Messines, Belgium Visit

The Harmony North Messines, Belgium visit took place from Tuesday 6th – Thursday 8th June.  This involved 24 pupils from 7 schools across North Belfast:

  • Belfast Boys’ Model School
  • Belfast Model School for Girls
  • Edmund Rice College
  • Hazelwood Integrated College
  • Mercy College
  • St. Malachy’s College
  • St. Patrick’s College

The students travelled to Brussels and then visited Flanders Field Museum.  After they had checked into the hotel and had a meal together, the choir performed at Menin Gate.  The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is one of four British and Commonwealth memorials to the missing in the battlefield area of the Ypres Salient in Belgian Flanders. The memorial bears the names of 54,389 officers and men from United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who fell in the Ypres Salient before 16th August 1917 and who have no known grave.

The following day, the choir visited the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  We then made our way to the Island of Ireland Peace Park to attend the Battle of Messines Centenary Commemoration.  There were a number of dignitaries attending this event including:

  • HRH The Duke of Cambridge
  • HRH Princess Astrid, Princess of Belgium
  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D.

A number of people gave readings, reflections and prayers.  A wreath laying ceremony, the sounding of the Last Post and a minute of silence followed this.

The final day of the visit consisted of a return to the Island of Ireland Peace Park for a performance by the Harmony North Choir.  Two members of the International School for Peace Studies accompanied us to Willie Redmond’s grave. This was significant as William Redmond (13 April 1861 – 7 June 1917) was an Irish nationalist politician, lawyer and soldier who fell in action in World War 1. Redmond was hit by German defensive fire, falling to the ground he urged his men on as they flowed forward about him towards the German line. Stretcher bearers from the 36th (Ulster) Division, one of them Private John Meeke of the 11th Inniskillings, who was himself wounded, brought him back into the British lines from No Man's Land. Redmond died there from his wounds later that afternoon.

The choir then made their way to Bellewaerde Theme Park, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed – even though some of us got a little wet on the Rapids & Log Flume!!

The boys representing Belfast Boys’ Model were:

  • Lewis Lavery 9Hs
  • John Parke 9Sr
  • Brandon Bradford 8Mp