Ahead of their Danske Bank Schools Cup Semi-Final next week (6 March), the First XV rugby team at Campbell College Belfast have paid a poignant tribute to their counterparts from 100 years ago, half of whom were killed in action in WW1.
As part of an historical project called The Men Behind the Glass, the school is refurbishing portrait photos of 127 pupils and a teacher who died in service in WW1, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Public Records Office (PRONI).
An archive picture of the 1913-14 First XV rugby team shows that half of the teenage team members and one of their coaches were among the portraits of the war dead which have graced the walls of the College’s Central Hall for almost 100 years.
Remembering players Semple, Owens, Herriott, Whiteside, McCullagh, Watson and Porter, along with their coach Mr Madden, the fifth and sixth form boys from this year’s First XV have recreated the century-old team picture in the same spot at the school’s front doors.
Headmaster at Campbell College, Mr Robert Robinson, MBE, said, “We thought this was a poignant way to bring these photos to life and show their modern-day relevance. Today our boys are focussing on one of the biggest sporting challenges of their lives, with the highly coveted place in the Schools Cup Final at stake. To realise that within months of the 1914 photo being taken, the boys from that team would go on to witness the horrors of WW1 and half of them would lose their lives is a very sobering thought. We felt this was a fitting tribute to these teenage war heroes and their teacher.”
The Men Behind the Glass project will include schools outreach and curriculum activity, creative exchange events with Germany, community engagement and arts events. The activity will culminate in the unveiling of a collaborative archive exhibition on Remembrance Weekend in November 2018 – an exhibition which will then tour various venues throughout East Belfast and beyond.
Anyone who has a family story to tell or would like to get involved in the project can visit www.menbehindtheglass.co.uk to read the stories of all 127 local war heroes, where they can also contribute information and artefacts to further build the archive.