Birr's Royal Marine - Colonel Arthur Kelly Evans
Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr, County Offaly is filled with numerous impressive monuments, many of these were carved by the skilled hands of great craftsmen. In contrast there are those which are humble and modest, then there are those which you might pass by and not look twice at. One such grave takes the form of a simple wooden cross, it has certainly seen better days, adorned in the centre is a small silvered plaque. It is only upon carefully inspecting the inscription do we discover the grave belongs to someone who is by no means modest. The inscription simply reads:
‘COLONEL ARTHUR KELLY EVANS
This is the story of Colonel Arthur Kelly Evans.
Arthur Kelly Evans was born in Birr on 10 November 1882. He was the youngest son of Arthur Kelly Evans and Jemima Isabel Evans (née McCausland). Arthur (senior) married Jemima McCausland in St Stephen’s Church of Ireland Church in Dublin in 1869. Arthur was from Dublin and Jemima was from County Tyrone. At the time of Arthur’s birth, Arthur (senior) was manager of the Hibernian Bank in Birr. The family spent around 25 years in Birr and lived in Clonbeale House, just outside the town.
Arthur’s (senior) health was in decline and he had returned to Dublin when he died on 22 October 1893. His remains were brought to Birr to be interred in Clonoghill Cemetery.
Arthur is recorded on the Irish 1901 Census, living in with his mother and siblings in 47 Pembroke Park. He is recorded as a ‘scholar’. The same year he was commissioned into the Royal Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant on 1 September 1901. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 July 1902. Then on 1 September 1912 he was promoted to Captain. From 12 August 1911 to 26 August 1912 Captain Evans was an assistant instructor of musketry in Plymouth.
Captain Evans saw extensive service during the Great War. He served on many different ships and was present in Gallipoli from August 1915 until the evacuation of the peninsula in late 1916. He also served in Salonika and France. He was Mentioned in Dispatches in the London Gazette on 13 July 1916, awarded the Military Cross for distinguished service in the field in 1917. On 1 September 1917 Captain Evans was promoted to Major. He was again Mentioned in Dispatches in 1918 for distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty. His final honour was an Order of the British Empire which was awarded in January 1919.
After the war Major Evans was an instructor of musketry in Chatham, Kent. At his own request he was placed on the retired list on 22 November 1922. This was the end of his military service however from 6 April 1925 to 31 May 1935 Evans was a Royal Navy and Royal Marine recruiting staff officer in Liverpool. He had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (retired) in December 1931. After his time as a recruiter he returned to his home town of Birr where he lived in Bunraven House, on the Tipperary/Offaly border.
Evans accidentally drowned in Little Brosna River on the grounds of his house on 13 November 1947. It was thought that he had suffered a heart attack and fell in, which indeed recorded on his death certificate. He had never married.
Per mare, per terram.