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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

Where it all Started - Crimea Veteran Christopher Kerrigan

Regular readers will be aware of my tendency to focus on Offaly related topics, with specific focus on Birr, a town where I have many childhood memories of visiting relations. Where my interest in the old soldiers of Birr came from is one of my few interests where I can roughly pin point the origin. While visiting relations in Birr, I would often pass time by visiting Clonoghill Cemetery and examine and ponder over the various graves of towns people long since dead. Three particular grave always caught my attention, the grave of poor Trooper Vincent Hogan of the South Irish Horse who was accidently killed, the grave of James Carroll, the old Maori Wars veteran (both previously featured on this blog) and finally the grave of Crimea veteran Christopher Kerrigan. My interested developed from here and the rest, as they say is history…

Over a decade later, one can imagine my sheer excitement when I had the opportunity to purchase one of the medals awarded to Christopher Kerrigan, an old soldier whose grave has fascinated me. In the usual fashion of this blog we will look at who he was.

Christopher Kerrigan was born in Edenderry, King’s County around 1833. He enlisted in the 3rd Regiment of Foot at Dublin on 29 June 1850, he previous trade was given as a labourer. The 3rd Regiment of Foot or better known by their nickname “The Buffs” were originally formed in 1572.

Upon Christopher’s enlistment, he was recorded as being 5 foot and 10 inches tall, and as having brown coloured eyes, and dark brown hair. His service consisted of 1 year in Malta, 5 months in Greece, 1 year and 1 month in the Crimea, 2 years and 6 months in Corfu, 1 year and 1 month in China and 4 years in the East Indies.

Private Kerrigan saw action with his regiment during the siege of Sevastopol in winter 1854, for which he received the Crimea medal with the clasp ‘Sevastopol’ and the Turkish Crimea medal (pictured below). His service in China was part of the Second Opium War, and he was engaged at Taku Forts. His service during this campaign entitled him to the China medal with the clasp ‘Taku Forts’.

After 21 years’ service in the army, Private Kerrigan was discharged on 16 April 1872. His intended place of residence was Dublin. While in Dublin he married Sarah Dignam on 11 March 1874 in St Thomas’ Church. Christopher’s address was listed as 4 Upper Mecklenburgh Street, and Sarah was recorded as living on Mabbot Street. By 1877 they were living in Sffin, just outside Birr, where he had an appointment in Birr Barracks.

Christopher and Sarah had five sons and three daughters, all sons serving in the army at one point or another (Richard died during the 2nd Anglo Boer War and Frank died during the Great War).

The 1901 census records Christopher and Sarah with daughters May and Margaret, and son Henry in 8, Seffin, Birr. The 1911 census records Christopher and Margret living in 1, Seffin. Shortly after, Christopher moved to St Kilda’s Lodge, Military Road Crinkill.

Christopher died on 30 December 1914, aged 80 years. He was interred in Clonoghill Cemetery, with full military honours. His death was recorded in the King’s County Chronicle.

“Crimean veteran dead in Birr. One by one the old Crimean veterans in and about Birr are going from us. The last to answer "the call" was Mr Christopher Kerrigan, Military Road, who died on Wednesday, 30th December, at the age of 80, after an illness of about two months. He joined the 3rd East Kents, Buffs, and saw service abroad for 10 ½ years, gaining the Crimea medal with clasp for Sebastopol, the Turkish medal, and the China medal with clasp for the Taku Forts. He left the army in 1872 and spent 39 of the 42 intervening years in Birr, holding an appointment at the barracks for 24 years. Four of his sons were soldiers but one fell in South Africa; three are on active service at present with the 2nd Leinsters, 2 being Sergeants. The funeral took place on Sunday to Clonoghill Cemetery. The immediate family representatives were his sons, Anthony and Christopher Kerrigan, and his daughter Mrs Sarah Patterson. Military honours were accorded, about a hundred of the troops in charge of Sergeant Callaghan, marching behind the hearse. The coffin was wrapped in the Union Jack and after the last prayers were recited by Rev E. J. Scanlan, R. C. C, three volleys were fired and the 'last post' sounded”.

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Mar 13, 2022

What a lovely memorial to this brave soldier !

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