The leader of this elderly community group, Gerry Robinson, approached the Ulster Museum after viewing the Man who Shot the Great War BBC documentary featuring the story of George Hackney, whose war diaries and photographs we hold in our collection.
His group were very keen to explore more about this man who lived in Dundonald and more about the First World War. They see FWW and Somme murals in their local area and want to know more.
We devised a programme of sessions around exploring the FWW and around George Hackney.
- An introduction to the FWW: Tours of the Answer the Call propaganda exhibition and Home Rule to partition section of the Modern History Gallery.
- Exploring the Hackney diaries through FWW objects
- Hackney and FWW Photography: A closer look at the Hackney photographs and stereoscopic photography
- Medical Developments of the FWW: Exploring mental and physical trauma of the FWW and hackney’s ‘shell-shock’ experience
Feedback so far from the group has highlighted their interest in Ireland during this period 1912-1922. Verbal feedback at the time of the tours demonstrated a certain amount of prior knowledge but a lack of understanding the circumstances around the impact of the Ulster Crisis, the outbreak of the FWW and events such as the Easter Rising had on Ireland.
Did you learn anything new?
“yes, more about the war that I didn’t know before”
“yes, about the Easter Rising”
“didn’t realise the extent of the advertising (war posters)”
“my mother was a Nurse in the First World War, wonderful to see the uniforms”
“my father was in it (FWW), interesting to see the different helmets”
This group are discovering more about the FWW and are receiving an introduction of war and learning more about Hackney, a man that some of their family remember in their community. This interest has grown that they are considering applying for HLF to extend this interest and perhaps develop an art project that would consist of a memorial to George Hackney for their community. They feel it is important that no one forgets George Hackney and the part many of their young men had in the FWW.
This elderly community group of women, also including some women from the Falls Rd area, expressed an interest in having a talk on the FWW. Due to the mobility issues with many of the group they received a FWW handling session. They thoroughly enjoyed this and exploring different objects from this period.
The handling session is divided into two sections: A soldier’s case of items from the Front and a case of items representing the Home Front.
Items such as the officer’s wash kit brought back memories of wash kit’s their fathers had and that some of the husbands had similar kits in the Second World War.
A lot remembered conducting similar knitting for the troops, such as socks in school for the troops of the second world war and it was discussed that similar front home activities occurred back home during both wars.
What did you like most about the workshop today?
“the openness for general discussion”
“reminded me in many ways of my childhood days”
Did you learn anything new?
“About the war objects and the health problems, eg. Feet problems due to waterlogged trenches”
“That ants were effective in getting rid of lice!”
“the use of sphagnum moss”
This was an enthusiastic group with many members in their 90s. One lady had a lot of memories to share about her father who enlisted in the FWW.
East Belfast and the Great War
Living Legacies Supported Project: East Belfast and the Great War
On Saturday 7th February the Living Legacies Team visited St Mark's Parish Church in East Belfast. We were delighted to support the East Belfast research group in their second roadshow, as they continued their efforts in sharing the stories of the men and women from East Belfast who served at home and abroad during the Great War.
This was the second event we had co-organised with Jason and his colleagues, and following the success of October's roadshow at Willowfield Parish Church, we were looking forward to speaking with more members of the public about their connections to, and interest in, the legacy of WW1.
Our digitisation unit, provided by our supporting partner CDDA (Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis), were on hand to sample and record images of the objects which were brought in by members of the public. We received some fascinating artefacts for digitisation, including an extensive, personal collection of war memorabilia which included wire cutters, a German rifle, WW1 helmet and Royal Irish Regiment badges.
Whilst the digitisation team worked hard to record these images, our Heritage Officer Fiona Byrne assessed and discussed the war memorabilia with the owners of the objects, and provided some advice on conservation. A short guide to maintaining your historical objects is available here.
In addition to the above activities, there were two expert lectures, both well-attended, throughout the afternoon. Firstly. C.S. Lewis author Sandy Smith, spoke about Lewis' own war experience, noting that St Mark's was his former parish. After this, East Belfast project lead Jason Burke presented some original research on Strandtown's war involvement. Jason had recently visited archives in Dublin and viewed the original letters, penned by men belonging to St Mark's Parish Church. Jason's research has been transformed into a short film, available to view here.
We were thoroughly impressed by the progress which the research group have made, since they were successfully awarded HLf funding in 2014. We look forward to collaborating with them further as they uncover more interesting and unexplored stories about East Belfast's WW1 story.