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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Private James Mooney from Birr, Offaly

The 17 January marks the 106th anniversary of the death of James Mooney, 2nd Battalion Leinster Regiment. As it nears the anniversary of his death we’ll explore his brief life.

James was born in Parsonstown on 4 August 1896. He was the second youngest of Patrick and Anne Mooney. Patrick, a labourer married Anne Corr on 13 May 1891 at St Brendan’s Catholic Church, Birr. Patrick was listed as living on Melsop Street and Anne as living on Glebe Street.

The 1901 census records the family as living at 31, Mill Street. The family consisted of Patrick, Anne, daughter Hannah, Patrick, James and baby Christy. Ten years later, the 1911 census records the family living at 6 Mount Sally. Prior to his death Edward Curren was a likely neighbour who we have featured on the blog before. Edward was a veteran of the Crimea and fought at Sevastopol.

Mountsally Street, Birr.

With the outbreak of the Great War, the Mooney family did their part, with Patrick (senior) enlisting in the army along with Patrick (junior) in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. James later followed and enlisted around 1915, joining the Leinster Regiment in Birr and being posted to the regiments 2nd Battalion. Brother Christy also enlisted in the Leinster Regiment, but was shortly discharged for being underage, though he later joined and served with the Connaught Rangers.

Private Mooney arrived in France on 20 December 1915. Around this time the War Diaries records that the battalion was based in Ganspette and that a draft of 44 other ranks had joined. Christmas Eve 1915 consisted of some reconnaissance of German trenches with Christmas Day taken up with regimental competitions. The New Year brought with it some training and the move to Poperingue and then to Hooge.

The War Diary records that there was considerable shelling of "C" company on the 17 January, which resulted in 2 deaths and 3 wounded. Private Mooney being one of the dead, he was only 19 years old.

The Chaplin wrote the following letter to his mother:

"Dear Mrs Mooney, My heart breaks to write and tell you the sad news of the death of your son, James, who was killed on the 17th inst. He was young to give his life, but gave it willingly, and when I saw him in death he had a brave smile on his face and looked peaceful. He did not suffer, but was killed outright, and will see a cross is put over his grave. Mother of God, who also lost her son, and she will give you comfort in your sorrow. With deep sympathy. Yours truly, Denis Doyle, Chaplain."

Private Mooney rests in Menin Road, South Military Cemetery. Private Mooney’s campaign medals; the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal (now missing) and Victory Medal were sent to his mother in Birr. Both Patrick senior and junior survived the war and returned home to Birr.

Private Mooney's medals.

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