ULSTER TOWER, THIEPVAL

Ulster Tower, Thiepval

The Ulster Tower at Thiepval is modelled on Helen’s tower overlooking Newtownards, Co. Down, on the Clandeboye estate where the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (mainly men from Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan) and other units trained in 1914/15.

Plaque at entrance to the Ulster Tower

The Tower commemorates the men of the 36th Ulster Division and all those from the nine counties of Ulster who served in the First World War. The memorial was officially opened on 19th November 1921. At the entrance to the Tower is a plaque commemorating the names of the nine men of the Division who won the Victoria Cross during the Somme.

Remembering the members of the 36th Ulster Division decorated for their bravery at the Somme

There is also a memorial here commemorating the part played by members of the Orange Order during the battle. The inscription on this memorial reads: “This Memorial is Dedicated to the Men and Women of the Orange Institution Worldwide, who at the call of King and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of man by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in Freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten.”

Orange Order memorial behind the Ulster Tower

Explanatory plaque for the Orange Order memorial

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.

THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

Thiepval Memorial

On high ground overlooking the River Ancre in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world and is maintained by the CWGC.

Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval Memorial was designed by the famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and comprises a series of intersecting arches which increase in height and proportionate width. Construction began in 1928 following lengthy negotiations about the site with foundations dug to a depth of thirty feet. Wartime tunnels and unexploded ordnance were discovered during its construction.

Thiepval Memorial side detail

Thiepval Memorial was unveiled on 1st August 1932 by Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales. The ceremony was in English and French. Each year on the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme (1916) on 1st July, a ceremony is held there.

On 1st July 2016, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, thousands of people attended a special ceremony including members of the British Royal family, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, French President François Hollande, President Michael D. Higgins and Minister Heather Humphreys from Monaghan, who was then responsible for Commemorations. I attended in my capacity as a member of the Irish veterans’ group, O.N.E. along with its Chief Executive Ollie O’Connor.

Michael Fisher and British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn MP at the Somme 100 ceremony at Thiepval in July 2016

Behind the memorial is the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of 300 Commonwealth servicemen and 300 French servicemen. The majority of these men died during the Battle of the Somme, but some also fell in the battles near Loos and Le Quesnel.

PTE THOMAS HUGHES VC

Private Thomas Hughes of the 6th Battalion Connaught Rangers was born in Corravoo, Castleblayney, in 1885. He was 29 when the Great War began. He was awarded the V.C. for actions at Guillemont in France during the Battle of the Somme on 3rd September 1916. Plaques at the Catholic church in Guillemont commemorate him and two other holders of the Victoria Cross. Our group visited the church on the third day of our visit to World War One sites.

The citation read: “For most conspicuous bravery and determination. He was wounded in an attack but returned at once to the firing line after having his wounds dressed. Later seeing a hostile machine gun, he dashed out in front of his company, shot the gunner and single handedly captured the gun. Though again wounded, he brought back three prisoners”.

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King George V presents Pte Hughes with his VC in Hyde Park in 1917

Walking with the aid of crutches, Hughes was personally awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V at an investiture at Hyde Park in London on 2nd June 1917. He also received the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal. Hughes was later promoted to the rank of Corporal. It was his custom each year to attend the Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. When he returned to Ireland, it was a very different country to the one he had left. Soldiers who had gone to fight in the British cause were often shunned and their exploits were largely forgotten.

Thomas Hughes died on 8th January 1942, aged 56, and is buried in the cemetery at St Patrick’s Church, Broomfield. His Victoria Cross medal is held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea in London.

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Grave of Pte Hughes in Broomfield, Co. Monaghan Pic. Monaghan Heritage

Speaking at the unveiling of a blue plaque memorial for Pte Hughes in Castleblayney in February 2017, Minister Heather Humphreys said she had travelled to Thiepval and Guillemont in July and September in 2016, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, and to remember the many Irish men who died there from the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division. In the small, beautiful church in Guillemont, a tiny village in Northern France, she saw the plaques on the wall in honour of Thomas Hughes.

Hughes is one of 27 Irish holders of the Victoria Cross for whom the British government arranged a paving stone to be placed at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, paid for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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Stone for Pte Hughes VC unveiled at Glasnevin

Despite the romance sometimes portrayed in newspaper columns such as the Northern Standard, recruitment to the British Army remained very low for the county for the entire war. By October 1916 only 738 men from County Monaghan had answered the call to enlist, the majority being Protestants (although they represented approximately one-fifth of the population at the time). Slow recruitment was blamed several times on the prominence of agriculture in the county, with the farming classes accused of not wanting to go to war because they were prospering financially.

In total around 2,500 Monaghan men served in the Great War. There were notable contributions from some families. Seven Roberts brothers from Killybreen in Errigal Truagh all joined the British army at different stages. Seven sons of Sir Thomas Crawford of Newbliss served, and three of these were decorated for gallantry. Four Steenson brothers from Glaslough joined up and two were killed. In all, nearly 540 Monaghan men were killed in the war, about half of them Protestant and half Catholic.

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Blue plaque in Castleblayney for Private Thomas Hughes VC

The unveiling of the Ulster History Circle blue plaque for Private Hughes in Castleblayney was attended by his niece Josephine (Hughes) Sharkey from Dundalk, and her daughter Siobhan. Other relatives included PJ McDonnell, (originally from Broomfield), Chair of the Monaghan Association in Dublin. His father’s mother and the mother of Thomas Hughes were sisters. Other relations came from the Donaghmoyne area, including Ann Christy, a grand niece, Brian Conway from Castleblayney, Pauline McGeough (Broomfield), Rosemary Hughes-Merry (Castleblayney), Angela McBride from Carrickmacross and a distant cousin, Frank Hughes, originally from Laragh.

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Niece of Pte Hughes, Josephine Sharkey from Dundalk, with his portrait

The attendance included former members of the Irish Defence Forces from the Blayney Sluagh group, representatives of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the regimental museum in Enniskillen, members of the Lisbellaw and south Fermanagh WW1 Society (who also visited the grave of Private Hughes), and the curator of Monaghan County Museum, Liam Bradley, who had organised a number of events for the 1916 Somme centenary.

Siobhan (Hughes) Sharkey read a poem which had been specially composed for the occasion of the presentation of the Victoria Cross to Private Hughes in 1917. On his return to Castleblayney, the urban district council with Lord Francis Hope arranged an address of welcome for Hughes to celebrate his bravery on winning the “coveted trophy which is emblematical of the highest bravery on the battlefield”. Local dispensary Dr J.P. Clarke said it was with great pleasure he read in the press of the coveted decoration “being pinned to the breast of our hero.” He did not know whether it was time for poetry or not, but anyhow he could recite them a few lines he had composed for the occasion (in Castleblayney in 1917)…

POEM: THOMAS HUGHES V.C.

Before the Kaiser’s war began with frightfulness untold,

How many a peaceful hero worked in many a peaceful fold,

How many a valiant soldier strove to keep the home fires bright,

How saddened skies weep over their graves in pity through the night.

From Suvla Bay to doomed Ostend, from Jutland to Bordeaux,

They fought and bled and died to save these countries from the foe;

In Flanders, France and Belgium, from Seine to Grecian shore,

Brave were the deeds and bright the hopes of boys we’ll see no more.

‘Mongst them times forty thousand men picked out from Ireland’s sons,

Who went to fight the Austrians, the Bulgars, Turks and Huns,

How few returned with due reward their valour to repay,

But Thomas Hughes of Corravoo, V.C., is here to-day.

A Blayney man whose noble deeds uphold our country’s pride,

Who saved his comrades, took the gun, cast thought of self aside,

And changed defeat to victory in blood-soaked trenches when,

He ranked with bravest of the brave — the Connaught Rangers men.

Tom Hughes was reared where sun at dawn makes shadows lightly fall,

Across Fincarn’s ancient hill so sacred to us all;

For there tradition tells an Irish hero proudly rests,

Strong Finn McCool, the warrior, enshrined in Irish breasts,

Near by the road in Lackafin, beside lone Corravoo,

Remains of Irish chiefs are found in cromlech plain to view,

Among these scenes his youth was passed, no recreant was he,

For when his chance to fight arrived he well won his V.C.

He faced grim death while all around like Autumn leaves men fell,

He fought good fight and gained the day despite the raging hell

Of bullets, bayonets, shrapnel, Jack Johnson’s gas set free.

Now raise three cheers, and three times three, for Thomas Hughes V.C.!”

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Unveiling of plaque in Castleblayney by Minister Heather Humphreys TD (right) and relatives of Pte Hughes VC

CHAPELLE D’ARMENTIÈRES CEMETERY

This CWGC cemetery where Captain Norman Leslie from Glaslough Co. Monaghan is buried is in France.

The seamless border between Belgium and France both in the Schengen Agreement

It is close to the border with Belgium at Houplines, and outside the village of La Chapelle-d’Armentieres, not far from Armentières itself.

Cross of Sacrifice at Chapelle d’Armentières military cemetery

This area was in the hands of Commonwealth forces from October 1914 until the fall of Armentières on 10th April 1918. It was retaken in the following October.

Cross of Sacrifice at Chapelle d’Armentières military cemetery

During the Allied occupation, the village was very close to the front line and its cemeteries were made by fighting units and field ambulances in the earlier days of trench warfare.

Rifleman Brown of the Rifle Brigade

Chapelle-d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery was begun in October 1914 by units of the 6th Division and used until October 1915. The cemetery contains 103 First World War burials, three of them unidentified. The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw.

Two graves of members of the Leinster Regiment

CAPTAIN NORMAN LESLIE

 

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Paying respect at the grave of Captain Norman Leslie from Glaslough

Captain Norman Jerome Beauchamp Leslie from Castle Leslie, Glaslough died in the early stages of World War I. He served in the Third Battalion, the Rifle Brigade. 

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Gravestone of Captain Norman Leslie

He was 28 when he was killed in action near Armentières on October 19th 1914. Mentioned in despatches. His grave is at La Chapelle d’Armentières military cemetery in France, not far from the border with Belgium.

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Cross of Sacrifice 

He was the second son of Sir John Leslie 2nd Bart and Lady Leonie Leslie of Glaslough. His mother was a member of the wealthy Jerome family from New York and her sister Jennie married Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston. Rest in Peace.

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Graves of Captain Norman Leslie and Captain George H Hume Kelly

Captain George Harvey Hume Kelly aged 34 of the First Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment died the day after Captain Leslie and is buried alongside him. His mother lived in East Putney, London.

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Around the time of the centenary of his death, Iain d’Alton wrote about the life of Captain Leslie in An Irishman’s Diary in The Irish Times. Here is some of the article:

“(Leslie) was educated at Eton and Sandhurst, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1905 and joined the prestigious Rifle Brigade in October that year. He served as ADC to Sir John Maxwell (the suppressor of the Easter Rising) in Egypt from September 1908 to April 1910. In 1910, he was the last British officer to fight a duel – with a Turkish diplomat, over said diplomat’s wife. Packed off to India, he became ADC to Lord Carmichael, the governor of Bengal where, again, he had a scandalous romantic entanglement with a married woman.”

“When war broke out, he exhibited an almost unbelievable heartlessness about early casualties, writing to his mother in October 1914: ‘I can’t see that our losses have been heavy at all. What are 2,000 killed and 8,000 wounded out of a force of 80 or 90,000 British who repelled 200 or 300,000 Germans. It’s wonderfully small…only 2½% killed. One would imagine it would be much more like 10%.’ Leslie’s war was about the merit of being honourable. At its outbreak, he wrote to a friend: ‘Let us forget individuals and let us act as one great British unit, mixed and fearless. Some will live and many will die, but count the loss not. It is better far to go out with honour than survive with shame.'”

Less than three months after the War started, on October 18th, 1914, Captain Leslie  “was killed by a German sniper while on reconnaissance at Armentières, near Lille, and was hastily buried. His brother Shane, later a writer of renown, and serving in France, organised for his body to be recoffined in December 1914. He wrote to Leonie that: ‘He lies about a mile behind the trenches occupied by his regiment and within sound of the guns of both armies whose shells pass daily above his head . . . the sky was ripped with the flashes of the guns, while a gigantic German searchlight threw the surrounding countryside into sepulchral relief.’”

“Shane said that when the grave was opened, Norman’s clothes were unsoiled and clean. His hands were white and pink at the edges, and rested on the wound which killed him. To fit him in the new pine coffin, they had to unshoe him. Shane wrote that he did not cry until he saw ‘that lonely pair of boots’ sitting on the wretched earth. Norman, he said, seemed to have borne ‘no trace of suffering or contortion . . . as one who had reached his appointed end with credit and dignity’. Thus he acted his part, even beyond death.”

Lady Leonie Leslie “immediately wanted to visit her son’s grave, but Shane advised against it. ‘Stay at Glaslough where Norman’s memory is vivid in the minds of all whom you meet… stay there where the whole atmosphere yearns for him and where his name will outlive ours.’ But his parents could not stay away forever. Sir John Leslie wrote to his wife in late November 1918, a few days after the Armistice: ‘I should like to go to Armentières in the spring, not in cold dreary winter, and lay spring flowers on our boy’s grave, both of us together. His spirit knows what is going on, and that his life was not lost in vain.'”

 

IRISH PEACE PARK MESSINES

This was the second time I visited the WW1 Irish Peace Park at Messines, or Mesen as it is now known in Flemish, not far from Ieper. The first occasion was to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Battle of Messines on 7th June 2017.

With An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Irish Peace Park on June 7th 2017 for the Battle of Messines centenary commemoration

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Britain’s Prince William joined Princess Astrid of Belgium and Lord Dunlop, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office to honour the soldiers who fought in the battle. They laid wreaths at the foot of the Round Tower memorial, before meeting invited guests including descendants of those who fought at the Battle.

The successful Allied offensive on June 7th 1917 was the first occasion the 36th Ulster and 16th Irish divisions fought together on the front line. The two divisions predominantly comprised men who were on opposing sides of the great political upheaval back in Ireland around whether the country should be granted self-governance from Westminster.

The Peace Park is dominated by a replica Irish round tower was intended as a symbol of reconciliation to bring together loyalists and nationalists, Protestants and Catholics, particularly from a younger generation in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It was the brainchild of the late Paddy Harte from Co. Donegal and Glen Barr, a former loyalist paramilitary leader from Derry. There is a plaque remembering their joint efforts on the wall beside the exit.

Plaque remembering Paddy Harte and Glen Barr whose vision of a project of reconciliation came to fruition in the Peace Park

Round Tower at the Irish Peace Park

The Peace Tower is dedicated to all those from the island of Ireland who fought and died in the First World War 1914-18. It was erected by ‘a Journey of Reconciliation’ Trust, with the support of local people from Messines. On Remembrance Day 11th November 1998, eighty years after war came to an end, President McAleese unveiled a plaque in the presence of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium.

Details of the casualties suffered by the three Divisions from the island of Ireland

The words of ‘Navvy poet’ and soldier Patrick MacGill from Donegal

In memory of the 36th (Ulster) Division

Stone memorials in the grounds of the Irish Peace Park

CASTLEBLAYNEY’S SWEDISH ROYAL CONNECTION

© Michael Fisher, The Northern Standard, June 6th 2019 p. 29

Whilst the official visit of President Trump to Ireland today has taken up all the headlines, a state visit last month by the King and Queen of Sweden went by almost without notice. Returning from a Local Ireland awards ceremony in Athlone a fortnight ago, I noticed a long convoy of official cars and Garda outriders on the bypass outside the town. Was it a dress rehearsal for the visit of the US President, I wondered. Or perhaps it was the Swedish royal couple, who had been in Dublin the day before.

Further investigation revealed that the Swedish royals visited the Ericsson research and development site in Athlone to discuss digitalisation and 5G in Europe as part of their three-day state visit. The King and Queen were joined by members of the Swedish Government, including Anders Ygeman, Minister for Energy and Digital Development and Sean Canney TD, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources.

King and Queen of Sweden Visited the Ericsson R&D Facility in Athlone

My thoughts turned to a connection between the Swedish Royal Family and County Monaghan that I had spoken publicly about in Castleblayney 25 years ago. The following information is based largely on the talk which was held in the Glencarn Hotel. It centred around Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, a daughter of the Duke of Connaught, who lived with his family at Hope Castle in Castleblayney from 1900-1904 (David Hicks in “Irish Country Houses” 2012).

HOPE CASTLE

The Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria, came to Castleblayney on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland. He was then 50, having been born at Buckingham Palace in London on 1st May 1850. It was said at the time that the Duke and Duchess experienced a great deal of difficulty in finding an Irish home as they did not wish to spend all their time in the official residence at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin. The Irishresidence associated with the office of Commander in Chief was not thought to be suitable for habitation by such high-ranking royals as the grounds of the residence were far from private and its location was thought to be in an inferiorpart of the city (Hicks). Several other houses such as Castletown House in Kildare were considered before the Duke settled on Hope Castle, which he leased from Lord Henry Francis Hope. It is believed that the Castleblayney residence was chosen as it was located near the home of Leonie Leslie, a prominent socialite at the time, who lived at Castle Leslie, Glaslough. She was a close friend of the Duke and Duchess, with the emphasis on the former.

The royal couple arrived in Castle Blayney in June 1900 and received a warm welcome from the local people; both the gates to the castle and the whole town were decorated with bunting and flags. The Duke had taken the castle for the summer season in 1900 with an option of leasing it for a further five years. It was thought at the time that Hope Castle would become an official royal residence and that Queen Victoria would visit her son here, but she died in 1901. The Duke of Duchess of Connaught ended their association with the Castle in 1904 (Hicks).

DUKE OF CONNAUGHT

Of her five children, Prince Arthur (William Patrick Albert) was Queen Victoria’s favourite son. By the time he arrived in ’Blayney, he already had a distinguished military career. He entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich in 1866, was created a Knight of the Order of St Patrick in 1869 and by the age of 21, was a Privy Counsellor. He received his title Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1874, then served as Assistant Adjutant General in Gibraltar for two years. He was promoted again in 1876, serving as personal ADC to Queen Victoria, a role he fulfilled for four of her successors. In 1879 he was married at St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle, near London.

His wife was Princess Louise of Prussia, who at the age of 18 was 10 years his junior. She had been born in Potsdam in 1860, third daughter of Prinz Friedrich Karl of Prussia. The couple had two children.

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Bagshot Park in Surrey, England from Morris’s Country Seats from the time the Duke of Connaught lived there (1880)

Their first child was Margaret Victoria Augusta Charlotte Norah, born at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 15th 1882 (this is now the private residence of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex). Just under a year later, the second child, Arthur, was born at Windsor Castle. He later saw active service in the South African war and was Governor General there from 1920-23.

The Duke of Connaught became a General in 1893 after serving in Egypt and India and was appointed a Field Marshal in 1902, during the time he was in Castleblayney. He was a significant figure in British society, as can be seen by the rest of his career.

On completing his four years in Ireland, he was appointed Inspector General of the British Forces and President of the Selection Board 1904-07. For the next two years, he was Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. He opened the Union Parliament of South Africa, where his son later became Governor General, in 1910.

The following year, the Duke became Governor General of Canada, a post he held for five years and which aroused controversy as he attempted to meddle in Canadian military affairs. He served as Grand Master of the United Lodge of Freemasons from 1901 (a year after his appointment in Ireland) to 1939. He was decorated by several countries, including Spain, Turkey, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Japan (Order of the Chrysanthemum), Ethiopia, the Netherlands, Tunisia, Montenegro, Romania and finally, Monaco. The Duke died at Bagshot Park in Surrey on January 16th 1942, at the age of 91.

CROWN PRINCESS MARGARET

When Princess Margaret of Connaught was 23 and her younger sister Princess Patricia of Connaught was 18, both girls were among the most beautiful and eligible princesses in Europe. Their uncle, King Edward VII, wanted his nieces to marry a European king or crown prince. In January 1905, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited Portugal, where they were received by King Carlos and his wife, Amélie of Orléans whose sons Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, and Prince Manuel entertained the young British princesses. The Portuguese expected one of the Connaught princesses would become the future Queen of Portugal.

The Connaughts continued their trip to Egypt and Sudan. In Cairo, they met Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, the future Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, grandson of the Swedish King Oscar II. Originally, Margaret’s sister Patricia had been considered a suitable match for Gustaf Adolf; without his knowledge, a meeting was arranged with the two sisters. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret fell in love at first sight, and he proposed at a dinner held by Lord Cromer at the British Consulate in Egypt, and was accepted. Margaret’s parents were very happy with the match. Gustaf Adolf and Margaret, then 23, married on 15th June 1905 in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where her father had also been married. The couple spent their honeymoon at Adare Manor in Co. Limerick and arrived in Sweden on 8th July 1905. One of Margaret’s wedding presents was the Connaught tiara, which remains in the Swedish royal jewellery collection today.

The Crown Prince of Sweden, Gustaf Adolf, was ten months younger than his bride. He came from a military background, like his father-in-law, having entered the Swedish army in 1902. Thirty years later, he became a General. His wife, however, did not survive that long.

During the First World War, she did a lot of work for the Red Cross and as can be seen in her connections with Castleblayney, she seemed to be a caring person. Known in Sweden as Margareta, she died thirty years before her husband’s accession to the throne of Sweden.

At 2 o’clock in the morning on 1st May 1920, her father’s 70th birthday, Crown Princess Margaret, aged 38, died suddenly in Stockholm of “blood poisoning” (sepsis).

Her husband re-married (the second wife was Lady Louise Mountbatten, sister of Earl Mountbatten). At the age of 68, Gustaf Adolf succeeded to the throne, reigning from 1950 to September 1973 as King Gustaf VI Adolf, the last Swedish monarch to hold real political power. He was a noted archaeologist and died aged 90. Since then, his grandson Carl XVI Gustaf has held the title of King and reigns along with Queen Silvia. They are the dignitaries who have just completed a state visit to Ireland.

Following her marriage in 1905, Crown Princess Margaret had five children. The first born in Stockholm on 22nd April 1906 was Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vaesterbotten, later Prince. He was killed in a flying accident near Copenhagen in 1947, so when the time for succession came, in 1973, it was his son who took the throne and is now the King of Sweden.

He was followed by Sigvard, born at Drottningholm Palace in July 1907, an important year for the Swedish royal family, as Gustaf V came to the throne, shortly after the dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway. The last three children were all born in Stockholm. Princess Ingrid in March 1910, Bertil in February 1912 and then carl, Duke of Dalecorlia, November 1916.

Some of the children are pictured in postcards which she sent from Stockholm over a period of five years, passing greetings to what she described as he friends in Castleblayney. All are addressed to Mrs JJ Kelly, a correspondence linking Castleblayney and Sweden.

THE KELLY CONNECTION

JJ Kelly was a Local Government Board Inspector and his wife Mary was the postmistress. They lived at Castle Square as it was then called, near the entrance to Hope Castle. Both are buried in the graveyard behind St Mary’s Church. Their daughter Rosa Kelly was a first cousin of my mother and details of the correspondence were kept by her following Rosa’s death in Surrey, where she is buried beside my aunt Dorothy Smyth. My mother then passed on details of the original correspondence including letters to the Swedish royal archives in Stockholm.

THE POSTCARDS

The first is not dated and it’s impossible to decipher the postmark. But the picture shows Crown Princess Margaret and her husband, who is holding a baby, Gustaf Adolf, the Duke of Vaesterbotten, who was born in April 1906. It reads:

“Princess Margaret send many thanks for the shamrock and hopes all the friends at Castle Blayney are well.” So it seems it might have been written in March 1907, some time after St Patrick’s Day (possibly 20th March). Some similar messages follow in the next few years. The Kellys must have sent Princess Margaret shamrock to wear, to remind her of Castleblayney.

“19th December 1909

A happy Xmas & 1910 to all from

Margaret”. The picture shows her with her two children, Gustaf Adolf aged 3, and Sigvard, aged 2.

“March 18 1910. Thank you so much for the shamrock. I hope you and all old friends in Castle Blayney and neighbourhood are well, Margaret.” The picture is probably of Gustaf Adolf again, aged three and wearing a similar outfit to the previous photo.

Postmark 1912

Picture of Prinsessan Margareta on front with a greeting to Mrs Kelly:

“A happy Christmas to you from Princess Margaret, Stockholm”

March 25 1914

Five months before the outbreak of World War I.

“Stockholm. The Crown Princess sends her best thanks for the shamrock and the kind thought which prompted the gift.”

No stamp or postmark. Might have been enclosed with a letter.

The picture is of the Crown Princess in what appears to be national costume with a white head-dress and reading a book.

March 21 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends most grateful thanks for the shamrock, which arrived here quite safely on St Patrick’s Day.”

Mrs Kelly’s address was given as ‘The Trees’, so by then she seemed to have finished her role as postmistress (according to the street directories). It’s also interesting that this correspondence was seven months after the start of WWI. The picture showed four of Margaret’s five children, Prince Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.

December 15 1915

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends an Xmas greeting to Castle Blayney”. The picture is of Margaret and captioned Vår Kronprinsessa / Our Crown Princess.

One card simply says: “Wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year from Margaret.” Her portrait on the front seems to indicate it was from one of the earlier years.

The final postcard which appears to conclude the correspondence was posted in Stockholm and addressed to Mrs Kelly at The Trees, Castle Blayney.

April 17 1916

“The Crown Princess of Sweden sends grateful thanks for the shamrock. She was sorry to hear of your sad loss and sends sincere sympathy.” The reference was probably to the death of Joe Kelly in August 1915.

The picture shows four of Margaret’s children (the fifth wasn’t born until the following year), Gustaf Adolf, Sigvard, Bertil and Princess Ingrid.
The postcards provide a fascinating insight into Castleblayney’s connection with the Swedish Royal Family.

This was first published by me at a talk in Castleblayney in 1994, the third annual lecture in memory of the late Fr Peadar Livingstone..

EUNICE AND THE ‘OTHER SISTER’

This story about Rosemary Kennedy contains extracts from a letter she wrote in 1940, the year before she underwent a lobotomy at the insistence of her father Joe. The writing is childlike but Rosemary’s bubbly personality shines through, just as it did in letters written in 1938 when my aunt Dorothy Smyth knew her in London.

EXIT ONLY

eunice youngI could look at pictures of Eunice all day, hero that she was for trying to do for others what she couldn’t do at home. She was just 19 when sister Rosemary was lobotomized according to their father’s wishes. He didn’t even tell Rose he had ordered it done ’til the surgery was over and they realized to their horror that she would never again stand erect, never again write the kind of letter that appears below here. My mother and aunt owned and ran a girls’ camp called Fernwood and in the spring of 1940, Rose Kennedy asked to meet them in New York to talk about her 22-year-old ‘working’ there as a Junior Counselor. Mom used to say she should have known the minute Mrs. Kennedy arrived without her daughter that the girl was not as ‘able’ as Rose was leading them to believe and sure enough, her…

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