War play goes on tour of Ireland

A play capturing the life of a Waterford teenager killed in the First World War is to go nationwide after being staged in his home town.

A play capturing the life of a Waterford teenager killed in the First World War is to go nationwide after being staged in his home town.

'Boy Soldier', based on John Condon – the youngest allied solider who died at battle – pays tribute to the tens of thousands of Irish men killed in the war.

Waterford born writer Ben Hennessy said the production gives a voice to the young soldiers who have largely been forgotten in the annals of history.

To prepare for the piece, the cast and production team met members of the soldier’s family, studied local archives and visited Flanders for three days to pay their respects to the local hero.

“It was a real eye opener visiting the trenches and grave,” said Mr Hennessy.

“For a lot of us our only experience of the war was from school books, but even in those the amount of Irish men fighting out there was almost unacknowledged.

“John Condon represented the boy soldier, but the more research we did the more he grew to represent the unacknowledged soldiers.

“There was 12 more Waterford fellas killed at the same time John was. These were fellas from our own town which we knew nothing about and never featured in our history.

“I always say going to visit John Condon’s grave was like John Condon introducing me to his friends.”

Condon, a native of Ballybricken, Waterford, was working as a boy bottler before he signed up to the British army.

He was killed during the second battle of Ypres, on May 24, 1915, at the age of 14.

When his body was recovered some eight years later he was buried at Poelkapelle Military Cemetery.

The only personal item returned to his family was a piece of boot bearing his regimental number -6322.

Boy Soldier opened in Waterford this week to sell-out audiences.

The Red Kettle Theatre Company will now take the production to Dublin, Thurlas, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Sligo before finishing in Galway on March 29. The tour has been funded by the Arts Council.

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