The Mayo Memorial Peace Park, Garden of Remembrance was officially opened in Castlebar, County Mayo, by the President of Ireland Mary Mc Aleese on Tuesday 7th October 2008. This is very special & unique Memorial commemorates all the Men and Women from County Mayo who lost their lives in world wars and conflicts over the past century. There is also a special memorial dedicated to remember Mayo born soldiers of the Irish Defence Forces , who died in the Lebanon whilst serving on U.N. Peacekeeping operations.
This wonderful project was the brainchild of a Castlebar man Michael Feeney, He started the campaign way back in 1988, when he contributed an article to the Castlebar Parish Magazine, which highlighted the need to commemorate all those who served and died in the World Wars. There was amazement at the time that all those people were forgotten about, in the Ireland of the time it was not popular or prudent to speak about them, as there was a violent war going on in Northern Ireland. In 1999, he decided to organise a Remembrance Day service, this was the first such service ever held in the area, and it gave the families & relatives of the soldiers, the opportunity to pay homage to their fallen. The service was very well received, it and it has taken place every year since at different locations around the county.
In 1999, he also wrote a letter to the Connaught Telegraph newspaper, asking for a war memorial to become a millennium project, he requested anyone one who was interested to get in touch with him, with a view to providing such a memorial. On Thursday the 22nd of August 2002, he called a public meeting to bring together those that were interested; he was elected as chairman of the Mayo Peace Park Committee. The committee decided to erect a Memorial Park to commemorate over 1,100 men & women who died , this include those who died in the World Wars, Korea, & Vietnam, as well as the Mayo people who died in the Lebanon whilst serving with the Irish Defence Forces on U.N. Peacekeeping Operations.
More than eleven hundred young men from Co Mayo were killed in action in World War 1 and World War Two. They fought in the uniforms of America, Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa
The official opening of the Park was a magnificent occasion, with President Mc Aleese doing the honours, it was also attended by five world ambassadors and two other embassies were represented, it brought together probably one of the largest local & international Military gatherings in the history of the state. There were hundreds of ex-service men present with their colourful association banners to pay their tribute to their fallen comrades, but even more relevant was the hundreds of family relatives who travelled home from as far away as Hong Kong, Australia, America, Canada, New Zealand & South Africa, as well as all those who attended from all parts of Ireland and Great Britain. When the ceremony was over Michael Feeney looked over at the granite seat dedicated in honour of his Grandfather Private Patrick Feeney of the Connaught Rangers Regiment, who died on the 22nd of July 1915, and is buried in the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard in Laventie, France, he and his comrades were finally remembered in their home place, the slights on their memory were consigned to the past.
The project has cost the voluntary committee over € 500,000 to complete and there is still a small shortfall to be paid off. However the project has proved to be a major success, it is a tourist and educational amenity for the area .
Since its erection more and more names have been sent to the committee from family members around the world. Sadly in November 2008 a young Royal Marine from Westport named Robert McKibben was killed in Afghanistan and he will also be commemorated over the coming year. If you have any information on Mayo born Navy, Army Air Force, Merchant Navy, Medical Staff, Clergy or Civilians who lost there life as a result of enemy action they would be delighted to hear from you.
By Post- Mr Michael Feeney (Chairman MMPP). Milebush, Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland The web site contains information about the Mayo Peace Park, and will be soon be updated with film and commentary of the official opening ceremonies.
Some facts of interest:
- Ten crew members were lost in the sinking of the Lusitania are on the Memorial Wall.
- Two Brothers who were killed on the same day July 1st 1916 are also on the wall, John, 32, and William Philbin, 35, of Swinford, County Mayo.
- John served with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in their attack at Beaumont Hamel and William with 24th Battalion (Tyneside Irish) Northumberland Fusiliers at La Boisselle. Neither have a known grave.