The picture, which comes from the records of the former Bangor Borough Council, shows one of the many initiatives to raise money for the refugees. The donkey was auctioned in November 1914 in Bangor in aid of the Belgium Relief Fund. It is just one of many thousands of documents from this period held in PRONI which illuminate the experiences of Irish men and women during the war years.
Alyson Stanford states
“While working on an enquiry from a member of the public, I came across this charming photograph of children with a donkey. It is amazing to find that such charitable actions were being made by local people with all kinds of items (and animals) up for auction with the proceeds going to good causes.
The proceeds of this sale would have been given to the National and Belgian Relief funds which had been in the fore as a result of the outbreak of war in 1914. I hope that at the end of the day a generous amount of money was raised and more importantly the donkey went to a good home.”
The 4 August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The War was to have a profound impact on Ireland with more than 200,000 Irish men and women serving with the fighting forces, of who some 30,000 died. The impact of the War was also felt on the home front. One of the earliest manifestations of the horrors for people in Ireland was the many refugees from Belgium who arrived in the autumn of 1914.
The original photograph is available for consultation at PRONI (Reference: LA/20/50/GA/5).
In an update to this story, PRONI has since been contacted by a relative of the person who generously donated the donkey for auction. A news story in the Spectator of 13 November 1914 reported that the donkey was sold for fifty shillings and the total sale proceeds “amounted to the creditable sum of £20.10s.0d.”