SEVERAL months ago, we told the story of an amazing link created between Nijmegen and St Helens, when Saints’ Heritage Society received a request from the Netherlands, asking information about Patrick Dullard, a hooker for St Helens RFC in the 1930s.

The email was from a lady called Nienke Noijen, from Nijmegen, who has been writing about Second World War victims in her area, starting with the famous Irish Guards Regiment. Her daughter, Pleun, was born on 25 October 2017.

Nienke first adopted a name from the Holocaust memorial In Amsterdam, to help finance the project and duly chose a name from the memorial with the same date.

Yet she wanted to remember another victim of the terrible conflict, closer to home with that 25 October date as a further link.

St Helens Star:

“So we went to the Military Cemetery at nearby Jonkerbos,” she explained, “and searched for our own hero. Patrick Dullard, of the Irish Guards, was the one whose death fitted our date criteria. So, every 25 October, we light three candles: one for my daughter’s birthday, one for our holocaust victim and one for Patrick.”

A hooker, who made 22 appearances for the Saints in the mid-1930s, he joined the Army and, as a Lance Sergeant, found himself as part of the Allied forces attempts to capture bridges over the River Rhine as part of Operation Market Garden.

Following several failed expeditions in September 1944 the Irish Guards then focussed their efforts to secure the town of Nijmegen from the Germans.

Tragically, Lance Sergeant 2716800 Patrick Dullard died on the 25th October 1944 and is buried in Jonkerbos War Cemetery, Gelderland, Netherlands.

Saints’ Heritage Society managed to contact Patrick’s daughter, Helen Coakley, a St Helens resident, who was, quite understandably, amazed that this connection had been made.

St Helens Star:

She has visited her father’s final resting place in the past and is immensely proud that his sacrifice will not be forgotten.

Helen immediately got in touch with Nienke and a bond of friendship has ensued. “She sent me a lovely birthday card and a picture of the flower she put on my father’s grave” says a delighted Helen. “And a lovely box of biscuits too - they were delicious!”

Saints’ Heritage Society, has been in the process of handing out Player Heritage Certificates and recently presented Helen with her father’s certificate [445] and a copy was sent to the Netherlands, where Nienke and daughter Pleun were delighted to receive it!

We must never forget the contribution made by the people of St Helens who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and so comforting to realise that this is reciprocated elsewhere.

St Helens Star:

The last words are with Nienke: “Pleun’s birthday will be extra special because this time we know something about Patrick. Last year he was just our unknown hero, so we’ll light the candle with a very warm feeling.”