THE fascinating stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers during the First World War will be explored at a special event in the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies (MCMS) at the Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh, next week.
Dr Johanne Devlin Trew, of the Ulster University, and Dr Patrick Fitzgerald, from the MCMS, will introduce the series of talks, which have been jointly-organised by Libraries NI, Living Legacies 1914-18 and Live and Learn. The two academics will then deliver a brief overview of health provision during the First World War.
Several guest speakers will be available throughout the event, which is called West Ulster and World War One: stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers. It is taking place on Wednesday, March 25, between 1pm and 4pm.
Professor Elizabeth Crooke, from Ulster University, and Peter Archdale will talk about the scrapbook as a source of information, with reference to the unique WW1 scrapbook compiled by Nurse Drought, grandmother of Peter, who was perhaps better known as Mrs Edith Whelan, the wife of Canon Whelan, of Lislimnaghan Church, just outside Omagh.
The organisers of the event say that this scrapbook is an "extraordinary item", which containing photos of soldiers, and poems and sketches the soldiers made while recuperating.
Alan Clarke will present the story of Sixmilecross nurse Bella Dixon, who served in Serbia in 1915 and was decorated by both King George V and King Peter of Serbia for her work at the field hospital.
Bella's story will then be brought to life by Dr Brenda Winter-Palmer and student actors from Queen's University drama department.
A career nurse who trained at the Tyrone Infirmary in Omagh, Bella's exploits were covered by the Tyrone Constitution 100 years ago. However, the extraordinary diary of her journey to serve in Serbia in 1915 has only recently come to light. It begins on March 26, 1915 and relates events over the summer of 1915 in Serbia, where conditions were amongst the worst experienced in the First World War.
Claire McElhinney and Amanda Porter will present the story of their grandmother, Edith Harkness, and the other UVF nurses from Tyrone, who established the Tyrone Hospital in Pau, France, during World War One.
Edith, who was from Newtownstewart, joined the Tyrone UVF nurses brigade as a volunteer. Sponsored by the Duchess of Abercorn, they offered their services to the French Army during WW1 and set off for the continent.
During the day, the public will be able to access The Mellon Centre for Migration Studies Library Heritage Collection, with access to Libraries NI free on-line resource 'Ancestry Library Edition' to research WW1 ancestors.
The Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre is a focal point for connecting academic and community researchers interested in how the First World War lives on in the 21st century world.
Dr Johanne Devlin Trew, who is one of five academics on the Living Legacies team, said next week's event had been organised after the success of a workshop, called WW1 and You! Objects and Memories, held at the Ulster American Folk Park last November.
She said: "It was a huge success, with literally not even standing room left! Some material came to light at that event, especially the interest in local nurses so we decided to run this second event, West Ulster and WW1: stories of local doctors, nurses and volunteers."
The academic said that this latest event was being run in partnership with Live and Learn, a creative learning initiative for over 50s and is funded by Big Lottery in partnership with Age NI.
“So far, our workshops are attracting people of all ages," she added.
Briege McClean, project officer for the Ulster American Folk Park, said: "Older people have so many rich memories and stories. Sharing these with others and in particular leaving their legacy for a younger generation is so important."
Meanwhile, Patricia Walker, Libraries NI head of heritage and digitisation, said: "Libraries NI is delighted to partner with a number of organisations to host this event; it is aimed to encourage lots of people to learn about their family's past during WW1, discover their local history and celebrate their heritage."
Everyone is welcome to come along to this informative and enjoyable afternoon and admission is free.
For more information contact the Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, 2 Mellon Road, Omagh, BT78 5QU, telephone (028) 82256315, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Abstract taken from Tyrone Constitution dated 19th March 2015
Image :- A page from the fascinating diary kept by Sixmilecross nurse, Bella Dixon, during her journey across war-torn Europe in 1915. SU1202JR