The 6th Connaught Rangers Research Project was formed by a group of people who had an interest in issues related to Irish nationalism and WWI. Some of those group members had family relatives who had enlisted, along with hundreds of others from the Falls Road area, in the Connaught Rangers Regiment at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914
Through the photographs, letters, documents, medals and related memorabilia supplied by them, and others involved who answered calls for information via the local paper, the human stories of men from that time in our common and shared history could finally be told.
Most of the men (though not all) who joined the 6th Connaught Rangers were from Catholic west Belfast, and chose this regiment over others, as in their eyes, it was perceived to be less ‘unionist’ than regiments based in Ulster. Given the upheaval in Ireland 1917–1923, these men who joined the Army and served overseas were then ostracised or remained silent about their experiences, or disowned their own sacrifice when they returned home and subsequently supported the nationalist/republican cause.
The group published a short book entitled: The 6th Connaught Rangers: Belfast Nationalists and the Great War in November 2008 and a revised, enlarged edition was published in 2011.
What worked well and what, if anything, didn't?
The project represents a cross-fertilisation of ideas which can stem from family and local history work. It also points to a significant number of people are interested in community history and the story of their own neighbourhoods, and not just personal family history. This enables all sorts of creative and innovative projects to be encouraged at a local level.
The project is a model of how local people can explore potentially contentious issues in an inclusive and creative way.
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