Forgotten Moycullen War Heroes


Steve Dolan

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

NameBornEnlistedRegimentNotable ServiceExitReason for Discharge
John Lee17911812Connaught RangersFrance1814Wound on left thigh (Battle of Orthez)
Robert Willoughby1787181986th RegimentEast Indies1823Rupture in the left groin
Patrick Sullivan1804182267th RegimentAfganistan1845Disease of the chest
Patrick Kelly1808182887th RegimentMauritius1843Chronic rheumatism
Roger O’Connor1818183615th RegimentCeylon1858Unfit after almost 21 years service
Peter Mulkerns1820183877th RegimentMalta1841Disease and disability
Patrick Walsh18231844Royal ArtilleryEast Indies1864Completed 21 years (full) service
Thomas McCarthy1828184555th RegimentTurkey1856Injured since the Battle of Inkermann
Patrick Hourney1829184623rd RegimentEast Indies1866Completed 21 years (full) service
John Ainsborough18291846Canadian RiflesNorth America1867Completed 21 years (full) service
Michael Conneely1827184724th RegimentEast Indies1849Gunshot to the foot and right ankle
Patrick Gill1830184757th RegimentIonian Islands1855Shoulder injury – no power in left arm
John Regan1828184724th RegimentEast Indies1851Gunshot to left tight – impaired
Peter Clancey1829184920th RegimentCrimea1855Right-arm wound (Battle of Inkerman)
John Finerty183518529th RegimentServed ‘at home’1853Disease of the cervical glands
John Gavin183518529th RegimentServed ‘at home’1853Condensation of the lungs
James Welby1835185211th RegimentAustralia1861Disease of left knee and shin bones
Andrew Quinn1830185439th RegimentServed ‘at home’1856Disease of the lungs
Joseph Connors183918573rd Rifle BrigadeEast Indies1869Unfit for service – ongoing weakness
John Coen18391857Connaught RangersEast Indies1880Reached limit of Service
Martin Keady18391859Artillery – Indian ForceServed ‘at home’1880Completed 21 years (full) service
John Caulfield1841186010th RegimentSouth Africa1865Injuries to both legs
Daniel Conroy1841186010th RegimentSouth Africa1865Bronchitis chronica
Patrick Edward Stoon1837186069th RegimentServed ‘at home’1861Unfit for the duties of a soldier
Martin McDonough18441861Royal ArtilleryCanada1872Pneumonia, December 1871 (Canada)
Thomas Noone18441861Royal ArtilleryEast Indies1881Completion 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.

Kussowlie Barracks

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.

Map showing the extent of Moycullen men's service abroad

Map showing the extent of Moycullen men’s service abroad

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:

NameBornEnlistedRegimentNotable ServiceExitReason for Discharge
John Daly1853187768th RegimentServed ‘at home’1878Unfit for further service
Edward Devaney1860187941st BrigadeMalta1891As per proceedings
John Kearns1861187936th RegimentServed ‘at home’1881General disability
Thomas Hurney18631880Galway ArtilleryServed ‘at home’1900Reorganisation
Nicholas Walsh1858188068th RegimentEgypt1892Completion of service
Thomas Corcoran18631883Connaught RangersServed ‘at home’1895Discharged
John Walsh18641883Connaught RangersIndia1895Period of engagement reached
Michael Kelly18651884Scots GuardsEgypt1896Limit reached
Andrew Kane18671886Connaught RangersIndia1891Discharged
John Halloran18671887Royal ArtillerySingapore1903Limit of Service
Patrick Earner18711889Connaught RangersCyprus1903Discharged at own request
Peter Halloran18761895Connaught RangersServed ‘at home’1895Misstated age at attestation
Michael Coyne18781896Connaught RangersServed ‘at home’1896Purchased release
Patrick Coen18741894Royal ArtilleryYemen1904Released (after theft)
John Keady18801898Connaught RangersServed ‘at home’1898Purchased at drill
Thomas Davoren18801898Connaught RangersServed ‘at home’1898Purchased release
Patrick Mellia18771899Coldstream GuardsServed ‘at home’1900Discharged
William Madden18801899Royal ArtilleryServed ‘at home’1901Promoted, 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.

British armoured train in Alexandria, Egypt, during the Anglo-Egyptian War 1882

British armoured train in Alexandria, Egypt, during the Anglo-Egyptian War 1882

Devaney's Egypt and Khedive medals

Devaney’s Egypt and Khedive medals










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…


  1. Chandler, David, Frederick, Ian & Beckett, William. The Oxford History of the British Army (2003, Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford).
  2. 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.
  3. 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) –
  4. UK National Archives reference WO 97/305/49 – Finerty and WO 97/305/106 – Gavin
  5. WO 97/972/98 Lee
  6. WO 97/ 348/9 – Sullivan
  7. The Graphic, July 15th 1871, page 65
  8. WO 97/1495/199 – Hourney and WO 97/1918/125 – Coen
  9. WO 97/3457/011 – Melia and WO 97/3191/192 – Kane
  10. WO 97/2659/134 – Devaney
  11. WO 97/1476/018 – Earner
  12. British armoured train in Alexandrea, Egypt, during the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882 [sourced online at]
  13. 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.


This page was added on 08/06/2017.

Comments about this page

  • Speaking of emigration to the U.S. there’s a Martin Davoren (d. June 1900) buried in the Church of the Immaculate Conception cemetery, who fought in the American Civil War, then made it back to Corcullen, Moycullen. He’d be my great-great-great grandfather, and his son, my great-great grandfather Patrick Davoren (b. 1872, d. 1933) then emigrated to the U.S. and gained his citizenship through his father Martin’s war service. Patrick, or PJ as he was called, is buried in Springfield, OH and is who my father and I are named after.

    By Patrick Foley (29/10/2020)
  • How can I find out if Patrick Earner, listed as DOB 1871 the brother of Margaret Earner my great grandmother. I have traced the Earners (Thomas Earner husband of Sarah ( baptized Sally) Conneely. They resided at Cloonabinnia, Moycullen. According to parish register a Patrick Earner was baptised on 23 March 1874. I know that young men changed their date of birth to enlist. I am trying to trace my family history. I know that Margaret Earner married Edward McDermott and sadly died after giving birth to her second child Mary Josephine McDermott.
    Any help appreciated. Thank you

    By Patricia O’Keefe (24/02/2020)
  • I have found some papers of my great great grandfathers and his name is also showing on the Forgotten War Hero’s list (John Henry Ainsborough). I am very interested to learn more information about him or his life at that time. It was great reading this article!

    By Vickie Martin (27/11/2018)

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