The Tyneside Irish Cultural Society is hosting an exhibition of Tyneside’s Irish memories and it has poignant links to the First World War.
Barbara Flynn told the Gazette: “It has been two years in the making, delays due to the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.”
Numerous personal stories of tragedy are included in the exhibition, and they all have links to the Tyneside Irish Brigade.
:: Mary Cross who got a letter telling her that her husband John had died in the Battle of the Somme. The letter was taken to Mary’s mother’s house to show to other relatives.
But they had a letter of their own to say the youngest son in the family James had died on the same day and another son Michael was wounded.
:: Despite all that tragedy, the Great War wasn’t finished with the family. Three more relatives died in the war, including Michael who succumbed to the effects of gassing.
:: John Scollen, who falsified his age so he could sign up for war. The 40-year-old trained for battle but lost his life at The Somme in 1916.
:: The Tyneside Irish Brigade hero Thomas Bryan who won the Victoria Cross when he stormed a German machine gun which had been causing havoc to the brigade.
:: And fellow Brigade hero Ernest Sykes who went into the face of incessant machine gun fire four times to bring back injured soldiers. Then he went back a fifth time to bandage those who were too wounded to move.
Three films, information boards and war memorabilia is all on show at the Hebburn Hub in Glen Street, each day between 11am and 4pm until Friday.
It will be at Seaham Library in St John’s Square from June 23 to June 24.
One of the boards states: “At the end of the war, those who could do returned to their families, often feeling guilty they survived and their pals did not.
"Most were reluctant to talk about their war experiences, not wanting to re-live the horrors and spare their families the graphic realities of war.
"Families had to read between the lines and even then they had little or no comprehension of what the soldiers had experienced.”
The Tyneside Irish Brigade was formed quickly in the months after war was declared, and people from families with Irish backgrounds came forward to sign up from all over the North East.
Barbara added: “Our aim was to contact as many relatives as we could of men who fought under the Tyneside Irish banner during the First World War.
“We put out a call in early 2020 and were astonished by the response. Our researchers picked up the trail of these soldiers and their stories make up the core of the exhibition.”
The exhibition is the outcome of a project run by the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society and is funded mainly by the Heritage Lottery with additional support from Sir James Knott Trust and the Irish Embassy.
Visitors to the exhibition can also take a booklet away with them.
To find out more about the society, visit https://tynesideirish.com