Anzac Day in Lorrha
Anzac Day (25 April) marks the anniversary of the WWI campaign that led to major casualties for The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) at Gallipoli in 1915. In Lorrha on Sunday morning last the day was marked at short notice by and a very low key and brief wreath laying ceremony in the warm Spring sunshine.
In anticipation that the social distancing regulations would be resolved, a new date for the visit to Lorrha of the Victoria Cross awarded to Lorrha native Martin O’Meara was set for Saturday April 17th. This was agreed between Lorrha representatives and the Australian Embassy to Ireland. This was the weekend before ANZAC Day after which the Victoria Cross which is on loan to the National Museum of Ireland would return to its permanent home in the National Museum of Western Australia in Fremantle. However, like many other events, this arrangement has been postponed to some future date.
Indeed the annual ANZAC Commemoration Ceremony in Grangegorman Military Cemetery in Dublin was also cancelled. Instead, the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors to Ireland placed a wreath at the residence of the New Zealand Ambassador, HE Mr. Brad Burgess. However, in recnogition of the Lorrha contribution to the ANZAC’s in the Great War, the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, HE Mr. Gary Gray generously arranged for a wreath to be given to the parish of Lorrha and Dorrha to be placed at the Memorial in Lorrha village. In compliance with regulations it was a very small and private occasion. Carmel and Sheila O’Meara of Lissernane, Lorrha placed the wreath at the memorial The sisters are the closest neighbours to Martin O’Meara’s home in Lissernane and are not related to him. Their sister Mary Stephens recited the citation that was reported in the London Gazette describing the heroic actions by Private Martin O’Meara for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
A second wreath, donated by the parish to acknowledge the other people from Lorrha who died in the Great War and other conflicts, was also placed at the monument.
All memorial events were kept small this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Neighbours of Martin O’Meara from Lissernane from left Mary Stephens, Mick Hoctor, Carmel & Sheila O’Meara, Joe Dolan, Michael O’Meara.
Carmel & Sheila O’Meara who laid the wreath
Ger O’Meara MC on the occasion of Anzac day wreath laying ceremony Sunday April 25th 2021
Martin O’Meara’s relatives, Noreen, Bridget and Billy with their cousin Anthony beside the VC Medal during a very special ceremony in the Australian Embassy on Thursday evening July 25th 2019 to mark the arrival of the VC medal to Ireland where it will remain for 12 months on loan to the National Museum Collins Barracks.
On Friday July 26th 2019, another ceremony took place in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks where Martin’s VC along with his British War Medal and Victory Medal are now on loan for 12 months. The medal will be brought to Lorrha in 2020 before it returns to Australia.
Martin O’Meara VC is Australia’s only Irish-born Victoria Cross recipient of the First World War. He was born on 6th November 1885 in the parish of Lorrha. Migrating to Australia in 1911 he was a resident of Western Australia when he joined the Australian Imperial Force in Perth on 19 August 1915 and left Australia with the 12th Reinforcements for the 16th Battalion in December 1915. In early 1916, O’Meara joined the Battalion in Egypt where it had returned following the evacuation from Gallipoli. After undertaking training there, the Battalion moved to the Western Front in France.
On 9–12 August the 16th Battalion mounted an attack on German positions at Mouquet Farm near Pozières. During this period O’Meara, an Australian Army scout, behaved in a manner which led one officer to describe him as ‘the most fearless and gallant solider I have ever seen’. He was credited with having saved the lives of over twenty-five wounded men by carrying them in from no man’s land ‘under conditions that are indescribable’. At other times he had, on his own initiative, brought up much-needed supplies of grenades, ammunition and food. For these actions O’Meara was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Tragically, upon returning to Australia in November 1918, O’Meara had some sort of serious mental breakdown between 8–13 November. A lack of surviving records make it difficult to accurately determine what actually happened. Institutionalised as someone suffering from ‘delusional insanity’, O’Meara never left institutionalised care and died at the age of 50 on 6 November 1935. His will left his Victoria Cross medal to the care of the 16th Battalion Association, which later donated the medal to the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia, where it has remained on display.
The loan of the VC to the National Museum of Ireland will likely be the second time the medal has visited the shores of Ireland. After receiving his VC medal from King George V, O’Meara later visited Ireland in October 1917. It is highly likely that he took his medal with him when he visited family in Lorrha some 102 years ago.
O’Meara’s life is commemorated in both Australia and Ireland. In Ireland, bronze plaques at Lorrha’s Roman Catholic Church commemorate him and in June 2013 a memorial stone was unveiled in Lorrha by the Lorrha Development Association.
Australian Ambassador H.E. Richard Andrews in the grounds of Collins Barracks.
Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia.
The two men tasked with escorting Martin’s VC to Ireland Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit, Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia holding the VC along with the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia, Defence Attaché Col Sue Graham, Ambassador Richard Andrews, Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit.
Lorrha people who were invited to the special ceremony on Thursday evening also attended at the National Museum Collins Barracks the following morning are pictured with Dignitaries before the medal was place in a case in the Museum.
Martin’s grand-niece Noreen, pictured here signing the VC loan forms for display in the National Museum of Ireland with Chris Harbidge, Documentation/Loans Officer.
National Museum curator Brenda Malone pictured with Martin relatives just before his VC medal along with his British War medal and the medal for Victory were placed on display.
Ambassador Richard Andrews placing the VC in the special case for display in the Museum.
Martin’s relatives place his British War Medal and Victory Medal also into the case.
And after all the formalities it’s time for a chat!!
All smiles for the camera in the Australian Embassy…
Deep in conversation in Collins Barracks reception hall…
Neil Dailey, Manager Army Heritage, Australian Army History Unit and Major Henry Fijolek, Manager, Army Museum of Western Australia at Martin’s memorial in Lorrha when they visited recently.
In June 2019 Michael Madden and his son was visiting Ireland from Australia and they presented a set of replica medals along with his sons publication of VC recipients to Lorrha school Principal Mrs. O’Meara.
Follow Martin’s life by clicking on the link.
‘Lorrha People in The Great War’ is a book written by Ger O’Meara and features the life of Martin O’Meara V.C. The book will be launched on Saturday 19th November 2016 by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews.
The Plaque to Martin O’Meara V.C. which was unveiled in Glasnevin Cemetery on Friday November 11th 2016 Armistice Day
Martin’s grandnieces Noreen & Bridget with the Australian Ambassador to Ireland Richard Andrews.
One of two plaques displayed on the confessional door in Lorrha Church.
St. Ruadhan’s R.C. Church in Lorrha where the plaque to Martin is on display.