The Poppy Trail Murals

The Poppy Trail originated in 2015, as a collaborative effort between the Shared History Workshop, the Greater Village Regeneration Trust, the NI Housing Executive (Community Cohesion Unit), the Imperial War Museum and the Living Legacies 1914-18 Engagement Centre.  The purpose of the trail is to honour and commemorate the legacies of the First World and the service of local men and women from South Belfast who had volunteered and enlisted, from both sides of the community.  The Poppy Trail arose as a means to combat a rise in offensive and sectarian graffiti on the walls of the mid-Donegall Road area.  To date, six murals have been commissioned and unveiled along the Donegall Road.  As part of the process, Living Legacies’ Professor Richard Grayson (Goldsmiths, University of London) has advised and worked closely with community participants in researching and delivering the historical narratives featured in the Poppy Trail murals.  Professor Grayson’s book Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War (2009) was used extensively in the production of this artistic history trail.

The first mural was a memorial to the sinking of the HMS Hawke, torpedoed by a German submarine U-9 on 15th October 1914.  Forty-nine of the 524 sailors on board were from Northern Ireland, five of which came from the Donegall Road area.  The mural was unveiled at Barrington Gardens on Remembrance Sunday 2015.

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1914 – The Sinking of the HMS Hawke (Barrington Gardens)

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1914 – Kitchener ‘Your Country Needs You’ (Egeria Street)

The 1915 mural commemorates the Gallipoli Campaign (17th February 1915 -9th January 1916), an attempt to secure the sea route between Russia and the allied forces, in the Gallipoli peninsula (present-day Turkey). This mural, unveiled in 2016, highlights the local connection to the Gallipoli Campaign, with stories of service men from the Donegall Road (South Belfast) and the Divis area (West Belfast) who lost their lives at Gallipoli. The mural also commemorated the UVF Nursing and Medical Corps in South Belfast. 

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1915 – The Gallipoli Campaign (Daphne Street)

The 1916 mural commemorates the 36th Ulster Division, and the twenty-seven local men who died 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  This mural pays particular attention to two men, one from the Nationalist Falls Road and one from the Loyalist Donegall Road, who gave their lives in service.  The mural was unveiled on Pandora Street in June 2016. 

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1916 - The 36th Ulster Division (Pandora Street) 

The mural commemorating 1917 celebrates the legacy of those on the Home Front, particularly the contributions of local women to the war effort – the Mackie TNT shell-munitions workers or ‘canary girls’. 

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1917 - The Home Front: Women’s Munitions (Euterpe Street) 

The 1918 mural was unveiled in August 2018 and was a major art installation commemorating 100 years of the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland.  The mural lends particular focus to Northern Ireland’s contribution to aircraft building and aviation history – illustrating the various types of planes and jets built locally in the north of Ireland and the pilots from the island of Ireland who flew for the Royal Flying Corps and its 1918 successor, the Royal Air Force. 

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1918 – Northern Ireland RAF100. 

The Poppy Trail murals have been well received by the local community.  Given such support for the armed forces in the area and the pride associated with the local connections to the First World War, the murals have remained intact with little to no vandalism.  Local residents have noted a rise in people from outside the community coming to the area, specifically to see the murals.  It is hoped that the Poppy Trail will continue with a dedicated walking tour and in coming years to commemorate other militaristic events with local connections to the area including World War Two, the Korean War and beyond to present conflicts. 

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