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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Colonel George Robert Hopkins, 53rd Foot

George Robert Hopkins was born circa 1819, belonging to an old Kilkenny family. Not much is known about George’s early life. He was commissioned without purchase into the 53rd Regiment of Foot as an Ensign on 28 August 1839. Promoted to Lieutenant on 26 July 1844 while attached to the 76th Regiment of Foot.

Lieutenant Hopkins married Sarah Murray Demoul while stationed in Rawal Pindi, India on 20 November 1851. Lieutenant Hopkins was further commissioned as Captain on 7 November 1853, while serving with the 53rd Foot again.

Hopkins’ service was mostly in India. He saw service in The First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-1846) where he fought at the actions at Aliwal and Sobraon. The conflict ended with a British victory and the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir to the East India Company. For his service he received the Sutlej medal with clasp “Sobraon”. He was present on the Peshawar Frontier, for which he received the Indian General Service medal. Captain Hopkins later took part in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858). The mutiny was a general uprising against the rule of the East India Company. The 53rd Regiment of Foot were heavily involved in the campaign and Captain Hopkins was wounded during the relief of Lucknow, where he received a sabre wound to his hand. For his service in the campaign he received the Indian Mutiny medal with the clasps “Relief of Lucknow” and “Lucknow”. The mutiny ended with a British victory and dissolution of the East India Company and full British control of India.

For recognition of service during the mutiny, Captain Hopkins was awarded the rank of Bervet Major, the notification dated 24 March 1858. The 53rd Foot returned to England in 1860 and remained on home service. Major Hopkins was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 18 March 1869 and then full Colonel on 11 October 1876.

As part of the 53rd Regiments home service, they arrived in Ireland at Queenstown in January 1875 and went on to be stationed at Templemore Barracks before proceeding to Parsonstown. It was here Colonel Hopkins retired from the army with full pay on 11 October 1876. Obviously taking a liking to Parsonstown the Colonel stayed here and settled with his wife in John’s Place.

Stone to mark the presentation of colours.

The following March while the 53rd Foot were still stationed in Birr Barracks, they receiving their new colours from H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, which Colonel Hopkins was invited to be present at. The presentation took place in the Fourteen Acres and was a large affair with countless notable people attending. The presentation was marked with an engraved stone being placed above the entrance to Birr Barracks where the Duke passed. The stone surviving to this day, thanks to the efforts of Henry George Farmer.

Colonel Hopkins wife, Sarah died in Parsonstown on 29 January 1884 as a result of inflammation of the bowels and collapse, she was buried in Clonoghill Cemetery.

After becoming ill and taken to a hospital on Charlemont Street, Dublin, Colonel Hopkins, died on 24 April 1891 as a result of “congestion of lungs”. His remains were brought back to Parsonstown via the train, with the funeral procession starting at 12 noon and going down Wilmer Road, and then past his house at John’s Place. Marks of respect were shown in the form of shops closed and window blinds drawn. The funeral procession finally made its way onto Clonoghill Cemetery where he was interred beside his wife.

Sarah and Colonel Hopkins' grave in Clonoghill Cemetery.

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