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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

John Perry of the Canadian Infantry

An interesting feature on certain memorials in cemeteries is the commemoration of relations who died in the First and Second World Wars. More than often it would be out of the reach of relations to visit their loved ones grave (if they even had one) in France or Belgium or further afield, so presumably having their name on the family memorial was a way their memory could be kept alive.

Today will look at one such example to the Perry family in Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr, County Offaly. The memorial takes the form of marble cross resting on a limestone plinth. The inscription indicates that John Perry, died 1881 and his wife Ellen Perry, died, 1910 are buried there. The last few lines of the inscription also mention their son John who was ‘Killed in France June 8th 1917’. Further research reveals the following story.

The Perry family grave in Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr.

John was born in Birr on 26 December 1880, he was the son of John Perry and Ellen Perry (née Grace). John senior was a Sergeant in the King’s County Rifles. Born around 1833. he was originally from Isle Brewers, Somerset. He joined the 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment of Foot on 12 January 1853. He served in Cephalonia, the Crimea, Malta, Gibraltar and Hong Kong. For service during the Crimean War (1853-1856) he received the Crimea and Turkish Crimea medals.

The 1st Regiment of Foot’s depot was Birr and saw Sergeant Perry based here until his discharge from the army in December 1862. Afterwards he took up a position in the local militia as a Sergeant.

John married Ellen Grace sometime around 1865 or slightly before. Ellen was from Roscrea. They had a number of children, John being the youngest. The 1901 census records John living in the Curragh Camp, an assistant grocery and provision house, along with the manager Henry Gent and another assistant William Mayer.

John emigrated to Canada before 1911 (as he is not on the Irish 1911 census). He lived on 72nd Street, Edmonton, Alberta. On 30 October 1915 he married Thomasina Mary Murray. Two months later on 31 December he attested for service in the 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Upon his enlistment he was described as being 5 foot 9 inches tall, having grey eyes and brown hair. Interesting he was described as a Roman Catholic despite having been baptised in the Church of Ireland Church in Birr!

Serving in France Private Perry saw service on the Somme in 1916 and at Vimy Ridge in 1917, however he was ultimately killed on the 9 June 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated in the Vimy Ridge Memorial. His name also appears on the Great War memorial in the Church of Ireland Church in Birr.

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