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Lorrha native's Victoria Cross for Irish display

Tuesday, 7th May, 2019 8:00am
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Lorrha native's Victoria Cross for Irish display

The Martin O'Meara memorial in Lorrha. PHOTOGRAPH: ROSE MANNION

Lorrha native's Victoria Cross for Irish display

The Martin O'Meara memorial in Lorrha. PHOTOGRAPH: ROSE MANNION

The local development group in Lorrha had great cause for celebration last week when it was announced that the Victoria Cross won by local native Martin O'Meara in the First World War will be put on display in Ireland.

This is the very first time that a Victoria Cross owned by the Australian Government has been allowed to leave Australia. The medal was won by O'Meara while fighting in France. He was born in Lorrha on November 6th 1885 and arrived in Australia in 1912.

Fighting on the Western Front in August 1916, Private O’Meara repeatedly went out and brought in wounded officers and men from 'no man’s land' under intense artillery and machine–gun fire. He also volunteered and carried up ammunition and bombs through a heavy barrage to a portion of the trenches that was being heavily shelled at the time. Wounded three times during the war, he received the Victoria Cross in 1917 for his bravery.

After the war he spent several years in a mental institution. He died in 1935, pre-maturely at the age of 50, and is buried in Perth.

The Lorrha Development Association helped bring Martin to prominence in his home village when they erected a memorial to him back in 2013. Its members – and indeed all in the community – were delighted last week when Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced that O'Meara's Victoria Cross will be visiting Ireland from next July. Some 102 years after the newly-promoted Sergeant O’Meara last visited his family in Lorrha, his Victoria Cross will be brought from the Australian Army Museum of Western Australia to be displayed during a 12-month loan to the National Museum of Ireland.

Rose Mannion, former chairperson of the development group, said its members are “over the moon” about this news, and hopeful that the Victoria Cross will also be brought to Lorrha.

“He is very popular in Australia where he is buried, in particular with the Irish over there, but little of anything was known of him here in his native parish until Lorrha Development erected the memorial, and the monument has drawn huge attraction to the village already and will certainly continue to do so,” she said. “When the medal is in Ireland, and hopefully Lorrha too, this will draw huge attention to the village without doubt.”

Ms Mannion recallled that Cllr Wayne Sanford, President of the Shire of Collie, Western Australia, visited Lorrha in 2015 and laid a wreath at the monument of Sgt O’Meara. The following year, Australian Ambassador to Ireland Richard Andrews unveiled a plaque to O'Meara in Glasnevin Cemetery. On both occasions, Ms Mannion raised the possibility of having Martin’s medal visit his native parish.

She expressed hope that the medal would add to the number of visitors to Lorrha and provide a welcome boost to the district in general.

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