With rain threatened we all descended on King House at about noon to prepare for the event. As it happened the day was bright but as the afternoon wore on conditions tended to deteriorate but it stayed fine for our service. This is the 10th year we have commemorated this day and ne’er a drop of rain have we seen. God’s light shines on his brave souls, or so we like to think.
A lovely crowd gathered, it seemed larger than previous years but whether one or a thousand it is the remembrance that matters. The service went like clockwork and the priest Fr Donal Morris did an excellent job, representing all Christian callings. It was my honour and privilege to read out the Roll of Honour for the day. Traditionally we read out 10 names but always things happen between cup and lip and this year we eventually had a thirteen.
As we were in Boyle and because we had never blown the trumpet in the past for the town, I thought Boyle’s sacrifice should be honoured. It is not a widely known fact but approximately 120 men from Boyle were killed in the Great War. Applying army statistics means that there were also approximately 500 wounded soldiers from the district. These figures must have been an awful burden on such a small community when you think that in the 1911 census in Boyle Urban and Rural figures there was a population of approximately 3700 people. These men were from the active male population and probably relate to 50% of that cohort, this obviously had the effect of thrusting a lot of hard work on the female population and on the old and young males. It must have affected the town for years afterwards.
To pick 10 or 11 names from this list of 120 was a difficult choice and I decided to put in two men from the big houses, two officers to show that all classes of society were affected and I thought it would be nice if all brothers could be included and that immediately brought me up to ten, my supposedly allotted number. However on a chance meeting with a lady from the town in the Boyle Church of Ireland graveyard when I explained my visit was to look up Old Soldiers and she explained she was collecting a database of all graves in this very old graveyard, did we chance on a common cause. Sandra McCrann was the lady, who I had known since we first hit the town a good few years ago and she told me of a relative of hers who had been killed in the Great War but she knew absolutely nothing about him. This set my inquisitive mind rolling and I promised to find out about him. Both she and I decided to attack from both sides of our fence and arranged to meet in a few days time. She did her family investigations and I did my basic research and we found out nearly all there is to know about the poor man who died 94 years ago. He certainly was not on our list of 120 dead but now he is and he has rightly found his place among men he must have known well. The list was now 11 but there had to be one more. For months now with the help of a lady called Vivian Roche from Galway, I have been piecing together the life of her great grandfather, a man from Carlow who died at Ladysmith in South Africa in 1900. She said she would be up for our service and I thought it right that a man who had given his life for his country should be in there with the lads from Boyle. So now we had 12. Then I thought the first man from Boyle also probably deserves his place on the list, so we eventually finished up with 13. My chairman was thinking I was out of order but if it was down to me I would have read out the names of a million men or at least the 2300 Connaught Rangers who were killed in that brutal conflict.
Here are the names I read out and I hope the reader remembers them as we all did on Sunday afternoon.
1.) Pte John Daly No 10540 of 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers. The youngest man from Boyle to be killed and also the first. John was 20 years old when he disappeared on that hectic retreat from Mons in the first few days of the conflict on 26th August 1914. His body was never found and he is remembered on that memorial on the River Marne at La Ferte sous Jouarre along with about a hundred other Connaught Rangers whose bodies were never accounted for in those disastrous first few weeks. John was from Green Street in Boyle.
2.) Lt John Irwin Fraser of 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers. John was born in China and was the son of the Surgeon General to the Royal Navy who lived at Riversdale House in Knockvicar. His sister married Capt Charles O’Sullivan then of the 4th Battalion and their child was Maureen O’Sullivan, the famous film actor. John died of wounds received in the defence of Soupir Farm on the River Aisne on the 14th September 1914 when the Rangers gave the Germans a bloody nose as they pushed them back from The Marne. On that day also Charles O’Sullivan, who was acting Lt Col of the 2nd Battalion was badly injured and took no further part in the fighting. John is buried at Vailley British Cemetery on the Aisne. He was 29 years old.
3.) The next day and only a few hundred yards away from Soupir Farm, John’s friend 2nd Lt Richard Henry Cole Magenis of the 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and the owner of Drumdoe House near Corrigeenroe was killed. Richard was 27 years old. Richard left behind him six younger sisters who were not interested in handling the affairs of the estate and the house and lands were sold to Sir John French, who was Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Richard’s body was never found and he is also remembered on La Ferte Sous Jouarre Memorial.
4.) There were two brothers, Lance Sergeant Michael Keane, No 7621 of 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers. Michael was 30 years old when he died from his wounds received at Polygon Wood during the 1st Battle of Ypres on 30th October 1914. A scene of particularly heavy fighting when many Connaught Rangers lost their lives. Michael was from Quarry Lane in Boyle and he is buried in Ypres Town Cemetery Extension.
5.) Michael’s brother Pte Edward Bernard Kane (Keane), No 4360 of 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers. Edward was 35 years old when he was killed in action at the end of the 1st Battle of Ypres on 6th December 1914. Edward’s body was never found and he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. Edward was also from Quarry Lane in Boyle.
6.) Then there were four brothers, sons of Patrick, a shoe maker and his wife, Ellen who lived on Eaton Terrace in Boyle. Eaton Terrace was where part of Patrick Street is now around Clarke’s pub, a very populous part of Boyle where about 350 townsfolk lived. The first brother to die was Pte Thomas Wynne No 7779 of the 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers, who was killed during the 2nd Battle of Ypres on 26th April 1915. Thomas was aged 30. His body was never found and he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.
7.) The second brother to die was Pte John William Wynne No 10996 of the 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment. John had been over in Halifax in Yorkshire working when war broke out and he enlisted. He was killed in action in Gallipoli on 6th August 1915 as the 8th Battalion landed at Suvla. John William was 29 years old and he is remembered on the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey.
8.) John’s brother Francis was the next to die. Pte Francis Wynne No 9900 of the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers was killed at Ronssoy Wood on the Somme on the 21st March 1918 at the start of Kaiserlacht, Germany’s ill fated final push in what was to be the start of the end of the war. Francis was 27 years old. With Russia out of the war, Germany transferred all its eastern divisions over to the Western Front. They attacked and caught the Allies by surprise, the unfortunate 6th Battalion lay in their path and were overrun, they lost 8o% of their numbers on that and the following couple of days and never were able to operate as a fighting force afterwards. Michael is buried at Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery Extension on the Somme.
9.) Finally and very sadly Pte Michael Wynne No 15098 of the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers was killed at Le Cateau in Northern France on the 10th October 1918, just a month before the end of the war. Michael was 29 when he was killed, he had fought at Gallipoli, Salonika and Egypt and must have felt that he had a charmed life. Michael is buried at Montay-Neuvilly Road Cemetery, Montay, just outside of Le Cateau which is south of Mons where it all began over four years previously. Michael is alongside 19 other soldiers of the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers who died round that date.. So near yet so far away.
And there were two more brothers:-
10.) Pte John Dodd No 8918 of 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers. John died at Amara in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) on 9th July 1916 and he is buried at the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq. John was 28 when he died.
11.) Pte William Dodd No 4599 of 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers. William was killed at Ramleh in Israel on 10th March 1918 and he is buried at Ramleh War Cemetery. William was 24 when he was killed. The Dodd brothers were from Green Street in Boyle.
12.) We now mention the latest name to grace our pages of Boyle war dead, a man who emigrated to Canada with his brother looking for work and fetched up in Saskatchewan, where they married and both had children, unfortunately one of their wives died leaving one child, war was declared and Pte John Burns Taylor No 100401 of the Signalling Corps, attached to the 16th Battalion Manitoba Regiment, left his daughter Alice with his brother, William Glover Taylor and set off for war in Europe. George was killed in action at Cambrai in Northern France on 1st October 1918. George had grown up in Bridge Street in Boyle and he was 32 years old. As news was filtering through to George’s parents in Boyle of their sons tragic death, they received a telegram from Canada informing them of William Glover’s death from influenza. He was a victim of that vicious pandemic that killed millions of people in 1918 and 1919. The two Taylor brothers had died within a week of each other 6000 miles apart.
13.) Last but not least we have Pte Peter Dunne No 3068 of the 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers who died at the relief of Ladysmith on 10th April 1900 during the South African War. Peter’s name is commemorated on the Ladysmith Memorial which is in the grounds of All Saints Anglican Church on Murchison Street along with 66 other Connaught Rangers who died in the relief of that town. Peter was from Carlow Town but living in Dublin where he left behind him his wife Jane and two young daughters. Annie the youngest was not four months old.
So whenever war is discussed think of these men who died so that you could live and do your best with whatever powers you have of not letting another war happen.
*In gathering the above information , I have been helped considerably by Mr Oliver Fallon, The Connaught Rangers Association archivist.