LT THOMAS J. KENNEDY

Lt TJ Kennedy of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Lt Thomas James Kennedy was Editor of The Northern Standard newspaper in Monaghan when he enlisted in the British Army. He was killed in action in France on 9th September 1916.

He was the eldest son of Samuel and Mary Kennedy, Terressan, Moneyhaw, County Derry near Cookstown, and brother of Mr. Joseph A. Kennedy, journalist, Lisburn.

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Placing a cross in memory of Lt Kennedy at Thiepval Memorial July 24th 2019

For five years previous to the outbreak of war Mr Kennedy was Managing Editor of the newspaper, The Northern Standard, in Monaghan. He was described as “a journalist of much ability”. In March 1915, he joined the 16th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Shortly afterwards was given a commission in the 12th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He had served during the Easter Rising in Dublin and a month later on May 25th 1916, he was sent to France.

Lieutenant Kennedy was attached to the 8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Somme where he was killed in action on 9th September 1916.

Panel 4D on Thiepval Memorial with name of TJ Kennedy

His unit was part of the 16th Irish Division, composed mainly of former members of the National Volunteers, who played an important part in capturing the towns of Guillemont and Ginchy, although they suffered massive casualties. During these successful actions between 1st and 10th September, casualties amounted to 224 officers and 4,090 men.

The Irish conquest of Ginchy turned out to be one of the few victories the Allies could claim in the terrible year of 1916. It gave them control of a series of vital observation posts overlooking much of the Somme region that would prove to be a game-changer in the inch-by-inch battle for the Western Front.

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Thiepval Memorial

Lieutenant Tom Kettle was among the casualties recorded by the 16th Irish Division and he was commemorated in Dublin last week. His name and that of Lieutenant Kennedy would later be carved upon the Thiepval Monument to the Missing of the Somme along with 72,194 others whose remains were never identified.

Panel 4D on Thiepval Memorial

They include the names of Monaghan men from the 9thBattalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, part of the 36thUlster Division who were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st1916 (see Northern Standard July 14th2016). When I visited the memorial in July 2016 for the Somme centenary commemoration I had not realised that all these names were on the memorial, especially that of a former journalist from the Northern Standard. So on this latest visit in July 2019 I checked the relevant panel with the help of an intern from the CWGC who told me she came from Belfast and that a relative had served in the same Battalion as Lt Kennedy.

Cross left by me at Thiepval Memorial remembering Lt TJ Kennedy

Thomas James Kennedy was born in County Tyrone about 1881. The 1901 census lists him as age 20 living with the family at house 4 in Terressan, Moneyhaw, near Cookstown. Thomas was working as a printer; his father was a farmer. Before the war he had served his apprenticeship in the offices of the Mid Ulster Mail as a reporter, and was well known in journalistic circles in Dungannon, Derry, Dublin and Dundalk.

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From the Belfast Newsletter dated 10th March 1915:

A Journalist’s Commission. Compliment to Mr T J Kennedy, Monaghan. A deputation, representing the journalists of county Monaghan, waited on Mr. Thomas J Kennedy yesterday at the headquarters of the Ulster Division Cadet Corps at Brownlow House, Lurgan, and made him the recipient of a presentation on the occasion of his departure from Monaghan. Mr Kennedy, who has occupied the position of managing editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan, for a period of five years is extremely popular in that town, and particularly so amongst his colleagues in journalism.

He is a member of the Ulster District of the Institute of Journalists, and is well-known in newspaper circles in Ireland. He has joined the Cadet Corps at Lurgan prior to taking up a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles. The presentation, which took the form of a handsome gold wristlet watch, with luminous dial, was made by Mr Samuel Bothwell, who succeeds Mr Kennedy in the position of managing editor. He paid an eloquent tribute to the many good qualities of Mr Kennedy as a journalist and gentleman , and wished him every success in his military career.

He also conveyed to him the sincere good wishes of Mr William Swan, the proprietor of the Northern Standard. Mr J J Turley spoke of his association with Mr Kennedy in Monaghan and of the kindly, cordial, and genial relationship that always existed between them. He regretted the temporary departure of such a warm personal friend, and trusted that Mr Kennedy would return decorated with high military honours.

Mr Kennedy, having suitably replied, the proceedings terminated.

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During the Easter Rising in April 1916 he was recommended for promotion for services in the field. While attached to the 12th Inniskillings he was deployed to the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, where he signalled to have the iron gates and doors open, and arranged to have his men cross under heavy fire without loss. It was through his courtesy afterwards that arrangements were made for a fifteen minute ceasefire so as to enable Mr. Richard Bowden, Administrator at the Cathedral, to procure provisions for a large number of refugees who were compelled to take refuge with the men in the building.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 15thJanuary 1916

Second Lieutenant T J Kennedy, 12th (Reserve) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, has been promoted Lieutenant. He is a son of Samuel Kennedy, Tyressan, Cooktown, and well known in journalistic circles, commencing his career in the staff of the Mid Ulster Mail.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 20thMay 1916

Local Soldiers (furlough)

During the last ten days, quite a number of soldiers have been home on furlough. Mr T J Kennedy (son of Mr Samuel Kennedy), formerly of the Mid Ulster Mail staff, who is a lieutenant of the Inniskillings and did valuable work in quelling the Sinn Fein rebellion.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 12thAugust 1916

Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, has received a telegram from the War Office that his son, Lieutenant T J Kennedy, has been wounded. Lieutenant Kennedy was a well-known journalist. He served his apprenticeship with the Mid Ulster Mail and prior to receiving his commission about eighteen months ago he was editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan. Prior to going to France, he was on duty in Dublin during the Rebellion. He has written since that his wound was on his hand and that he hopes to be on duty again soon.

Lieutenant Kennedy was attached to the 8th Inniskillings at the Somme where he was killed in action on 9th September 1916.

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Side section of Thiepval Memorial

Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 16thSeptember 1916

LATE NEWS Lt TJ Kennedy Killed

A telegram from the War Office was received on Friday afternoon informing Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his eldest son, Lieutenant Kennedy, of the Inniskillings, was killed in action in France on 9th September. He served his apprenticeship in the Mid Ulster Mail, and was well known in journalistic circles in Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and Monaghan, and was the editor of the Northern Standard in the latter town when war was declared. He had been on the South Irish Horse, and volunteered for service, and was given a commission in the Ulster Division, being later transferred to the 16th Division. He was engaged during the Sinn Fein Rebellion with his battalion in Dublin, and his efforts were warmly commended by the administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, where he was stationed during most of Easter Week, and it was understood he was recommended for promotion.

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Tyrone Courier 21stSeptember 1916

Intimation has been received by Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his son, Lieutenant Thomas J Kennedy, Inniskilling Fusiliers, was killed in action on 9th September. Lieutenant Kennedy was a well known Ulster journalist, and for a time acted as a reporter for the Tyrone Courier, and proper to receiving his commission was editor of the Northern Standard, Monaghan. Before going to the front, he took part in the quelling of disturbances in Dublin. He was wounded on the 4th August last, but the injury, which was to the hand, was of a slight nature, and he was able to resume his duties in a short time.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

(Death Notice)

KENNEDY – Killed in action on 9th September 1916. Lieutenant T J Kennedy, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Ulster Division (attached to the Irish Brigade), eldest son of Samuel and Mary Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown. Deeply regretted by father, mother sisters and brothers.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Lt TJ Kennedy

A telegram from the War Office was received on Friday afternoon informing Mr Samuel Kennedy, Tyresson, Cookstown, that his eldest son, Lieutenant Kennedy, of the Inniskillings, was killed in action in France on 9th September. He served his apprenticeship in the Mid Ulster Mail, and was well known in journalistic circles in Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and Monaghan, and was the editor of the Northern Standard in the latter town when war was declared. He had been on the South Irish Horse, and volunteered for service, and was given a commission in the Ulster Division, being later transferred to the 16th Division. He was engaged during the Sinn Fein Rebellion with his battalion in Dublin, and his efforts were warmly commended by the administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, where he was stationed during most of Easter Week, and it was understood he was recommended for promotion. The following letter was received from the Rev. Richard Bowden, B.A., Administrator of the Pro-Cathedral, dated 14th May 1916, and addressed to Sir John Maxwell K.C.B. (a copy of which is treasured by Lieutenant Kennedy’s parents), testified to the way he performed his duties. It runs:-

‘Sir. After the telephone message to the military to occupy the Pro-Cathedral, I deem it my duty to state to you my great appreciation of the efficiency and courtesy with which the occupation was carried out by the 12th Inniskillings. I wish to mention specially Mr Kennedy (Lieut), who signalled to have the iron gates and doors opened, and arranged for his men to cross under fire without loss, and through whose courtesy afterwards, arrangements were made to cease fire for fifteen minutes so as to enable me to procure provisions for the large number of refugees who were compelled by the fire to take refuge with us. Richard Bowden, Administrator, Pro Cathedral, (Dublin).’

The following information is from the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin website:- Dublin Diocesan Archivist Noelle Dowling and Darren Maher have studied the accounts of those priests who ministered on the streets of the burning city in Easter 1916. Twenty priests, including a curate who would go on to become Archbishop of Dublin, were involved in ministering to those caught up in the events on both sides of the divide one hundred years ago.

Among the historic 1916 documents in the Diocesan Archives is an account of how over forty people sought refuge in the Pro-Cathedral when fighting broke out in the city centre. All around the Cathedral buildings were ablaze – the group were forced to stay inside the “Pro” for three days. Meanwhile, the priests of the Cathedral continued to come and go from the building to be with the wounded and dying. One Cathedral curate ran from the Pro to Wynne’s Hotel through streets raked with gunfire from all sides to attend to a wounded man who was badly injured.

Jervis Street Hospital quickly filled with the wounded and it was the busiest hospital in the city centre during the week of the Rising. A priest was in attendance at all times to cater for the many religious needs of the wounded and dying. The Very Rev. Fr. Richard Bowden, Administrator of the Pro Cathedral, ensured that clergy were always available. He stayed there constantly through Monday, Tuesday and left on Wednesday morning when curates, Fr. Edward Byrne (who would later become Archbishop of Dublin) and Fr. Joseph Mc Ardle took over.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Major A J Walkey, of the 8th Inniskillings wrote:-

‘I regret having to inform you that your son was killed while leading his men during an attack on the 9th September. I have gathered that he was going down a trench with his bombers, when they met a party of Germans, who put up a fight, one of them throwing a bomb which killed your son. I am glad to say that afterwards some of his men got him away and buried him in decency. Please accept my sincerest sympathies in your bereavement.’

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Colonel Sir John Leslie Bart, of Glasslough, County Monaghan, commanding the 12th (R.) B., R. I. Fusiliers, (whose son Captain Norman Leslie was killed in France in 1914) writes to Mr Samuel Kennedy as follows:- ‘I cannot say how much I feel for you and your family in the loss you have sustained in the death of your gallant son. In this battalion, he was beloved by both officers and men, and none of us are more grieved by his loss than I am myself. I had always a very strong liking for him ever since the evening he offered me his services at Monaghan, where his talents as a journalist were fully recognised. No one helped me more than he did in forming the Battalion, where he was so quick to learn and impart the knowledge he had acquired. He accompanied me often on the recruiting platform, and none could speak better.’

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Lieutenant Colonel J C Ker Fox, second in command of the 12th Inniskillings, writes from Finner Camp:- ‘I believer Sir John Leslie is writing to you on behalf of the battalion and himself to sympathise with you in your great loss. I myself have been away on duty for the last five days, and only returned on Saturday night, hoping that the news might not be correct, and was sorry to have it confirmed yesterday. I wish to tell you how much I personally regret the death of your gallant son. Although I am considerably more than twice his age, I had taken a great liking to him, and had seen a great deal of him, on and off duty. He was a brilliant young officer and if he had lived would, I am sure, have distinguished himself. He was very popular with all his brother officers, and deservedly so, for he was a kind hearted, good natured and cheery young fellow, whom we could ill spare. I wish I had words at my command to express my feelings better, but I bitterly regret his death, and feel most deeply and sincerely for his family and for you’.

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

Rev P.D. McCaul of St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny, writes as follows to Mr S Kennedy:-You have my deepest sympathy in your great sorrow caused by the death of your son. During the week of the Rebellion I met him a good deal, and I must say that Lieutenant Kennedy was a general favourite with all the people staying in the Hamman Hotel. He was more than kind to myself, personally. He was affable, gentlemanly, fearless, and good humoured. I am deeply touched by his death. The loss of such a noble son is a crushing blow. His parents and other members of the family have my deepest sympathy. May God comfort you in your sorrow is the earnest prayer of one who greatly admired your darling son.”

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Mid Ulster Mail Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

The following telegram has been received by Mr Kennedy:- ‘The King and Queen deeply regret the loss you and the Army have sustained by the death of your son in the service of his country. Their Majesties truly sympathise with you in your sorrow. Keeper of the Privy Purse’.

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Tyrone Courier 1stFebruary 1917

The late Lieutenant T J Kennedy, a native of Cookstown, and formerly a member of Cookstown, and formerly a member of the Tyrone Courier reporting staff, and Lieut W E Wylie, the well known K.C. and member of the North West Circuit, are among those ‘mentioned’ for their services in Dublin during the rebellion.

In a letter to his father Major A.J. Walkey of the 8th Inniskillings wrote:

“I regret to inform you that your son was killed while leading his men during an attack on the 9th September. I have gathered that he was going down a trench with his bombers, when they met a party of Germans, who put up a fight, one of them throwing a bomb which killed your son. I am glad to say that afterwards some of his men got him away and buried him in decency.”

NORTHERN STANDARD Saturday 16thSeptember 1916

LIEUT. T. J. KENNEDY KILLED IN ACTION.

With extreme regret we announce the death in action of Lieutenant Thomas J. Kennedy, of the 8thBattalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The sad news was conveyed to this office late this afternoon in a telegram from the deceased officer’s bereaved father, who resides at Cookstown, his gallant son having fallen on the 8thinst.

Lieutenant Kennedy was for nearly five years managing editor of the “Northern Standard”. In March 1915 he gave up his position to join the Cadet Corps of the 16thBattalion Royal Irish Rifles (Pioneers), shortly afterwards gaining a Commission. He was posted to the 12thInniskillings, and after a period of training with his battalion was sent to France a few months ago, since when he was transferred to the 8thInniskillings. He was slightly wounded on August 4th, but was able to take up duty again after a short period.

During his lengthened stay in Monaghan the late Lieut. Kennedy made hosts of friends by reason of his genial , friendly disposition, and his popularity with the public was enhanced by the patriotic response which he gave to the call of Duty. He took an active part in connection with the Monaghan Battalion of the U.V.F. prior to the war, his valuable services to the cause of Unionism both in this and other directions being highly appreciated. In athletic circles in Monaghan and elsewhere he was a prime favourite, and amongst all classes the greatest sympathy will be felt with the bereaved relatives in the loss they have sustained. He has made the supreme sacrifice in defence of the Empire, and we deeply deplore his death.

NORTHERN STANDARD Saturday 23rdSeptember 1916

THE LATE LIEUTENANT T.J. KENNEDY

MONAGHAN BOARD’S SYMPATHY

Sympathetic reference was made at Monaghan Board of Guardians on Monday to the death in action of Lieut. T.J. Kennedy. Mr. Jas. Loughead said it was with feelings of deepest regret he proposed a resolution of sympathy with the relatives of the late Lieut. T.J. Kennedy, “Northern Standard”. He was a gentleman who from time to time came amongst them as a member of the Press, one for whom every one of them had a warm corner in their hearts. He was one of nature’s gentlemen, who never drew a dividing line between members of that board, but was at all times considerate and courteous to all. He fought nobly for his country and fell like a hero on the plains of France. He proposed the adoption of the following resolution:-

“That we, the members of Monaghan Board of Guardians, have heard with deep regret of the death in action in France of Lieut. T.J. Kennedy, late managing editor of the ‘Northern Standard’. For many years he attended the meetings of this Board in his journalistic capacity, and at all times the members found him most courteous in his endeavor to further the interests of the Board of Guardians and of the ratepayers they represented. We desire to express our sincere sympathy on his death”.

Mr. Hugh O’Brien seconded. The late Lieut. Kennedy, he said, was a gentleman he knew personally for many years. He could not add anything to what Mr. Loughead had said regarding the deceased gentleman.

Mr. Jas. M’Quaid, J.P. — I desire to be associated with the feeling expression contained in the resolution. I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Kennedy for many years. I bear out what was said about him as to his courtesy and efficiency as a journalist.

Mr. T.W. Hanna, J.P. — It is unnecessary for me to say anything. I wish to be associated with the resolution.

Several other members desired to be associated with the resolution.

The Chairman in putting the resolution to the meeting said he was sure they all symapthised with Lieut. Kennedy’s relatives on his sad death. As Mr. Loughead embodied in his resolution, he fell like a man fighting for his country. They all knew Lieut. Kennedy. He was a fine journalist and all regretted to learn of his death in a foreign country. He was sure his relatives had the sympathy of all the boards he attended.

The resolution was passed unanimously, all the members standing, and a copy was ordered to be sent to the relatives of the deceased officer.

Commemorating the former Editor of The Northern Standard, Lt TJ Kennedy

Thomas J. Kennedy was buried at the time of his death but his grave could not be found later by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He is therefore commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. He is also commemorated on the Cenotaph in Cooktown and Molesworth Presbyterian Roll of Honour, Cookstown.

The reports in the Northern Standard at the time of the First World War show how the paper under the proprietorship of William Swan was a pro-unionist publication. It carried weekly reports of the war effort including details of local men who had died fighting for the British Army. The “Dublin rebellion” or Easter Rising featured only briefly in the columns of the paper in May 1916. Much of the information on Lt Kennedy has been taken from the records of www.cookstownwardead.co.uk as well as the files of The Northern Standard.

This article appeared in The Northern Standard on 15th September 2016 on the centenary of his death.

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