[Note: This survey is intended as a supplement to some conclusions drawn on fatalities in the afterword of the new revised edition of my book Irish Voices from the Great War]




To ascertain how many Irish-born names are included who fought with non-Irish units and to deduct these from the Irish-born total of 30,986 (source:



To establish how many fatalities occurred among those whose service originated in Ireland. To establish a fatality / enlistment ratio for purely Irish recruits – i.e. those Irishmen who joined up in Ireland or those Irishmen already in Irish regiments like the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, i.e. in the regular army or reserve.


A caveat – some of the Irish-born soldiers who died in British or non UK units may also have enlisted in Ireland. In, for example, a random sample of 1000 deaths of Irishmen who died serving in English regiments c.3.5% had transferred from Irish units and may well have been recruited in Ireland.


An additional caveat – the numbers recorded in the INWMR of those Irish-born soldiers who died in British units may not be exhaustive. There may be other Irishmen who died in British regiments whose names are not recorded.



Use of the invaluable Ireland’s Memorial Records page on the ‘In Flanders Fields’ website []


Basic search terms such as ‘Canada’ ‘USA’ ‘Lancashire’ ‘Royal Engineers’ etc. were entered and these were used to identify the numbers of Irish-born soldiers in British, Colonial and American units who have been included in the Irish memorial records


In the records of some soldiers there is an indication of previous units in which they served. Only units with which soldiers were serving at the time of their deaths were counted – this was to avoid the risk of double-counting


Where no place of birth was indicated [7405 instances] the soldier in question was not included in any count.








ENGLAND                              6044

SCOTLAND                             1290

WALES                                280

USA                                  13

CANADA                               53

INDIA                                11

AUSTRALIA                            20

NEW ZEALAND                          14

SOUTH AFRICA                         10


TOTAL                                7735


This means that 7735 names must be deducted from the total of 30,986 names in the Irish National War Memorial Records, designated as having been born in Ireland, in order to arrive at a tentative figure for Irish dead whose service actually originated in Ireland itself. As noted above this figure could err on the low side by around 3.5%.







However, it should also be noted when arriving at a tentative figure (no definitive figure is possible) that a significant percentage of the 7405 names in the INWM Records whose place of birth is not noted, were actually born in Ireland. On the basis of a ratio of 3:1 (Irish:Non Irish) for those whose country of origin is known we might well surmise that three-quarters of those 7405 men (5554) were born in Ireland.


This would give us an actual total of Irish-born of around 36,540 (30,986 + 5554)


From this we need to subtract 7735 – giving us a total of Irish-born serving in Irish units who died in the Great War of 28,805 – in other words an Irish fatality ratio of 1:7 – somewhat higher than the UK average of 1:8 (720,000 dead out of a serving complement of 5.7 million). It is worth noting that this figure is not far removed from the statistic of 27,405 given by the Irish Registrar General in the 1926 census as the number of Irish soldiers, excluding officers, who died on active service outside the UK between 1914-18. If deceased officers are added in the figure of 28,805 becomes even more plausible.


This of course does not take into account Irish fatalities in ‘colonial’ forces or in the US forces. The only figure that has, thus far, been independently researched, is that of Irish enlistment (c.6,000) and fatalities (c.900) in Australia undertaken by Prof Jeff Kildea. Work yet to be verified by this writer suggests that the equivalent US figure is 1200.







IRISH                      30,986

ENGLISH                    9,162

NONE GIVEN                 7,405

SCOTTISH                   1,357

WELSH                      314

INDIA  N                   82

USA                        41

CANADIAN                   36

AUSTRALIAN                 21

SOUTH AFRICAN              12



This is my grand-uncle Pat O’Reilly, Baileborough, Co.Cavan – died on the Somme in September 1916 – his Lives of the First World War Site is here

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this – I’m no expert but I hope this helps.

If you are too daunted to do the work yourself I can recommend Gordon Power, military genealogist as one of the best researchers in this area. I have only met the guy once (last Saturday in Waterford Library at our Great War Roadshow) where he gave an amazing presentation) so I have no agenda and I’m not on a percentage of whatever fee he might charge. He can be emailed at




CAVEAT: 70% of the actual service records of WW1 soldiers were damaged or destroyed in the Blitz – so you may be disappointed in the quality and quantity of information available.


There is currently a plethora of websites willing to sell you information on your ancestor(s) who served. Often, however, there is no additional information available than details you can accumulate free of charge.





  1. Search under ‘Find War Dead’ – also select ‘war’ and ‘service’ (ie ‘Army’, ‘Navy’ etc) – [Smith, J]
  2. 2079 records match your search – here you will need to know the name of his regiment and, if possible, his service number – Click on name – more information available on cemetery





Imperial War Museum project. Essentially they are inviting you to add information to the personal web page they have created (one of 4.5 million so far) for a ‘remembered’. However, there is already some basic information on each soldier on their webpage.


  1. Search by name, unit or service number – ‘John Smith’
  2. 6552 results for ‘John Smith’ – choose the most likely one and click on the name – [British Army Royal Engineers Inland Waterways Transport, Service #220]
  3. Click on ‘Search Official Records’ – this may give date and place of birth
  4. Return to ‘Private John Smith’ homepage – click on Medal Index Card
  5. Select ‘? Facts were added in this source of evidence’


If you do have additional information / images of your ancestor do the world a favour and upload it onto this site for posterity.








NOTE: All the files below are available for inspection in The National Archive Reading Room in Kew in London


Unit War Diaries. (WO95)


These can be a mine of information [mostly typed and readable] or skimpy beyond belief. It’s the luck of the draw.


The good news is that some of this particular record series (WO95) has been digitized so the war diaries of battalions within the first 33 divisions of the army are available online. [Not much good if you want to research a relative in the 36th (Ulster) Division]


Search by going to and entering the regiment, battalion, brigade or division number in the box provided.


There may be a charge for downloading.



Medal Card Index (WO 372)


All soldiers who served overseas were entitled to a service medal of some description. In addition many earned medals for gallantry. Each of those who served overseas (male or female) had a dedicated medal card. There are over 5m of these in the British National Archives in Kew


A charge of £3.30 is incurred if you wish to view a .pdf of the actual card. This may contain additional information on the soldier who is the object of your research.



A full list of TNA digitized WW1 collections can be seen at



Silver War Badge records


The badge, which came into being in September 1916, was awarded to all of those military personnel who had served at home or overseas during the war, and who had been discharged from the army under King’s Regulations. This generally meant that the soldier had been released on account of being permanently physically unfit.


If your relative was discharged before September 1916 he may still have received a badge retrospectively.


The badges were useful for deflecting the grim attentions of members of the Order of the White Feather (who once presented a white feather to a sailor in civilian clothing on his way to accept the Victoria Cross). Wounded veterans could point to their silver war badge as evidence that they had not avoided enlistment. Badges bore the inscription ‘For King and Empire – Services Rendered.


The ‘Long Long Trail website gives an excellent rundown on the nature and scope of the records.




In some instances you will be re-directed from sites like The British National Archives to become this company has digitized many of the WW1 holdings of TNA. So I figured it was better to cut out the middleman here.


Some records may be hard to track down if they have been misfiled in the first instance and if names can not to read properly by the optical character recognition equipment.


Access to this service may be available free of charge through your local library


British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920 (WO363) ‘The Burnt records’


This database contains the surviving service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who served in WWI and did not re-enlist in the Army prior to World War II. With the final release, this database now contains the entire service records collection.


These records contain a variety of forms, including:


Attestation forms – the form completed by the individual on enlistment

Medical history forms

Casualty forms

Disability statements

Regimental conduct sheets


Proceedings on Discharge

Cover for Discharge Documents

Index Cards


Information available in these records includes:


Name of soldier




Marital status

Regimental number

Date of attestation

Physical description


An absolute goldmine if your man’s records survived the German bombs AND the fireman’s hoses. But only a 1:3 chance that you will turn up the relevant file.



British Army WW1 Pension Records (WO364)


Known as ‘The Unburnt Records’. Potentially useful where WW1 survivors are concerned


This database contains service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for service in WWI. These were also men who did not re-enlist in the Army prior to World War II. Approximately 5 million men served in the British Army in World War One (WWI) and these records contain many of them, especially if they claimed a pension.


These records contain a variety of forms, including:


Attestation forms – the form completed by the individual on enlistment

Medical history forms

Casualty forms

Disability statements

Regimental conduct sheets



Information available in these records includes:


Name of soldier




Marital status

Regimental number

Date of attestation

Physical description


NB: Don’t bother if your soldier was killed in action or was not entitled to a disability pension











1901 and 1911 CENSUS


In the absence of conscription in Ireland the two digitized Irish censuses are not quite as useful as their British equivalents. However, they can certainly indicate whether the name for which you are searching was a male of military age (18-41 18-51 from 1918)


Soldiers Wills


To circumvent the necessity for a will to be witnessed legislation allowed soldiers to make wills on forms included in their paybooks.


At least 9000 of the 30,000+ Irish soldiers who died chose this option and their wills are preserved in the National Archives of Ireland. The wills have also been digitized and can be read online at




The Irish Military Service Pensions are likely to become an increasingly useful source in years to come. At the moment the only information available is on 1916 veterans but as time goes on the files of Irish WW1 veterans who went on to join the IRA and fight in the War of Independence should also become available. There were at least 116 WW1 veterans in the IRA during the Anglo Irish War. Your grandad might have been one of them.


For the same reason it would be useful to consult the Bureau of Military History witness statements. Many names appear of men unconnected with the IRA. Perhaps your ancestor was an IRA target because of their WW1 service.





Irish National War Memorial Records – compiled in the 1920s and giving rise to the myth that 49,500 Irishmen died in the war – now searchable via – in some cases there is more information than on the CWGC website


The Long, Long,Trail: The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918 . This site includes a useful tutorial page on how to go about researching a soldier –

Forces War Records is the sister site of Forces Reunited, the leading British military community on the web with more than one million members and reuniting veterans since 2001, part of Clever Digit Media Ltd.

This is a commercial site but is useful and user friendly. – other people might be able to suggest avenues of research if you are facing dead ends – a commercial site but often accessible FOC via your local library





The Irish Times digital archive is a very useful source, especially for Dublin-based soldiers – however, it is likely to have more information on deceased soldiers than on those who survived – searchable


The Freeman’s Journal and Irish Independent for the Great War period are available on the Irish Newspaper Archive website – as are many local newspapers of the period (eg Kerryman, Limerick Leader, Meath Chronicle etc] – you can subscribe yourself to search and download but your local library may have an account with INA which will allow you to access the site FOC on library computers.


It may also be worth checking the London Gazette for details of military honours awarded



Irish regimental/museum websites



Some additional information can be found on the following websites, mostly maintained by dedicate enthusiasts who are willing to help you in your searches.– Leinster Regiment– Royal Irish Fusiliers– facility to ‘trace a relative’ at a cost of £28








These will often give general ‘feel’ for the experience of your relatives and might even mention them specifically. I came across a reference to my own granduncle’s death (he was a mere rifleman/private) in Taylor’s history of the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War.




Cooper, Bryan, The Tenth (Irish) Division in Gallipoli (Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1993).

Cunliffe, Marcus, The Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1793-1968 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1970).

Denman, Terence, Ireland’s Unknown Soldiers: the 16th Irish Division in the Great War (Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1992).

Doherty, Richard, The Sons of Ulster (Belfast, Appletree, 1992).

Dooley, Thomas, Irishmen or English Soldiers: The Times and World of a Southern Catholic Irish Man (1876-1916) Enlisting in the British Army in the First World War (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 1995).

Dungan, Myles Irish Voices from the Great War (Irish Academic Press, Dublin 1995)

Dungan, Myles, They Shall Grow not Old: Irish soldiers and the Great War (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 1997).

Feilding, Rowland, War Letters to a Wife (London, Medici Society, 1929),

Fox, Sir Frank, The Royal Inniskilling Rifles in the World War (London, Constable, 1928).

Grayson, Richard S., Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in the First World War (London, Continuum, 2009).

Hanna, Henry, The Pals at Suvla Bay (Dublin, Ponsonby, 1916).

Harris, Henry, Irish Regiments in the First World War (Cork, Mercier Press, 1968).

Hitchcock, Frank, Stand To: a Diary of the Trenches (Norwich, 1988).

Hogarty, Patrick, The Old Toughs: A Brief History of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion (Dublin, Private publication, 2001).

Horne, John, ed., Our War: Ireland and the Great War (Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 2008).

Kipling, Rudyard, The Irish Guards in the Great War, Vol.1. (London, Macmillan,1923).

Laird, Frank, Personal Experiences of the Great War (Dublin, Eason, 1925).

Lucy, John, There’s a Devil in the Drum (London, London and Naval Military Press, 1992).

Johnstone, Thomas, Orange, Green and Khaki (Dublin, Gill and Macmillan, 1992).

McCance, Captain S., History of the Royal Munster Fusiliers: Volume II – from 1862-1922 (Aldershot, Gale and Polden,1927).

MacDonagh, Michael, The Irish at the Front (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1916).

MacDonagh, Michael, The Irish on the Somme, (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1917).

Orr, Phillip, The Road to the Somme (Belfast, Blackstaff Press, 1987).

Orr, Philip, Field of Bones: An Irish Division at Gallipoli (Dublin, Lilliput Press, 2006).

Quinn, Anthony P., Wigs and Guns: Irish Barristers in the Great War (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2006).

Rickard, Jesse Louisa, The Story of the Munsters at Etreux, Festubert, Rue du Bois and Hulluch (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1918).

Robertson, David, Deeds not Words: Irish Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in Two World Wars (Multyfarnham, Privately published, 1998).

Taylor, James. W., The 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2002).

Taylor, James. W., The 2nd Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War (Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2005).

Walker, G.A.C., The Book of the 7th Service Battalion – The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – from Tipperary to Ypres (Dublin, Brindley, 1920).

Whitton, Col.F.E., The History of the Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment, Vol.2 (Aldershot, Gale and Polden, 1926).

Wyly, Col. H.C., Crown and Company – The Historical Record of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, vol.2 1911-1922 (London, Humphreys, 1923)

Wylly, Col.H.C., Neill’s Blue Caps – Vol.3, 1914-1922 (Aldershot, Gale and Polden, 1923).


A number of counties (Cork, Louth, Cavan, Dublin, Donegal etc) have also now published ‘Roll of Honour’ books with information on those who died from that county.








New on Kindle – The Stealing of the Irish Crown Jewels


1907. The Irish Crown Jewels are stolen from under the noses of the Dublin Metropolitan Police in Dublin Castle a few days before the royal visit of King Edward VII. The stumped DMP send for Scotland Yard. The crime is never solved, perhaps because if the thief was ever identified a huge scandal would follow? This is the tale of an audacious robbery, an outrageous heist, blackmail, murder and political intrigue at the highest level.

The Stealing of the Irish Crown Jewels by Myles Dungan is now available on Kindle at $6.99 (+VAT) or under €6.00


On This Day – Drivetime – 22.5.1849 Maria Edgeworth dies


She didn’t have a lot of time for Jane Austen, she earned more money from her books than did the Queen of Irony during her lifetime. She was a frequent correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, another celebrated contemporary. She was also hugely important in the development of the novel and of children’s writing. Not bad for a woman who spent much of her life in rural Longford.

Maria Edgeworth, although seen as an Irish novelist, was actually born in England, the second of 22 children of her father Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who was married four times. She moved to Ireland with her father at the age of five, after the death of her mother. She spent much of her teenage years looking after her younger siblings and was, essentially, educated by her father whom she also assisted in managing the family estate at Edgeworthstown. Her father was a huge influence, some would say far too great an influence, on her writing. She claimed to have written only to please him.

Edgeworth adopted what would today be identified as liberal causes in her novels. She championed the underprivileged of her adopted country and sought to counteract English literary stereotypes of Ireland in her work. In addition she parodied elements of her own landed class, especially in her best known work, the often hilarious Castle Rackrent – written without her father’s knowledge – where the worst excesses of landlordism are satirized. In much of Edgeworth’s the peasantry are dignified, the aristocracy rapacious. In her work Letters for Literary Ladies she pleaded the case for the proper education of women. Later, in the novel Helen, – written after her father’s death and not set in Ireland -she introduced a female politician to English literature

Castle Rackrent, her first novel, published in 1800 was an instant success. Narrated by an employee of the Rackrents, Thady Quirk, it predicts the rise of the Catholic middle class. The novel, actually not much more than a novella, brought her to the attention of Sir Walter Scott. The two writers became friends and visited each other in Ireland and Scotland.

Such was the nature of her writing that in 1798, after the defeat of the French invasion in the west of Ireland the windows of Edgeworth House were stoned because the family was suspected of having radical sympathies. In fact Edgeworth was a supporter of the Union, but also an advocate of Catholic Emancipation.

While Jane Austen was a great fan of Edgeworth’s the admiration was not entirely mutual. Austen sent Edgeworth a presentation copy of Emma in 1816. Edgeworth was not impressed with a novel that now ranks behind only Pride and Prejudice as Austen’s greatest achievement. The gift went unacknowledged and Edgeworth wrote to a friend about Emma that ‘It has no story’.

She wrote little from the 1820s onwards, concentrating on the management of the family estate. Then, in 1845, when she was in her late 70s the disaster of the Great Famine struck. Unlike many other landlords, who adopted a callous attitude to their starving tenants, Edgeworth was one of those who worked selflessly for her tenants. With her own money she purchased food from the USA which was distributed amongst her tenantry and others. The Edgeworth’s estate barely avoided bankruptcy and being purchased by carpetbaggers under the terms of the Encumbered Estates Act. Her compassion has, however, been somewhat exaggerated as her charity only extended as far as tenants who had paid their rent.

Maria Edgeworth, educationalist, farm manager, essayist and novelist, died 166 years ago, on this day.


OTD – 8.5.1597 Death of Fiach McHugh O’Byrne


Curse and swear, Lord Kildare,

Fiach will do what Fiach will dare

Now Fitzwilliam have a care,

Fallen is your star low

Up with halbert, out with sword,

On we go for, by the Lord

Fiach McHugh has given the word

“Follow me up to Carlow”

So goes one of the best known songs in the Irish traditional canon, although it was written many years after the events that chorus describe.

To suggest that Wicklow chieftain Fiach McHugh O’Byrne was a thorn in the side of the Tudor dynasty in Ireland would be to exaggerate hugely the impact of a thorn. O’Byrne was nuisance and nemesis rolled together.

He was born in 1534 and became chieftain of the O’Byrne clan in his mid forties. One of the main reasons why he was so little beloved of British administrators in Ireland was because of his geographical proximity to the Pale. Whenever O’Byrne chose to do so he didn’t have far to go to bite off a piece of Tudor Dublin. And he chose to do so on a regular basis.

Retaliating against him was not quite as straightforward. There was no M11 or GPS in the 1500s so the Tudor armies sent against him had to make do with whatever tracks they could find and had to waste many frustrating days searching in vain for Fiach.

When Red Hugh O’Donnell and Art O’Neill made their celebrated escape from Dublin Castle in 1592 it was to Glenmalure, O’Byrne’s main redoubt, that they headed. Art O’Neill didn’t make it but a frostbitten Hugh O’Donnell did. O’Byrne sheltered him and sent him back to his people in Donegal, from where he made quite a nuisance of himself, along with Hugh O’Neill in the Nine Years War.

O’Byrne also made himself useful with the Earls of Kildare, who often had an ambiguous relationship with the English crown. Fiach once peremptorily hanged an important witness to a threatening government investigation into the affairs of Gerald Fitzgerald, 11th Earl of Kildare. Bumping off hostile witnesses didn’t start with the Mafia.

In 1580, during the Desmond rebellion the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Grey, led an army against the O’Byrnes. His plan was to attack Glenmalure. Like many a good plan brought to bear against Fiach it failed miserably and Grey was forced to withdraw to Dublin with serious losses. The Battle of Glenmalure was O’Byrne’s greatest triumph against the forces of Queen Elizabeth 1.

Sadly, Fiach came to a bad end in 1597. He threw in his lot with O’Neill and O’Donnell in the Nine Years War – in an engagement with English troops, assisted by some renegade members of his own clan, Fiach was captured and summarily beheaded with his own sword. His body was then cut up, and the head and quarters were hung on pikes on the Dublin Castle walls ‘pour encourager les autres’. Later his head was pickled and brought to London. A sad end for a redoubtable enemy of Tudor England.

Fiach McHugh O’Byrne, one of the last great Gaelic chieftains, died 418 years ago on this day.

On This Day – 1.5.1837 Birth of Mother Jones


When your entire family, a husband and four children, die from yellow fever and then your business is destroyed in the Great Chicago fire you might be tempted to just give up. But not Mary Harris Jones, who instead, went on from extreme adversity to become ‘Mother Jones’ ‘the most dangerous woman in America’. That, at least, was how American mine owners saw her and she gave them good cause for their animosity.

Mary Harris was born in Cork City in 1837 emigrating to Canada with her family as a teenager. Later, as a qualified teacher, she moved to the USA and married George Jones, a union organizer, in Memphis, Tennessee. There she abandoned teaching and became a dressmaker.

It was in Memphis that she lost her family to disease. All her children were under five years of age. After that unthinkable tragedy she moved to Chicago and established a dress making business there. In 1871 a huge fire that killed 300 people and destroyed 9 square kilometres of the city took her business and her house with it.

After that she threw in her lot with organized labour and some of the most iconic unions in American history, the United Mine Workers, the Knights of Labour and the Industrial Workers of the Worker, better known as the Wobblies. Given her personal trauma her philosophy and personal motto ‘pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living’ is particularly poignant. She travelled the USA organizing, speaking and motivating workers and their families to take action to improve their lot.

She was ardently opposed to the use of child labour. In 1903 she organized children to march in their thousands from Philadelphia to the New York home of President Theodore Roosevelt bearing banners with the slogan ‘We want to go to school and not the mines.’

During a West Virginia miners strike she ignored a court order secured by the mine owners and in her subsequent trial the District Attorney, appropriately named Blizzard, declaimed that ‘There sits the most dangerous woman in America … She comes into a state where peace and prosperity reign … crooks her finger [and] twenty thousand contented men lay down their tools and walk out.’

You might well have expected a female radical like Mother Jones to be a suffragist, but she wasn’t. She was opposed to votes for women or female participation in politics. Her philosophy was “You don’t need the vote to raise hell!”. She was of the opinion that men should earn sufficient money to allow their wives to bring up children. Equally unusually she claimed to be considerably older than she actually was, possibly in the interests of self protection, hence the nickname ‘Mother’ Jones.

She became so influential that, in the case of a mining strike in Colorado she was able to force the infamous ‘robber baron’ John D. Rockefeller into a face to face meeting and extract significant concessions from him on behalf of the moners.

Denounced in the Senate as the ‘grandmother of all agitators’ she responded by saying ‘I hope to live long enough to become the great grandmother of all agitators’. This she did, dying at the age of 93

Mary Harris ‘Mother Jones’, labour activist and champion of the working man was born 178 years ago on what, appropriately, has become International Labour Day.


On This Day 17.4.1920 – Inquest verdict Tomás MacCurtain murder


There is a street in Cork named after him and he was the first of two consecutive fatalities among Lord Mayors of Cork. The murder of Tomás MacCurtain on 2o March 1920 was followed seven months later by the death of his successor, Terence MacSwiney, after a hunger strike in Brixton prison.

MacCurtain, was born on 20 March 1884, and was, therefore, shot dead on his 36th birthday. Of more consequence was that the assassination took place in front of his wife and one of his sons. His background was similar to that of many other republican figures of the early 20th century. He was a member of the Gaelic League and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers, siding with the anti-war element when the organisation split in 1914.

MacCurtain would have been ‘out’ in 1916 but for the failure of his force of 1000 Cork Volunteers to receive orders to that effect from the Dublin rebels. After the Rising he received his further education in revolutionary nationalism in Frongoch prison in North Wales. After his release in 1917 he took up the position of Brigadier in the Cork IRA and was unsuccessful in an attempt in the early months of the Anglo-Irish war to assassinate Sir John French, the British Lord Lieutenant. In January 1920 he was elected to Cork City Council and was later elected Lord Mayor by his Sinn Fein party colleagues.

MacCurtain lived with his family in the Blackpool area of Cork. On 20 March 1920 a number of men – up to eight in all – with blackened faces ransacked his home and shot MacCurtain dead. It was one of a number of reprisal killings to take place on both sides. It has been suggested that McCurtain’s killing was in retaliation for the murder, earlier that day, of Police Constable Murtagh on Pope’s Quay. Whether organized retaliation would have occurred that quickly, within two hours of Murtagh’s killing, is a moot point.

But who actually shot the Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of Cork. The jury at his inquest had no doubt. The coroner, James.J.McCabe, examined 97 witnesses in all, 64 being members of the RIC. The inquest took nearly a month. The jury, unimpressed by conflicts of evidence among senior RIC officers in the city issued a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against British Prime Minister Lloyd George and against a number of policemen, some named, but with the actual killers described as ‘unknown members of the RIC’.

More extra-judicial killings followed. Michael Collins made it his business to take revenge on any of the RIC officers alleged to have been involved in the assassination. The most prominent of these, RIC District Inspector Oswald Swanzy, the man accused of having ordered the attack, was himself murdered while leaving church in Lisburn in August 1920. In a highly symbolic act MacCurtain’s revolver was used to shoot Swanzy dead. The killing, however, sparked retaliatory action against the Catholic residents of the town.

The jury in the inquest into the assassination of Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, delivered its telling verdict 95 years ago, on this day.



Main_HistoryIrelandDebateAtCityHall28853_2033.jpgoct20-2004 Ledwidge Pics

As part of the Gallipoli centenary commemorations in Kells, Co.Meath – co-sponsored by the Hay/Kells Festival and RTE Radio 1’s The History Show – distinguished World War 1 historian will give the inaugural Francis Ledwidge Memorial Lecture on ‘Ireland and Gallipoli’ in St. Columba’s Church of Ireland Church at 7.30 on Friday 24 April.

Philip Orr is the author of The Road to the Somme an account of the experience of the 36th Ulster division on 1 July 1916 and Field of Bones, a narrative of the 10th (Irish) division at Gallipoli in August 1915.

Francis Ledwidge, poet and nationalist, was a member of the 10th (Irish) division during the Gallipoli campaign and died in Belgium in 1917.

The lecture will begin a weekend of commemorative events and lectures to mark the centenary of the start of the Gallipoli campaign where more than 4000 Irish lives were lost.

In future years the Francis Ledwidge Memorial lecture will form part of the annual Hay/Kells Literary Festival.

The weekend will also include an examination of the role of journalism and poetry in the war in a day of lectures entitled The first draft of history? Journalism and poetry in the Great War, a day of talks on Ireland and Gallipoli on Sunday 26 April and a concert of WW1 music and anti-WW1 songs from Declan O’Rourke at 8.00 on Saturday 25 April.

There will also be memorabilia and genealogical experts (Tom Burnell and Gordon Power) available for consultation and a WW1 tour of the town led by archaeologist and historian Damien Shiels.


For tickets to all Gallipoli100 events phone 046-9240055

Gallipoli 100 is funded with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Reconciliation Fund and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.




As part of the centenary commemoration of the start of the Gallipoli campaign – one of the most costly in terms of Irish lives in WW1 – the Hay/Kells Festival and RTE Radio 1’s History Show, co-sponsors of the event, invite the public to consult some of the country’s best-known military historians about aspects of the Great War that interest them.

Available for consultation in St.Columba’s Church of Ireland church on the afternoon of Saturday 25 April will be military genealogist Gordon Power. Gordon can guide you in your search for information on a family member who took part in the war and also has a vast fund of knowledge on WW1 artefacts, such as medals and uniforms.

On Sunday, at the same venue, from 2-6 pm will be military historian Tom Burnell who has written a series of works on the WW1 war dead of a number of different counties. You will have access to Tom’s detailed database if you want to trace an Irish ancestor who died in the conflict.

In addition military archaeologist / historian Damien Shiels will take members of the public on a World War 1 tour of the town of Kells, stopping off at places associated with the conflict. The tour is open to all comers and will begin from the gates of St.Columba’s church at noon on Sunday 26 April.

All the above events are be free of charge.

The weekend will also include the inaugural Francis Ledwidge Memorial Lecture to be given by Philip Orr on Friday 24 April, an examination of the role of journalism and poetry in the war in a day of lectures entitled The first draft of history? Journalism and poetry in the Great War, and a day of talks on Ireland and Gallipoli on Sunday 26 April and a concert of WW1 music and anti-WW1 songs from Declan O’Rourke at 8.00 on Saturdat 25 April.


For tickets to other Gallipoli100 events call 046-9240055


On This Day – Drivetime – 10.4.1918 – British Parliament proposes conscription in Ireland


In late 1917 the British satirical magazine Punch, the Charlie Hebdo of its day, printed a cartoon, the context for which was the progress – or lack of it – of the First World War. It depicted two men with a large comb divided into equal parts marked ‘England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.’ The Irish section was toothless. The magazine, not noted for its admiration of ‘John Bull’s other island’ was suggesting that this country was not sending enough of its young men to stop machine-gun bullets on the Western Front and that it was high time the government did something about it. Compulsory military service for men between 18-40 had been introduced in Britain in early 1916.

A few months after Punch’s barb Lloyd George’s administration, which had hesitated to bring conscription to Ireland, finally grasped the nettle with the introduction in the House of Commons of an amendment to the Military Service Act. This raised the age limit to fifty and ended Ireland’s exemption.

The move came, essentially, as a panic measure in the wake of the crippling and humiliating German offensive of 21 March 1918.

The Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, in proposing the extension of compulsory military service to Ireland observed that ‘we are advised that it will yield a large number of men.’ The doubly bereaved Irish MP and British Army officer, Captain William Archer Redmond, who had lost his father and uncle in the preceding nine months, inquired ‘May I ask the right hon. Gentleman who advised him?’ The implication was clear. The Irish, who had volunteered in respectable if unspectacular numbers, were not going to be forced to join the British Army.

Cave was then interrupted by a passionate interjection from the Irish Party MP for Kerry North, Michael Flavin who shouted, ominously, at the government benches, ‘You come over and try it.’


John Dillon, leader of the Irish party since the death the previous month of John Redmond, pointed out that the raising of the military age and the extension of conscription to this country would have no impact on the military disaster that was the German Spring offensive in terms of manpower. It would take months to train the new conscripts by which time it looked then as if the Germans would be drinking champagne on the Champs Elysee and accepting the surrender of France and Britain. As it happens, by the time the debate began the German offensive had already begun to peter out and it would not be long before the Allies rolled back the German gains and made huge advances of their own that ended the war in November.

That they did so without any Irish conscripts was a function of a concerted and determined campaign in Ireland. A national strike, the opposition of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, a series of massive public meetings and the temporary shelving of the political differences between the moderate nationalist Irish Parliamentary and the more radical Sinn Fein ensured that the British government concluded it would cost more troops to enforce conscription than would be raised.

Had they not done so, and in the unlikely event that they had been successful in forcing Irishmen into the Army the death toll of Irish soldiers might well have greatly exceeded the 35,000 who did perish in the ironically titled ‘war to end all wars’.

The proposal to extend compulsory military service to Ireland was brought to the floor of the House of Commons 97 years ago, on this day.