Enniskillen Armistice commemorations start before dawn

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Commemorations for the centenary of Armistice Day started in Co Fermanagh before dawn on Sunday, with the sound of a lone piper.

More than 100 people gathered in the dark at Enniskillen Castle at 6am to hear the piper play When The Battle’s O’er, a traditional tune played after battle.

The Wilfred Owen poem Anthem For Doomed Youth was read before ministers from the four main churches in the town led prayers of reflection.

Viscount Brookeborough gives oration
Viscount Brookeborough gives the oration (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Queen’s representative, the Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh, Viscount Brookborough gave the oration.

“All of our communities served willingly and suffered equally throughout the long years of that war and I am delighted to see so many people here this morning,” he said.

“The Armistice was signed a few minutes after 5am on that 11th day, and we are in Enniskillen, the western most point of this celebration this year.

“Enniskillen was the first town to hear of the Armistice through a radio operator scanning the airwaves and he heard, in Morse code, the message which was transmitted in Paris and he translated it.

“So Enniskillen was that first town, some two-and-a-half hours before anyone else heard it.”

Bugler plays Last Post
Bugler Noel Trimble plays The Last Post (Liam McBurney/PA)

As he presented them, he said: “I ask you to take these lanterns back to your congregations as a symbol of the light of peace emerging from the darkness of war, and I ask that you join us again at 6pm this evening in St Michael’s Church as we conclude our Great War commemorations by looking forward together towards a brighter future.”

The event, which was organised by the Inniskillings Museum, concluded with an historical interpretation of the moment the message of the Armistice was received in Enniskillen in 1918.

Museum curator-manager Neil Armstrong described the event as an “evocative start to our community commemorations”.

At 10.50am, an act of remembrance will take place at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen, followed by a service at St Macartan’s Cathedral.

There is an added poignancy to Remembrance Sunday in Enniskillen, where the event in 1987 was devastated by an IRA bomb close to the Cenotaph during the annual commemorations.

The atrocity killed 11 men and women. Another man died after spending 13 years in a coma from his injuries.

Another service will take place in the town on Sunday evening at St Michael’s Church, before the Last Post is played at St Macartan’s Cathedral.

At 7pm, the UK’s most westerly beacon of light will be lit in the grounds of St Macartan’s by Viscount Brookborough.

The news of the Armistice reportedly broke in Enniskillen before London, Edinburgh, Manchester or Dublin on November 11 1918 thanks to the local wireless operator.

The message had been sent from Paris by the Armed Forces Commander in Chief, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, announcing the time for the cessation of hostilities.

It read: “Hostilities will cease on the whole front from November 11, at 11 o’clock.

“The Allied troops will not, until further orders, go beyond the line reached on that day and at that hour.”

The local newspapers at the time reported that the news “spread like wildfire”, and was accompanied by the firing of guns, the launch of rockets from the military barracks and the pealing of church bells.

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