Farrell has a very touching piece in this week’s Staggerer: Side by side they fell.
It is another re-appraisal of that ambiguity many of us feel. Farrell visited the grave of his great-grandfather, James Murphy, killed near Ypres on 29 September 1918:
For decades, having a Great War veteran in the family held a certain stigma. Some 35,000 Irishmen perished in the 1914-18 war; in an island of about three million, this was proportionately a devastating toll.
But these men wore the uniform of the same army that had pumped bullets into the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 and killed hundreds retaking Dublin. It was largely English veterans of the Great War who made up the ranks of the Essex Regiment and even more notoriously, the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans during the 1919-21 War of Independence.
Every schoolchild knew the British soldier to be a murderous thug, especially after much of his quarry went on to take seats in the Dublin parliament. And of course, the eruption of sectarian warfare in Ulster was taken as further reason to see Irish involvement in the war as ignoble. Only half-jokingly was I once called a “traitor” in school when I let it be known I was the descendent of a Royal Dublin Fusilier.
It is, like Julian Ellison’s letter in the Irish Times of 5th September, a piece that should not be missed.