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Magnificent Book Shines Light On Large Number Of Lorrha Great War Participants

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Magnificent Book Shines Light On Large Number Of Lorrha Great War Participants thumbnail99 year old Michael O’Meara, father of author Ger O’Meara (on left) welcomes special guest the Australian Ambassador Richard Andrews to Lorrha for the launch of ‘ Lorrha People in the Great War’ on Saturday night last.

A MAGNIFICENT 'Lorrha People in the Great War' was officially launched by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Richard Andrews in Lorrha's GAA clubhouse on Saturday evening.
 The new book has been expertly written by Gerard O'Meara. It's a beautifully-produced, hefty volume which will interest people from outside Lorrha parish as well.
 Lorrha is the most northerly parish in Tipperary. It is well known for its ancient and medieval monastic settlements. It also has a significant military history as recounted in this book. 
In the early years of the 20th Century it was perceived as an active republican parish. Many people from the parish also served during the Great War, whether it was with Irish or British Regiments or Commonwealth and American forces. 
They fought in all theatres of war whether with the infantry, cavalry, artillery or air force. They were granted numerous awards for valour including the Victoria Cross to Martin O'Meara of Lissernane.
 'Lorrha People in the Great War' details their background, their families and their post-war lives. It is as much a family and local history as well as a military treatise.
 Typical of the numerous O'Mearas in Lorrha, Gerard's family have lived there for many generations. Local and family history was a regular topic of conversation at the family table. His father, a long serving member of the Local Defence Forces (LDF) and later of An Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil (FCA), has a very keen interest in military history. He accompanied Gerard on tours to many of the European battlefields - The Somme, Ypres, Arras, Amiens, Normandy, Arnhem, etc. He also provided Gerard with much of the material for the book. 
 Gerard's particular interest is in Irish soldiers who served in the British armed forces, thus giving rise to his book on people from the parish who served during the Great War.
An accountant, he has lived in Cork for many years. Married to Kay (née O'Sullivan) from Cork, they have three Cork sons. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Lorrha and Tipperary on the sportsfields.
 Saturday evening's launch on a freezing, foggy night, was attended by a large crowd who listened to an hour of speeches including an excellent speech by the Australian Ambassador. The Ambassador spoke of the strong links between Ireland and Australia, the high quality of production and fascinating content of this new book, and the pleasure of being invited to a place where community is so important.
 Local historian James Heenan said it's a magnificent book. He said it documents a large number of local people, some of whom were unable to discuss their experiences on their return to Ireland because of a changed political scene.
He said the Ambassador had enjoyed a history tour of the area earlier in the day, accompanied by a number of locals. One of the places they visited was Crinkle Barracks. They also visited Martin O'Meara's former homestead.
John Joe Conwell, MC for the launch, joked that producing a book is no simple task and Ger's wife 'is probably a saint!'
Gerard said this book was a long time coming and took four years to write along with an enormous amount of research (one of the lovely features of the book is the innumerable black and white photographs of people, many of them taken during the early 20th Century). Gerard spoke about the concept of remembrance and what it means to people. He said the book's genesis dates back to four years ago to the launch of 'A Lorrha Miscellany' by local Lorrha author Seamus King. 'Speaking to Seamus at the book launch, I commented that there were many other Lorrha people who had served during the Great War and I was confident there was a story to be told about their experiences. Seamus suggested that "maybe, you will have a go at it yourself".'
Gerard talked about the huge amount of research he put into the book and the many fascinating stories he uncovered, partly helped by the Germans releasing war records online while he was doing his research.
He warmly thanked Brendan O'Connor for his efforts in converting the manuscript into a format suitable for book printing. 'At one stage it was suggested that the cover should be red. I objected, because I feel that war is more than just the shedding of blood. It is also about camaraderie, about friendship, about heroism.'
 He said that the people of the region are very aware of their sporting heroes, including the magnificently skilled Tony Reddin and Patrick Bonner Maher. This book shines a light on the area's military heroes. One of these heroes was Martin O'Meara who won the Victoria Cross for repeatedly going out and bringing in the wounded from No Man's Land during four days of heavy fighting on the Western Front in August, 1916. Martin's war story is well known. In his will he left money for the purpose of installing a new roof on Lorrha's Dominican Abbey. It was unfortunately discovered that this money wouldn't be sufficient to cover the costs, and it was therefore put into the construction of Redwood National School. Martin's grand-niece Fiona Flower was present at Saturday evening's launch. She said Martin would have loved the event.
Gerard mentioned Seán Cooke from Crinkle. Seán was an army veteran and served in Malaya. His paternal grandfather, Timothy Sullivan, and his maternal grandfather, Tom Cooke, served in the Boer War. Seán passed away in November 2015.
 His Excellency Richard Andrews said Martin O'Meara was held in great esteem in Australia. He said Sir William Deane's family came from Lorrha. Sir William was Governor General of Australia from 1996 to 2001. The Ambassador read a note from the former Governor General which stated that he 'read with great delight' the chapter in the book about his father.
Mr Andrews said it was noteworthy how many people from Lorrha fought in the Great War, and it was indicative of the huge sacrifice made by so many people throughout the region.
 He said the book features the biographies of women as well as men, and it deals with the ordinary participants in the War as well as the acclaimed heroes.
He congratulated Gerard on his big achievement and producing a book which is 'a treasure trove of material.'
Gerard's father Michael, who is 99 years of age, also said a few words and gave a good-humoured speech which delighted the audience. He congratulated his son on digging up information which had long been forgotten about. He said he remembered three RIC officers calling to his home when he was only two years of age, in 1917. 'To my very small eyes they seemed like giants.'
Copies of 'Lorrha People in the Great War' are available in the SCEAL Community Shop in Lorrha, the Midlands Bookshop in Tullamore and the Nenagh Bookshop.
 There will be a second launch of the book in Birr Library this Saturday November 26th at 10.30a.m. The launch will be performed by John Goodman, Chairman of the Leinster Regiment Association Ireland. The book will be sold at a reduced rate at the launch.

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