Monday, 13 August 2007

Bushmills War Exhibit

From July 21-27, 2007, the town of Bushmills hosted an exhibit honoring that community's men and women who had served in the World Wars. As a retired history teacher from the US, I was excited and disappointed. Excited because this would be an opportunity to see a portion of the Wars' histories from more of a UK point of view, and disappointed because we were leaving Bushmills at 5 AM on the 21st and would be unable to visit the exhibit.

In talking to Nevin on Thursday evening, he suggested that I drop by the exhibit on the 20th and talk to them while they were setting up. What a crafty guy Nevin is! While walking back to the inn from dinner, Gayle and I spotted two men carrying boxes of old canteens into the exhibit.
We introduced ourselves to Robert Thompson and Keith Beattie. They graciously and enthusiastically invited us to our own personal viewing of the exhibit.

The exhibit consisted of a surprising amount of material for a small community such as Bushmills. There was an abundance of pictures, artifacts, mementoes, and stories, especially of those who had given their lives for their country. We could have spent hours pouring over the material which Robert collected. He and Glenda Rodgers have spent years collecting and researching the wars and the various local communities' involvement in the efforts. This has resulted in several booklets written on the subject.

We were heart-broken seeing the way a small community like Bushmills gave its sons' lives. In World War I (The Great War), Bushmills lost 96 men, including a William McCurdy. There were 9 sets of brothers killed. One family lost 3 sons. This huge percentage of loss must have devastated the small village.
On July 1, 1916, between 7 and 9:30 AM, 26 of the boys from Bushmills fell at the opening of the Battle of the Somme. 12 more were lost before that battle was over in November.

We couldn't imagine the suffering of the village during this time; the parents who lost sons, the wives who lost husbands, the children who lost fathers, and the girls who lost sweethearts. Everyone in the village must have been effected in some way. This doesn't even account for those who came back suffering wounds both physical and emotional, which would effect them for the rest of their lives.

The village sacrificed another 32 men and 1 woman in World War II. Losses were incurred at places such as Dunkirk, Dieppe, Singapore, Normandy, and prison camps. Some were also lost in the Royal Navy, Royal Merchant Navy, and the Royal Air Force.

We were able to obtain a small book from Robert Thompson called "Bushmills Heroes 1914-1918" which he graciously signed for us. We are grateful to Robert and Keith for the great experience and lasting impressions of the Bushmills World War Exhibit, and to Nevin for the suggestion to "drop in."

Jim McCurdy

[The Fureys and Davey Arthur perform Eric Vogle's "The Green Fields of France" - Nevin]