The war memorial in Brookeborough
Image caption The structure is believed to be one of the first to have been constructed in Northern Ireland

The village of Brookeborough in County Fermanagh prides itself on its war memorial.

The structure is believed to be one of the first to have been constructed in Northern Ireland, possibly even in the British Isles.

But it was popular with the village children for a very different reason.

“I was born and reared nearly opposite the war memorial,” recalled Arthur Ovens.

Image caption Jack Dunlop and Arthur Ovens of the Brookeborough War Memorial Committee

“As a boy, I played on it, climbed on it, it was always known locally as the bear.

“If you were a young fella and you were able to climb up and sit on top of the bear, you had achieved a roll of honour.”

But all those little feet scrambling up to sit on the structure took their toll. When combined with the effects of a century of weather and being moved from its original spot in the middle of the road, the memorial was very definitely looking the worse for wear.

It had also never been updated with the names of the local men killed in World War One and World War Two.

‘Recognise the fallen’

“It was always a bit of a blank in the town’s history,” said Clive Johnston, a local historian.

With the centenary of the end of WWI approaching, the War Memorial Trust had been visiting memorials around the country and contacted the village development association about the Brookeborough structure.

The association then formed a committee to restore their memorial to its former glory and to recognise the contribution made by the village and the surrounding area.

“That’s one of the things we wanted to do, recognise the fallen from the local area,” said Jack Dunlop of the Memorial Committee.

Image caption The new plaque which has been added to the memorial

Many of the names come from, or are related to, the Brooke family, who give their name to the area.

But it all started with a local man, dying of enteric fever in Ladysmith, South Africa.

“Sgt William Browne, of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, died during the Boer War,” said Mr Johnston.

“His name went into the local paper and amazingly that paper was picked up by another Brookeborough man in South Africa.

Image caption The names originally displayed on the memorial were of the men who died in the Boer War

“He saw that his best friend had died and a war memorial was to be erected in his honour.

“And he sent £5 in postal orders from South Africa to contribute to the war memorial here.

“You think of communication all those years ago, yet he was still able to make his contribution for his best friend.”

Eventually, two other names were added.

In addition to those, three men who died in the Boer War.

Image caption The memorial now bears the names of forty-seven men from the First World War and another twelve from the second

The memorial now bears the names of forty-seven men from the First World War and another twelve from the second.

The research not only turned up the names, it gave the committee another insight.

“We also found that it was pretty well divided in the religious set-up,” said Mr Ovens.

“About a third of the names are Catholics, the rest are Protestants, so we’re very proud of that – we’ve lived together, we’ve worked together, and they fought together and they died together.”

Their names will now rest together on a plaque, for another century, beneath the watchful gaze of the lion – or bear.

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