Forgotten Moycullen War Heroes – Local Soldiers in the Nineteenth Century British Army
The history of Galway men serving in the British forces is somewhat of an untold story, despite being a subject right at the heart of ‘our own’ history in the nineteenth century. The long reign of Queen Victoria had seen a boom in industrialisation and the expansion of the British Empire across the globe. While the rest of the United Kingdom boasted industries and dockyards to occupy adult men, Ireland’s poorer agrarian society had few such options. It was unsurprising, therefore, that Ireland would prove to be such a fruitful source of war recruits 1. The following is a study of 26 such recruits, all from Moycullen, in the half-century from 1810-1860.
Twenty six Moycullen recruits 1812-1861
|Name||Born||Enlisted||Regiment||Notable Service||Exit||Reason for Discharge|
|John Lee||1791||1812||Connaught Rangers||France||1814||Wound on left thigh (Battle of Orthez)|
|Robert Willoughby||1787||1819||86th Regiment||East Indies||1823||Rupture in the left groin|
|Patrick Sullivan||1804||1822||67th Regiment||Afganistan||1845||Disease of the chest|
|Patrick Kelly||1808||1828||87th Regiment||Mauritius||1843||Chronic rheumatism|
|Roger O’Connor||1818||1836||15th Regiment||Ceylon||1858||Unfit after almost 21 years service|
|Peter Mulkerns||1820||1838||77th Regiment||Malta||1841||Disease and disability|
|Patrick Walsh||1823||1844||Royal Artillery||East Indies||1864||Completed 21 years (full) service|
|Thomas McCarthy||1828||1845||55th Regiment||Turkey||1856||Injured since the Battle of Inkermann|
|Patrick Hourney||1829||1846||23rd Regiment||East Indies||1866||Completed 21 years (full) service|
|John Ainsborough||1829||1846||Canadian Rifles||North America||1867||Completed 21 years (full) service|
|Michael Conneely||1827||1847||24th Regiment||East Indies||1849||Gunshot to the foot and right ankle|
|Patrick Gill||1830||1847||57th Regiment||Ionian Islands||1855||Shoulder injury – no power in left arm|
|John Regan||1828||1847||24th Regiment||East Indies||1851||Gunshot to left tight – impaired|
|Peter Clancey||1829||1849||20th Regiment||Crimea||1855||Right-arm wound (Battle of Inkerman)|
|John Finerty||1835||1852||9th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1853||Disease of the cervical glands|
|John Gavin||1835||1852||9th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1853||Condensation of the lungs|
|James Welby||1835||1852||11th Regiment||Australia||1861||Disease of left knee and shin bones|
|Andrew Quinn||1830||1854||39th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1856||Disease of the lungs|
|Joseph Connors||1839||1857||3rd Rifle Brigade||East Indies||1869||Unfit for service – ongoing weakness|
|John Coen||1839||1857||Connaught Rangers||East Indies||1880||Reached limit of Service|
|Martin Keady||1839||1859||Artillery – Indian Force||Served ‘at home’||1880||Completed 21 years (full) service|
|John Caulfield||1841||1860||10th Regiment||South Africa||1865||Injuries to both legs|
|Daniel Conroy||1841||1860||10th Regiment||South Africa||1865||Bronchitis chronica|
|Patrick Edward Stoon||1837||1860||69th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1861||Unfit for the duties of a soldier|
|Martin McDonough||1844||1861||Royal Artillery||Canada||1872||Pneumonia, December 1871 (Canada)|
|Thomas Noone||1844||1861||Royal Artillery||East Indies||1881||Completion of service|
As can be seen, the average age at attestation was just over 19 years and this is somewhat lower than similar studies in the north and east of the county2. The average age at discharge (‘Exit’) is markedly lower, however, at under 30 years3. The men were exclusively labourers prior to attestation (‘Enlisted’), with only variations of same ever listed e.g. Finerty and Gavin list themselves as having been ‘Grooms’ prior to enlistment4. The fact that four of the men completed the maximum 21 years of service, with one even exceeding that, is both impressive and unusual.
Private John Lee injured at Battle of Orthez.
During the early part of the century enlisting could mean joining ‘for life’, sometimes cut short at the end of a French weapon or by disease or disability. The first of the listed soldiers is Private John Lee of the 88th Regiment of Foot (later the Connaught Rangers), one of as many as 160,000 Irishmen to ‘attest’ in the twenty years to 1815. Lee enlisted in 1812, aged 18, and served for two and a half years before being invalided at the Battle of Orthez on February 27th 18145. That battle was fought as the Peninsular War was coming to an end, with a British-Portuguese force soundly defeating the French. Lee suffered a gun-shot wound to the leg leaving him permanently invalided.
Patrick Sullivan gets promotion to Sergeant for service in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While eight of the listed men are noted as having served in the East Indies in their ‘notable service’, in fact others like Patrick Sullivan also served there in his eighteen years abroad – in his case with distinction in modern India (Kanpur) and Pakistan (Sukkur). His bravery in Afghanistan too is worthy of mention, notably in engagements at Kabul and Jalalabad during 1841 and 1842. Having been court-martial-ed and even imprisoned earlier in his career, Sullivan proved his worth time and again before eventual promotion to Corporal and Sergeant – quite an achievement for the time6. Sullivan was stationed at Kussowlie Barracks in northern India7 in the latter part of his career, which had spanned a remarkable 23 years, before discharge in 1845.
The performance of the remaining men also makes for an interesting study. Twenty of the twenty-five soldiers served abroad as opposed to in Ireland or Britain (‘at home’). In truth, the performance of the men varied widely, with alcohol too often a problem- an issue throughout the army in this period. One of the best and worst military records one could ever wish to view can be seen in the shape of Moycullen men Patrick Hourney and John Coen8.
Five good conduct badges awarded to Moycullen man Patrick Hourney on service in the East Indies.
Firstly, it was noted that that conduct of Patrick Hourney had been exceptional. He had never been entered in the Regimental Defaulter’s Book and had never been tried by Court Martial. He served 13 years in the East Indies with his conduct and performance noted as “very good”. His service papers confirm that on discharge he was “in possession of five good conduct badges, he had received the Punjab War Medal and two clasps for Mooltan and Goosjerat, the Indian Mutiny Medal and Silver Medal, with gratuity of five pounds for good conduct and long service”. Despite receiving a gunshot wound in his right thigh during the Indian mutiny on 30th June 1857, Hourney had served on before eventual discharge in 1866 having completed a full 21 years of service.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Private John Coen whose conduct had been “very bad”. On his discharge papers, it was commented that he was not in possession of any good conduct badges and that his name had appeared no fewer than fifty-six times in the Regiment Defaulter’s Book of which three were of a serious nature resulting in Court Martial. In an effort to excuse some of his behaviour, his superiors did state that he was “a clean soldier and respectful to his officers”despite being “addicted to drink”.
Emigration hits Irishmen enlistment into Army but Moycullen men continue to serve across the Empire
As the century progressed, the percentage of Irishmen in the Army dropped considerably, both in number and as a percentage of the army total. This is partly due to the drop in the Irish population as the level of emigration to the U.S. soared, but also partly due to the changes in the outlook of Irishmen toward the end of the century. Nevertheless, Moycullen soldiers continued to serve across the empire, with the record of those who served in the final quarter century captured as follows:
|Name||Born||Enlisted||Regiment||Notable Service||Exit||Reason for Discharge|
|John Daly||1853||1877||68th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1878||Unfit for further service|
|Edward Devaney||1860||1879||41st Brigade||Malta||1891||As per proceedings|
|John Kearns||1861||1879||36th Regiment||Served ‘at home’||1881||General disability|
|Thomas Hurney||1863||1880||Galway Artillery||Served ‘at home’||1900||Reorganisation|
|Nicholas Walsh||1858||1880||68th Regiment||Egypt||1892||Completion of service|
|Thomas Corcoran||1863||1883||Connaught Rangers||Served ‘at home’||1895||Discharged|
|John Walsh||1864||1883||Connaught Rangers||India||1895||Period of engagement reached|
|Michael Kelly||1865||1884||Scots Guards||Egypt||1896||Limit reached|
|Andrew Kane||1867||1886||Connaught Rangers||India||1891||Discharged|
|John Halloran||1867||1887||Royal Artillery||Singapore||1903||Limit of Service|
|Patrick Earner||1871||1889||Connaught Rangers||Cyprus||1903||Discharged at own request|
|Peter Halloran||1876||1895||Connaught Rangers||Served ‘at home’||1895||Misstated age at attestation|
|Michael Coyne||1878||1896||Connaught Rangers||Served ‘at home’||1896||Purchased release|
|Patrick Coen||1874||1894||Royal Artillery||Yemen||1904||Released (after theft)|
|John Keady||1880||1898||Connaught Rangers||Served ‘at home’||1898||Purchased at drill|
|Thomas Davoren||1880||1898||Connaught Rangers||Served ‘at home’||1898||Purchased release|
|Patrick Mellia||1877||1899||Coldstream Guards||Served ‘at home’||1900||Discharged|
|William Madden||1880||1899||Royal Artillery||Served ‘at home’||1901||Promoted, then deserted|
The key averages of the later soldiers remains in line with the data given, albeit the age at discharge was much younger given the much shorter duration of service. The substantial drop-out rate and a proportionate general performance drop is also noteworthy. Scathing remarks were reserved for Patrick Mellia, for example, who was released for being “incorrigible and worthless”, while Andrew Kane was “discharged with ignominy” 9. They were not alone as, for the most part, many of these men proved wholly unsuited to life in the army and either purchased their own release, or were discharged early.
Two Moycullen men, Edward Devaney and Patrick Earner, are honoured for their service abroad.
There were notable exceptions, however,, and despite the drop in the numbers serving abroad between 1875-1900, men like Edward Devaney10 shone in the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882 having also served in Gibralter and Malta. . Patrick Earner also served with distinction abroad in Malta, Cyprus, Egypt, and then in two separate tours in South Africa (1899 and 1900) during the second Boer War11.
Patrick Donohue (in 1905) enlisted from the village until the Great War when the likes of William Carr fought and perished 13. With the past commemoration of Carr and all the Irish Great War fallen, we might finally be in a position in this county to also recognise those who went before…
- Chandler, David, Frederick, Ian & Beckett, William. The Oxford History of the British Army (2003, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford).
- The average age at attestation (joining the army) in Tuam was 20 years, with the average discharge age being 33 years for those who were ill. The average age at attestation in Kilconierin-Lickerrig-Kilconickny was 21, with the average discharge age being 35 years.
- A basic overview of the numbers from the county enlisting in the nineteenth century is available – see SEGAHS (South East Galway Archaeological & Historical Society) Newsletter 12 (Spring 2013) – http://clonfert.org/DLOAD/segahs_nl_12_Spring%2013.pdf
- UK National Archives reference WO 97/305/49 – Finerty and WO 97/305/106 – Gavin
- WO 97/972/98 Lee
- WO 97/ 348/9 – Sullivan
- The Graphic, July 15th 1871, page 65
- WO 97/1495/199 – Hourney and WO 97/1918/125 – Coen
- WO 97/3457/011 – Melia and WO 97/3191/192 – Kane
- WO 97/2659/134 – Devaney
- WO 97/1476/018 – Earner
- British armoured train in Alexandrea, Egypt, during the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882 [sourced online at http://www.reddit.com/r/HistoryPorn/comments/1cufal/]
- These and all WO (War Office) records are included in those ‘Records created or inherited by the War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies’ which are housed in the UK National Archives in Kew. Many records are also available on ‘pay’ websites like ‘Find My Past’
Note: Other soldiers listed Kilcummin, sometimes ‘Kilcummin, Oughterard’, as their address but these do not form part of this study (which is ‘Moycullen’ only) but may be reviewed at a later date.