LAST WEEK Mr Joe Crossan’s fifth class from Scoil Cholmcille, Letterkenny took first place in the annual Donegal Historical Society’s Schools Competition in Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey. This was the first time the school has ever won the prize and the pupils were thrilled with the result.
The theme of their project was examining the connections between World War 1 and Letterkenny with the budding historians unearthing some fascinating facts in their research over the previous six weeks.
They learned, for example, that four boys from the class had relations who served in the trenches while Raymond Duffy of sixth class presented information on his great grandfather, Private James Duffy, who won a Victoria Cross for extreme bravery in the heat of battle while saving the lives of two wounded comrades.
The class also presented information on local personalities such as Bishop William McNeely, who had served as chaplain to the forces in the trenches and later became Bishop of Raphoe, and Charlie Bovril Collins, James Roarty, Hugh Bonar, Major McClintock and many others who had served during the war.
As part of their project, on Monday afternoon last, the boys placed 91 white crosses into a model of No Man’s Land to represent the number of people from the town who lost their lives in the war. In a special solemn ceremony attended by guests of honour Mayor Paschal Blake, Fr. Eamonn Kelly and Canon Stewart Wright, the class commemorated local men such as Patrick Boyce from the Main Street, the Stewart brothers from Rockhill (who died only 6 weeks apart of each other) and the Doherty brothers from Sentry Hill, three of whom died in battle.
At the ceremony, the invited guests each spoke of their admiration for the work done by the boys with Mayor Blake praising the spirit of the class in preserving ‘the spirit and memory of those Letterkenny people who lost their lives in that terrible conflict’.
Under guidance from teacher and local historian Mr. Kieran Kelly throughout their research, the boys understood that undertaking the project was a big challenge but they were delighted to reveal to their school mates and parents the many connections that the town has with World War 1 in its centenary year.
This is John's first trip to the World Championships where he will come up against full-time professionals.