The conversation about the 100th anniversary of World War 1 this last month is on-going, with reference to poppys and Easter lilies, as part of the story. It should be a lot simpler as it has always been about remembering the people who died or who were injured in World War 1 and during the 1916-21 period in Irish history, without exclusion. In Kilbeggan we have two small memorials on the Green remembering World War 1 and Ireland between 1916-21, almost beside each other, as it’s the same history, the same nation, and in many ways the same ideals.
Ever before Donald Trump there was Barbara Bush who said “War is not nice”. Indeed it was organised slaughter of brave innocents by leaders, who became known as the “widow makers”. Over ninety per cent of those killed were in the infantry and aged between 17 and 25. It is still hard to believe that the Battle of the Somme involved over two million people on a 30 mile front. People were machine gunned, trenches bombed, killed by shrapnel, dirty water, rats and lice spreading disease, chlorine gas, liquid fire and more in the most horrific war of mankind.
We should remember the full known list of Kilbeggan dead (23) because they all had a story to tell – John Boland (1917), James Doonan (2017), Simon Fagan (1914), Daniel Flynn (1915), Tom Fogarty (1917), Joe Hamilton (1916), James Heffernan (1915), John Lynagh (1916) Joseph McCormack (1914), Michael McCormack (1915), Patrick McCormack (1915), Patrick McGlynn (1918), Matthias McManus (1918), James Nannery (1919), Christy O’Nell (1914), Patrick O’Neill (1915), John Nooney (1917), Joseph Pilkington (1916), Robert O’Grady (1917), Michael Tiernan (1915), Joseph Tierney (1915), John and Michael Tormey .
The individual tragedies concerning Kilbeggan included Christy Neill, who died in September 1914 at Ypres just 42 days after joining and his brother Pat was killed at Gallipoli. Another tragedy was Michael Tormey, Leinster Regiment and John Tormey, Connaught Rangers , who both died on 26th April 1915. The three McCormack brothers died in the war and they were the sons of John a musician by profession who gave violin lessons to children of the gentry including Boyd Rochfort in Middleton. Four Kilbeggan men are buried at the Menin Gate Memorial with over 54,000 names unidentified in “Known Unto God” graves – James Heffernan, Leinster Regiment died 12/5/1915; Michael “Dawson” McCormack 16th March 1916 whose brother Patrick“Stack” was killed just the day before him (aged 22) both at Hooge; Joe Pilkington, Machine Gun Corps, 16th March 1916; and John Tierney, Connaught Rangers.
One of the most notable was Sergeant Dan Flynn, Main Street Kilbeggan who may have been the first Clerk of Petty Sessions to volunteer in Ireland. He had been a Sergeant in the American Army before the war and was 34 when he joined. He died in the Balkans on 17th December 1915 and there is some account of his life there through letters home. His last letter home was on 15th December when he stated “I will never forget this if I get away with my life” and he wished the family a happy Christmas and thanked them for the cake sent to him. He was killed a few days later but the family only got final confirmation in 1919. One of the more unusual men was Private M.J. McManus (died 17/11/18 serving the Western Front and was buried in Karori Cemetery, Wellington. He related back to Mathias McManus founder of Kilbeggan Distillery and whose son John was the Kilbeggan leader during the 1798 rebellion period in Kilbeggan.
One who did survive was our beloved Moll T.Carey’s father Jim who lost a leg in the war but came back and managed to work. He sent home beautiful French Post Cards from the front that were shown on RTE many years ago. He won a Military Medal by saving a comrade and also got a DCM
Whatever you believe, people should stop for a minute to remember the brave people who died. It costs nothing but a little humanity and it should apply equally to people who fought during the period 1916-1921. They were all Irish and Kilbeggan people.