunday, 30 December 2012 21:44)