Death of a Waterloo Veteran at Birr, County Offaly
Various newspapers around Ireland recorded the death of James Stirling in Parsonstown (Birr), King’s County (Offaly) in October 1875. The papers all mention he was a veteran of Battle of Waterloo, however don’t substantiate too much more on his military career or personal life.
Searching the medal roll for the Waterloo medal, we find two men with that name. The first is a Captain in the 42nd Regiment of Foot, however he was not present at the battle, and doesn’t match up with the few details we have from newspaper reports. This is unlikely to be our man. Our man has to be Private James Stirling of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards.
During the battle of Waterloo the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards served as part of the 2nd Guards, Brigade at Château d'Hougoumont. Members of the regiment were responsible for closing the gates of the farm after the French attack. Wellington crediting the closing of the gates as a turning point in the battle.
Further research reveals little to nothing about James. His burial in Birr is recorded in the Church of Ireland parish records, but there are no details of where. He was buried on 26 October, the ceremony being performed by Reverend William Ewing. Searching for James’ grave has been unsuccessful, while we know he was buried in Birr, it is almost certain he was buried in an unmarked grave in one of the older burial grounds in the town. A sad end to a man who saw heavy fighting at one of the most iconic battles of the nineteen century. In closing an obituary which appeared in the Midland Counties Advertiser on 28 October 1875 sums up James in a very fitting manner.
DEATH OF A WATERLOO VETERAN IN PARSONS-
TOWN. – The air of Parsonstown appears to be par-
ticulary favourable to the old war worn veterans of
our army. One by one, however, they are dropping
off and on Tuesday last the grave opened to receive
one of the last of the Mohicans in the person of a
diminutive Waterloo hero named James Stirling.
The departed warrior, who reached the ripe age of
98, was, it is stated, in receipt of a small pension
for upwards of 60 years, in consequence of a wound
received during the Waterloo campaign. Up to a
short time before his death he was almost daily to
be seen trotting through the streets, ready at any
moment to fight his battles o’er again for the grati-
fication of his hearers.