Marching As To War – The Men of Coachford and Aghabullogue Parish 1914-1918

By Anthony Greene

And the guns fell silent. Seconds, minutes, hours, no screech of shrapnel, no boom of big guns. Just silence. And then the amazed and amazing reaction of the birds, as they tentatively, then more daringly, then joyfully sang out the glorious anthem of doomed and living youth. World War 1, the Great War, had come to a halt.

11 am. 11th November. 1918. One Hundred Years Ago.

And the khaki clad men of Coachford, of Aghabullogue, of Rylane, like the men of England, of Germany, of the United States, of France, of so many countries were able to look around them. And ask a question. Where are my comrades? My neighbours? Why are we here in the hell on God’s earth?

And who were they, these men of a long forgotten war? The Tommies, the Paddies, the NCOs, the officers? Some are with us, taking their last rest in a Country Churchyard, in Christchurch or Magourney Graveyards. Some are in local cemeteries. And some have resting places “from Dunkirk to Belgrade”. And some lie in unmarked and lonely outposts “known only unto God”

So here are some very brief notes about the men who marched to the beat of the drum, fought, lived or died on the green fields of France, on the heights of Sedd-el-Bahr, on the black waters of the North Sea. Of the men who came home, changed, changed utterly, to a country similarly changed. We do not glorify, nor do we sentimentally sport red poppies, but we may remember that these men lived, and followed their beliefs. And we respect.

BRIEF LIVES

WE ARE THE DEAD:

Jeremiah DOWNEY. From Loughleigh, Jeremiah, born June 1893, was the son of Daniel and Julia Downey (Kelleher). Daniel was described as a postal worker and as a labourer. Jeremiah’s siblings were Maurice, Michael, Ellen, Daniel, Bridget, Mary, and Patrick, according to the 1901 and 1911 Census. He joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Pvt, No. 20887 and experienced the Gallipoli and Salonika campaigns. He was particularly unfortunate in that he was on board the auxiliary troop transport HMS OSMANIAH when she was torpedoed while entering Alexandria Harbour on 31st December 1917. His body was recovered, and he lies in the Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria. As his Soldier’s Effects show, he had £6/16/8 in his account and this sum, together with a War Gratuity of £3, was paid to his father. His father also received Jeremiah’s three campaign medals, his Death Medal and a printed sympathy letter from King George V and Queen Mary.

Downey Effects

Charles HILL Charles was the son of Charles, a railway ganger, and Nora (Nano) Hill of Peake, where Nora had a little shop and bakery. Their business was close to Peake Railway Station (now Buckley’s Garage). He joined the Royal Irish Rifles on 18th January 1916 at Maryboro (Portlaoise), where he was a prison warder. He was sent to Mudros and then to Salonika, where he was promoted to corporal, but unfortunately he fell ill, was admitted to a field hospital, but died of dysentery on 24th July 1917. As well as his medals, his possessions were sent home to his family, signed for by his sister Mary. He lies in Salonika (Lambert Road) Military Cemetery.

Hill Effects 1

Thomas LANGTRY (LANGTREE). Thomas Langtry of Dirreen and subsequently Kilabbey was born in 1886. Son of John Langtry, a stonemason, and his wife Julia (Riordan). John Langtry was one of those who built Cloghroe Church, and had a reputation as a fine stonemason. Thomas had brothers Jeremiah, Eugene and John, and sisters Julia, Mary and Margaret. In 1915 he married Catherine McCarthy of Dripsey and they had a son, Thomas. On the outbreak of war, he joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers, Nr, 1 Battalion and saw service in Gallipoli and Salonika, before being transferred to France. He was killed in action, Battle of Ginchy, part of the Somme Campaign. (Incorrectly shown as killed Gallipoli in Irish War Dead). He Is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.

Timothy MAHONY, (MAHONEY). Born 28 May, 1885 in Dirreen, Coachford to Con, an agricultural labourer, and Catherine (Cullinane) Mahony. He had brothers Jeremiah, Daniel, Cornelius and John, and sisters Hannah, Catherine and Mary. He joined the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, Reg. No. 5883. Killed in Action, 18 May 1915, Second Battle of Ypres. He is remembered in Panel 4, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais. His army records are not available due to WW2 bombing on UK Archives.

Maurice Daniel MURPHY. Maurice (Mossie) was born 1st March 1890, son of Maurice and Bridget, initially of Coachford and subsequently Bridge Street, Cork. He trained for the unusual position as billiard marker, but on 14th April 1908 he joined the Royal Navy. He was serving as a stoker on the “Sutlej”, part of a RN squadron based in Naples, when the Messina Earthquake occurred, with extraordinary loss of life. The British ships and some elements of the Russian Navy assisted in rescue efforts, and eighteen year old Moss was presented with the Messina Medal, issued by the King of Italy. He served in several ships of the RN, becoming a Leading Stoker, roughly equivalent to a corporal in the army. He was on the new supercruiser “Indefatigable” when the Turkish fortress of Sedd-el-Bahr was shelled before a declaration of war, with 80 Turkish casualties. He was still on the same ship during the Battle of Jutland when his luck ran out. A German cruiser, “Von der Tann” opened fire and in a tremendous explosion the British ship sank in minutes. Of 1019 on board, only 2 survived, being rescued by the Germans. Moss was not a survivor, and his body was never found. He is remembered on the Naval Memorial in Plymouth.

messina_medal
Messina Medal

MURPHY James Twomey. James (Jim) was the son of Edmond and Hannah (Twomey) Murphy, farmers of Dromatimore, Aghabullogue. Family members included Dan, Katie, Nora, Hannah, Edmond, Maurice and Julia. There was also a servant. Jim went to work with his relatives Twomeys Drapers in Macroom, and later in Dublin. However, he had a wish to travel, so he emigrated to Australia. Landing in Fremantle, he soon had himself established in the drapery business, and seems to have prospered. But as the song says, “My country said son, it’s time to stop rambling. There’s work to be done” and Jim joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in Perth, Number 3436. After brief training he was sent to Egypt via Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and then to France as the Dardanelles Campaign had ended. His unit took part in the Somme Campaign, and Jim was one of those involved, and killed, in the Battle of Pozieres, part of that campaign. An enquiry was held to determine that he had died on or about 24th July 1916, as his body was never found. He is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial and on the War Memorial, Kings Park, Perth. The Australian Archives contain an extensive file of Jim Murphy.

Michael RING. Michael was the son of James and Ellen (Connell) Ring of Mountrivers. The family included John, Jeremiah, Dan, Katie, Patrick, Maurice and James. James was a creamery manager in Aghabullogue. Michael joined the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment as a private, Reg. No. 10271. He was killed in action on 28 July 1917, a few days before the Battle of Passchendaele, so his death probably occurred during a raid. His body was recovered, and he lies in the Dickebusch New Military Cemetery, Leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Michael Ring Medals 1

We fools, now with the foolish dead, 

Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor, –

But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,

And for the secret scriptures of the poor.

(Thomas Kettle).

THOSE WHO RETURNED, SADDER AND WISER MEN

Thomas CRONIN. Thomas was born in April 1889 to Thade and Margaret (Connor) Cronin. Thade or Timothy was an agricultural labourer. Their family included, apart from Thomas: Nora, Jeremiah, Michael, Mary and Margaret. Thomas emigrated to the United States, only to be drafted into the army in 1917. He survived the war, and, returning to the States tried his luck as a gold miner in Nevada, He died in 1959 and is buried in the Veterans’ Cemetery, San Bruno, California.

Thomas Cronin

Denis CROWLEY. Denis was one of the older men to join up. From Main Street, Coachford, and son of Cornelius, a carpenter and Ann (formerly Sweeney), he was born 9th May 1873. He attended Clontead National School and trained as a carpenter. At the outbreak of war, he was working for Robert Bowen Colthurst at Oak Grove, Killinardrish. He joined the army and was placed in the Royal Garrison Artillery. In 1914 he was sent to France serving the mighty guns of war. He was then transferred to the Royal Engineers as a sapper, an extremely dangerous occupation. He was discharged on health grounds in 1917, refused a military pension – nothing changes – and returned to Coachford, living with his niece Ann.

Denis Crowley RGA (3)
Denis Crowley

Batt KELLEHER. Bartholomew, or Batt Kelleher was another survivor, born in Clonmoyle in June 1895 to Patrick and Mary Kelleher. On 22nd August 1914 he joined the Royal Navy, serving on several ships over the next several years until invalided out in 1926. During the war he served on HMS Crescent, a submarine supply ship, but was not involved in direct combat. His most memorable engagement was in the infamous “Battle of May’s Island” when a series of misunderstood communications in the Firth of Forth led to several British ships accidentally ramming each other, under the false impression that they were under German attack, with the loss of four K class submarines and one heavy cruiser so damaged that it had to return to port backwards, the bow having been sheared off in a collision. Just over 100 seamen lost their lives in this fiasco, Kelleher among those who rescued several others. The affair was hushed up at the time, and only fifty years later were the bare details released. Batt emigrated to Canada, spent some time in China and returned to end his days peacefully at home.

Edward Daniel MURPHY. Born Dirreen in 1884, his parents were Edmond Daniel and Ellen Murphy of Coachford. He had emigrated to England, where he was a pipe fitter living at 30 St Paul Street, Islington when he joined the Royal Fusiliers on 29th March 1915. He served initially in England, then was sent to East Africa , serving from 10 April 1915 to 5 June 1917. At this date he was discharged for desertion following a Board of Enquiry, and seems to have disappeared from the records.

Francis MURPHY. Born in 1889, his parents were Edmond D. and Ellen Murphy, so he was a brother of Edward Daniel. He was a creamery manager but he joined the Irish Guards Machine Gun Battalion on 11th November 1914 in Cork, his regimental number was 5930. He was incorrectly reported as KIA on Ist September 1916 at the Battle of Fleurs, part of the Somme Campaign, when in fact he seems to have been on home leave. He received his full complement of medals, re-joined the colours on 1st February 1917. He was demobbed from the army in March 1919 while serving in Germany.

Thus, on 11th November 1918, ended the war to end wars, and the weary officers and men returned to a land fit for heroes, where their name liveth for evermore and we shall not forget. So they were told.

NOTES:

I thought it appropriate not to include family details, other than what is available on the Census forms of 1901 and 1911, as most of the men listed still have family in this area and are entitled to a degree of privacy.

The officers have already been mentioned in our ACR article “In a Country Churchyard” (https://acrheritage.info/blog/local-history/in-a-country-churchyard-christchurch-magourney/) so we are now concentrating on the lower ranks. I have listed all I could find, but there may have been others, the records being so incomplete. I am surprised by the very high death toll, much higher than the average.

I used the following sites:

Ireland’s War Dead.

Ancestry UK.

National Archives.

Australian National Archives.

National Archives UK.

Irish Newspaper Archives.

I am grateful to Andy Kelleher, Joan Hinchion, Tony Dwyer, Seamus and Carmel Murphy for family information.

Naturally, if there are errors, they are my own.

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