Boer War and Great War Veteran Thomas Hickey
Updated: Jun 13
Thomas Hickey was born on Bury Quay, Tullamore, King’s County on 24 January 1875. He was the son of Michael Hickey and Mary Hickey (Nee Byrne). Michael was a boatman, this related to the transport of people and or goods on the Grand Canal, which would have been booming at the time. Following in his father’s footsteps, Thomas also worked as a boatman on the canal.
Thomas attested for 4 years’ service in the 3rd Battalion (militia), Leinster Regiment around 1899, this probably consisted with the large county-wide recruitment drive for the militia which was going on at the time. Thomas was embodied with the battalion for active service in South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War on 18 January 1900. He spent two long years in South Africa where the climate and disease was the greatest enemy. The 3rd Leinsters arrived home at Birr Barracks on 26 May 1902 to a warm welcome from locals and Birr Urban District Council. For his service in South Africa Thomas received the Queen’s South Africa medal with the clasps “Cape Colony” and “Transvaal”, and the King’s South Africa medal with the clasps “South Africa 1901” and “South Africa 1902”. Thomas remained in the militia until his time expired in 1904.
Reengaging for service on 16 May 1904, Thomas was present at each of the annual trading camps until this time expired again in 1908. On 12 July 1908, he re-joined, the 3rd Battalion, Leinster Regiment now considered a Special Reserve, which functioned as an army reserve and could supply the regular army with troops, when needed. He was present at each of the annual training camps.
The 1911 census records Thomas as living at 9, Barracks Street, Tullamore with his wife Julia (Nee Walsh) and daughter Mary Kate (another daughter, Elizabeth would be born on 4 June 1914). Thomas and Julia having married the previous year on 4 February in St Catherine’s Catholic Church, Tullamore.
Again in 1912, Thomas re-joined for a further 4 year term of service and was present at the training camps of 1912, 1913 and 1914. With the outbreak of war in August 1914, Thomas was immediately mobilised and transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment. As an experienced part time soldier with active service under his belt he would have been useful in bolstering the numbers of the regular army battalions.
Service during the Great War consisted of heading to France to join the British Expeditionary Force from September 1914 until May 1915 when he received wounds. As a result of his wounds Thomas was was posted to the depot in Birr. Subsequently he served with the 6th (Service) Battalion, Leinster Regiment, which had only been formed in October 1914, from October 1915 until April 1916. Thomas’ served as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Salonika (Greece). The remainder of Thomas’s service was with the depot in Birr and with the 3rd Battalion in Cork and England, he was discharged from the army in May 1919, but remained in “Z” class reserve. “Z” class reserve consisted of discharged soldier, who could be recalled for service should there be trouble with the Armistice with Germany, it was disbanded on 31 March 1920. For his service in the Great War, Thomas received the 1914 Star, British War medal and Victory medal.
Despite having received a character reference of “good” upon discharge, Thomas’ Great War service was marked by a few incidences, including being drunk in barracks at Birr on 30 May 1916, neglect of duty in Cork on 24 June 1916 which resulted in 3 extra guard duties, drunk in barracks in Cork on 9 July 1916 which resulted in a fine of 2 shillings and 6 pence and being absent without permission on 29 March 1918 which resulted in being confined to barracks for 7 days.
Post war, Thomas remained in Tullamore, having several more children. He died on 13 January 1966 as a result of heart failure. His address recorded as Dillon Street at the time of his death. He was buried in Clonminch Cemetery, Tullamore.