A CENTURY on, the Christmas Truce on the Western Front in 1914 was remembered at a special event in Iveagh House in Dublin, where the keynote address was delivered by former President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charles Flanagan hosted the remembrance, while the British Secretary of State, Philip Hammond, was also in attendance. Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pat Breen was also present.
Jerry Lynch, from Kilfenora, sang a moving rendition of the Cormac Mac Connell-penned song, A Silent Night Christmas 1914, accompanied by the Island of Ireland Peace Choir.
The Christmas Truce describes the extraordinary event on the Western Front 100 years ago, when the guns fell silent and when soldiers from all sides stepped out from their trenches, shook hands and took a break from hostilities.
Deputy Breen said, “It is very important that we remember and reflect on the events that took place in the trenches on the Western Front 100 years ago. Many Irish soldiers died in the Great War and it is a testament to the strong relationship that now exists between the governments of Ireland and the UK that we can join together to mark this event”.
During her lecture, Mrs McAleese recalled how music inspired the French and German troops during the truce.
“At one location along the Front, a French captain, who happened to be a musician, organised an orchestra of fellow soldiers, who had brought musical instruments to the trenches. An invitation, announcing a musical performance for 5pm, was tied to a rock and hurled into the German trenches. On the appointed hour, armed with only a baton, the French captain mounted the parapet and, from there, conducted a concert in the most unusual of settings. On its conclusion, his counterpart stepped forward from the German trenches and gave a salute to the cheers of soldiers from both sides.”
“It was fitting therefore,” Deputy Breen added, “that on the night when we were remembering these events, that music and song was also very much part of our commemoration”.
The lyrics of A Silent Night Christmas 1914, include ‘They slowly left their trenches, we left ours. Beneath tin hats the smiles bloomed like wild flowers. With photos, cigarettes and flasks of wine; we made a soldier’s peace on that front line. Their singer was a lad of twenty-one; We begged another song before the dawn, And sitting amid carnage, death and fear, he sang again the song all longed to hear’.
“The words of this song evoked vivid images of those events 100 years ago, and it was a great honour for Jerry to perform on the night. Afterwards, when he met with the former president Mrs McAleese and her husband, Martin, he presented them with a copy of his CD,” Deputy Breen noted.
“As we approach Christmas Day, my Christmas wish is that the events of 100 years ago, which can teach us so much about the true message of Christmas, will inspire others and that everybody at home and abroad will be able to enjoy a very peaceful Christmas this year.”