• Stephen Callaghan

From the Big House to the Great War - Private Kelly of Lucan.

The 26 August 2021 marks 107 years since the death of Private William Kelly of Lucan, County Dublin. Today we will examine the life of this career soldier.


William was born in Lucan on 11 September 1888. He was the son of Patrick Kelly and Jane Kelly (née Byrne). Patrick was recorded as being a blacksmith, he married Jane on 6 January 1881, in St Mary's Catholic Church, Lucan.


The 1901 census records the family living in number 4, Saint Catherine's Park, Lucan - a second class house consisting of two rooms, the owner of the property being Captain Vesey of Lucan House. The census records Patrick, now a game keeper, his wife Jane and their children; Peter (age 15); William (age 12); Catherine (age 9); Patrick (age 7); Mary (age 5) and Margaret (age 3), also listed as living in the house is Jane's sister Mary Byrne.

William attested for service in the militia on 5 May 1905, enlisting in the 5th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, aged 17 years. He gave his trade as a messenger and previously employer as Captain Vesey of Lucan House.

Lucan House.

William was following in the footsteps of his older brother Peter, who had enlisted the year before in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 9 August 1904. Upon William's enlistment, he was described as being 5 foot 3 inches tall, and having blue eyes and brown hair. After having being present for the 1905 annual camp, he was posted to the regular army on 18 September 1905, joining the Lancashire Fusiliers. Similarly, his brother Peter was posted to the regular army the prior year, joining the ranks of the South Lancashire Regiment.


The 1911 census records Private Kelly stationed with the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers overseas in Multan, Punjab, India. Private Kelly was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the regiment and was stationed in Citadel Barracks, Dover.


With the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, were sent to France as part of the 4th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, landing at Boulogne on 20 August.


Only days after landing Private Kelly found himself in action during the Battle of Le Cateau, on 26 August, where he was one of the 700 men killed. He was buried at Esnes Communal Cemetery, France, where his grave was initially listed as unknown, but subsequently identified. 51 of the 55 soldiers buried in this small cemetery also perished on the same day as Private Kelly.

Private Kelly's 1914 Star.

For his service, Private Kelly was entitled to the 1914 Star, British War medal and Victory medals, these being sent to his father, along with the bronze memorial plaque. In addition, his father also received a small dependent's pension in respect of William's Great War service, this shows his father as living at Millbank, Lucan.

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