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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

A Canteen Manger of Birr Barracks - George Beattie

George's headstone in Clonoghill Cemetery.

On 16 July 1922, while the ruins of Birr Barracks were still smoldering after having been set alight on the 14th, George Beattie passed away in his house on Grove Street as a result of phthisis pulmonalis. George had been the canteen manager in the barracks. Typically a role was given to ex-soldiers, which George was. Today on the anniversary of his death we take a brief look at his life and military career.

George was born in Cappagh, Omagh, County Tyrone in 1872. He enlisted in the 4th (militia) Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 9 September 1890. Upon his enlistment he was recorded as 5 feet and 7 inches tall. He had brown hair and eyes and was of the Presbyterian faith. George served for 19 days before he left the army, purchasing his discharge for £5 on 27 September.

George reenlisted in the 4th Inniskillings on 3 November 1891 and served until 17 January 1893 when again he purchased his discharge. George then enlisted in the 21st Lancers at Omagh on 11 October 1893.

After some initial home service Private Beattie was stationed in India and then Egypt during the conquest of Sudan, which had the goal of recapturing territory lost during the earlier 1880’s campaign. The 21st Lancers took part in the Battle of Omdurman (2 September 1898), where they were ordered to charge against a Mahdist force believed to be only a few hundred strong, but turned out to be around 2500 men, the large force had been hidden by a depression in the ground. Despite the overwhelming odds, the lancers managed to disperse the Mahdist force only 70 men, killed or wounded. The engagement also resulted in the award of three Victoria Crosses to the unit. For his service in Sudan, Private Beattie received the Queen’s Sudan medal and Khedives Sudan medal with the clasp ‘Khartoum’.

Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman - image courtesy of the National Army Museum

On 28 May 1902 George married Lena Kinahan in Dublin. The later had four children together.

Private Beattie’s service continued with various postings at home, India and Egypt until he was discharged from the army in County Waterford on 31 May 1916 after the termination of the period of his second engagement with the colours, in total he served 22 years and 233 days. His conduct was remarked as exemplary. His intended place of residence as 48 Carlingford Road, Dublin.

Canteen token used in Birr Barracks

In the intervening years George took up employment as the canteen manager in Birr Barracks. He had 4 ½ years’ prior experience of being a caterer in a sergeant’s mess, so working in the canteen in Birr would have been something he was familiar with. He lived on Grove Street, which was just opposite the southern entrance to the barracks. George’s employment there ended with the evacuation of the British Army from Ireland and the handing over of the barracks to the National Army in February 1922. George later dying on 16 July, 2 days after the burning of the barracks, he was interred in Clonoghill Cemetery.

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