The First World War will undoubtedly be a recurring theme on these pages between now and the centenary of the Armistice in November.

An important part of my childhood that nurtured my life-long interest in exploring was my involvement with Enniskillen’s Life Boys, the ‘junior wing’ of the Boys Brigade.

Sharing and learning new life-skills, experiences and places, we travelled to Life Boy groups across Northern Ireland from our base in Enniskillen Presbyterian Church.

I often gazed on the beautiful little building’s stained-glass window, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand

that the window’s deep, pastel hues are as multitudinous as the poignant stories that its evocative artwork depicts.

Sixty-three members of the church volunteered for service during the Great War - a significant and impressive total from the 100 or so families that belonged to the congregation.

The names those the nine who died, the 16 wounded and the 38 other church members who volunteered for war are solemnly imprinted on the glass, along with some remarkable artwork.

Local-historians Richard Watson and Gordon Brand will give an illustrated talk about the window in the church on Friday 9 November as part of the local, national and world-wide Armistice Centenary commemorations and they hope that descendants of those listed on the window will be able to attend their talk.

The stained-glass memorial is based on a painting called White Comrade by the English artist George Hillyard Swinstead, owned by the Army Medical Museum at Aldershot.

It depicts a wounded soldier, eyes closed, head bent and bandaged, aided by an army medic.

An open-armed, white-clad Jesus Christ contrasts vividly against dark, billowing smoke-clouds torn by shrapnel.

A lifeless army-horse sinks into the trench’s thick, oozing mud.

Swinstead’s inspiration was a famous war poem called ‘The White Comrade’ by the American poet Robert Haven Schauffler:

“Then, in the bursting shells’ dim light,

I saw he was clad in white.

For a moment I thought that I saw the smock

Of a shepherd in search of his flock.”

Schauffler’s inspiration was a book of prose and poetry - ‘The Comrade in White’ - by the Reverend W.H. Leathem, a Gordon Highlanders padre.

A soldier called George Casey “with a queer look in his blue eyes” Leathem recounted, asked him if he’d seen ‘the Friend of the Wounded.’

Casey told the padre about “a man in white…bending over the wounded. Snipers sniped at him. Shells fell all around. Nothing had power to touch him. He was either heroic beyond all heroes, or he was something greater still. This mysterious one, whom the French called ‘The Comrade in White’, seemed to be everywhere at once.”

Enniskillen Presbyterian Church’s committee, with the Reverend A.J. Jenkins acting as Secretary, began to think about a suitable WWI memorial during 1919.

A church organ was proposed, then a memorial window was suggested and designs and tenders were received from Belfast firms.

Finally the contract for the window was given to William Morris and Co. of Westminster.

It cost around £500, about £22,000 in today’s money, excluding installation costs which must have been substantial.

The window was inserted by Thomas James Harvey whose father, James Harvey, built the Presbyterian Church which was completed in 1897.

Thomas James Harvey also built the Great War Memorial in Belmore Street, unveiled on 25 October 1922.

Church services were held elsewhere for two weeks while the installation work was carried out and one piece of stained-glass that was damaged during erection had to be replaced from London.

An important part of Richard and Gordon’s talk in November will reveal how the original ‘White Comrade’ painting was adapted to the needs of the memorial function of the window.

They’ll be showing detailed images of different parts of the window, allowing for a closer scrutiny of the glass that’s not easy except with close-up photography.

They’ll also include an account of the unveiling of the window on Sunday 10 April 1921 by Sir James Craig in a service led by the Right Reverend Major-General J.M. Simms who was Principal Chaplain to the Forces.

The Reverend Jenkins read out the Roll of the Fallen, which was followed by ‘The Last Post’.

The service moved to a close with the playing of ‘Reveille’ and the singing of The National Anthem.

What happened to some of those listed on the memorial window will be recounted during Gordon and Richard’s talk and there’ll be time for questions and answers.

“The window can’t be seen from the street,” they told me “so this will be a rare opportunity to study an important and interesting piece of Enniskillen’s Art in stained glass.”

Details of the talk, and of other local Armistice events will be on as the Centenary approaches.


Died: Lt. Noel D. Trimble, Lt. John Darling MC. Bar, Capt. F.D. Mitchel, S. Maj. W. Wilson, Lt. H. Briscoe, L Cpl J.C. Caldwell, Herbert Caldwell, Wm. Morrison, J.Steenson

Wounded: Capt. A.E.C. Trimble, Lt. J. M’Kean MC. Bar, Lt. Cecil D. Whaley, L.CPl David Lynn, Robert Lynn, sapr Thomas Shaw, Samuel Shaw, Mercer Shaw, A.Victor Caldwell, Wm. Caldwell, Edwin H.Caldwell, B.H. Inglis, George Griffith, James Allen Wylie, Joseph Erwin, Geo M’Corkell

Served: Capt. G. Garrett, Capt. H. Hanna, Capt. J.M.B. Stuart, Capt. C.M. Stewart, Capt J.B. Stewart, Lt. REG S. Trimble, Lt. H.M. Harvey, Lt. John Stewart, Lt. V. Mitchel, Lt. R.J. Porter, Lt. Ralph Carter, Lt. John Erwin, Lt. W. Whyte Inglis, Q.M.S. T. Miles, C. Sgt. W. Crothers, C. Sgt. J. M’Gowan, Sgt. H.C. Caldwell, Sgt. S. Erwin, Sgt. E.F. Erwin, L.CPL. S. Caughey, Wm. Shaw RN, T. Maxwell, Leo M. Marcus, Geo. B. Whaley, sapr. James Rankin, G.C. Mitchel, THOs J. Harvey, H. M’Kean, R. M’Corkell, William Erwin, James Erwin, George Erwin, William Scott, J.H. Lynn, Sister J.M. Stuart RRC, Harriet Johnston, Barbara Davenport, Janie Shaw