War Memorials of St Brendan's Church, Birr (Part 2)
Updated: Jun 12, 2021
In a previous blog post we looked at the stained glass windows unveiled alongside the WW1 memorial in St Brendan’s Church of Ireland Church in Birr. As Easter 2021 approaches we examine the memorial tablet itself which was unveiled almost 100 years ago. As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead at Easter, so too where the names of the Birr Church of Ireland parish members who died during the Great War resurrected and enshrined upon the brass memorial tablet, which exists in perpetuity.
The brass memorial was unveiled on 24 April 1921. It is mounted on a wooden panel and is inscribed with a Greek style cross enclosed by a laurel wreath. The names of the parish dead are below.
On the occasion of their unveiling, memorials were dedicated by the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Thomas Sterling Berry. Numerous hymns were sung during the ceremony and at its conclusion the twenty one names on the memorial were read aloud.
The text of the memorial tablet bears the following.
THE WINDOWS IN THE ADJACENT AISLE
HAVE BEEN ERECTED IN PROUD AND
THANKFUL MEMORY OF THE MEN
OF THIS PARISH WHOSE SPLENDID
SELF-SACRIFICE HELPED TO WIN
THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918
“THEIR NAME LIVETH
William Sharrock Ball
William was born in Kingsbridge, Devon on 4 February 1893. William enlisted in the Leinster Regiment at Devonport in January 1910 for 12 years service. He served in India and at home. William married Eileen Murphy on 2 November 1916 in St. Anne’s Church Shandon, County Cork. They had a child, George William born on 18 October 1917 in Birr.
William died on 23 December 1918 at the 3rd Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne, France from pneumonia and was interred in Terlincthun British Cemetery, France. William’s wife and child are recorded as living at Main Street, Crinkill.
George Frederick Coore-Mein
George was born in Shropshire in 1881. He was the son of Major Frederick Coore-Mein and Florence Katherine. George served in the Second Anglo Boer War in the 25th Imperial Yeomanry. For his service he was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal with the clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. Private Coore-Mein served with the Canterbury Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He was killed in action on 7 August 1915 during the Battle of Chunuk Bair. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Chunuk Bair Memorial.
Born in Parsonstown on 17 May 1896 John was the son of William and Hanna Eades. William was a carpenter. They lived at 17 Cappaneale Street, Birr. John enlisted sometime in mid-1915 into the 9th (Tyrone) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The 9th battalion went overseas in October 1915. John was appointed to Lance Sergeant Eades. He later died from wounds on 6 December 1916. He was interred in Bailleul Communal cemetery extension, France.
An older brother of John Eades, Robert Eades, was born on 10 October 1893 in Parsonstown. Robert like his father was a carpenter by trade. Robert moved to Quebec, Canada and joined up on 30 November 1915. He enlisted in the 73rd Battalion Canadian Infantry. He was 5 foot 10, had grey eyes and brown hair. Private Eades died on 5 April 1917, just a few days before the battle of Vimy Ridge and is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery, France.
No reference can be found to a man with this name who died during the Great War with a direct link to Birr.
Richard Patrick Hemphill
Richard Patrick Hemphill was the son of Reverend Samuel Hemphill and Flora Margaret Delap Hemphill, and was born in the Rectory, Parsonstown on 17 March 1894. Richard’s father was Minister at Saint Brendan’s church from 1892 to 1914. Patrick was educated at St. Columba's College, Rathfarnham, Dublin, Campbell College, Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin where he studied medicine. In both Campbell and Trinity College he had been a member of the Officers Training Corps. (Campbell College was the only secondary school to have an O.T.C. in Ireland). Patrick was commissioned into the 6th Battalion, Leinster Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in December 1914. He served overseas in France and Flanders with the British Expeditionary Force from May to November 1915 entitling him to a 1914-15 Star trio. For fourteen months from November 1915 Second Lieutenant Hemphill was stationed in Salonika and was in charge of a company. He was attached to the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt and promoted to captain.
On 24 March 1917 Captain Hemphill was killed in a flying accident at Heliopolis, Egypt. He was interred in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt. Lieutenant Colonel H.W. Weldon, late 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment wrote of Hemphill:
For nearly a year he was under me during 1915 when I was Adjunct, and for a short time his Company Commander, and I can honestly say I never knew a more conscientious, capable or pluckier soldier. He was loved by his men, and had he been spared, I feel sure he would have made a great name for himself, if opportunity occurred. I think he was one of the nicest boys I ever met, and one I shall never forget.
Joseph Leopold Frederick Hill was born in Tipperary in 1895. He was the youngest son of John and Ann Marie Hill. John was a R.I.C. pensioner. Joseph served as a sergeant in the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards. He died of wounds on 13 April 1918. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial and also on a family headstone in Clonoghill cemetery, Birr.
Charles William Howes
Born in India in 1887, Charles was the son of William Robert Howes, a British army officer and Lucy Howes. Charles entered Trinity College to study medicine in October 1908. Whilst in Trinity he was a member of the Officer Training Corps. After he graduated he was a teacher and taught in County Cavan and at Birr. Charles enlisted in the Leinster Regiment in November 1914. Charles married Mabel Gick on 25 September 1915 in Saint Brendan’s church, Birr. Charles was commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant in July 1915. Shortly after getting married Charles went overseas to France with the Durham Light Infantry. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1916. He was killed in action on 22 April 1918 whilst leading his company, 'W' on an attack at Martinsart Wood on the Somme. Major Howes was buried in Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
Henry Theophilus Kelly Mitchell
Henry was born on 12 December 1891 and was the son of Thomas Mitchell and Fanny Mitchell (née Mitchell) of 19 Oxmantown Mall, Birr. Thomas was a solicitor. Henry was educated in Campbell College, Belfast. He was commissioned in the 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment as a second lieutenant on 13 March 1912 after cadet training in Sandhurst. He was temporarily promoted to lieutenant on 27 December 1914. He entered active service in August 1915. He died on 11 November 1915 from a fatal riding accident. He is commemorated on the Delhi Memorial, India.
An elder brother of Henry Mitchell, Thomas was born in Birr on 8 December 1882. Thomas was admitted to Sandhurst College for officer training in January 1901. He completed his training in December. He was commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment as a second lieutenant and was promoted to captain on 2 February 1911. He eventually reached the rank of major. Thomas married Elizabeth Violet Harold of 15 Goldington Avenue, Bedford. Mitchell was sent to Mesopotamia in January 1916. He died on 12 April 1917 from wounds received in action. He was buried in a Baghdad Cemetery, Iraq.
Born in Shorncliff on 20 December 1889, George was the eldest son of George and Ellen Murray. George was a sergeant in the 2nd Battalion, Leinster Regiment. George was a pre-war regular enlisting around 1907. He initially served with the 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment, but later being posted to the 2nd Battalion. He received a commission from the ranks to second lieutenant in February 1915. He was further promoted to lieutenant and the captain. Murray was also mentioned in dispatches in June 1916. Captain Murray was killed in action on the 4 July 1916. It was reported he was trying to spot a German machine gun position when he was struck with a bullet under his ear. He is buried in Ration Farm Annexe cemetery in France.
Frederick Nixon Eckersall
Frederick was the eldest son of Eckersall Nixon and Constantia Mary Anne (née Armstrong). He was born in Castletown, County Meath. Frederick’s father was a clergyman based in Ettagh Rectory in King’s County for a period. His wife was Florence Eleanor Nixon – Eckersall of Gloucestershire. During the war Frederick served as a major in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He entered into France in October 1915. He was mentioned in dispatches, the notice appeared in the London Gazette in May 1917. Major Nixon-Eckersall was killed in action on 10 November 1917 and was buried Ypres Reservoir cemetery, Belgium.
Philip Anderson O’Brien
Born in India on 15 August 1891, Philip was the son of Alexander and Mary Anderson. Alexander was a colour sergeant in the Leinster Regiment. Alexander died on 9 October 1891. Mary later remarried James O’Brien, another soldier in the Leinster Regiment. Philip seems to have taken Anderson as a middle name. Philip enlisted in the Leinster Regiment in 1906. He received as a commission in the 1st Battalion as a second lieutenant in December 1914. He was wounded on 31 January 1915 and later died on 9 March 1915 from his wounds. He is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.
William was born on Newbridge Street, Parsonstown on 12 March 1896. He was the son of John and Fanny Odlum (née Talbot). John was a blacksmith. William served as a private in the Irish Guards. He also had a brother, John who served in the Machine Gun Corps. William was killed in action on 9 September 1917. He is buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery, Belgium.
Born in Parsonstown on 27 December 1881, John was the son of John and Ellen Perry (née Grace). John was a sergeant in the militia. They lived at John’s Place. John emigrated to Canada. He lived in St. Edmonton, Alberta with his wife Thomasina. John joined the 49th battalion, Canadian Infantry in December 1915. He saw service in France and was killed in action on 9 June 1917. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, France.
Albert was born at Killooly on 11 September 1884. He was the son of John and Sarah Pretty (née Gill). His parents lived at Rape Mills, Garbally. Albert emigrated to the United States and lived in Seattle, Washington. His brother James lived in Canada. Albert worked as a farmer’s horseman. Albert joined the Canadian Infantry in September 1918 and upon enlisting he was described as being 5 foot 8 inches and having brown eyes and hair. Private Pretty died one month later in England on 17 October 1918. He is buried in Plymouth Cemetery, England.
William E. Earl of Rosse
Born on 14 June 1873 and son of Lawrence Parsons, 4th Earl of Rosse and Frances Cassandra Hawke. William was educated at Eton and Oxford. William served as a lieutenant with the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards in the Boer War and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal. He was promoted to captain in 1900 and then to major in 1906. In 1905 he married Frances Lois Lister-Kaye. Major Parsons served with the Irish Guards during the Great War. He was seriously wounded in the head on 18 May 1915 and died from his wounds on 10 June 1918 in Birr Castle. His funeral took place on 13 June 1918 and his remains were brought to Saint Brendan’s old graveyard, where he received a military funeral.
John Forrest Ruttledge
The son of Colonel Alfred and Mary Ormsby Ruttledge, John was born in Birr on 1 August 1894. John attended Sandhurst Military College and completed his training in 1913. He was commissioned in the 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant. John was promoted to lieutenant in November 1914 which was around the same time he was sent to France. Lieutenant Ruttledge awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, the citation read:
For great coolness and gallantry on 19th December, 1914 near Neuve Chapelle. When his company were moving over open ground under heavy fire many casualties occurred, and Lieutenant Ruttledge remained to the last helping the wounded away to cover.
Lieutenant Ruttledge was promoted to temporary captain in April 1916. Captain Ruttledge was killed in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.
Joseph was born on 9 September 1888 and was the eldest son of Daniel and Annie Skerritt (née Batson). They lived on Cumberland Street, Birr. Joseph served as a Sergeant in the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was killed in action in Gallipoli on 29 Apr 1915. His name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
Born on 21 September 1884 at Ballyegan, Lancelot was the only son of Joseph Studholme and Mary Hastings Studholme (née Davis). He was educated at Banstead Hall, Surrey, and Uppingham, then at Christ Church, Oxford. Since a child he had a lifelong interesting in gardening and won many prizes. After the death of his father in 1904, Lancelot took over his estate and became a Justice of the Peace for King’s County. He later filled the office of High Sheriff in 1909. On the outbreak of the Great War, Lancelot joined the Leinster Regiment as a private and was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Further promotions soon followed.
Brother officer Captain Max Stainforth described Lancelot in letters as ‘Then we come to the platoon commanders. No. 9 is run by Studholme, 2nd Lt. I think probably you’d like him almost best. He’s an old house man, aged 29, dark, and very quiet – almost timid. Very shy, but very-thoroughbred and very fine-natured. I believe he owns half the town of Birr, and his hobbies are daffodils and kittens. Yes, certainly you’d like him.’
In January 1915 Studholme was able to return home for a brief period where he visited the school at Ballyegan giving the children sweets and gifts. He had been noted for his kindness and generosity.
The 7th (Service) Battalion, Leinster Regiment formed in Fermoy, County Cork in October 1914. It was part of the new armies raised by Lord Kitchener which added new service battalions onto the already existing regiments of the British army and was instead of creating new regiments. The Leinster Regiment had two service battalions (6th and 7th Battalions) for
the duration for the Great War. The 7th Leinsters were part of the 47th Brigade which was part of the 16th Irish Division. In December 1915 the 16th Irish moved to France where it would spend the duration of the war fighting on the Western Front
The 16th Division entered into the Battle of the Somme in September 1916, taking part in the assault on the German held towns of Gulliemont (3-6th) and Ginchy (9th). During the assault on Ginchy Captain Studholme was leading his men over open ground when his batman, a man named Harte, who had previously worked for him on his estate at Ballyegan was wounded by a bullet, Lancelot stopped to assist him, but in doing so was killed himself by machine gun fire.
The King’s County Chronicle mentions this brave act ‘The manner of his death too, was one that should never be forgotten, revealing as it did a self-sacrificing devotion to a fellow human being’. Also a private in the battalion remarked ‘He was a grand officer, and a brave man; we cried when we buried him.’
Lancelot’s will saw a significant contribution of money left to charity with the following donations being made:
To the Select Vestry of the United Parishes of Ettagh and Kilcolman…….. £100
The City of Dublin Hospital………………………………………………...£200
King’s County Protestant Orphan Society…………………………………..£50
Birr Jubilee Nurse’s Fund…………………………………………………..£100
Lancelot has no known grave, his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France.
Three Charles Willoughby’s with Irish connections died during the Great War, one in the South Irish Horse and two in the Irish Guards, it is unclear which man is commemorated on this memorial.