10 °CTue, 11

Seskinore pupils explore unique local link to World War One

Little did a seven-year-old farmer's son from Mullaghmore, half a mile outside Seskinore, think when he enrolled in the newly-opened primary school back in 1902, his name would still be mentioned in class ...116 years later!

But the intrepid boys and girls at McClintock Primary School, Seskinore, are not going to forget the name Thomas McCausland in a hurry.

Thanks to information preserved by his descendant, local man, Ivor Barker, the pupils have been transported back in time to experience how his great-uncle lived, why he decided to enlist to fight, how he was injured but returned to the front and sadly, how at only 23-years-old, he was killed in action on October 15, 1918, just weeks before the war ended.

Sadly, by the time it was over, millions had been killed worldwide. It was hoped it would be the war to end all wars. But this wasn’t to be the case, as only 21 years later World War 2 broke out. When World War 1 began, most thought it would be over by Christmas. Many believed that Britain was so powerful it could win very quickly. In fact, it lasted four terrible years, not four months.

According to Ivor, who works as an engineer, Corporal McCausland was probably inspired to enlist by the fact another member of the family was already in the army.

"My grandfather, William Barker, who was married to Thomas's sister, Margaret, was already in the army so he probably decided if it was good enough for William, it was good enough for him. I've no doubt this young lad of farming stock was probably looking for a bit of an adventure."

Wounded

He added that his father, who was born in 1919, was named Thomas and for as long as he can remember, Thomas McCausland was always talked about in the family. He added the heard stories of him enlisting in Fintona in 1915 with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, being wounded and coming back to recouperate in Omagh and going back out again and spending Christmas in the trenches.

Ivor can also recall how his father made a wooden frame above their fireplace at home in Mullaghmore to hold Thomas's ' Dead Man’s Penny'  a commemorative medallion which was presented to the next-of-kin of the men and women who died during World War One. He still has this medal today along three service medals and a series of photographs depicting his great-uncle in uniform, with his friends and in the trenches.

Sadly, he added, Thomas McCausland was killed in action just weeks before the war ended and was buried out there in the World War One cemetery in the village of Dadizeele, approximately eight kilometres from the better known town and cemetaries of Ypres.

Ivor and his son, Alastair, visited the grave only a few weeks ago to lay wreaths on behalf of McClintock Primary School and Seskinore Guiding Star LOL 457. They also visited other landmarks in the area including the Menin Gate where they heard the famous 'Last Post' being played as well as the Tyne Cot cemetery which Ivor said was so silent it was hard to believe so much carnage has been seen in the same area 100 years previous.

Full story in this week's Tyrone Constitution...

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