Unionists and Great War Commemoration in the North of Ireland, 1914-1939: People, Places and Politics


Catherine Switzer

This book explores commemorative practices which were witnessed in towns and villages across Northern Ireland. Switzer considers the origins of the ceremonies and looks at the stories of the memorials which continue to provide a focus for commemoration today.

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This is the first sustained, in-depth study of Great War commemoration in the north of Ireland.  Rather than examining commemoration through the writings of unionist politicians and historians, the book explores the kinds of commemorative practices which would have been witnessed in towns and villages across Northern Ireland.  It deals with the origins of the ceremonies which are still observed today, and also with the stories of the memorials which continue to provide a focus for commemoration.  Although historical in its focus, the continued visibility of the Great War and its commemoration gives the book a clear present day relevance.  The book is also relevant to the personal histories of many families in Northern Ireland.  The inclusion of several individual stories within the text not only provides a human interest element to the book, but also underlines the extent to which the story of commemoration is often a very personal one.

Although Irish politics was clearly influential in deciding the forms which commemoration took, this book contends that it was only one of a number of factors at work.  A variety of source material is utilised to show that this was the case, and the phenomenon of commemoration is explored at the local level, where it intersected with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction: ‘The tumult and the shouting dies’
  2. Marking the Scoreboard of Commitment
  3. ‘Five minutes passed …'” Somme Commemoration in Wartime
  4. ‘The glad tidings’: Celebrating the Armistice and Peace Day
  5. ‘In Ulster every town and village is proud’: Creating Public War Memorials
  6. The ‘vigilant bronze’: Northern Ireland’s Public War Memorials
  7. ‘Half is pride and half is sorrow’: Commemorating Ulster’s Dead
  8. ‘They make them ready for battle’: The Politics of Commemoration
  9. ‘Their names are many’: Names in the Postwar Years
  10. Commemorating Individuals

About the Author:

Catherine Switzer graduated with a PhD from the University of Ulster in 2006. Her main research interest is in the commemoration of conflict, and particularly that of the First World War. She is the author of several book chapters and a number of local history articles.