In the trenches

Now for the anecdotes about Addy McLoughlin  …..

Some ninety years ago our subject Addy McLaughlin of Newry met another young Newry lad in the terrible trenches of France during the Great War.


We must remember that, even though there were tens of thousands of underage lads sent out as cannon fodder, there were older soldiers too. Addy was a whole generation older than his young fellow soldier. After all, he had served in the Boer War some twenty years earlier.

In fact the two men had met a few years earlier in Newry. Terry Quinn, of Pound Street had a notion in Addy’s young daughter Margaret. He had called to the house in Boat Street one day to see her.

‘Do you know how to scrap, young lad?’ enquired Addy.

‘I can hold my own’, the young lad replied.

He led him out to the back yard. The rain was bouncing off the ground!

Next door there was a stables then. Indeed in later years this was the location of the first Shamrocks Club.

‘First,’ the older man said, ‘we will both strip to the waist.

That way it’s not easy to get a grip and you’ll have to fight and wrestle like a man.’

Young Terry learned, there and then – and the hard way – how to scrap.   Margaret was forced to watch.

A few years later in the trenches of the Maginot and Siegfried Lines, the lesson came in handy.

‘Have you had any leave yet?’ Addy asked the younger man, in the trenches.

‘Leave? No. Certainly not. I wouldn’t know how to go about getting leave.’

‘Well, I’ll show you then’, said Addy, a man well known for his wild antics.

‘You look after me and I’ll look after you’.

With that, he drew his revolver and shot off the end digit of one of the fingers of his left hand!

‘Now, take me to the field hospital’.

McLaughlin, a causality of war – of course he alleged the injury was caused by a German bullet – was shipped off home and he nominated his younger friend to accompany and aid him on the journey!

In fact it wasn’t that simple! The Commanding Officer indicated he could not spare more than one man on leave and there was another, an English soldier, with an apparently greater priority rating.

Still, in view of the circumstances, the Commander decided to give the young Irishman, a chance – he’d decide by the spin of a coin. Terry won.

Just a week later – that was all the length of his leave – Terry Quinn returned to the front and went in search of the soldier who had lost the toss, to commiserate with him.

He was not to be found.

He had died in the trenches during that fatal week!

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