Ballinrobe and the Great War

Photo:The death penny/plaque was awarded to the widows of soldiers who died during the First World War.

The death penny/plaque was awarded to the widows of soldiers who died during the First World War.


Men killed in action

By Gerry Delaney

Ballinrobe, which had two barracks in the 19th century, had a long association with the British Army.  Through the generations many local girls had married soldiers and many of the town's young men had enlisted and had successful careers in the army.

From August to November 1914 over a million men from throughout the British Isles voluntarily enlisted in the British Army.  The promise of Home Rule for Ireland when the war was over, in return for the support of the Irish Volunteers, helped rally young Irishmen to the colours. The recruitment campaign was particularly successful in Ballinrobe. The Freeman's Journal issue of 18 November 1914 noted:

"There is not a town of its size or population in the province of Connaught has contributed more men to the war than Ballinrobe.  In addition to army reservists, there have volunteered twenty-five young men who are now in training for active service. These men, at least twenty of them, were members of the local corps of Irish Volunteers, and the example they have set is attracting further men to the colours."
Recruitment of volunteers continued through the winter months through a series of meetings.  On 17th February 1915 the same newspaper reported:

"Major Balfe, who is at present engaging in addressing meetings in the West of Ireland, was accorded an enthusiastic welcome at the Town Hall, Ballinrobe, on Sunday, and at the close of the meeting twenty-seven names were taken for the Irish Brigade."
By March 1915, one hundred and thirty Ballinrobe men had enlisted in the army and three had even joined the navy bringing the volume of recruits from South Mayo to over four hundred. Men were still volunteering at about forty per month the following November.

The volunteers of 1914 and 1915 had expected that the war would be short-lived.  As the horrors of the war became known, and with republican sentiment in Mayo intensifying, recruitment declined. In mid-April 1918 a great meeting was held at Ballinrobe presided over by Canon D'Alton, who declared that

" bastard Home Rule would be taken in exchange for the blood of the people."
The following Ballinrobe men perished in the 'war to end all wars' listed with:  Date of Death - Name - Regiment - death.

14 September 1914 - James Goulding, Connaught Rangers, killed in action.

14 September 1914 - Richard Biggins, Irish Guards, killed in action.

7 November 1914 - Michael Cullinane, Connaught Rangers, killed in action.

13 November 1914 - Thomas Collins, Connaught Rangers, died.

10 March 1915 - John Welsh, Liverpool Regiment, killed in action.

20 May 1915 - Hubert Daly, Liverpool Regiment, died of wounds.

21 August 1915 - Patrick McHugh, Connaught Rangers, killed in action in Gallipoli.

30 September 1915 - William Harrold, Irish Guards, killed in action.

5 November 1915 - John Cunningham, Irish Guards, killed in action.

20 February 1916 - John Cassidy, Royal Irish Regiment, died at home.

7 July 1916 - Patrick Duffy, Royal Irish Fusiliers, died.

Friday July 1916 - Holleran, Michael, Ballinrobe, Private no 12218 Mil. Unit King's Liverpool Regiment 13th Battalion

14 September 1916 - Edward William Burke, Royal Flying Corp, killed in aerial combat.

18 September 1916 - William Burke, Connaught Rangers, , died at Salonika.

23 October 1916 - Thomas May, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died in Cork.

17 December 1916 - Charles Graham, Royal Lancaster Regiment, killed in action in Basra, Iraq.

10 April 1917 - Michael Halloran, Royal Irish Fusiliers, killed in action.

11 April 1917 - George Cathcart, Royal Irish Fusiliers, killed in action.

11 August 1917 - Thomas Mullaney, Royal Munster Fusiliers, died of wounds.

17 August 1917 - Theodore Brady, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died.

22 November 1917 - Thomas Killeen, Royal Horse Artillery, died.

21 May 1918 - Mark Fox, Connaught Rangers, killed in action.

23 March 1918 - William Feerick, Connaught Rangers, killed in action.

3 August 1918 - William Horan, Leinster Regiment, killed in action.

5 September 1918 - William Conway, Canadian Infantry, died.

8 October 1918 - John Maughan, Connaught Rangers, killed in action.

Further information on the Penny/Plaque:

Each penny was individually cast and marked with the soldier`s name.   The penny/plaque depicts Britannia standing facing right with a large lion standing in front of her.   Below this representing Britain, is another lion tearing an eagle to pieces, which represents Germany.  The two dolphins symbolise sea power.   Around the edge of the plaque are the words 'He died for Freedom and Honour'.   Its actual size is similar to a DVD disc.

This page was added by Averil Staunton on 20/05/2011.
Comments about this page

My great uncle is William Burke, he lived in the cottages and his mother and father were Martin and Margaret. He came from a family of 9 children, my grandmother who immigrated to USA in 1921 was Catherine (Kate). Her sister Nellie came in 1923 to USA/NY. 3 other brothers, Matthew died in the Mayo brigade, another John institutionalized after WW1 and died in the 1970s and another Thomas Burke immigrated to USA but died from an injury sustained in WW2. None of these men had any offspring.  Other sisters migrated to England. I am very interested in finding out more and or cousins. 

By Steve Miller
On 13/10/2022

To Howard Lydon,

I checked the Thomas Lydon the soldier from Hebburn, he died during the war,  he does not appear to be from Mayo, however he seems to be from Galway. There was a Thomas Lydon at No 9 Abbey Street 

By Michael Feeney
On 31/07/2020

Hi Howard, Anne & Gerry,

I came across these postings on you excellent Ballinrobe war dead site. I was intrigued by the note on Thomas Lydon, Durham Light Infantry from Ballinrobe. 

His Irish home address  was not recorded on the CWGC site. It is great when family  members put the information out there. He does  appear on the Irish Census at stated  Ballinrobe  address.

I would like to confirm  this information accurately  so that  we can add him to our world war one memorial. 

 I probably have a number of new Ballinrobe names as I keep getting information like this.

Regards to all Michael  

Editor's reply: Thank you for your interest. We at Historical Ballinrobe are delighted to share information and if you give us your Social Media address we will share it for you. Averil

By Michael Feeney
On 31/07/2020

The William Horan mentioned is from Partry and my father Billy Horan's uncle and his namesake.

He was only 19 when he died. He was a great poet. He enlisted without telling his parents and lied about his age in order to be accepted. 

Thank you Sarah for sharing this information. Would you like some of his poetry published here?

By Sara Horan
On 11/11/2018

Richard Biggins, referred to above, who died 14th September 1914 at the battle of the Aisne, is buried in Soupir communal (civil) cemetery, next to my great Uncle James Killeen.  I was there recently (Sept) to pay homage, on the 103rd anniversary, and have photos of all the graves there, should anyone want.

My family lived in Crossboyne, near Claremorris, but left Ireland in about 1840, and now mostly live in Birmingham. I have little doubt Thomas Killeen also referred to above was also related.

Many thanks for this information, Editor

By Dennis Killeen
On 20/11/2017

Thomas Killeen came from our village. He wrote letters to his mother starting from the day that he arrived at an enlisting office saying that he arrived safely and  they would do some basic training in ... (which was blanked out for security reasons ) before going to the UK and being shipped out.

The UK location was also blacked out as was any references later to location on the front line, they were not even allowed to be tell what country!!

The letters were very loving; he reassured her that he was OK using the phrase darling mother or mother dear, how he would be home soon, please don't worry etc. He never gave a hint of the horrors that he must have experienced on the front line.

He died in Belgium in Ypres  and the letter was at the bottom of the box with the telegram "we regret to inform you your son is missing believed dead".

His mother never got over the death of her son.

Editor: Thank you Anne for sharing that very sad story.

By Anne Feerick
On 17/09/2015

My Great Grandad, Thomas Lydon, died as a result of mustard gas poisoning in Ypres (serving with the Durham Light infantry) at his home in Hebburn upon Tyne in December 1915.

He lived in Ballinrobe, 9 Abbey Street in 1901 with his family.

By howard lydon
On 18/05/2014

Hi Averil, 

Checking the : website, I came across another Ballinrobe native that is not on your list who died in the Great War.

HOLLERAN, MICHAEL Place of birth: BALLINROBE, IRELAND Rank: PRIVATE Service No.:12218 Mil. Unit: KING'S LIVERPOOL REGIMENT, 13TH BATT. Date of death: Fri Jul 14 1916

Reply: Thank you Tom, Your support is appreciate and thank you for this very helpful information. 

I have added his name to the list


By Tom Guckian
On 20/03/2014