WWI Killyleagh Veteran To Lead Lantern Walk

A Killyleagh veteran, who is one of Northern Ireland’s last RAF survivors from the Second World War, is to lead a unique peace lantern walk to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Martin `Tina’ Charters, who is aged 97 and who survived more than 40 bombing missions as a rear gunner in Halifax and Lancaster bombers in the Second World War, will light the Beacon of Light in his home town of Killyleagh to mark the moment the guns finally fell silent in 1918 after four years of the world at war.
The lantern will be carried from Shrigley to Killyleagh, and through its main streets, and Mr Charters will use a candle from the lantern to light the gas beacon at the front of Killyleagh Castle on Remembrance night.

The Bomber Command veteran who still walks up to six miles a day and is one of Killyleagh’s most instantly recognisable residents, will be joined in the final relay of the cross-community walk by local schoolchildren, and 12 unsung heroes from the local community on a walk in which the lantern is carried in a relay chain.

The Killyleagh beacon of light will be among the first of around 20 bonfires and beacons to be lit across Northern Ireland at 7pm at the end of Remembrance Sunday, as part of the Battle’s Over commemorations on Sunday 11 November.
Tina Charters (centre) with former Down council chairman Sam Osborne and nine year-old Zac Gordon who will play pivotal roles in lighting the Killyleagh beacon.

Specially nominated unsung community heroes are to carry the lantern in a relay from the village of Shrigley to Killyleagh and through the main streets of the village before Mr Charters lights the beacon at Killyleagh Castle.

Chris Hagan, the chairman of the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War project, revealed that an original candle and lantern, used on the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, will be used as part of a chain to light the beacon.
“We extinguished a candle lantern in August 2014 to mark 100 years on from the beginning of the war. In remembrance of the end of the war and the millions who were killed or came home dreadfully wounded, the lantern will be lit again.
“There were two bonfires lit in Killyleagh on the night the war ended at the Castle Square and at the Cross. One hundred years on we are hoping to light a beacon of light to signify the importance of the sacrifice and to commemorate the guns finally falling silent. A total of 52 men did not return to Killyleagh and Shrigley.
“We are delighted that Killyleagh will be hosting the biggest cross-community event on the night, with the lantern walk which involves all sections of the community and all age groups from 97 to nine years-old.
“We put out an appeal out for 12 unsung heroes, who have made a contribution to community life in Killyleagh or Shrigley, to take part in a relay in which the lantern is carried one mile from Shrigley to Killyleagh, and we were overwhelmed with the response.
Tina Charters holds the war lantern which is to be carried in a relay to Killyleagh to light a special beacon on Remembrance Night. Included are the other unsung heroes who will take part in the relay.

“We are also delighted that Sam Osborne, who served 24 years as a councillor on Down District Council, will start the relay in Shrigley by carrying the lantern along with the current Newry Mourne and Down Council chairman.”

The unsung heroes nominated by the community to carry the lantern include former district nurse Mrs Marianne Ruddell whose family have a long connection to health care in the town, Mrs Myrtle McIlveen of Killyleagh Community Shop which raises funds for charitable causes and the developing world, Mrs Lorna Hagen-McCormick for her work in promoting suicide awareness, Mrs Jean Clydesdale, a community carer who has not missed a day on duty in 40 years and Mrs Sally Ryan for her work helping cancer patients.
The other nominees include Mr Gawn Rowan-Hamilton, Deputy Lord Lieutenant who has continued his father’s work through the community association, Mr Bob Pirie, who runs the Poppy Appeal in Killyleagh and Mr Duxy Leahy for his good samaritan gestures in the town.
Also nominated are Mrs Sharon Bridges for her work in raising the profile of mental awareness and eating disorders following the tragic death of her daughter Sophie and Councillors Billy Walker and Terry Andrews for their hands across the divide community leadership example.

WWI Veteran Martin `Tina’ Charters, took part in the recent Beacon of Light commemoration in Killyleagh in June 2018.

The youngest participant will be Zac Gordon, a nine year-old with two prosthetic limbs. He will represent St Mary’s Primary School and will be joined by a pupil from Killyleagh Integrated Primary School on the final stage of the relay when they accompany Mr Charters to light the beacon.

The Queen’s Pageantmaster Bruno Peek said: “We are delighted to have Killyleagh involved.
“The beacons across the UK  will symbolise the light of hope that emerged from the darkness of war. As the beacons blaze, bells will ring out in celebration of the end of the First World War.”
When the beacon is lit on the night, and last post sounded, the church bells of St John’s will ring out across the town, just as they did 100 years ago on the night peace was declared.
The Killyleagh beacon will be one of an estimated 1,300 World War One Beacons of Light which will be lit throughout the UK.
An eight page colour programme, setting out the events and the background to the anniversary, has been produced by the Killyleagh Remembers the Great War project. It is available free from the library.
The programme is being 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.
The Remembrance week events include a talk by leading Irish war historian Philip Orr on Monday 5 November, a war walking trail of the town on the afternoon of Sunday 4 November and a Battle’s Over commemoration evening on Friday 9 November featuring marching displays, special music, war poetry, the reading of last letters home and an act of remembrance.