I found it disturbing to learn that the document to follow – a list of all those Newry people who voluntarily enlisted in the British Army and Navy from the outbreak of war up to the end of April 1915 – was recovered from a rubbish skip where it had been idly set aside!
Hugh John McConville, nationalist Councillor and Justice of the Peace was among the most illustrious of our past Council Chairmen, and he received this scroll, on behalf of the people of Newry at a public meeting in the Town Hall, held for the purpose. Only the frontispiece is ornate and coloured, the lists themselves carefully transcribed in the same hand, all 836 (yes! Eight hundred and thirty-six!) names – and written in pen on A3 sheets (thirty-two of these!).
The European War was as yet only nine months old and no one knew the horrors to come. Very many of these young lives were wasted at The Somme and in the trenches at other battles. There were of course many more Newry men and women who enlisted after this date – and, as I have already ascertained from my friend who loaned me these scrolls, not all recruits to that date are even included – his own father being just one!
I have no corresponding list of those who fell or those who returned. If you can offer information, we would be grateful and reproduce it here.
We learned on the news last week that the last survivor of that horrible conflict passed away at the age of 117. We would be interested to learn if your forebears are listed here.
I have spent three weeks transcribing and correcting this list but errors may persist. Please point them out so I can correct them.
To fit all the data to A4 size pages I have used abbreviations (e.g. Fk as an abbreviation for the forename Francis [Frank] and RIFus for Royal Irish Fusiliers.) I may need to explain this further, later. I have reproduced ALL the data on these individuals with the exception of their Army number – which I thought no longer relevant. Where an individual has no address, regiment etc. after his name here, it is because that is how he was recorded in the original lists. It seems the scribe wearied from time to time for it is often towards the end of a page that these details are omitted.
Note that the conflict is termed European War, the USA and Far East countries not as yet involved. Note also that there is no Royal Air Force – aircraft being a recent invention and not yet deployed in conflict situations.
Finally, just one female is listed, a young woman from Downshire Road who joined up as a nurse.
Remember these are Newry TOWN people only and all are volunteers. Twelve months later just one man from Newry – Patrick Rankin – took part in the Rising at the GPO in Dublin. This is mentioned by way of contrast though numerous other factors – paid employment dominating – are involved.
It is unimaginable the loss that the removal of 835 young men of serviceable age caused to the town’s demography and life-blood – not to mention the human, social, commercial and economic consequences. They were to become lambs to the slaughter – ‘lions led by asses’ as it was later described.
… more later …