Ossory, Laois and Leinster

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Kilkenny Families in the Great War

Niall Brannigan and John Kirwan

Kilkenny Families in the Great War is the result of the authors’ seventeen year endeavour to locate and document the Kilkenny men and women, native born and long-term resident, who served in various uniforms during the Great, or First, World War. The result is not a single woven story but a collection of the more than 2900 individual stories of those who served in the combatant branches of the armed services, not only of the United Kingdom, but also of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, S Africa, the United States of America and elsewhere.

Included too are non-combatant auxiliaries – nurses, doctors, medical and Red Cross staff, and retired army and navy personnel who returned to the ranks for Home Service during the War. Also Merchant Marine, munitions and other essential workers and those (including civilians) who organized fund raising activities to aid the war effort. Finally, in a separate listing, are those military personnel who had definite, but short-lived, connections with Kilkenny during the War.

The people whose lives are portrayed here were drawn from all strands of local society – labourers, skilled workers and artisans, farmers and farm labourers, professionals and clergymen and members of the land-owning and gentry classes. The book is more comprehensive than others in the field in that it seeks to document all those who served, and not just those who died or were killed. It is a major new genealogical resource for Kilkenny and contains biographies of a great many people which are not to be found anywhere else.

Among the Kilkenny people of note Percy Kennedy (Kilkenny City) was apparently the first man from Kilkenny to land in France, on 10 August 1914. John Connolly (Ferrybank), William Walsh (Thomastown) and Joseph Gardiner (Castlecomer) were the first known combat fatalities from Kilkenny, in the Battle of Mons on 23–24 August 1914. Jeremiah Purcell (Archer Street, Kilkenny) was one of the youngest to die at age 16 in October 1916, near the Struma River in Macedonia, while James Darcy (Thomas Street, Kilkenny) was among the last from Kilkenny to lose his life, on 10 November 1918, one day before Armistice. Included also are the O’Connell brothers (Maudlin Street, Kilkenny), five of whom served in the War – Michael, Cornelius and Richard were killed, Thomas lost a leg but survived, and John, who was the only one to come through unscathed. Among the gentry families to lose sons were Wandesforde of Castlecomer, Ponsonby of Piltown and Connellan of Coolmore, near Thomastown (the latter also lost four grandsons). The last known combatant survivor from Kilkenny was Ben Williams of Bramblestown near Dungarvan , who died in March 1992 at age 91.

Other notables were Fr James T Crotty (Kilkenny City), sent by the Vatican to minister to Irish prisoners-of-war in Limburg POW Camp in Germany, where he clashed with Roger Casement; Frederick William Hall, the only Kilkenny-born soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War; Lady Desart, the well-known philanthropist, who gave her house at Aut Even to be a convalescent hospital for officers; Denys Corbett Wilson, the pioneer aviator, with Jenkinstown connections, who was killed when his plane was brought down, over the Front in Belgium, in May 1915; Cecil Meares (Inistioge), who was part of Captain Scott’s tragic Terra Nova Expedition to the Antartic in 1910–12, and Rev Edward Dowling (Slieverue), who died PP Camross, County Laois in 1942.

Published by: OLL Editions
ISBN: 978-0-9560826-2-6
Extent: xxxii, 588 pages (including 84 pages of photographs)
Size: 297 by 210 mm
Price: €45

Enquiries regarding sales and distribution should be addressed to William Murphy (hwmurphy@esatclear.ie).

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