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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Born in a Workhouse - Private Stephen Scully, Royal Munster Fusiliers

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Today we look at the life of Stephen Scully, someone who started off in life with very little, yet distinguished himself during the Great War and then fated away into history with no sign or trace of him postwar.

Stephen Scully was born on 26 December 1891 in Ennistymon, County Clare. However more unusually is he was born in the workhouse. His mother was Mary Scully. No father is listed, which is most unusual considering male and female populations were generally separated. At the time of Stephen’s birth, Mary had been in the workhouse for about 14 years.

The 1901 census gives us more information about Stephen and Mary. Stephen is recorded as being able to read. Mary is recorded as single, a former servant, she could read and write and speak Irish and English. The census also records she was housed in the workhouse as a ‘mental’ patient, suffering from ‘idiocy’.

Mary died on 2 July 1902, her cause of death is recorded as ‘diarrhea for 44 days’. Mary was probably buried in the workhouse graveyard.

The 1911 census show us Stephen was still in the workhouse (despite a slight age discrepancy). Sometime after Stephen leftt the workhouse and enlisted in the army. During the Great War Private Scully arrived in France on 28 November 1914 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers. During his time in France he suffered from frostbite and gas poisoning. During an attack in August 1918 he distinguished himself. The following newspaper extract recounts his actions.

‘Pte. Stephen Scully, R.M.F., who is a native of Ennistymon, has just been awarded the Military Medal, for gallantry

and fearless conduct”. The circumstances under which the award came to be gained are thus set out in the Orders of Major General Barness, Commanding the 57th Division.

“On August 28th, 1918, during an attack, this stretcher-bearer rendered most valuable assistance to the wounded of his Battalion, and of the Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. He worked fearlessly and untiringly from 2 o’clock, p.m. on the 28th until 6 a.m. on the 29th, and cleared a whole area of wounded. After the Battalion had been relieved he refused to come out until he had rescued those who were lying in shell holes outside his own area.

“On September 2, he displayed the same gallantry working in an intense barrage bandaging the wounded and later, returning carried them to the Aid Post.” Five other Munster were also awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct on the day’.

Private Scully was discharged from the army on 17 March 1919. In addition to his Military Medal for gallantry he also received the 1915 Star, British War medal and Victory medal. He received a military pension, which recorded his address as Monastery Lane, Ennistymon. After this all traces of Stephen disappear.

Private Scully's Victory medal.

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