Thursday, October 12, 2017

Parishioners Who Died in WWI

John Nolan, b. Saggart (sixth name from top left) 
Click to enlarge

Archbishop Eamon Martin paid tribute to his grand-uncle Edward Doherty at  the unveiling of a plaque on the 22nd September last in St Patrick's Church, Iskaheen (in the Inishowen peninsula near Muff), to honour men from the area who died in World War I. Gunner Edward Doherty (Royal Garrison Artillery) died 19 September 1917, aged 33. Archbishop Martin had visited his grave last year where, as he says in the address he gave at the unveiling, '[I] knelt down and prayed at the white Portland headstone'. Read the text of his address and view a video of his visit  here.  

Today, 12 October 2017, is the day John Nolan from Saggart parish died a hundred years ago near Ypres (in Belgium), like Archbishop Martin's ancestor. He enlisted at the start of the war and was sent to France on 17 August 1914. On 18 June 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal and his name entered in the official London Gazette -- but, regrettably, without any accompanying citation. He was killed in action during the Third Battle of Ypres on 12th October, his body never being recovered. He is remembered on the memorial in Tyne Cot cemetery. (Thanks to David Power, South Dublin County Council Library, for this information. For a photo of the material compiled by David on John Nolan for the SDCC exhibition on the Third Battle of Ypres, see here.)

The 1901 census tells us (see link herethat he lived in a thatched cottage on Fortunestown Lane with his mother (55 and head of the family), his two sisters (23 and 22), and his brother Peter (17), he being 20 years old. The family were all Roman Catholic. Mary, a widow, lived in no.4 in a line of five houses. It was a 3rd class (i.e. thatched etc.) house, while their next-door neighbours lived in 2nd class ones. The other families describe their occupation as farmer/farm labourer, while Mary didn't enter any occupation for the females and 'general labourer' for the males. Ten years later, at the time of the next census, the Tippers of No.2 were in the Nolans' former home, while the Nolans themselves were gone out of Fortunestown.

William Newsom in No.5 was a horse trainer, as was his son John. He is down as owner of No.4, the Nolans' house. Our John no doubt learned a lot about horses from these neighbours and, having no land, went to work eventually for the Royal Horse Artillery/Royal Field Artillery, his regiment in the British army. That would explain why he didn't stay at home and find a job in the paper mill like the other young men in the area. He married later and, after his death at the age of 36, the official register of soldiers' effects tells us that Florence Emily inherited his -- a rather ironic word in this case -- estate.

Visit Tyne Cot cemetery here at the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for more details about him, including a downloadable commemorative certificate. The 'Grave Registration' list shows him as one of eight Nolans buried in this cemetery, four with Irish addresses (no address or place of birth given for John). In our own Memorial Book to be found in the Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge (with illustrations by Harry Clarke) we find his name recorded along with his place of birth (see photo above). As we can see, he is one of ten men of the same name who all died in World War I.

Maybe we too could kneel, if only symbolically, and whisper a prayer for John Nolan today : in the words of the Mass, 'Remember, Lord, those who have died' -- in John's case, in a tragically violent way in World War I.  And let this small corner of his parish's website be dedicated to him.

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