French Mayor to visit Cork to honour Irish soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme

File image of the Battle of the Somme

Olivia Kelleher

A Mayor from France is to travel to Fermoy in North Cork in order to honour soldiers from the area who died whilst fighting with the 16th (Irish) Division during the Battle of the Somme.

Mayor of Guillemont Didier Samain will attend the inaugural Thomas Kent History Symposium which takes place later this month.

Many of the Irish soldiers in the Battle of the Somme had enlisted with the Munster Fusiliers which had a training base in Fermoy.

More than 1,200 men from the 16th (Irish) Division were killed in the liberation of Guillemont and its neighbour Ginchy on September 3 and 9, 1916.

Two Irish men Thomas Hughes from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan and Lieutenant John Holland from Athy, Co Kildare were awarded the Victoria Cross arising out of their involvement in the liberation of the small villages.

The organiser of the event, Mary Colette Sheehan, said the symposium is about forging links and exploring important events in our history.

"The connection between Guillemont and Fermoy was always there. But no one from Fermoy connected with the mayor - and no one locally had any sense of its significance in the Battle of the Somme or the gratitude

of the people (to Ireland)," she said.

"It has been waiting 102 years to be forged. The purpose of the Thomas Kent event is to illuminate material that exists but remains, until now, in darkness."

Ms Sheehan says that Fermoy is one of the most interesting towns in Ireland in terms of its military history. Fermoy first became a garrison town in 1798.

She adds the symposium is giving voice to the debate as to why we teach history at all and what it means for the nation when we decide not to make it compulsory.

"This a topic that is exercising people right now and I know it will generate a vigorous debate. I'm looking forward to knowing what's going to come out of it. "

The Thomas Kent History Symposium, with the blessing of the Kent Family, is made possible through a grant from The Heritage Council of Ireland, Cork County Council, and the support of the School of History in UCC and Fermoy Forum.

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