Hundreds of people gathered for a dusk ceremony in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, yesterday to say farewell to the Hauntings Soldier on its final day on public view in Ireland.
The 6m-tall sculpture has been on loan from its British creators since early this month to mark the centenary of the ending of the First World War, in which an estimated 300,000 Irish served and 49,000 died.
The People’s Goodbye was organised in just a few days amid public upset after an attack on the sculpture in the early hours of last Thursday morning in which it was sprayed with red paint.
Sabina Purcell, a relative of a First World War soldier and the driving force behind the move to bring the sculpture here, wore red to the ceremony in solidarity.
“Like many soldiers, he has been through a lot but that is part and parcel of being a soldier,” she told the crowds.
Ms Purcell addressed Ireland’s New Zealand community as wreaths left by the All Blacks last weekend were also covered in paint.
“It is not who we are as a people,” she said.
Members of the organising committee and people from the crowd came forward to give the name and regiment of the family member they had come to remember — granduncles who never came home, grandfathers who returned wounded, cousins buried on foreign soil, and those still missing in action.
The Defence Forces attended and a piper played ‘Amazing Grace’ and bugler sounded the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Reveille’, the former played at the end of a soldier’s service for the day or in death and the latter to rouse him in the morning or for his ascension to the afterlife.
The owners of the Soldier, Jo Oliver and Paul Richards, sent a message to the Irish public saying they felt proud to have played a part in the Armistice commemorations here. They have planted an oak tree on their farm in Somerset in remembrance.