[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 – 24.7.1750 Birth of John Philpot Curran, the man who almost became Robert Emmet’s father in law

John Philpot Curran (24 Jul 1750 – 14 Oct 1817) Irish orator, politician and wit; Black and White Illustration;

John Philpot Curran (b.24 Jul 1750 )

On the morning of his 53rd birthday the leading Irish barrister of his day, John Philpot Curran, would have received news of serious disturbances in the city of Dublin. He would have been horrified to learn of the brutal death of his friend Lord Kilwarden, dragged from his coach along with his nephew and daughter and stabbed repeatedly with pikes.

However the violence of 23rd July 1803 was to come even closer to home for Curran. He would quickly have learned that it was no angry and leaderless mob that had murdered Kilwarden. It was the last throw of the dice of the United Irishmen, supposedly suppressed viciously five years earlier, in a rebellion led by a young Dublin Protestant, Robert Emmet. That name would come to haunt Curran.

John Philpot Curran was one of the most celebrated Irish public figures of his day. He was a politician, having been a member of the Irish parliament for three different constituencies. He was probably the most capable member of the Irish bar and had, in 1798, ably but futilely defended many of the leaders of the United Irishmen’s rebellion. His early career as a barrister had been marred by a serious stammer that had earned him the unenviable nickname ‘Stuttering Jack Curran’. But he had conquered his disability, apparently by spending hours reciting Shakespeare in front of a mirror.

He was also a duellist, having fought up to half a dozen opponents and survived.

One of those encounters highlights his penchant for ‘lost causes’ or, at least, his affiliation to the underdog. In 1780 Curran, himself a wealthy and well-connected Protestant, took on the case of an elderly Catholic priest, Father Neale, who had fallen foul of a distinctly obnoxious aristocrat, Lord Doneraile. The priest had criticized the brother of Doneraile’s mistress for maintaining an adulterous relationship and Doneraile, as you did if you were called– I kid you not – St.Leger St.Leger (his parents must have been extremely attached to the family name) had horsewhipped Father Neale for his croppy effrontery. St.Leger (squared) did not anticipate a jury of his peers deciding to punish him. But he reckoned without Curran’s powers of persuasion. The young advocate’s arguments coaxed the jury into awarding the horsewhipped priest 30 guineas and an affronted Doneraile challenged Curran to a duel. He fired and missed, Curran walked away without shooting.

While Curran may have opposed the Act of Union and defended United Irishmen his tolerance did not extend as far as permitting a relationship to form between his daughter Sarah and Robert Emmet. However, after the capture of the young rebel in the wake of his abortive coup Curran, typically, agreed to defend Emmet. He was unaware, however, of the existence of a correspondence between his client and his daughter. When the authorities came to search his house and he was apprised of the existence of letters between the young rebel and his youngest daughter he threw up the brief. Crucially he was replaced as defence counsel by the Crown’s most valuable intelligence asset in Dublin, the traitorous United Irishman Leonard McNally.

Curran was famous as a wit and phrasemaker. It may well have been he, rather than Edmund Burke, who uttered the immortal line ‘evil prospers when good men do nothing’. He said of an enemy that ‘his smile is like the silver plate on a coffin’. Marx once advised Engels to read Curran’s speeches. In an encounter with the infamous Irish hanging judge, Lord Norbury, the justice inquired of Curran if a particular piece of meat was ‘hung-beef’ to which Curran responded acidly ‘Do try it my Lord, then it is sure to be.’

In his private life he was often unhappy, he disowned his daughter Sarah and later his wife, also called Sarah and with whom he had nine children, ran off with a Protestant rector whom Curran sued for criminal conversation. But as a public figure Curran was a colossus who spanned the period between Henry Grattan and Daniel O’Connell and was, in many ways, the equal of both.

John Philpot Curran, scholar, poet, wit, barrister, politician, and humanitarian, was born 265 years ago, on this day.


On This Day – 17.7.1938 Douglas ‘Wrong Way’ Corrigan lands at Baldonnell aerodrome after flying the Atlantic


In the early hours of the 18 July 1938 a rather flimsy, sorry looking, and frankly jerry-built plane landed at Baldonnel Aerodrome. Its arrival had not been expected and the authorities at the airport were astonished to discover that its pilot, 31 year old Douglas Corrigan, casually claimed to have just flown from New York.

Corrigan, a Texan of Irish descent, was a pilot and engineer who had worked with the Ryan Aeronautical Company on the construction of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. This was the plane that, in 1927, made the first non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris. Corrigan had made his own first solo flight in 1926 and he’d been severely bitten by the flying bug.

He quickly graduated to stunt flying – much to the annoyance of his employers at the Airtech Flying School in San Diego whose planes he was jeopardising. Corrigan paid no attention to their disapproval, simply taking their planes to a more distant airdrome and performing stunts during his lunch hour, unseen by his bosses. As we shall see the watchword for Corrigan seems to have been ‘out of sight out of mind.’

In 1933 he spent $300 on a four-year old Curtiss Robin monoplane and started to modify it. To put this into some perspective Spirt of St. Louis cost more than $10,000 to build. Corrigan had decided he wanted to emulate Lindbergh but he was going to target his ancestral home, Ireland, as his destination.

When he applied for a licence to make the trip in 1935 he was turned down on the, not unreasonable, basis that his plane was a glorified wreck incapable of surviving the trip. No amount of modifications over two years would make the authorities change their minds.

Based in California Corrigan flew his plane across the USA in July 1938 barely making it to New York before a gasoline leak got him first. He then filed a flight plan for a return trip to the West Coast. He took off on 17 July at 5.15 in the morning but instead of turning west he headed east. He afterwards claimed that low cloud and a faulty compass had brought about the slight error that took him out over the Atlantic. Nobody believed him. Most people who knew him were aware of his obsession.

28 hours and 13 minutes after take off Corrigan landed at Baldonnel. He had survived on two bars of chocolate and two fig bars, had to get his bearings by looking out of the side of his airplane – he had placed his fuel tanks in front – had no radio and a twenty-year old compass which he almost certainly didn’t bother to read until he knew he was over the Atlantic and not New Jersey.

An American journalist with the delightful name of H.R.Knickerbocker, who interviewed Corrigan in Ireland after his epic journey, wrote three years later that …

You may say that Corrigan’s flight could not be compared to Lindbergh’s in its sensational appeal as the first solo flight across the ocean. Yes, but in another way the obscure little Irishman’s flight was the more audacious of the two. Lindbergh had a plane specially constructed, the finest money could buy. He had lavish financial backing, friends to help him at every turn. Corrigan had nothing but his own ambition, courage, and ability. His plane, a nine-year-old Curtiss Robin, was the most wretched-looking jalopy.

Corrigan’s ‘mistake’ might not have gone down well in official aviation circles – his licence was suspended for fourteen days and his hero Charles Lindbergh never acknowledged his achievement – but he was a big hit with the general public and returned to a hero’s welcome in the USA. He received a ticker tape parade in New York – reckoned to have been attended by more people than greeted Lindbergh. Later he starred in a movie about his own life called The Flying Irishman, delighted in the nickname ‘Wrong Way Corrigan’ and endorsed numerous appropriate products such as a watch that told the time backwards.

Douglas ‘Wrong-Way’ Corrigan took off from New York, bound for California and got conveniently lost, 77 years ago, on this day.


On This Day – Drivetime – 10.7.1867 Birth of Finlay Peter Dunne


For more than a decade an irascible bar tender from Roscommon, owner of a saloon in Chicago, became the most famous fictional character in American journalism. The barkeep in question, Mr. Dooley, was the creation of the Irish-American humorist Finley Peter Dunne and every week, in the pages of numerous newspapers across the USA, in a syndicated column, Dooley would hold forth on matters of public and domestic policy to his long-suffering customer Hennessy in an Irish dialect that often has to be read aloud to be properly understood.

Finley Peter Dunne was born in Chicago in 1867, the son of Irish immigrants who came to America as refugees from the Great Famine. He was brought up in the heavily Irish neighborhood of Bridgeport and began working for Chicago newspapers straight out of high school. In his mid twenties he started composing Dooley’s satirical monologues for the Chicago Sunday Evening Post. Many of Dooley’s political views would not have been shared by his author. A latter-day version of Dooley therefore might be TV’s Comedy Central creation Stephen Colbert.

Mr.Dooley was never shy about expressing his opinions. In, for example, a column about the vexed topic of immigration (and remember this was the 1890s) Dooley, himself an immigrant, favours the lowering of the portcullis to prevent the entry of further migrants to the USA. Dooley tells Hennessy, whose own cousin is due to arrive in Chicago shortly

Tis time we put our back agin’ the open door an’ kept out th’ savage horde. If that cousin of yers expects to cross, he’d better tear for th’ ship. In a few minutes th’ gates will be down an’ when th’ oppressed world comes hikin’ acrost to th’ haven of refuge, th’ Goddess of Liberty will meet them at th’ dock with an axe in her hand

Dunne coined a host of well-known aphorisms that have entered the great American lexicon, phrases such as ‘trust everyone, but cut the cards,’ ‘the past only looks pleasant because it isn’t here,’ ‘larceny is the sincerest form of flattery,’ and his pithy appraisal of corrupt big city politics ‘a vote on the tallysheet is worth two in the box.’ He may also have coined the famous truism, ‘All politics are local’ an observation usually ascribed to the late House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neill.

Perhaps Dooley’s most pointed observation concerned Dunne’s own profession. He once said of the newspaper business that …

The newspaper does ivrything for us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.

The reference to comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable has been adopted and claimed as a mantra by many journalists, writers and activists.

Despite the numerous barbs aimed at his administration President Theodore Roosevelt contrived to be on very friendly terms with Dunne. Roosevelt would regularly read out Dunne’s columns at cabinet meetings to alert the nation’s political leaders to the vox populi – Dooley being seen as a man of the people and as reflecting the opinions of the man in the street.


Dunne himself, in 1902, married one Margaret Ives Abbot, who just happened to be the first American woman to have won an Olympic gold medal, she was the women’s golf champion at the 1900 Paris Olympiad. In 1910, after writing more than 700 columns, Dunne ended the career of the garrulous Roscommon bartender and no more was heard from Mr. Dooley.

Irish-American writer, Finlay Peter Dunne, humorist, journalist and one of America’s most successful newspaper columnists, was born 148 years ago, on this day.


On this day – 12 June 1730 – The robbery of the Golden Lion in Ballyheigue, Co.Kerry.


The small picturesque coastal town of Ballyheigue in Co.Kerry is close to Banna Strand which briefly played host to Sir Roger Casement in Easter Week of 1916, before he was rounded up by the RIC and escorted to London to be hanged on 4 August. Another ill-fated tourist in the area, in 1731, was a Danish ship named the Golden Lion, en route from Copenhagen to India, which made an impromptu visit to an inconvenient sandbank and never left. It’s by far the most interesting of some twenty-six shipwrecked vessels around the village.

What made the story of the Golden Lion so compelling was the fact that, in addition to its captain Johan Heitman and the eighty-six other Danish crew-members it also carried twelve sizeable chests loaded with silver bullion.

Kerching indeed!

Although the ship was not entirely wrecked and might well have been floated off the rocks, the locals were having none of it. Their hospitality knew no bounds when they discovered what the cargo was composed of. The 87 Danes were rapidly rescued and far more generously treated than their marauding 9th and 10th century predecessors would have been had they been spotted off the Kerry coast.

Not that the local grandee, Thomas Crosbie, was fooled by the willingness of the local population to share their meagre fare with their Viking guests. He smelled a rat and decided that the locals were up to no good. He raced, post haste, to the beach where the Golden Lion lay stranded and chased away anyone he felt might have designs upon the cargo. He then spirited away the bullion himself, for safe keeping of course. But then that was all right wasn’t it, because he was an avaricious landlord and not a starving peasant. Contemporary records refer to the Good Samaritan Crosbie as having ‘[gone] to the strand, [driven] back possible villains, comforted the sailors and had the silver transported to his own home’

The silver was held in a tower on Crosbie’s premises until arrangements could be made to get it somewhere safer. Undoubtedly the entirely altruistic aristocrat – if that isn’t a contradiction in terms – had no intention of claiming any reward for his act of mercy. Hopefully that was the case anyway as he never got an opportunity to stake any such claim owing to the fact that the silver was nicked. Tragically, given the scale of his generosity and public-spiritedness, Crosbie died before he got a chance to restore the bullion to its rightful owners. Whatever Crosbie’s intentions might have been his widow was not at all philanthropic. She demanded salvage payments from the Danish owners. Choosing to ignore the role of Thomas Crosbie in saving their dosh from the depredations of the north Kerry peasantry the Danes counter-claimed that the ship and its contents were not salvage as it had not been in danger of sinking – which was rather beside the point really.

While the matter was being adjudicated around a hundred enterprising locals decided to intervene. Now Ballyheigue also happens to have been the birthplace of the great Irish economist Richard Cantillon – who invented the word ‘entrepreneur’. He might well have described this group in such terms. Most of the North Kerry entrepreneurial class, albeit with blackened faces, surrounded the Crosbie household, broke into the tower, killed two of the Danish guards and made off with the loot on carts. Cantillon wrote in the early 18th century about the movement of gold and silver through the economy. However this was probably not the sort of movement he had in mind.

The theft was believed to have been carried out by certain members of the Kerry upper crust. Sir Maurice Crosbie of Ardfert, a relative of the late lamented Thomas, conducted an investigation. The Danish Asiatic Company offered a generous reward of 10 per cent of the value of the cargo for its recovery. One of the alleged robbers turned states evidence and ten men were charged with the theft. All were acquitted at a subsequent trial in Dublin that was a bizarre saga itself, involving, perjury, suicide and the suspected poisoning of a witness.

To date just over £7000 worth of the bullion has been recovered. It may well have all been melted down by now or transported out of the area. However, far be it from me to spark a stampede of silver prospectors to the pristine Kerry coastline, but there has to be an outside chance that it might be buried somewhere near Ballyheigue. Think about that one for a moment.

The Revenue Commissioners announced that the Golden Lion had been robbed of its cargo 285 years ago, on this day

A day of American Civil War events at the Hay/Kells Festival 25 June 2015 – 


2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the cataclysmic American Civil War. Up to 200,000 Irish-born soldiers participated in this divisive conflict, on both sides. 150,000 fought for the Union in units like the Irish Brigade and Corcoran’s Irish Legion while 20,000 fought for the Confederacy – the most famous of these being Gen. Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, the highest-ranking Irish officer on either side of the conflict.

We will be marking this anniversary with a day of talks and music at the 3rd annual Hay/Kells Festival on 25 June. We are delighted that we have managed to get together the acknowledged experts in this field and will be putting them under one roof for the day – the roof in question is that of St. Columba’s Church of Ireland, Market Street Kells, host to the recent Gallipoli 100 weekend of commemorative events.

The line up for the day includes …

10am: Damien Shiels
Damien Shiels is author of the definitive and highly influential work The Irish in the American Civil War.

11am: Glen Gendzel
American historian Glen Gendzel talks about the story of California in the American Civil War.

12pm: Robert Doyle
Robert Doyle tells the story of Carlow-born Civil War veteran Myles Keogh on the anniversary of his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

2pm: Myles Dungan
The presenter of the RTÉ Radio 1 History Show will highlight the life of Oldcastle Civil War veteran, the author and journalist Charles Halpine, and his hilarious creation Myles O’Reilly.

3pm: Tom Bartlett
Thomas Bartlett of Aberdeen University talks about President Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.

4pm: David Gleeson
David Gleeson (The Green and the Gray) looks at the Irish who fought for the Confederate States of America between 1861 and 1865.

At the same venue at 8.30 Myles Dungan combines forces with Matthew Gilsenan of the Celtic Tenors in The Blue, the Gray and the Green an evening of Irish music associated with the American Civil War. This will include classics like Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore, He is far from the land, No Irish Need Apply, Paddy’s Lamentation, Shenandoah, When Johnny comes marching home and many more.


You can book for all the events on 046 9240055 / 9240081- or via the Hay Festival / Kells website here

If these guys could be there you can be sure they would …


On This Day – Drivetime – 5 June 1916 – The death of Lord Kitchener

world war propaganda_Britons Lord Kitchener Alfred Leete 1914 example_big

A number of highly significant Irishmen died violently in 1916 – Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, James Connolly and their associates to name but a few who were shot in May. Pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington had been summarily executed during the Rising. His brother in law Tom Kettle, barrister, poet and former MP followed them all in September when he died at the Battle of Ginchy on the Western front.

In between, another famous Irishman came to an unfortunate end. However not many people realise that Herbert, Lord Kitchener, hero of Omdurman, scourge of the Boers and Secretary of State for War in the British Cabinet was actually Irish. It was not something he tended to highlight himself.

But he was, in fact, as much a Kerryman as Mick O’Dwyer or John B.Keane. He was born Horatio Herbert Kitchener on 24 June 1850 in Ballylongford, near Listowel. His father, Lt.Col. Henry Horatio Kitchener, had purchased land under the terms of the Encumbered Estates Act designed to buy out bankrupt property owners after the Famine – so a sort of 19th century NAMA.

Kitchener left Kerry at the age of fourteen when the family moved to Switzerland for the health of his ailing mother. The future war lord nurtured a similar attitude to his native land as had that other great 19th century military figure, the Duke of Wellington, who allegedly observed of his Irish birth that, ‘being born in a stable does not make one a horse’. His dislike of the Irish, of course, did not stop Kitchener, like a lot of other Anglo-Irish grandees with a minimal knowledge of the country of their birth, from claiming to have an informed insight into how the country should be governed. Kitchener was for lots of stick and very little carrot.

Not that his counsel on the subject would have been widely canvassed. Kitchener made his reputation in faraway wars, starting with the Sudan and his victory at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. There he showed his compassionate side by digging up the remains of the Mahdi, slayer of General Gordon in the 1880s humiliation of Khartoum, and having his bones scattered. Even Winston Churchill, not renowned for his squeamishness, who was covering the war as a reporter, was disgusted with the slaughter of, in particular, Sudanese prisoners.

The de facto Kerryman also made his presence felt in the Boer War where his scorched earth policy and his creation of concentration camps brought the Boers to their knees in the most ruthless possible fashion. Kitchener didn’t have much time for uppity colonials.

When WW1 broke out Kitchener was quickly appointed Secretary of State for War and his iconic moustache and index finger were used as recruiting devices on the famous ‘Your country needs you’ posters.’

In a final gesture of solidarity with his native land Kitchener refused all requests for the incorporation of the southern Irish Volunteers as a unit into his New Army, despite the passage of the Home Rule act before hostilities commenced. The Ulster Volunteers however, signatories of a covenant pledging opposition to a democratic decision taken by the British parliament, became the 36th Ulster division. Consistency to Kitchener was as dangerous a vice as sentimentality.

Kitchener, who harboured a pathological hatred of journalists probably owed his appointment to the Cabinet in 1914 to a newspaper campaign designed to force the Liberal government to put this crusty old Tory in charge of the Army and Navy. Having created him the newspapers of the Press Baron Lord Northcliffe, the Dublin born Alfred Harmsworth from Chapelizod, sought to undo their own handiwork when they campaigned against him in 1915, blaming the Secretary of State for War for a chronic shortage of shells on the western front. The public sided with the most famous moustache in history and burned copies of the Times and Mail in the streets.

In June 1916 Kitchener set sail for talks in Russia on board the HMS Hampshire. The ship hit a German mine and sank, taking the Secretary of State for War with it. The reluctant Kerryman died 99 years ago, on this day.


On This Day – 29.5.1917 Birth of John F.Kennedy


It’s one of the most popular ‘what ifs’ of the last fifty years. ‘What if it had been raining on 22 November 1963 in Dallas?’

Obviously there would have been no Presidential open-top motorcade and Lee Harvey Oswald – or the Mafia, or the man on the grassy knoll, or the four French hired assassins from Marseilles, or whatever other conspiracy theory you subscribe to – would have been denied the opportunity to demonstrate his or their peerless marksmanship and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, would probably have seen out his first term and been re-elected in November 1964.

JFK was originally elected with just over 49% of the popular vote in the 1960 race for the White House with Richard Nixon. While in office his popularity rarely dipped below 60%. After the Cuban missile crisis his ratings were in the high 70s. In a poll of 1960 voters taken after his death 70% claimed to have chosen him as President.

Of course there’s another great ‘what if’ when it comes to the career of John F.Kennedy. What if his older brother Joseph Kennedy Jr, had survived World War 2? Would John F have become Bobby, his older sibling’s loyal Doberman, rather than Senator and President?

He was arguably, the first conscious political ‘brand’. With iconographers like Theodore Sorenson and Pierre Salinger cultivating and honing the Kennedy narrative he could hardly fail. Fifty years later he is a mythic figure. Myth=branding + time.

But the skein of myth is easily unravelled.

For example, he wasn’t even the youngest American president. When Theodore Roosevelt took over the office after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901 he was nine months younger than Kennedy.

And his credentials as a supposed political progressive don’t stand up to too much examination. In 1957 he opposed Eisenhower’s civil rights legislation. He persisted, when in office, with the Democratic party practice of appointing dodgy judges to federal courts in the south. One such JFK appointee, a man called Harold Cox, once described African Americans as ‘chimpanzees’ after he had been elevated to the federal bench.

During his first term as a senator Kennedy teamed up with the darling of the Republican right, Barry Goldwater, to try and keep rock and roll music off American radio stations. He presided over the assassination of a supposed ally (and fellow Catholic) in Ngo Dinh Diem, beleaguered president of South Vietnam.

But he also achieved a lot of good in a very short life

Take just one month of his Presidency – June 1963. On June 10 this apparent cold war warrior made a major foreign policy speech at the American University in Washington DC. In a world dominated by ideas of mutually assured destruction he appeared to extend an olive branch to the Russians.

The following day, after Governor George Wallace of Alabama was forced by Federal intervention to, quite literally, step aside and allow two African American students pass into the campus of the University of Alabama, Kennedy made a largely improvised address on national radio and TV, promising equal access to public schools and enhanced voting rights, to African American citizens.

Then on 26 June he made his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech (the ‘ein’ was superfluous) a short time after viewing the newly erected Berlin wall. Oh, yes, and, of course, he dropped into Ireland for four days on his way home.

Not a bad month’s work really.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the USA, was born 98 years ago, on this day.