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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

The Service of Private Michael Henry, Leinster Regiment

Eglish Church which can been seen along Tullamore-Birr Road.

A familiar stretch of road to me is the Tullamore - Birr road, which I’ve been on countless times. Passing by Eglish I always catch glimpses of the Catholic and old Protestant churches. The latter being somewhat overgrown was always enticing to visit. It was until working in the Heritage Office of Offaly County Council that I finally managed to visit the site.

Upon entering the graveyard, which surrounds the church, the first noticeable memorial is the Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone, which marks the burial place of Private Michael Henry of the Leinster Regiment. This is the story of Private Michael Henry.

Michael was born on 11 August 1867 at Castle Street, Birr. He was the son of Denis Henry and Margaret Henry (ne Cunningham). Michael enlisted in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Leinster Regiment on 30 July 1889 and was posted to ‘E’ company, where attended several annual training camps. His occupation recorded as a labourer.

Michael married Anna Kenna in St Brendan’s Catholic Church on 7 June 1890. Anna was a native of Birr, and had lived on Main Street. Michael, Anna, their only surviving child, Mary, and two lodgers are recorded on the 1901 census as living on Connaught Street, Birr. Michael’s occupation is given as a militia man. Despite being a member of the militia he appears not to have served in South Africa (contrary to what his obituary says). The 1911 census records the family on High Street.

Michael enlisted in the 4th Battalion, Leinster Regiment at Birr on 4 October 1915 for the duration of the Great War. His place of residence was High Street. He mentioned his previous service with the militia (3rd Battalion). He joined his battalion at Curragh Camp on 5 October 1915. Private Henry only served at home and was not posted overseas.

Private Henry was discharged from the army at Cork on 25 June 1917 due to no longer being physically fit for service, for which he received the Silver War Badge. Upon his discharge he was recorded as 5 foot 6 inches tall, with gray eyes and fair hair. His intended place of residence was Mount Sally, Birr.

Mount Sally, Birr - what remains today.

Michael died at his home at Mount Sally on 28 June 1918 as result of phthisis and heart failure. His funeral took place in St Brendan’s Catholic church and his remains were interred with full military honours at Eglish graveyard, which the depot Leinster Regiment providing the band and firing party. The chief mourners at his funeral were his wife Anna and child Mary. His obituary notes his service and suggests his early death was attributed to his military service. (note the wrong year is recorded on his headstone).

Private Henry's grave, Eglish.

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