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Tulla student called to the Somme battlefield

A TRANSITION-year student from Tulla has been chosen to represent his county in a research project that will see him visit the Somme battlefield in Northern France next summer.
Nathan Peer was selected from entrants across Clare to represent the Banner County in the History Teachers Association of Ireland’s inaugural Adopt a WWI Soldier Project.

The competition was open to students with an interest in history who were in either transition year or fifth year in the Republic of Ireland or in years 12/13 in Northern Ireland. The competition includes a research project between now and the summer and will culminate in a trip by 32 selected students from each county to the Somme battlefield in June 2015.

The idea behind the project is that each student will “adopt” a soldier from his/her native county who died in the First World War. They will carry out research about the soldier through archival material and by talking with living relatives. When they undertake the trip to France, each student will then either visit the grave or monument in the Somme to honour the memory of his/her soldier.

Nathan was the only student in his class at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Tulla to enter the competition and did so by writing a short piece on why he thought he should represent his county and what talents and skills he could put on the table.

Asked about what he wrote for his submission, Nathan said, “I think they deserved some recognition and somebody to show up from Clare to represent them”.

The Tulla resident, who is of Austrian descent, was delighted when a letter came in the post announcing he was the successful candidate to represent County Clare.

“My dad is Austrian and his great-grandfather, Ludwig, fought not in France but on the mountains and he survived, he just made it. I do enjoy history, some parts more than others. I find the wars interesting. My favourite part of history would be the medieval ages. There are two sides to every story and I feel they were both fighting for their country and for the same things,” he outlined.

Nathan will get to meet the other 31 participants at a meeting in March, where he will need to deliver a presentation about his fallen soldier. Ahead of this he is to be assigned a soldier from the locality who died in France and he will then carry out his research on him.

“I have to meet with the living part of the family to find out if they have any information about the soldier and after that I’ll be searching about their date of birth, how they died, how the family felt and what the locality thought of him. I also have to put a memorial token on the grave in France,” he said.

Nathan moved to Tulla a year ago but has been living in Clare for the past nine years. Before that, he was living in Austria. He has never been to France before and is looking forward to this opportunity.

“I’m very excited about going to France. It’s not every day you get a whole trip paid off. We’re going to France in June for three days. There will be film footage, which I think will be used for a documentary to be shown in Ireland. For the next couple of months, I’ll be working pretty hard to find out about the soldier and there will be an interesting element of that,” the 16-year-old said.

Nathan’s history teacher, Siobhán O’Sullivan, said the school is delighted to have him represent the county in the project and said his innate love of history and his talent as an artist will be a huge help during the process.

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