Remembering names

Oct 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

The lecture room at the Dublin City Library was packed yesterday afternoon. In From Amiens Street to Amiens: The Search for Private Byrne, Des Byrne spoke with passion and emotion of his search for his grandfather.  Des Byrne knew virtually nothing about his grandfather and had not known where to start.  Not even sure of his grandfather’s first name, the lecture described the process from searching for the most basic details to standing at a white gravestone in a cemetery where eleven thousand servicemen were laid to rest.

The name of Private Patrick Byrne, like the names of thousands of other Irishmen, had disappeared from history.  Fighting for the British army, their sacrifice went mostly unrecognized as the new state developed its own identity.

The thought only occurred afterwards that, as with so many things, those from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to be remembered than those who, like Patrick Byrne, were ordinary working men.  The Protestant community, while having many working class members, as the autobiography of Sean O’Casey will testify, also had a strong middle class component who would ensure the sacrifice of those whom they knew would be remembered and, in doing so, would also recall the working class men who had fallen in the same conflict.

Travelling back on the DART, the names of the ten commemorated at Saint Matthias’ Church went through the mind:  three of them were officers, two of whom were awarded the Military Cross, one of them meriting it a second time;  two were non-commissioned officers; four were private soldiers and one an artillery gunner.  Perhaps their composition was a reflection of the social make up of south Co Dublin, but had they been ten private soldiers from a tenement area of the city, would there have been the same memorials?

Searching the Internet for details of the ten on a drab autumn afternoon,  the bias in recorded information seems to remain.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the 1911 Census of Ireland do not agree on some of the details, neither offers much on Corporal Treacey or Gunner Bragg.

Perhaps posting the ten names on the web will bring more information, perhaps in death the working class men will have an equality that was never there in life.

Private James Percy Horner
Son of William and Josephine Horner
from The Cottage, Shanganagh Terrace
9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died 1st July 1916, Age 20

Private David Goodwin
Son of Michael & Sarah Goodwin
of House No 57, Ballybrack
9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died 1st July 1916, Age 19

Private Michael Goodwin
Son of Michael & Sarah Goodwin
of House No 57, Ballybrack
9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died 1st July 1916, Age 22

Corporal Samuel G. Treacy
2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died 14th July 1916

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Edward Goff MC
Son of Crosbie and Theodosia Goff
of Clonard, Killiney
Commander, 1st Battalion The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment
Died 8th August 1916, Age 26

Lieutenant Richard Deane Oliver
Son of Charles Deane Oliver, husband of Mina C. Deane Oliver
of Granitefield, Killiney
74th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Died 7th September 1916, Age 26

Gunner Albert Bragg
132nd Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Died 21st September 1917

Private Robert Pierce
Son of Robert and Elizabeth Pierce
of Stonehenge Lodge, Killiney
9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Died 6th December 1917, Age 27

Major Richard Fielding Morrison MC and Bar
Son of Richard Hobart and Louise Fielding Morrison
of Johnstown House, Cabinteely
51st Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Died 25th April 1918, Age 27

Corporal Robert James Mason
Son of Robert Mason
of House No. 46, Ballybrack
Royal Army Service Corps
Died in hospital, 1st October 1919, Age 23

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  1. What a sad role call.

  2. Sadly there’s definitely no equality in death when it comes to the recording of the names. What sticks in my mind are the contrasts. For instance, I can visit the grand and sombre memorials to the fallen officers and administrators from Britain’s distant colonial conquests. They’re there for me to see in nearby churches. But given the disparity in firepower, who could hope to record the names on the other side?
    That was what was in my mind as I read the inscription on the Shangani River Memorial in Zimbabwe. It’s in the Matobo hills south of Bulawayo, near where Rhodes is buried. A patrol of 34 soldiers, the Shangani River patrol, was sent out to capture the Ndebele king Lobengula over a misunderstanding. The patrol was wiped out, after what their adversaries acknowledged was a brave fight. No names are carved in stone however, for the more than 400 locals killed by the Shangani River Patrol.
    I suppose the renaming or streets and buildings post independence is partly a reaction to this sort of thing. (Finding your way around is another matter.)

  3. The most depressing thing I read about inequality in death was that soldiers’ families were only allowed 66 characters, including spaces, free of charge on the gravestones and had to pay thereafter. Many poor families in the years after the First World War could not have afforded any additional inscriptions.

  4. Interesting, am doing short history of Kill of the Grange parish church where there is a memorial plaque to Richard Fielding Morrison and his younger brother who also died in 1914-1918 war……

  5. Commemoration in more than one church was not unusual. My wife had the war memorials for the former Saint George’s Church as well as those for Saint Thomas’ Church in the present Saints George & Thomas Church – some names appear on both memorials.

  6. Many thanks, I think the answer may be that the memorial in Kill gives info that put up by the parents to their two sons, while the one in St Matthias appears to be put up by his wife. Clearly I need to visit and see for myself, but fear that will only lead to more amblings along a winding research path – interesting but time consuming……………………..

  7. The Irish War Memorials website, a work in progress, has photographs of many of the memorials:

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