A specially designed beacon was lit in Killyleagh on Sunday night to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Local man Martin `Tina’ Charters, (97), one of Northern Ireland’s last survivors from the Second World War, lit the gas beacon of light at the front of Killyleagh Castle to mark the moment the guns finally fell silent.
Mr Charters was accompanied by two local schoolchildren, Zac Gordon, from St Mary’s Primary School, Killyleagh, and Louise Craig, of Killyleagh Integrated Primary School.
The cross-community event was attended by more than 500 people at the end of Remembrance Sunday.
The evening’s events began with a lantern walk from Shrigley to Killyleagh. The relay walk was started by former councillor Mr Sam Osborne, who was joined for the initial stage by the current Chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Cllr Mark Murnin.
Each of the 15 unsung heroes selected to carry the lantern were nominated by the community for their community service and included: Mrs Marianne Ruddell, Mrs Myrtle McIlveen, Mrs Lorna Hagen-McCormick, Mrs Sally Ryan, Mrs Sharon Bridges, Mrs Jean Clydesdale, Mr Gawn Rowan-Hamilton, Mr Bob Pirie, Mr Darren Leahy, and Councillors Terry Andrews and Billy Walker.
The lantern was carried through the main streets of the town and by the time it made its way up High Street, the number taking part behind the leader had swollen to more than 300.
The commemoration was organised by the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War project and Chris Hagan who explained that the event was part of a UK-wide chain of 1,300 beacons marking the Battle’s Over commemorations– 100 years since the first Armistice.
He said: “Thank you for your tremendous support in Killyleagh tonight as we remember the millions who gave their lives or returned home wounded. The beacon we are lighting symbolises the hope that emerged from the darkness of the Great War.”
The lighting event opened with the reading of the names of the 52 people from Killyleagh and Shrigley who gave their lives. The names of the fallen were read by Miss Natasha Manganaro, a pupil of Shimna Integrated College, and by Mr Austin Cheevers. Both had relatives who were killed at the Somme or died from their injuries sustained at that battle.
Last post and Reveille were sounded by Mrs Catherine Woods from Barnamaghery Silver Band and after the reading by Mr Dougie Marr of a tribute “To the Millions,” the church bells of St John’s Church of Ireland rang out across the town as they had done on the same night 100 years’ ago.
Souvenir certificates were presented to the 15 unsung community heroes by the Council Chief Executive Mr Liam Hannaway, while members of the war group who organised events in each of the four years from 2014 were presented with certificates of thanks by Councillors Terry Andrews and Billy Walker.
The events closed with a handshake of peace and friendship among the crowd.
Before Sunday night’s event a Battle’s Over evening of reflection was held on Friday evening in the Bridge Centre, Killyleagh, featuring war poetry, a marching display from the Ballygowan and Carryduff Irish Guards cadets, and special World War 1 themed-songs and music.
Cadets from Killyleagh and naval cadets from Training Ship Broadsword also took part.
An act of remembrance was observed with the local MP, Mr Jim Shannon, laying a wreath, accompanied by Mr Billy Croskery and Mrs Ann Fee of the KRTGW group.
The Killyleagh programme which has included talks, an art exhibition, a walk and a trip to Dublin has been supported by the European Union’s Peace 4 Programme, managed by the Special EU programmes body, with additional support from Newry Mourne and Down council for the beacon.
(Photos for the event will be posted up on Facebook later this evening).