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Parade and service held to mark 90th anniversary of Bessbrook Cenotaph unveiling

In total, 410 men from Bessbrook and District left for WW1, with 85 never to return

A service was held over the weekend to mark 90 years since the Cenotaph was unveiled and dedicated in Bessbrook.

The stone obelisk, which stands at Charlemont Square in the village, was unveiled on Saturday, April 7, 1934, in memory of 85 local men who gave their lives in the First World War from 1914 to 1918.

It also commemorates 16 men who died in the Second World War from 1939 to 1945.

To mark the anniversary, Bessbrook Royal British Legion organised the parade and short service, which took place on Saturday (April 6).

Led by Tullyvallen Silver Band, the parade left the Legion Hall, making its way to the Cenotaph for the service, before returning to the Legion Hall.

The event followed a similar thread to the original service held 90 years ago at the unveiling and was attended by the granddaughter of Dr E.F. O’Connor, who was Chairman of the War Memorial Committee and instrumental in getting the Cenotaph in place.

Dr O’Connor handed over custody of the War Memorial to Bessbrook Spinning Company in 1934.

Edward McCulloch, Legion Branch Chairman, opened proceedings with an address detailing those who left the Bessbrook and District area to fight in the Great War.

In total, 410 men left, with 85 never to return.

David Hawthorne, Diocesan Reader, led the service in prayer and scripture readings, with┬áthe hymn ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’ sung by those in attendance.

The Names of the Fallen were read out, before the Act of Remembrance and the two-minute silence, with the Last Post being sounded.

The first wreath on behalf of the people of Bessbrook and District was led by Councillor David Taylor, with local organisations following.

The service was ended with the singing of the National Anthem.

There was a large number of visiting standards on display joining the Union Flag including the Northern Ireland District, Women’s Section and Branches; Bessbrook, Newry, Warrenpoint and Aghadowey, along with the Irish Defence Forces.

In a separate, but equally poignant event after, Newry Maritime Association unveiled a commemorative plaque at Bellevue House, Bessbrook, the former home of Dr O’Connor.

Born on March 11, 1889, he graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in medicine as a surgeon doctor in June 1912.

During WW1, he saw service in France and Gallipoli. He was awarded the Military Cross and in 1918 the French Government awarded Edwin the Croix De Guerre.

Dr O’Connor was later appointed Medical Officer for the Bessbrook Spinning Company and subsequently Medical Officer of Newry Workhouse.

He became active in the Royal British Legion following its establishment in 1921, before passing away on December 5, 1934.

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