By Tom Ryan
It was Christmas Eve in Ireland, two years before the Easter Rebellion, and all of Europe was in the throes of World War 1, ‘The War To End All Wars’.
Men of many nations were locked in mortal combat, allegedly for the freedom of small nations. Ireland gave more than its share of fighting men to the ‘Great War’ and in the county Tipperary town of Templemore, no less than 55 men lost their lives in this cause.
The war also claimed the lives of seventy five men from Thurles, three natives of which town won Victoria Crosses in various wars, fighting under the British flag.
Today the quiet mid-Tipperary town of Templemore, nestling in the shade of the Devil’s Bit mountain, is renowned nationwide for its Garda Training College, which once was an army barracks in the garrison town of Templemore.
Templemore local historian, Joe Barry, who has served as a Sergeant in the Reserve Defence Force, is the Pipe Major of the Thomas MacDonagh Pipe Band, Templemore, and he has written a book of military stories he memorised from his grandfather, entitled ‘Ate Mate and Follow the Band.’
The title was inspired by the answer the local British Army Regimental Recruiting Sergeant gave to recruits in the 1914-18 period who asked what enlisting entailed.
Joe Barry has been to the cemeteries and battlefields of World War 1 all over Europe, from Flanders to the Somme. But one story which he heard from his mother concerns one of the truly amazing and moving moments of World War 1 in Templemore, a long way from the horrors and inhumanity of the trenches.
This beautiful moment will be commemorated in Templemore on Christmas Eve, 2014, the 100th anniversary of the original occurrence, by a short, simple, dignified ceremony on the grounds of the Garda College in Templemore.
A Christmas wreath, with the German emblem and colours, will be laid at a spot inside the gates of the College. German Carols will be sung and ‘Silent Night’ will be sung in German, English and Irish.
The story of that Christmas Eve of 1914 will be narrated by local historian, Martin Fogarty, of the Thomas MacDonagh Pipe Band, Templemore, and Pipe Major Joe Barry will play a Lament.
Joe Barry, in his home in Park View Avenue, Templemore, recalls the inspiring and heart-warming tale told by his mother: “We, in Ireland, were at war with Germany in 1914, as we were then part of the British Empire, like it or not,” said Joe.