Those of us who have tried to trace personnel killed, missing or injured during World War One will have found this task difficult, to say the least. However, now, for those of you searching for information on Tipperary soldiers the task has become much easier, due to the publication of a new book entitled “Tipperary Casualties of the Great War”
The author, Dublin born Tom Burnell, now resident in Holycross, Thurles, Co.Tipperary, has penned a remarkable factual history of all the Tipperary men who died during World War One or just after, while in the service of the British, Australian, New Zealand, American, Indian, Canadian, South African armies. Details of those Tipperary men linked with the Royal Navy and the British Mercantile Marine are also detailed.
This book, painstakingly and accurately brings to light, for the first time, information previously held on dusty shelves in forgotten archives and reminds us of the true meaning of sacrifice.
In an interview with Thurles.Info the author Tom Burnell speaks about his early life and times and what inspired this much needed and very readable publication.
“I consider myself, indeed, blessed to live here in the most beautiful rural village of Holycross, County Tipperary, one of Irelands most holy places. This village is a peaceful location and so remote from the many wartime locations, now household names, found in Europe.
Yet even in this peaceful place, there are the ‘graves of the fallen‘ from the Great War of 1914 -1918. Indeed, there are few places in Ireland that do not contain the resting-place of at least one such serviceman. Some came home wounded and died here, while others may have died in England of wounds received in France, the Dardanelles or Flanders. Over 400 of the 1400 Tipperary men who fell in this conflict have no graves at all and their commemorations remain as small inscriptions on Memorials to the Missing in foreign lands. They fell while in the service of the British, the Canadian, the Australian Imperial Force (A. I. F.), the South African, the Indian, the New Zealand and the American Armies. Some were sailors serving in one of several navies including the British Mercantile marine.
I was born in Finglas in the 1950s, long after the Great War had ended. Like most Dubliners, I was the offspring of a Dublin mother and a father, latter from far outside the Pale and known in Dublin as a ‘Culchie’. My father originated from a little place called Camas, in County Galway, close to Meelick, Eyrecourt.
In the late 1940s, after the Second World War, he gave up the drudgery of farming life. At that time our family was farming and also selling turf cut from the Meelick bogs and sent by canal barge to Dublin. It was here they obtained the best price. In the summer of ‘49 he left his plough stuck in a furrow and with a fiver in his pocket headed off for the Capital City, Dublin. Here there was a chance of some future, more work and more music. My father was a talented musician and soon formed the Galway Rovers Céili Band with the world famous Joe Cooley. He also got a job with the Lucan Dairies and afterwards with Kennedy’s Bread in Parnell Street opposite the ‘Hill’ Saturday morning market.
In the 1950s Finglas was still rural and surrounded by farms and fields and lots and lots of places for a kid to explore. The village was a small place with one shop, a post office, a bank, a church, a few pubs, a dentist and a few other shops, the details of which now escape my memory. However I do remember playing music in The Duck Inn opposite The Drake Inn and I played here years afterwards with the music I had inherited from my Dad.
In those days it was customary for Roman Catholic families like ourselves to kneel down each evening and say the Rosary and as my father had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary this was included in our nightly devotions. It’s well I remember the whole family, my parents, four brothers and two sisters, kneeling down in front of high backed wooden chairs, saying the decades of the Rosary just before bedtime. The coal fire burned bright in the corporation tiled fireplace grate, burning our backs as we studied our shadows on the wall and counting each decade on our fingers.
At the end of it all my father would invite each of us to add our own special dedication of three Hail Mary’s to anything we liked. I don’t remember any of my siblings particular dedications, but what still remains vivid in my mind is the special dedication of three prayers that I specifically wanted to be said. Indeed, I was most insistent I wanted three Hail Mary’s said for all the soldiers who died in battle (no matter where that battle was or which side they were on) who had no-one to say a prayer for them when they took their last breath. As a child I could not understand why a soldier about to die, without a priest to say the final absolution or the last rites, could not die ‘proper’. Did that mean that men who died on the battlefield without the last rites would never see heaven?
I remember my Father initially staying silent for a short while absorbing my request. I am sure he remembered his Granny sticking the long handled fire shovel into the roasting coal cinders “lest the ‘Black and Tans‘ called” and as she would confirm she “would sort them out”. Anyway, my father agreed, “Three Hail Marys for all the soldiers who died with no-one to pray for them” he said.
We all said the three Hail Marys and I was satisfied. I must have been about 8 years old or so at that time. My special dedication would now be done many times. My father was a special man and very tolerant. After a few years, the feeling of the lost and forgotten souls began to dig deeper and I decided to amass the largest collection of “War Dead” databases, currently available in Ireland, so that I could assist those searching for information on their kinsfolk and acquaintances.
The idea of some brave soldier dying in a foreign field, his people not knowing where he had died, where he had been buried or why he had been buried in that particular place, to me, did nothing to validate well earned respect. It was during the summer of 2005 and 2006 my wife, Ruth and I decided to visit all the Tipperary cemeteries and record the Great War graves contained in them.
If no-one else cares to remembers them at least they will be remembered here in this book -” Tipperary Casualties of the Great War“.