Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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(1848 - 1929)



1. THE FORMATIVE YEARS (1848-1866)
4. BILLY'S DEATH & THE EVE OF WAR (1900-1913)
5. WORLD WAR ONE (1914-1918)

7. THE IRISH CIVIL WAR (1922-1923)
8. TWILIGHT & EPILOGUE (1924-1960)

These pages will be consistently updated.
Comments, updates and corrections are much appreciated




5. WORLD WAR ONE (1914-1918)


On 26th Jan 1911 the Rathdonnells may have attended the wedding of Eustace Mansfield and Mabel Paget at St Mary’s of Cadogan Street. Mabel, an English heiress and third daughter of the late Guy Paget of Ibstock and Humberstone, Leicester. She was given away by her brother Guy and they honeymooned in Paris.

In 1912, Mabel acquired a splendid 6-year-old hunter called Lisnavagh, bred by the Rathdonnells at their Carlow estate. His sire was Rhodoricus and his dam was Catherine. (One wonders how he related to Lisnavagh, a chestnut hunter painted by George Paice in June 1891; the painting was on sale in 2019). nMabel purchased him from Mr. H. B. Alexander who had perhaps wearied of the horse after the Glascairn Point-to-Point of March 1912 when, with himself in the saddle, Lisnavagh was an also ran in the Open Race Cup presented by the Officers of the 5th Lancers, which was won by Captain Rusk’s Partridge. [i]

However, at the County Kildare Hunt Horse Show in August 1912, Lisnavagh won the Class XIV for hunters 14 stone and upwards and the Kildare Observer noted that Mrs Eustace Mansfield’s “big, good looking gelding that was bred, we believe, in the Co. Carlow and was for some time the property of Mr. H. B. Alexander, who disposed of him last spring”. [ii] He went on to win the same class at the Royal Dublin Society’s 1912 Horse Show.

On Saturday 28 June 1913, the Princess Royal, the Duchess of Fife and Princess Maud were present at the International Horse Show in Olympia, London, when Lisnavagh took second place (to Mrs Bennett Raby’s Cork) in the class for ‘Hunter Mare or Gelding, conveying more than 14st’.[iii] Two days later, Lisnavagh he took fourth place in the 13st. class for ‘Hunter Mare, or Gelding, capable of carrying front 13st 7lb to 15st.’[iv] A reviewer from the Kildare Observer (July 5, p. 8) felt it ‘very strange for such a good hunter that he refused to jump, or else he would probably have gained firsts and a championship, as he beat the second in the championship and was second to the 14st. champion.’

At the 1913 Dublin Horse Show, he placed 2nd out of 38 entries in the 14st. up to 15st. hunters, beaten by Sir Timothy O’Brien’s The Bailiff. [v]

In August 1914, Eustace Mansfield took Lisnavagh with him to the Western Front in the service of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Born in November 1879, Eustace Mansfield was the firstborn son of George Mansfield of Morristown Latten.[vi] Like his father, Eustace was educated at Stonyhurst, a Catholic boarding school in Lancashire. Eustace’s mother Alice Adele was the eldest daughter of Baron d’Audebard de Ferussac of Paris, a scientist of considerable repute. When the Great War broke out in 1914, George Mansfield, father of Eustace and Deputy Lieutenant of Co Kildare, issued a joint statement with Sir Anthony Weldon, Lord Lieutenant for the county, expressing their absolute opposition to British plans to enforce conscription in Ireland. They set up a committee to raise sufficient numbers so that “no question can arise as to the loyalty of the County Kildare” with regard to those willing to “join their brethren at the front”.

Above: The Rathdonnells have always had a soft spot for horses. This painting by George
Paice from 1891 is of a chesntut hunter called Lisnavach. [sic] In 1914, another hunter called
Lisnavagh went to the Western Front and served during the Great War. Lisnavagh was
one of the few horses who returned alive.

Captain Mansfield and Lisnavagh served on the Western Front until Eustace was shot in the neck and invalided home. He had been promoted to the rank of Captain and was serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment at the time. On Monday 27th September 1915, C and D Companies near Foss 8 were attacked from the rear by Germans using bombs. Captain Mansfield collected a mixed force of men and counter-attacked to relieve C Company. A further counter-attack to regain the village at Foss was cancelled after several senior officers, including General Thesiger, were killed by a shell whilst organising the attack. The battalion held their positions for the rest of the day before being relieved on the evening of the 27th. The battalion had suffered very heavy losses with over 400 casualties.[vii]

Lisnavagh returned with him to Ireland and subsequently won a prize at a horse show in England. The horse is buried near where the glasshouse used to be at Morristown Latten. Eustace died on 14th April 1945 and Mabel on 20th May 1949. This story was told to me by their only son Patrick Mansfield. They also had two daughters, Rosalind and Elizabeth, one of whom inherited the silver horse trophy won by Lisnavagh.

With thanks to Rosa Kende.


[i] Irish Independent, Friday, March 8th 1912, p. 8.

[ii] Kildare Observer 1880-1935 Saturday, August 10, 1912, p. 6.

[iii] News - The Horse Show. The Coaching Corinthian, The Times, Monday, Jun 30, 1913; pg. 6; Issue 40251; col C

[iv] News - The Horse Show. The Connaught Trophy, The Times, Tuesday, Jul 01, 1913; pg. 7; Issue 40252; col G

[v] Kildare Observer, Saturday, August 30, 1913.

[vi] Eustace’s brothers were Henry, Alexander and Tirso, about wich I have written in the Kildare Gentry. On 30th December 1913, Eustace’s eldest sister Mary married Thomas Esmonde. Her husband’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Esmonde, Royal Irish Regiment, won a Victoria Cross at Sebastopol, the same battle in which her great uncle William Mansfield perished. The younger Thomas Esmonde was lost at sea on 10th October 1918. Mary lived on until 10th March 1963. Eustace’s younger sister Marguerite (1883 – 1939) was married twice. Her first husband (1905) was Richard Morton Wood, 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, eldest son of Colonel George Wilding Wood of Docklands, Ingatestone, in Essex. He died without male heir on 6th January 1908. In 1911, she married Edward Nettlefold of Brightwell Park, Wallington, Surrey. He was seriously wounded in the war but survived to become a Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th Dragoons.

[vii] http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=49720


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Above: 'Goodbye Old Man' by Fortunino Matania.

Lisnavagh was a fortunate horse. Over a million horses were sent to France from
Britain and Ireland during the Great War; only 62,000 returned alive. One assumes
these were heart-breaking statistics for horse lovers like Tom and Kate Rathdonnell.
Such thoughts were further enhanced after reading Max Hasting’s introduction to
Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, the story of Joey, beloved mount of a Devon farmer's
son, translated into a beast of battle and burden in France. He reports that, ‘between
the Somme in July 1916 and the Armistice in November 1918, the British Army
recorded 58,090 horses killed and 77,410 wounded by gunfire; 211 were killed and
2,220 wounded by poison gas; while several hundred were killed by aeroplane bombs.’



New water-works opens in Carlow.

Carlow avoids the Compulsary Tillage Order imposed on other counties.

January 17: Carlow Foxhounds meet at Lisnavagh.

Jan 18: The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union strike ends.

January 30: Foot and mouth disease is again confirmed with outbreaks occurring in Kildare, Dublin, Cork and Tipperary. There were in all 76 outbreaks with 957 animals being affected and 4180 slaughtered.

February: Sir Francis Denys-Burton, Baronet, of Pollacton, Carlow, plants "Three hundred Larch trees in a field called "The Slang" Kernanstown in the Parish of Urglin by request and on behalf of my Wife Lady Grace E. Denys-Burton”. Thomas Kane Mc Clintlock Bunbury , Baron Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow and William Rochfort Esq. of Cahir Abbey , Cahir, Co. Tipperary are "Trustees of the Estate".

Feb 20: Fethard Lifeboat Disaster: the tragedy saw nine crewmen of the Fethard on Sea based ‘Helen Blake’ lifeboat die while trying to rescue the crew of the Mexico that had gone aground at the treacherous Keeragh Island.

February 26: Tom and Kate Rathdonnell celebrate their Ruby Wedding after forty years of marriage.

March 20: Curragh Mutiny involving Tom Rathdonnell's cousins George McClintock and Hubert Gough, along with other officers from the 5th Royal Lancers. They are among 57 of 70 officers consulted who elected for dismissal rather than go into possible action against the Ulster Unionists. Sir Arthur Paget, Commander-in-Chief of troops in Ireland at the time, was a kinsman of Charles Paget who sailed with Tom's father on Samarang in the 1830s.

April 2: Cumann na mBan, Irish women’s Republican movement, founded.

April 7: House of Commons passes Home Rule Bill.

April 12: George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’ opened in London with Mrs. Patrick Campbell as Eliza Doolittle and Sir Herbert Tree as Professor Higgins.

April 16: Tom Rathdonnell co-organizes Bull Show with Waterford Agricultural Society.

April 25: Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are amongst the huge number of aristocrats and landed gentry who attend the gloriously sunny Punchestown Races, for which the Great Southern and Western Railway provided excellent railway facilities, special trains that arrived on time. (Weekly Irish Times, p. 1).

April 25 (Saturday). The Nationalist reports that the Carlow Urban Council had decided to rename Carlow's Hay Market 'by the old name of 'Templecroney Square and to rename Wellington Square 'Governey Square' after the Council Chairman, Michael Governey (who died in 1924). A wealthy boot factory owner, Mr. Governey was an ardent supporter of Parnell and had been favoured as Parliamentary representative of County Carlow, but withdrew in favour of Walter McMurrough Kavanagh. With Monsignor Ryan of Tipperary he was appointed co-trustee of the National Volunteers at the time of their formation in 1915. He later supported John Redmond, particularly during the Convention of 1917 of which he was a member. His second wife was a daughter of Colonel Brodie and sister of Rev. Wilfrid Brodie, C.P., St Paul's Retreat, Ilkley, Yorkshire. As well as Michael Governey (who said he would rather they did not call any street in Carlow after him but was told by J. Brennan, with much laughter, 'You have no call to interfere', those present at the 1914 meeting were: Thomas Murphy, Patrick Lawler, John Murphy, J.D. McGrath, J.Brennan, William Purcell, Edward Duggan, John Foley, W.J.Jackson, J.D.McCarthy. Mr. W.A.Lawler, Town Clerk and Mr. Cardery, B.S. Councillor William Purcell referred to above was grandfather to J.J.Woods and uncle to the late Pat Purcell, 1895-1994, Killeshin /Carlow. (PPP)

May 1: Sir Francis Denys-Burton, Baronet, of Pollacton, Carlow, desires to have the trees registered in the office of Jocelyn Thomas, Justice of the Peace for Carlow as the property of the Trustees (Thomas Kane Mc Clintlock Bunbury , Baron Rathdonnell of Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow and William Rochfort Esq. of Cahir Abbey , Cahir, Co. Tipperary) of the Estate.

May 9: Tom Rathdonnell presides over a meeting of the RDS’s Committee of Agriculture at Leinster House to commend everyone on the successful bull show in Waterford in April. The Committee then thanked Tom, as President, ‘especially’ for both his ‘untiring assistance to the project from its inception’ and for entertaining the officials of the Department of Agriculture, the representatives [and] the herds in charge of the cattle, and practically the whole of the public attending the inspection and sale.’ There was also a reading of a letter from the Irish Goat Society. (The Irish Times, p. 10).

June 28: Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated. Back in 1888, Otto von Bismarck predicted: “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.” Gavrilo Princip, the assassin, was simply the guy with the loaded gun in the Russian roulette of the period … The impact of that gunshot is responsible for everything ever since, including the First and Second World Wars, the creation of Donald Trump and the Brexit debacle. On the other hand, the assassination of the Archduke prevented Ireland from plunging into Civil War, so some must have (initially) seen the war that followed as the best, most unifying thing that could have happened from an Irish perspective.

July 4 : Olive Packenham Mahon of Strokestown House, Co Roscommon, marries Edward Stafford King Harmon of Rockingham (Lough Key Forest Park), Co. Roscommon, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London. Elizabeth Bowen describes a wedding in July 1914 in ‘The Last September’ during which the war broke out. Guests at the wedding included the Anstruther Greys and Viscount Gough and his wife. Edward is killed four months later.

July 12: A huge rally of the Irish Volunteers in the Grove Field in Castlebellingham, with Padraig Pearse in attendance. Pearse's father erected the grave for the Bellingham family.

July 18 (Saturday): ‘Lord Rathdonnell has returned to Lisnavagh, Count Carlow, from London. Lady Rathdonnell is now nearly recovered from her recent operation.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 4).

July 26: Massacre on Bachelor's Walk follows safe return of Erskine Childers' Asgard expedition; death of Pierce Gun Mahony of Grangecon.

July 28: Russia declares war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

August 3: Germany invades Belgium in an attempt to break its encirclement complex and defeat France. The problem for the Germans was that they couldn’t easily attack France along the 120 mile Franco-German border as that was probably the best equipped and most technologically advanced border in world history. They might have bashed through it if time was on their side but the whole point of the Schlieffen Plan was that they had to crush France within 950 hours, in order to be able to about turn their army to confront Russia in the East, following the dictum of the US Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest that wars are won by those who "Get there the firstest with the mostest". And to get through the border would have taken longer than 950 hours. So, instead they had to go over the top into neutral Luxembourg and neutral Belgium, which is what brings Britain into the war. And so the Germans advance through the neutral states of Belgium and smash them aside with a view to breaking into France across the unprotected Franco-Belgian border.

The invasion of Belgium was the greatest mistake the Germans ever made because it meant they were going to lose the war. Just two days before the invasion, Britain was actually leaning towards a position of neutrality. All Britain had was a handshake deal with France, not a signed contract, nor a treaty pledge, just the Dual Entente which was a loose agreement. The Germans hoped that the British would ignore the treaty that protected Belgium; the German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Holweg had dismissed the Treaty of London of 1839 that protected it as “just a scrap of paper.” This was Germany’s opportunity to keep Britain out. Instead, the invasion hardened British public and political opinion against Germany overnight.

If Britain had stood aside, there was a very strong chance that Germany would have won the war, and won it quickly. The Germans were not worried about the tiny British army – Bismarck once famously said that if the British Army arrived in Germany, he would have them arrested! But they were worried about the Royal Navy. As Dan Carlin also pointed out, Britain had a giant moat all around the country and the world’s best navy to protect it. Not to mention Britain’s immense financial power and its control over such a vast amount of the world. Between them, Britain and France laid claim to approximately 70% of the world at this point, providing access to a massive resource.

But Britain did come to Belgium is defence, just as Belgium resisted the Germans when they began to barge their way into their country. Britain was also determined to prevent the Kaiser getting hold of the channel ports in Belgium; Belgium realizes it’s screwed whatever happens so it mobilizes its army and prepares for a fight. Conversely, the French Government, determined not to be the 1st to go into neutral Belgium, take the dramatic and ill-advised step of pulling their troops back by a huge distance of 6 miles! Sir Edward Grey, the foreign secretary, a kinsman of my maternal grandfather, told parliament that war with Germany was inevitable and then went to talk with his friend John Spender, the editor of the Westminster Gazette. As they observed the lamplighters snuffing streetlights below, Sir Edward remarked: "The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.'

The invasion also destroys Germany’s reputation in public opinion and makes them the villain in the plot. HG Wells had once called them 'the best and the wickedest in the world', wrestling with the dark-side like Gollum or Anakin Skywalker. But their portrayal as rapists and looters and pillagers did not require too much exaggeration …The Austro-Hungarian attack on Belgrade at least had some basis in that the Serbian government may have been behind the murder of the Archduke. Belgium was an innocent bystander when Germany came in with all guns blazing. (With respect to Dan Carlin).

The deployment of the 1.5 million strong German army was the biggest in history. Once started, it could not be stopped, could never stop until the Germans had conquered Paris once again. And to do that the Germans were going to invade neutral Belgium in a flanking manoeuvre with an army twice the size of that which Napoleon brought to Russia ... and yet Belgium was a minor diversion while they prepared to focus on France and Russia also! The French needed to defend their entire line from Switzerland in the size to Belgium in the north. Their commander, Joffre, is an enormous Frenchman, renowned for his calm, whom Second World War France would have loved to have had on its team.

France was a republic at this time and England sort of was. The leaders of both countries had to concern themselves with their political status within their own realms, whereas the autocratic “Caesars” of Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary had much more flexibility because of what Dan Carlin calls the “chance roll of the monarchy dice”.

August 4: British declaration of war on Germany in reponse to their invasion of Germany, just as Britain would do following Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The war came at a particularly tense time in Irish history with the Ulster Unionists and Irish Volunteers – or Nationalists - on the cusp of civil war over Home Rule. The declaration of war on Germany changed the focus and, to an extent, united both against a common enemy. The following day, John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party and much the most influential nationalist, effectively vowed to Westminster that the Irish would stand firm and defend their shores.

August 5: The German attack through Little Belgium was not completely unexpected, but the sheer magnitude of the German forces involved in the attack did leave French jaws on the ground. The German army that marched onto Belgium’s tiny road and rail network was at least as large as big as the entire Roman army at its height, possibly twice its size. The Belgians had never fought a war before. Surrounded by superpowers they realised there wasn’t much point. However, they were determined not to go down without a big fight. They bleo up all the bridges, which infuriated the Germans because it screwed their whole transport system and put them under prssure to get the job done in 950 hours. Then the Belgian start shooting at the Germans. Germany has 30,000 men who had been training for many years for just this situation - taking out the main Belgian forts, the cutting edge forts at Namur, Liège and elsewhere, was absolutely pivotal to the success of their operation. When the 30,000 Germans attack, the Belgians open fire and slaughter them in such immense quantitites that the other Germans use these mountains of bodies to hide behind and shoot back. And then the Germans regroup and charge again ... only this time a huge number of them are lead by a brazen Pomeranian officer, Erich Ludendorff, who had been planning the attack on the fortress city of Liège for many long years. He audaciously strolled into the city of Liège and took its surrender. Meanwhile, on came the Big Guns. When these Belgian forts were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s, they were guaranteed to be invulnerable to any known canon in the world. But cannons had moved on, not least the German ones. At Liège, they unveiled their secret weapon – a series of unbelievably powerful guns, made by Krupp, the heaviest weighing 300,000 lb, which could fire 2000lb shells. In Napoleon’s day, the heavy guns were 1200 lb firing 12 lb shells. Prior to firing at the walls of Liège, the German gunners had to retreat three football fields away and stuff their eyes ears and nose with cotton before they fired it electronically. They also had to keep their mouths open or their ears drums would have blown. It took a full minute for the 2000lb shell to land. It took eight shots to get their range right and then it was game over. There were also a lot of smaller guns made by Skoda. [Even with smaller shells, a single one could kill 70 or more people in one blast; it wasn't just the guns but also the technique and the quality of the shells that had come on so much.]

August 7: Start of a series of battles, collectively known as the Battle of the Frontiers, It’s a wildly unpredictable contest, full of haymakers and dropped punches and surprise jabs, which concludes in German victory on 6 September. The French are wearing almost the same uniform the grandfathers war in 1870 –red trousers and blue jackets with tails, while their officers strut about peacock-like with “shoot me” white hats and white gloves. It’s the old world, the 19th century, heading into a war with the brutal new century. The British were at least wearing khaki. In one of these battles, the French lost 27,000 dead in a single day.

August 8: The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) is passed in the United Kingdom.

August 9: The BEF heads for France, under General Sir John French: 70,000 men, in five divisions. It’s not a lot compared to Germany’s 85 divisions but the British Army are professional unlike others, with immense experience in the ranks of these ‘Old Contemptibles’, and too many battle honours to memorise. Sir John French did not like the French.

August 15-19: 180,000 ferocious Serbs attack the 200,000-strong Austro-Hungarian army camped on their border and take them unawares, and huge numbers and dryer and in the river. It’s the first Allied victory over the Central Powers in the First World War. This defeat of the Austro-Hungarians adds considerable stress to Von Moltke, the German commander struggling to get through Belgium; it increases the likelihood of Russia scoring victories along the eastern front.

August 17: The Russian army arrives on the Eastern Front ahead of schedule, causing further collywobbles to von Moltke, the German commander.

August 20: For many days, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had lead a deliberate retreat of German troops through Alsace-Lorraine back into Germany, luring the French army after them … and away from the main action zone in Belgium. This continued until the Crown Prince persuaded von Moltke that the time was ripe for a counter-attack; he did just that on August 20 and utterly crushed the French 2nd Army in southern Lorraine. This created a gap in the line that enabled the Germans to march through and potentially launch attacks on the 1st Army’s flanks and, a deeper thrust, on the logistics and supply lines at the very heart of the French force. So the 1st Army had to retreat alongside the 2nd. Joffre then made the mistaken assumption that if there was a major German attack in Belgium and another major German attack in Lorraine, the German centre must be weak… He had underestimated just how many German soldiers there were. Nor did he realize that the Germans integrated reserve troops with veteran troops, unlike the French who kept them separately.

August 18-28: The Rape of Belgium, in which over nearly 30,000 Belgian and French civilians perished. No matter how exaggerated the tales of bayoneted babies, raped teenagers and mass atrocity, it was founded on a truth of shocking barbarity from which Germany’s reputation has yet to recover.

August 23: Battle of Dinant in Belgium concludes when 674 inhabitants were summarily executed by Saxon troops of the German Army — the biggest massacre committed by the Germans in 1914. Within a month, some five thousand Belgian and French civilians were killed by the Germans in what became known as the Rape of Belgium. Oddly, the massacre does not feature in Max Hasting’s book ‘Catastrophe’. I visited Dinant in 2016 with my brother, R. Boyle and M. Forde and we found this story very moving, not least as the 674 dead included a baby and a grandmother. How was it that the Saxons became so fierce within less than 3 weeks of the outbreak of the war that they were able to conduct such a massacre? The concept behind the German severity was that the war must be quick, and if needs be brutal, in order to bring it to a speedy conclusion, and therefore save lives in the long run. That justified, for instance, the collective execution of villagers for the random acts of snipers and bridge saboteurs. Germany did not learn how desperately bad this was for their PR; they did exactly the same in Poland in 1939.

August 24: Jack Colvin, Rathdonnell’s grandson, leads Hopit and the 9th Royal Lancers in cavalry charge up to the high ground overlooking the village and tear into the German lines. Their mission was to buy some time for the British Expeditionary Force to continue its hasty retreat. Such tactics bore a heavy cost; three of their men were killed and eight wounded, including their commanding officer. Indeed, it quickly became apparent that the cavalry traditions of previous centuries were redundant in the face of intense German shelling and machine guns. By Christmas 1914, Jack and Hopit were dealing with intense wet and cold, knee-deep mud of Meteren, where the men were now trained in infantry warfare – digging trenches, practicing dismounted attacks, sniping, bombing - with occasional breaks for football, point-to-points and even the occasional pheasant shoot. In fact, things went one better when Hubert Hartigan, one of Jack’s fellow officers, returned from leave to Ireland with a pack of Harriers. Hubert went on to co-found the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and was the leading trainer in Ireland from 1946 to 1948, saddling 13 Irish classic winners.

Aug 26-30: The Germans, under Ludendorff and Hindenburg, smash the Russian army’s 1st and 2nd Armies as they advance towards Berlin, completely outwitting them in the battle of Tannenberg. It takes 60 trains to carry all 92,000 Russian prisoners from the 2nd Army alone back into Germany. Suddenly, Britain and France’s key ally on the eastern front is looking very weak indeed. The Retreat from Mons is well underway, and the Germans, having abandoned the Schlieffen Plan, are closing in on Paris when they suddenly change tack and attack the heavily fortified Franco-German border. It is at this point that General Joffre takes control, sacking a huge number of his top brass generals (men who were good trainers in peacetime but found wanting in war) and starts whizzing up and down the front line, inspecting his troops, in a car driven by Georges Boillot, a former Grand Prix winner. This is Joffre's moment where, like Churchel in the next war, he puts the French back on track. Some say, what a pity, as if he had not done this, France would have submitted and the war would have been a very short, albeit bloody, one, rather than the global Holocaust it was to become.

Conan Doyle referred to August 1914 has the most terrible August in the history of the world.

September 5 (Saturday): ‘A meeting of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society was held in the Council Chamber, Leinster House, on Thursday last – the Right Hon. Lord Rathdonnell, H.M.L., President, in the chair. On the report of the Committee of Agriculture, it was decided that, owing to the continued occupation of the Society’s agricultural premises at Ballsbridge by the military authorities, the Winter Show of fat cattle, poultry, and farm produce, etc., announced to be held on December 9th and 10th must be abandoned.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 5).

Sept 6-10: In winning the battle of the Marne, it could be argued that the Anglo-French forces prolonged the war by four long years as the Germans abandon the Schlieffen plan and dig in. Both sides were now left punch drunk, without a plan; their only option was to slug it out trench to trench. In the first four weeks of the Great War, as many people had died as Americans died in the entire US Civil War.

September 9: Trade restrictions brought about by foot and mouth disease are removed. The origin of the disease was not determined.

September 19: ‘A meeting of the Council of the Royal Dublin Society was held in the Council Chamber, Leinster House, on Thursday last – the Right Hon. Lord Rathdonnell, H.M.L., President, in the chair. The following resolution was passed:- Resolved- “That any official or workman in the employment of the Royal Dublin Society who volunteers for the war will have his full salary, less the amount paid by the War Office, and his position kept for him. A letter was read from the Irish Cattle Trader’s Association with reference to the abandoned Winter Show, and other routine business transacted.’ (Weekly Irish Times, p. 7).

Oct: Louis Murray Phillpotts, DSO (1870-1916), husband of Amy Duckett, is gazetted Lieutenant Colonel.

Oct 22: With his army unable to hold off the Germans anymore, King Albert of Belgium gave the go-ahead to open the sluices along the Yser River, thus flooding the most fertile part of his kingdom with salty sea water; it created a 5-mile wide, shoulder-high lake that separated the advancing Germans them the Belgian force, thus ending the so-called Race to the Sea. On the downside, these Germans now changed course and hurled themselves into a new battle, Ypres.

Oct 19 - Nov 22: Some 20,000 German students are killed in the first battle of Ypres. The event becomes known in Germany as the ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ (Der Kin­dermord bei Ypern). The students had been drafted in from fraternities across the Kaiser's empire to fight the good fight, only to come up against the elite forces of the British Army, or what was left of them. Meanwhile, trench warfare moved on to a new level with the onset of the battle of the Aisne.

Oct 27: The British lose their first battleship of World War I when the super-dreadnought HMS Audacious (23,400 tons) is sunk off Tory Island, north-west coast of Co Donegal, by a German minefield. The sinking was witnessed and photographed by passengers on RMS Olympic, yet kept an official secret in Britain until just after the end of the war.

November 6: Edward Stafford King Harmon killed at Ypres. His remains were never recovered and confirmation of his death takes some time to filter home. His wife Olive had become a wife, widow and mother in 12 months. She last saw him in Liverpool Street Station in London when he hesitated and looked at her and walked on again. Had they had a son, the boy would have inherited both Strokestown and Rockingham; their daughter Lettice (pronounced Lettuce) did not succeed as she was a girl, but Edward’s brother Cecil King Harman did. The story is told in Anne Morrow’s ‘Picnic in a Foreign Land.’

November 23: Birth of William Robert McClintock Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell, only son of Captain TL and Ethel McCB.

November 24: Birth of Anne Bruen, daughter of (Admiral) EF Bruen and his wife Constance.

November 26: Death of TKMB's uncle Colonel George McClintock, aged 88, at Fellows Hall.

Amongst those wounded in the war was Major Bramwell. Bill Burgess recalled him as 'a big man who was very badly wounded in the 1914-1918 War' and recuperated at Lisnavagh. He bought a horse from Bill's brother Harry Burgess which he hunted with the Carlow Hunt.

Lennon Wylie's record of Car & Bicycle ownership in Carlow, 1914-1915, includes Rathdonnell's car , registration IC 49.


Arthur Thomas Bruen, Kate's brother and formerly the agent at Lisnavagh, was too old to fight in the Great War. In 1915, Arthur drove his Clement car (perhaps IC 73, registered to Germaine's in 1914) from his home in Invernesshire to Dover, where he put it on a cross-Channel ferry and embarked for France. Enrolling in the Red Cross, he used it as an ambulance in the front lines for the next six months. He was then inducted as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps and remained at the Front until 1919, being used as 'trouble shooter' wherever there were supply problems. This information comes from the entry for his grandson, the Falklands War poet Bernie Bruen, on www.warpoetry.co.uk

Tom Rathdonnell subscribes £50 to St Mary's Church Sustentation; most prominent parishoners put up £1 and the remainder, including Abraham Watchorn, whose son was to be killed during the Easter Rising of 1916, subsscribed either 5 or 10 shillings.

March 4: Lady Rathdonnell listed as a patron of the French Wounded Emergency Fund, London (co-opted with the Special War Committee of ladies the Order of Bt. John Jerusalem) alongside the Countess of Arran, the Countess of Bandon, the Viscountess Powerscourt, the Lady Farnham, the Lady Talbot, the Lady Holmpatrick, the Hon. Mrs. Ernest Guinness, Lady Arnott, Mdme. Des Longchamps, Mrs. Greer. They make an appeal for monetary aid, together with blankets, towels, sheets, vests, pants, flannel shirts, etc., all to be sent to Mrs. Barker, of Diswellstown Hoaee, Castleknock, Co. Dublin. (Dublin Daily Express, Thursday 04 March 1915).

April 14: (Wednesday) Freeman’s Journal reports that Norman Baron, a shorthorn bull calved at Lisnavagh in 1913, out of Royal Pearl (s) and Dunmore Farewell won Tom Rathdonnell 1st prize in the auction sale class at the Spring Show. According to The Agricultural Gazette and Modern Farming (Volume 81, 19 April 1915) he was a Scotch top crossed roan.

April 17: Death of Steuart James Charles Duckett, D.L. (1847-1915) of Russellstown Park, County Carlow. He and Tom Rathdonnell were exact contemporaries, as well as old Etonians; Steuart was also Hon Secretary of the Carlow Hunt. He made his will on the 3rd June, 1903, and bequeathed the residue of his property to his daughter Amy Philpotts, to the detriment of his only son John Steuart Duckett ... a court case ensued.

May 7: The Cunard Liner Lusitania bound for Liverpool was sunk off the Irish coast by a German submarinee with the loss of almost 1,200 lives. Sir Bache Cunard, head of the Cunard Line company, was a friend of Tom Rathdonnell and had stayed at Lisnavagh.

May 14: Lt. Col. Walter Lorenzo Alexander, 42-year-old commander of the 2nd Battalion of the Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire) Regiment, killed by a shell while inspecting troops at Festubert, just south of Neuve Chapelle. His father George had been land agent to both Milford and Oak Park, and lived at Rathvindon during the 1860s and 1870s.

May 25: In H. H. Asquith's new wartime coalition, Tom Rathdonnell's old Eton school friend and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour becomes First Lord of the Admiralty until 1916, when succeeded by Winston Churchill, son of another of their classmates.

May 31: As the long hot summer of 1915 begins, German Zeppelins launch the First Blitz on London, killing seven and injuring 34.

June: “Lord and Lady Rathdonnell have returned to Ireland from London.” (Newcastle Journal, 9 June 1915).

June 18: Centenary of Battle of Waterloo.

TAKE NOTICE that the final schedule of Incumbrances affecting the proceeds of the sale of the lands of Moyle Big (part of) containing 106a 0r 3p, situated in the Barony and County of Carlow, which has been sold under the above Acts (ie: Land Purchase Act), in fee simple, has been lodged in the Registrar’s Office of this Court at 24 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin; and any persons having any claim not therein inserted, or objecting thereto, either on account of the amount or the priority of any charge therein reported as due to him, or any other person, or for any other reason, is required to lodge an object in thereto, stating the particulars of his demand and duly verified, with the Registrar of this Court on or before the seventh day of July, 1915, and to appear on Thursday, the 15th day of July, 1915, at 11 o’clock before the Judicial Commission are at his Court at the Four Courts, Dublin, when he will adjudicate upon the several claims appearing on such schedule and upon any objections lodged there too.
And Take Notice that any demand reported by such Schedule is liable to be objected to within the time aforesaid.
And further take notice that I have fixed Monday the 12th day of July 1915, at my chamber, at 26 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin, at 12 o’clock, noon, for the vouching of the several claims appearing on the said Schedule, and all parties interested should attend before me on that day with the necessary proofs to vouch their respective claims with a view to the funds being distributed on the said 15th day of July, 1915.
Dated this 21st day of June, 1915.
Henry J Monahan, examiner
SS and E Reeves and Sons,
Solicitors for Vendors, 51 Merrion Square Dublin
[The Nationalist and Leinster Times, Saturday 26th June 1915, with thanks to Michael Purcell]

August 21: Lord Longford killed by shrapnel at Gallipoli. His last words before his death were reputedly: "Don't bother ducking, the men don't like it and it doesn't do any good...."

Sept 13: Lord and Lady Rathdonnell travelled by E.M.S. Pointer from Glasgow to Belfast last night. (Tuesday 14 September 1915 , Daily Record , Lanarkshire)

Oct 9 (Saturday): The Carlow Sentinel reports the death of CAPTAIN J. R. F. LECKY: 'We learn with regret that Mrs Lecky, Ballykealy, Carlow, has received atelegram announcing that her only son, Captain John Rupert Lecky, Royal Fusiliers, attached to the 2nd Norfolka, has been killed in the Persian Gulf Campaign. Captain Lecky, who was in his 31st year, was only son of late Mr Rupert Lecky, and some months since was home slightly wounded. He served as High Sheriff of Carlow in 1914, and represented one of the oldest county families, deriving originally from Stirlingshire,and being in posession of Carlow estate for over 300 years He was highly popular, and his death will be specially mourned in the Ballon and adjoining districts, when deep sympathy is felt with his bereaved mother, and other relatives.'

Oct 29: Rt Rev Maurice Day, Bishop of Clogher, writes to Lord Rathdonnell from Bishopscourt, Clones, Co. Monaghan, to thank him for contributing £700 to the various Monaghan parishes. In today's currency, that £700 would equate to £30,000 or €34,000. This letter is now framed at Bishopscourt.


February: Sir Francis Denys-Burton registered the following as the property of the ‘aforementioned' Trustees, Rathdonnell and Rochfort, "six thousand three hundred and fifty larch trees and seventy Abies (Douglas Glauea) in a field called "The Slang". He also proposes “planting in the same field other trees to the number of three hundred or four hundred”.

March 3rd: Lord Desmond FitzGerald, son of the Duke of Leinster, killed during a grenade-throwing exercise in Calais.


[As a wise soul I know by name of GK remarked, the Easter Rising came out of nowhere. "Three great pillars of a democratic society were in the course of being consolidated in the first decade and a half of the twentieth century. These were the establishment of local government from 1898. Democratically elected representatives were responsible for most aspects of citizens lives. Secondly the ownership of Irish land was reverting back to the occupiers. Thirdly there was vast progress being made in the field of education where the brightest were encouraged to achieve ever better educational standards. The justification for revolution was never at a lower ebb. This is displayed in the immediate response of urban and district councils in the aftermath of the rising. How things changed in a few short months."]

April 21: (Good Friday) The Irish Times 'Fashionable Intelligence' reports that Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are staying at the Marine Hotel in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). On this same day, Sir Roger Casement and the German boat Aud are captured in Kerry prompting Eoin MacNeill to call off a planned rising on Easter Sunday. The organisers of the Rising opt to override MacNeill and reschedule the Rising for Easter Monday.

April 24 (Monday): Outbreak of Easter Rising in Dublin leaves over 450 dead, including 180 civilians and 116 soldiers, RN, RIC, Dublin Metropolitan Police and loyalist volunteers, plus at least 350 wounded. The first British officer killed in Guy Vickery Pinfield from Bishops' Stortford. A further 614 civilians are injured. Of the rebels 15 were executed, 100 were sent to Penal Servitude, 6 were imprisoned and 1700 deported. I don't yet know how many rebels were killed in action. (This from contemporary accounts of the Unionist newspaper).

Not so long ago a clever woman of my acquaintance reached deep into a bookcase &, to our mutual surprise, plucked out a notebook of considerable interest. It was an Eason's "Terracotta" Reporters Notebook and on the front cover was written: "Left behind by Sinn Fein occupiers of 122a Stephen's Green, April 30th 1916". And Sunday April 30th 1916 was the day that the Easter Rising formally concluded.

Upon investigation, I discovered that 122a Stephen’s Green was the seat of the School of Irish Learning with which Hyde, Moore and others were much involved. A floor in the building was occupied by Mary Susan Bruen and her sister Eleanor Margaret Bruen. Born at Oak Park, Carlow, younger sisters of Lady Rathdonnell and daughters of the the Rt. Hon Henry Bruen, sometime MP for Carlow. At the age of 58, Mary was perhaps unlikely to be batting eyelids with any of the young revolutionaries. However, the 1911 Census gives her career as a 'Writer for the Press', which leads one to wonder what newspaper or magazine was she writing for. It looks like she and Eleanor were Christian Scientists so I wonder if she wrote for the Christian Science Monitor in Dublin or one of its offshoots. (It is notable that the ‘1916’ notebook is a Reporter's notebook.) On 26th April 1916, the Christian Science Monitor carried front page reports on the Easter Rising and the arrest of Sir Roger Casement.

[The Times of London noted Mary Bruen's death, at her residence, 122A St Stephen's Green, on 5th June 1920, following a short illness. Eleanor - described as a 'Secretary of an Institution' in 1911 - also never married and died in Boston in 1938.]

I don't yet know whose words are penned on the pages of this notebook but I suspect it was members of Commandant Michael Mallin's garrison. On Easter Monday, Commandant Malinn led a small force of 36 soldiers from the Irish Citizen Army, supported by members of the Fianna Eireann and Cumann na mBan, through the large gate at the Fusiliers Arch into St. Stephen’s Green, the 22-acre public park on the south-side of Dublin City. Their primary objective was to occupy and hold the green which would give them control over a large section of traffic in the city centre. The ‘Green’ was also earmarked to serve as the rebels’ principal base should they successfully capture the city. [Among those killed in the area of the Green on Easter Monday was James Connor, the manager of Clogrennane Limeworks near Milford in County Carlow, who was shot in his car by the rebels and died subsequently from his wounds.]

The notebook refers to two men called ‘Shannon' and 'O’B’ which could refer to Martin Shannon and either Liam or Frank O’Briain who served under Mallin at Stephen’s Green. I'm not yet sure what became of them. There is also a reference to a man called 'Sullivan'.

Tom Rathdonnell was still a the Marine Hotel in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) when the Rising began as it was also the Spring Show at the Royal Dublin Society. John Evelyn Wrench recalls meeting him in his memoirs, 'Struggles, 1914-1920', and talks of how Lord Rathdonnell and Mr Doyne were the only two officials who were physically able to reach the show when it began on the Tuesday. They attempted to keep the show in motion while Wrench nipped up Killiney Hill with some binoculars and watched Dublin 'and notably the Post Office in Sackville Street, which was occupied by the Rebels, being shelled with wonderful accuracy by the gun boats in Kingstown'.

image title     image title


The flames of the Easter Rebellion fanned right into Lisnavagh with the death of a 21-year-old local boy who was serving in the British Army that week. Private Abraham Watchorn of the 5th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers was killed in action on Easter Wednesday (26th April 1916) . He was a son of Abraham Watchorn, of Williamstown, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, by his Carlow-born wife. Jane, daughter of George James. Born in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, on 20th October 1894, Abraham had been educated in the Lisnavagh Schoolhouse and was working as a farmer when the First World War broke out. He enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 22 November 1915. Official reports say the regiment was brought to Dublin from The Curragh, arriving in Dublin at 3.45am on Tuesday 25h April. They appear to have gone straight into action around Dublin Castle. Abraham Watchorn was probably involved in a major assault on the Volunteer occupied offices of the Daily Express on Dame Street when a detachment of the 5th Battalion under 2nd Lieutenant F O’Neill charged the building with bayonets. It required five assaults over the next hour or so before the building was taken; 22 Irish Volunteers were killed. Private Watchorn is assumed to have been mortally injured in the action. He died at the Red Cross Hospital at Dublin Castle the following ay and was buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.

He is amongst those named on the Great War memorial on the organ in St. Mary's Church in Rathvilly.

[In 1915 A. Watchorn subscribed 12/- (twelve shillings) to St. Mary's Church Sustentation. By 1929, Abraham Watchorn, the father of the dead soldier, was giving £1.10.0. The 1934 account reveals Frank Watchorn, brother of the soldier, giving the same amount whilst the accounts list a Mr. & Mrs. Watchorn subscribing from 1970 right through to 1982. They may have been related to Joan Watchorn who worked at Lisnavagh in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These details added by my father, April 2013]

Photos courtesy of Paul Horan and Paul Maguire, Curator of the Carlow County Military Museum.



That same Easter Wednesday, a detachment of 2,000 Sherwood Forresters arrive at Kingstown (Dun Laghaire). As Alex Findlater says, they were ‘inexperienced troops and somewhat confused. Some even thought they were in France. Food was short because the kitchens and rations had not arrived, though the officers enjoyed the hospitality of the very unionist Royal St George Yacht Club, where members were able to pass on the latest rumours about the fighting, with no doubt generous doses of paranoid talk about Irish treachery. As a result, the officers became extremely suspicious and forbade the ordinary soldiers to accept the gifts of tea, cholcolate, oranges, bananas, sandwiches and sweets that the loyal residents of Kingstown and Blackrock showered on them. Big Billy Vaughan, manager of the Blackrock Findlater’s, solved the problem by rolling apples and oranges down the street for the young soldiers to pick up’.

Alex Findlater tells a particularly poignant story about one of his grandfather’s in-laws, a barrister from Nottingham called Frederick Christian Dietrichsen who was an officer in the Sherwoods. Unbeknownst to Christian, his two young daughters had been sent to Dublin for safety to escape the danger of zeppelin raids. They were actually in Blackrock waving flags on the pavement when Christian marched the Sherwoods through. ‘His fellow officers saw him drop out of the column and fling his arms around the children. It was a joyful scene with no hint of the tragedy to come’. (Max Caulfield, The Easter Rebellion, pp. 221).

The Forresters were en route to oust the rebel leaders from the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. They paused at the Royal Dublin Society's premises in Ballsbridge where Lord Rathdonnell was attempting to host the Spring Show. J. E. Wrench, who recalls it as 'a very hot day' remembers how '... the English troops marched up from Kingstown and generally made a halt when they reached Ballsbridge before they got into the line of fire. One British regiment consisted of young recruits, such a nice lot of boys. We brought them lemonade, for which they were most grateful. Only six or eight hundred yards on they had to pass houses that were occupied by rebel snipers, and nearly two hundred of them were killed and many wounded. It always seemed to me such a wanton waste of life, though we tried to explain to them as well as we could the geography of the streets in that part of Dublin and what they might expect'.

As the two battalions of Sherwood Foresters approached Mount Street Bridge, they came in for a big surprise. De Valera had surveyed the Westland Row and Grand Canal district in the weeks preceding the Rising. He had considered the military possibilities and now his planning was to pay off. The Volunteers at Mount Street Bridge secured perfect positioning for a cross-fire ambush. The Forresters walked into a death trap. Their attempts to charge the rebels were utterly suicidal. In a battle that ultimately lasted from noon to 8pm, 234 British officers and men were killed or wounded, marking almost half of the total British Military losses for the whole week of the Rising. Only four Volunteers were killed in the same battle. During the early part of the action, Mick Malone slipped down to the battalion HQ in the Bakery and warned de Valera that they needed a fast firing weapon urgently. The bespectacled Commandant unbuckled his own Mauser, handed it over with 400 rounds of ammo and said ‘Sorry I cannot do more for you’. When the superior British firepower eventually overwhelmed the Volunteers, Malone was among the four killed in the final assault. Amongst the Forresters slain in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge was Nottingham barrister Frederick Christian Dietrichsen. A Memorial to the Volunteers stands by the bridge today. There is no such record of the unfortunate Forresters who perished, although a number of them do seem to have been buried in the military cemetery at Grangegorman.

Mick Purcell drew my attention to another of Wrench's remarks where he says: 'Perhaps my upbringing in Fermanagh has enabled me to see "the other fellow's standpoint" so wholeheartedly that sometimes I find that I am almost taking sides against myself. It is an uncomfortable state of affairs!' I sometimes wonder whether, for all his Unionism, Tom Rathdonnell might not have thought a bit like that.

On Sunday, Nurse O’Farrell delivered Pearse’s order to surrender to de Valera. At first he thought that this was a British ploy but when he was finally convinced that it was genuine, he instructed his men to ensure all arms were put out of action lest they be of use to the enemy. None of his men were prepared to carry the white flag of surrender, so it fell to a Red Cross worker to hold it while de Valera’s vice-commandant, Joseph O’Connor, marched the men out onto Grattan Street where they were ordered to ‘ground arms’. It galled de Valera to see the local people coming out from their homes to offer cups of tea to the British soldiers while ridiculing the Volunteers for their actions. ‘If only you had come out to help us,’ he chided, ‘even with knives, you would not behold us like this.’[1]

After their surrender, de Valera was taken to the Pembroke Town Hall in Ballsbridge where he was locked up in the weights and measures room. Meanwhile his men were placed in bull stalls at the nearby showgrounds of the Royal Dublin Society.[2] These included Tom Traynor, a bootmaker from Tullow who had been shot acorss the cheek while clearing Westland Row train station. As Volunteer Seamus Murphy recalled, 'A Bull Show had been arranged for the Show Grounds and some animals had arrived. The bulls were taken out of the stalls and we were put in their place. We were packed in tightly and remained there until Tuesday morning. During the time there we had two meals a day, consisting of billy beef, hard biscuits and tea’. They remained there for two nights before their transferral on Tuesday morning to Richmond Barracks, where there was already a queue of prisoners waiting to be tried. The delay was to save de Valera’s life. De Valera appears to have been court martialled on Wednesday 3 May and, like all battalion commandants, he was sentenced to death. A letter he wrote on the evening of the 3rd indicates that he fully expected to die on the morning of Thursday 4 May. However, the executions of the other ringleaders generated such a negative effect on public opinion that his death sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. His US citizenship was not used in his favour and he himself made no claims on that basis.

[1] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising, p. 117.
[2] Seamus Doyle, Witness Statement 166, Bureau of Military History, p. 6.

The Rathdonnells appear to have had an extraordinary interest in what they called 'The Sinn Fein Rebellion', gathering various postcards and clippings from the period into an album, as well as a handwritten copy of the Proclamation of Independence and a notebook. This may stem from Kate Rathdonnell's sister, Miss Mary Susan Bruen, who lived at 122A St Stephen's Green at thsi time. The building was also the seat of the School of Irish Learning with which Hyde, Moore and others were much involved.

The bombardment of Dublin left it looking very much like a wartime European city. The British response was also akin to the wartime – bomb the city and execute the leaders – rather than the moderate response it merited.

April 24: Ernest Shackleton and five men of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition launch a lifeboat from uninhabited Elephant Island in the Southern Ocean to organise a rescue for the ice-trapped ship Endurance.

April 26: The killing of Sheehy Skeffington by Bowen-Colthurst prompts Monk Gibbon to resign his commission in the British Army, although no records of this have yet been traced.

May 19: French air ace Georges Boillot, winner of the 1912 and 1913 French Grand Prix, and chauffeur to General Joffre in the early part of the war, is killed in a dogfight with five German Fokkers, having shot one down.

31 May - 1 June: Just over a month after Tom is caught up in the Easter Rebellion, Kate Rathdonnell's brother (later Admiral) E.F. Bruen commands HMS Bellerophon (aka the Billy Ruffian) at the Battle of Jutland. She fired sixty-two 12 inch rounds and received no damage. After the battle she swept with the other vessels of the Grand Fleet regularly. 'Eddo', as he was apparently known, commanded HMS Resolution throughout the rest of the First World War, ending up as an Admiral. In April 2019 my brother William and I visited HMS Caroline in Belfast; known to her crew as Carry, she is the sole survivor of Jutland today.

June 12: The Ulster Unionist Council agrees to the immediate implementation of Home Rule if six Ulster counties are temporarily excluded.

Tom's former school colleague (and former Prime Minister) Arthur Balfour becomes Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1916–1919

July 1: Massacre on the Somme, with 20,000 British dead and 40,000 wounded on first day. Among those who fought in this dreadful battle were Norman Stronge, Alan Cameron, Ted Brown (of Alcock & Brown), Chink, Hubert Gough, William Allgood, Captain Maurice Collis-Sandes (killed) and Kingsley Doyle (son of Sir Arthur); a year later Sir Arthur attended a seance in London where the medium Evan Powell said he had met Kingsley and kissed his brow, after which Sir Arthur never mourned his son again. Over 5,500 Ulstermen were amongst those killed or disabled, going over the top for King and Empire.


1) DORA limits pub opening hours and ups prices on spirits. Serving soldiers are also barred from drinking and nobody is allowed to shout rounds. The distilling industry is also virtually closed down. After the war, wives were so petrified by their husbands drinking propensities that they urged the government to restrict their access to alcohol.
2) Irish farmers have a huge role in feeding the largest British Army in history and the demand for agricultural produce is the greatest since the Napoleonic Wars, not least with so many ships being sunk and German U-boats effectively blocking imports to England and Ireland. DORA orders farers to convert land to tillage so that where 12% of Ireland was in tillage in 1914, it was upped to 39% at the peak of the war. Labourers wages rose in tandem with the profits and, while recruitment posters urged southern famers and labourers to ‘Join Up and Defend’, relatively few of them actually did.
3) The government was obliged to conceded to the unions during the war in order to avoid conflict at home; it was the Unions who would leap opposition to conscription while women were increasingly to the fore.
4) The VAD nurses needed sphagnum moss for cotton wool and this was washed, sorted and graded by a team of 6,000 volunteers – creating 300,000 dressings in 1917 alone which were sent to field hospitals in every theatre of war.
5) There were 23 auxiliary War Hospitals in Ireland with wounded amputees wearing pale blue colours everywhere reminding the nurses of the fate that might befall their loved ones on the frontlines.

July 6 (Thursday): The Court Circular of The Times informed its readers that "Lord Rathdonnell has returned to Lisnavagh". It was the King and Queen's 23rd wedding anniversary.

August 3: Sir Roger Casement hanged for treason.

September 4: 'Lord Rathdonnell has been adding to his promising Shorthorn herd at Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, and has secured with other selections from Scotland one or two members of the Groat family from the herd of Colonel Johnston of Linksfield, Elgin, including the dam of Red Baron, the stud bull in the herd of the Hon. Frederick Wrench, Killaooona, Ballybrack, that has proved such averitable gold mine him.' (Aberdeen Journal). When I alerted my father to this reference in June 2016, he responded, "Why yes! One of the magnificent ladies I inherited forty something years later was named Muriel Groat XVI; I was not previously aware of the reason."

Sept 8: Death in action of Brigadier General Louis Murray Phillpotts, DSO (1870-1916), husband to Amy Duckett.

Sept 9: Death in action of Tom Kettle and Captain Bill Murphy of Kill House, County Carlow, at battle of at Ginchy on the Somme; Emmet Dalton, who was with them survives. On the 102nd anniversary of their death, I chanced to stop at Kill House and talk with Tom Bolger whose grandfather bought the property after Captain Murphy's death.

November 10: Corporal Francis Slater, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, died of wounds in Flanders. He may have grown up beside Lisnavagh at Knocknagan. He was the son of Peter [?] Salter and Mary Benniger who married in 1898; he appears to have been born in 1895 and thus out of wedlock.

November 13: End of battle of Somme.

December 18: End of battle of Verdun.

December 30: Assassination of Rasputin. For the Tsar, Rasputin had been like a cigarette habit you can’t kick, says Dan Carlin. His rise to power had been as outrageous as Nick Nolte's character from 'Down and Out in Beverley Hills' taking control of Queen Elizabeth, except she has little power and the Tsar has absolute power.


image title

As Ireland tumbled towards
the warfare of 1916 - 1923,
the 2nd Baron Rathdonnell
became one of the key
players in deciding the
fate of the 32 counties.
Discretion was his valour.


Dr Joseph John Nolan MD from Tullow, Co Carlow, lost two sons, Edward and James, aged 32 and 21, killed within eight months of each other in 1917.

January: Heaviest snowfall recorded in Ireland.

January 16, (Tuesday) - 'Lord and Lady Rathdonnell are at present staying in Dublin' - The Irish Times.

January 25: Sinking of the SS Laurentic, a White Star liner, off Lough Swilly … 354 died … there was also 43 tons of gold stowed on board, most of which has since been recovered.

February: 'The Noble Count Plunkett', a colleague of Tom Rathdonnell's from the RDS, is among those elected as the first Sinn Fein T.D. for North Roscommon during an election that contemporaries called the ‘Election of the snows’ when a blizzard similar to that of February 1947 struck Ireland.

Feb 1: Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare.

March 3: RMS Connaught, a sister ship of RMS Leinster and originally part of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company line, is torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-48 while returning to Southampton from Le Havre. Three crewmen were killed; the rest of the crew took to lifeboats. Connaught sank within four minutes of the second torpedo striking.

By 1917 there was a panic that the Republicans in Ireland would free the German prisoners and the Germans were thus transferred to the UK.

Kate Rathdonnell's brother (Admiral) Edward Francis Bruen commanding HMS Resolution; wasn't he at Jutland?

In the warm spring of 1917, Ballintemple, the last Butler seat in County Carlow, was destroyed by what most believe to have been a straightforward accident, a fire started when a plumbers blow-lamp set the dry-rot filled roof rafters alight. Sir Richard Butler serving with the 60th Rifles (now the Green Jackets) in France.

In 1917, Monsignor Delaney returned to Rathvilly after a serious operation and found himself unable to sleep on account of the racket from the village green which had been a camping ground for circuses, traveling shows and itinerants ever since the Rathvilly fairs ceased in the late 1880s. They presented their shows right beside the church. The Monsignor asked Edward O’Toole, ‘was it not possible to compel the itinerants to take up their stands in a position less disturbing?’ Ultimately this meant that the green was enclosed and planted with ornamental shrubs. (From Eileen McGregor, ‘Edward O’Toole, 1860-1943: Rathvilly schoolteacher and nationalist’.)

March 8: Russian Revolution kicks off. Many in UK and US felt the 'February Revolution' was a Good Thing! The initial aims were simply the toppling of a military dictator and his replacement by a constitutional government.

April: William Orpen heads to Ypres as official war artist. German submarines sink 433 British and neutral ships; UK under major pressure; Russia still in turmoil. The ports along east coast of the US are clogged up with boats that won’t sail because of the submarines, many laden with perishables. President Wilson is under immense pressure.

April 6: USA joins Allies and declares war on Gemany. The U.S. Army is only ranked 17th in the world at the time. After the declaration of war, the U.S. Navy is immediately deployed to take on the German submarines. The USA also lowers its interest rates for its Allies and begins pumping in major financial assistance, while rapidly modernising its army and artillery supplies.

April 10: Ludendorff let’s Lenin back into Russia, which Dan Carlin likens to starting a fire in your next door neighbours apartment, knowing that the consequences may be that your own apartment catches fire.

May 16: Lloyd-George announces that he wants immediate Home Rule for the 26 counties of Ireland. Six north-eastern counties are to be excluded for a period of 5 years.

June: German aeroplanes drop bombs on London, killing 18 five-year-olds at a school in Poplar in the East End, and injuring 37 more.

June 19: The British royal family renounce the German names and titles of Saxe-Coburg, (responding to anti-German sentiment) and become Windsor.

June 21: Irish suffrage campaigners expressed their delight – and surprise – at the electoral reform that passed through parliament in London with an enormous majority. (via Stair na hÉireann).

June 27: Lt Christopher Prior Wandesford of of Castlecomer House in County Kilkenny is fatally gassed in battle of Arras, aged just 20 years.

June 30: Carlow Sentinel records that Lord Rathdonnell had subscribed £50 to a ward of 26 beds allocated to the British Red Cross Society’s Irish Counties Hospital in Carlow. His subscription was topped by two others - the Carlow Town and District Red Cross Branch itself with £150, and the County Carlow Red Cross Branch at £100, so his personal donation was a big deal. All the other gentry &c. donated €20, €10, or less.

July 10: Sir James Stronge's only son, James Matthew Stronge married Winnifred Alexander of Carrickmoyle. He was killed five weeks later.

July 17: RMS Carpathia, the ship that rescued the 705 survivors from the RMS Titanic, is sunk off Ireland by the German SM U-55; five lives are lost.

July 25: The first meeting of the Irish Convention. It become clear to Rathdonnell and the Southern Unionists that the Ulster Unionists are so opposed to Home Rule that they are prepared to break away. Hence, the concept of a Six-County (originally Nine-County) Ulster. The British government also seemed to have little interest in the south, its war-torn eyes focused still on the great ship-building industry in Belfast. The government was preoccupied by one of the most disastrous years in the war. Ireland was still a low priority. Sinn Fein was correct when they sceptically suggested Lloyd-George’s interest in resolving the Irish crisis was so he could appease Irish-American interests in Washington and get the USA on side for the war effort.

Aug 13: W.T. Cosgrave elected as the new MP for Kilkenny City. A member of Sinn Féin, Cosgrave’s victory in the by-election delivered another boost to the party. He received over 66% of the vote, defeating the Irish Parliamentary Party’s John Magennis, former mayor of the city.

Aug 16: James Matthew Stronge, the 26-year-old Tynan heir, was killed while serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the battle of Langemarck (Ypres) in France; his name heads the war memorial at the church in Tynan. He had been married just five weeks earlier to Winnifred Alexander of Carrickmoyle.The celebrated Military Chaplin Father Willie Doyle was killed in the same action that very day.

August: Royal Navy adopts dazzle painting as per the artist Norman Wilkinson.

Sept 21: Henry Bruen paints a watercolour of Lisnavagh.

Sept 25: Death on hunger strike of Thomas Ashe.

October 2: HMS Drake, the cruiser formerly commanded by both Admiral Jellicoe and Edward Bruen, is torpedoed near Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim. Eighteen men in Boiler Room No. 2 are killed.

Oct 20: 52-year-old W B Yeats marries 25-year-old Georgie Hyde-Lees (1892–1968), mother of his two children. I once slept in the bedroom where Mrs Yeats passed away.

Oct 25: 1, 700 Sinn Féin delegates attend a convention in the Mansion House and De Valera replaced Arthur Griffith as the president of Sinn Féin,

November 2: The Balfour Declaration proclaims British support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" with the clear understanding "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities". And lo, the Jews were offered a new homeland in Palestine.

Nov 6: Battle of Passchendaele: After 3 months of fierce fighting, Canadian forces take Passchendaele in Belgium.

Dec 10 (circa): 'Royal Dublin Society. A general meeting of the members was held last week in Leinster House (Lord Rathdonnell, president, presiding) for the purpose of electing honorary officers, members of sections of the Council, of the standing committees of the Council and of trustees of the National library, etc., and the approval of proposed amendments of certain by-laws. The honorary officers and members of sections of the Council were declired re-elected, the number Candidate* not exceeding the number of vacancies to filled. The other offices were filled ballot. The various amendmoits the by-laws—ten in number—were gone through and approved of.' (Weekly Freeman's Journal, 15 December 1917)

Dec 11: General Allenby and the British army enter Jerusalem on foot, coming in the symbolic guise of pilgrims rather than conquerors. Lawrence of Arabia is amongst them but his broad smiles will fade away when he learns the implications of the Balfour Declaration which will utterly betray all the promises he made to the Arabs.

Dec 14: The SS Hare, a steamship operating out of Dublin Port, was on what would be her final voyage from Manchester to Dublin when she was struck by a torpedo by the German submarine U-62 around seven miles east of Kish lightship. 12 souls were lost in the attack.

Dec 15: The Waterford Steamships SS Formby and SS Coningbeg are struck down by German submarines. A total of 83 people were lost with 67 of them from Waterford and the surrounding areas. Both ship were operated by the Clyde Shipping Company and worked the route from Waterford to Liverpool carrying general cargo, livestock and foodstuffs.

Dec 27: SS Adela torpedoed while travelling to Liverpool carrying a cargo of Livestock and coal. She sank around 12 miles northwest of the Skerries off Anglesea, taking with her 24 lives.

Lord Rathdonnell presents Boyle Medal to Professor Henry Horatio Dixon (1869-1953).

Tom Rathdonnell on the Executive Committee of the Unionist Alliance when they met in 1917 shortly after the Government threatened to introduce conscription to Ireland ...

Henry Bruen sells Castleboro House for £15,000 (a record price for a farm sale in Wexford at that time) to an industrious farmer called James R Dier, JP, of Clonroche, Co. Wexford. The house would be burned down six years later.


Jan 24: Woodrow Wilson, US President, denies reports that he sought to influence the British government regarding the Irish question.

Jan 28: South Armagh by-election campaign begins with Dr Patrick McCartan as the Sinn Féin candidate. The election was held to fill the seat vacated by the death of Charles O’Neill, the Irish Parliamentary Party MP for South Armagh since 1885. In the January 1910 election, O’Neill was elected without opposition. The IPP unanimously selected Patrick Donnelly, a Newry-based solicitor, to halt Sinn Féin but McCartan was a formidable opponent - ‘the man known all over the world, the first Ambassador of Ireland to America, who has faced every sort of danger in order to bring the condition of Ireland before the nations of the world’. The Unionists also fielded a candidate, Thomas W. Richardson, but in this land of small farmers and nationalist mindsets, he hadn't a hope. It was a fiercely contested and bitter affair, punctuated not only by allegations and counter allegations, but by physical disturbances. The seat was won on 1 February by Patrick Donnelly.

Feb 5: The Representation of the People Act passed by the British Parliament receives the Royal Assent, extending the right to vote to all men over 21 and women over the age of 30 who met certain property requirements or had a university education. (Only in 1928 did women finally achieve equal voting rights with men.) The franchise is also extended to include men over the age of 19 who had served in the armed forces. Eligible men and women still serving overseas were placed on Absent Voters Lists to vote by proxy or post. Their first opportunity to use it comes at the General Election on 14th December 1918. For Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, co-founder of the Irish Women’s Franchise League, there was a strange irony that on this same day, Captain Bowen-Colthurst - responsible for the murder of her husband Francis Sheehy Skeffington and two other civilians during the Easter Rising - was released from Broadmoor Asylum.

Feb 5: The SS Tuscania, a Cunard passenger liner converted for troop use is torpedoed off Rathlin Island, north of Ireland by U-boat 77. The ship was carrying over 2,000 troops heading for the war in Europe. Over 200 people lost their lives.

Feb 14: Commander F. McCrary, United States Navy, assumed command of the United States naval air stations, Ireland, and remained in command throughout the war with headquarters at Queenstown.

March 3: Russia abandons the war effort, freeing up a million Germans to launch a counter-offensive along the Western Front.

March 6: Death of John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.

March 11: In a military base in Kansas, there are outbreaks of an unusually severe form of influenza, which are later understood to be amongst first recorded cases of the Spanish Flu. Over the coming year, this strain of flu kills an estimated 50,000,000 people.

March 21 – 18 July: Spring offensive - This was German military leaders’ last gamble to win the war before the Allies, reinforced by American troops, became too strong. The Germans threw their everything into the first punch, including huge numbers of their best troops… It was enormously successful, at first, but when the rocket fuel ran out – as Dan Carlin would put it – the German attack fatally petered out. Despite making major gains, the German army failed to pierce the Allies’ line. Weakened by the loss of their best troops and hampered by over-extended supply lines, the German army falls vulnerable to Allied counter-offensives.

March 30: Lady Rathdonnell, Lisnavagh House, Co. Carlow, has forwarded £35 11s to the Leinster Regiment Prisoners of War Fund, being money collected in Co. Carlow. (Weekly Freeman's Journal - Saturday 30 March 1918).

April 5: The Irish Convention finally wound up after over eight months of largely irrelevant wrangling, after its 51st and final meeting at Trinity College Dublin. It ended with votes of thanks to its chairman, Sir Horace Plunkett, and to its host, the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College who placed Regent House and its accommodation at the disposal of the Convention.The conclusion coincided with the arrival of 42 fresh German divisions on the Western Front, and the Allied realisation that the solution to their acute manpower shortage could be to accede to Unionist demands for the extension of Compulsory Military Service to Ireland. Despite warnings of a nationwide insurrection if protest against conscription, Lloyd George’s cabinet went ahead and enacted the bill on 9 April. Britain was now faced with a powerful anti-conscription alliance of 100,000 Irish Volunteers, the Irish Parliamentary Party, Sinn Fein, the Irish Labour Party, the Trade Unions and, crucially, the Catholic hierarchy. Together they persuaded the vast majority of Irish people to take a pledge against conscription.

April 13: Joseph Dowling, a British soldier and Connaught ranger, was arrested shortly after he had been landed by canvas canoe from a German submarine off the coast of Clare. The British government then overplayed its hand by seizing upon unfounded rumours that this was part of a Sinn Fein plot to unite with Germany.

April 19: Death of William de Vismes Kane of Drumreaske, County Monaghan.

April 21: Anti-conscription pledge by nationalists - In response to the passing of the Military Service Bill by the House of Commons, which empowers the British Government to enforce conscription on all Irish men of military age, an anti-conscription pledge is signed throughout the country. The pledge is brought about by Irish Anti-Conscription Committee, an alliance of leading Irish nationalists, including Eamon de Valera, John Dillon and Arthur Griffith. The move, which is supported by the Catholic Church in Ireland, reflects the mood amongst the Irish public towards what has become an increasingly unpopular war. Although the Irish Parliamentary Party spearheads opposition to the Military Service Bill at Westminster, Sinn Féin are the most vocal proponent of the anti-conscription movement and claim a large degree of support throughout the country.

April 23: General strike across Ireland in protest against proposals to introduce conscription.

May 16-17: Lord French, the new Viceroy, announces "German Plot". Over 150 leading Irish nationalists are arrested under DORA and interned in prisons across the UK. Whether due to false intelligence or an ill-advised black propaganda campaign, Dublin Castle alleged that Sinn Féin was plotting with the German Empire to start an armed insurrection in Ireland to divert the British war effort. This was used to justify the internment of many anti-conscription leaders. Some escaped capture while others chose to be taken in order to secure a propaganda victory. Ultimately it was the more moderate Sinn Feiners they captured while those aligned with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (and thus more committed to physical force republicanism) remainder at large and very angry. This allowed Michael Collins to consolidate his control of the organisation and put it on a more focused military footing. [The moderation of the immediate post Rising period had been challenged internally by the GAA since at least March 1918, presumably when it became apparent the Convention was going to fail.] As doubts mounted over the credibility of the so-called German Plot, the incarcerated Irish nationalists could at least enjoy the growing support their cause was now getting not just in Ireland but also among the Irish in both the UK and the USA.

May 17: Death in action of Kane Bunbury's great-grandson, James Kane-Smith. (Carlow Sentinel) ROLL OF HONOUR. LIEUT. JAMES KANE-SMITH, M.C. We regret to find amongst the official causality list this week the death of this gallant young Carlow soldier, who was eldest son of Mr and Mrs Kane-Smith, Little Moyle. He was attached to the R.F.A., and some months back was reported wounded and missing, but hopes of recovery were entertained up to the last. He was awarded the M.C. for distinguished services, while his kind and genial disposition made him a fast favourite amongst his many friends, who mourn his loss, and sympathise deeply with his bereaved parents.

July 4: Morale boosting victory at Hamel.

July 8: First armed attack on Royal Irish Constabulary at Beal a Ghleanna, West Cork.

July 16-17: The Russian Imperial Romanov family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei), and all those who chose to accompany them into imprisonment, are savagely and incompetently massacred, shot, bayoneted and clubbed to death in Yekaterinburg. The town was about to fall to White Russians which is one reason why they were slain. The Romanovs are now saints in the Russian Orthodox calendar. Helen Rappaport gave an excellent account of it all to mark the centenary on Dan Snow's History Hit.

July 26-31: Leading Irish Air Aces Mick Mannock and George ‘McIrish' McElory are killed within 5 days of one another.

August 8-12: General Charles Kavanagh is commanding officer of British Cavalry Divisions at Battle of Amiens - his father was Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, the limbless Carlow MP, while his brother Walter served on Carlow County Council from 1910-1918. 8 August, the day the Hundred Days Offenisve began would become known to Germans as the Black Day. Amiens transpired to be the long awaited breakthrough moment for the Allies. It was an inspired early example of a deception operation, bringing the Canadians and Australians to stand shoulder to shoulder, while simultaneously fooling the Germans that was not the basis of another major attack, that the Canadians were elsewhere. This followed the uplifting conquest of Hamel on 4 July, as well as the fact that the German Spring Offensive had failed, albeit at a huge cost to the Allies. On 8 August, the Canadians and Australians advanced between six and 8 miles, a huge distance relative to that gained over the previous years.

Sept 30: Horace de vere Cole marries Denise Daly (who later marries my uncle, Anthony Drew).

October 1: Sir Richard Butler, 60th Rifles (now the Green Jackets), is the one of the first men to reach Damascus in the wake of the city's fall to General Allenby. It is sometime said that this was when and where he heard the sad news from Carlow of the Ballintemple fire but surely that was at least 10 montsh earlier?

Oct 7: A ’mammoth’ auction in support of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Prisoners of War fund was held in the Mansion House. In attendance was the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and Viscount Powerscourt.

Oct 8: Widespread flooding took place after a battering of storms across Ireland.

October 10: SS Leinster sunk by two torpedoes, leaving 529 dead in Ireland’s worst maritime disaster. Among the dead is Jocelyn Alexander, known to his family as Joe, son of the Primate of Ireland his wife CF Alexander, the hymn writer. Born in 1852 and educated at Winchester and Brasenose College, Oxford, alongside Jack Bunbury, he was awarded the Newdigate Prize for Poetry (which Oscar Wilde also won) in 1874. He married his cousin Anne Humphries in 1876, lived in London and worked as one of was HM Inspectors of Schools. He was survived by his wife and daughter Betty; their only son died aged 8 months. Joe Alexander was buried in Derry.

October 23: Birth of the Rathdonnell's nephew (Lt Col) Francis Bruen (DSC), only son of (Admiral) Edward Francis Bruen and his wife Constance. The boy's father, who was then commanding 2nd Cruiser Squadron, was awarded the order of Companion of the Bath and also received high decorations from France, Russia and Japan.

Extraordinary bedspread made at Lisnavagh by women including Ethel McCB, Emily McClintock and many Burgess, Woods and other familiar names.

To The Editor of the Nationalist. October 23rd 1918.
Dear Mr. Editor - In connection with the letter appearing in your issue of last week under the name "Fisherman" , I would like to emphasise that the matter referred to by your anonymous correspondent is a fishery question and I would also ask all the licensed fishermen interested to inquire who "Fisherman" is, as I think that an anonymous letter-writer is not only a public danger but also a coward - Yours truly, Kane J. Smith. (Thanks to PPP).

October: LADY RATHDONNELL AND THE SPANISH FLU. The Spanish Flu, an unprecedented, strange new phantom disease, seems to have originated in China and arrived at Etaples, a staging post on Western Front, in January 1918, at a similar time to its emergence in Kansas. There was a second outbreak in June-July 1918 but much the worst came in the Fall of 1918. Those afflicted likened it to fighting with a ghost. There was a certain degree of press censorship about the subject among the Allied powers in order not to further alarm the already war-weary people of the world. Spain had been a neutral country during the war so that was one reason why they took the rap! The pandemic was characterised by blood coming out of ones nostrils and anus, like an old fashioned horror story, and put those suffering from bronchitis or pneumonia in a particularly perilous condition. The mortality rate for those infected was a whopping 20%; normally it is 1/20 of 1%. An estimated 50,000,000 people are said to have died, marking nearly 4% of the worlds population. That included 23,000 in Ireland (from over 800,000 affected; there were 20,057 certified deaths plus an excess of pneumonia fatalities compared to the average for the previous ten years. On a single day in November 1918 there were 50 burials before noon in Glasnevin. [See 'Stacking the Coffins' by Ida Milne (Manchester University Press, 2018).] Over half a million Americans died while prominent victims included Sir Mark Sykes, Donal Trump’s grandfather and Olympic athlete Martin Sheridan (hugely fit, the greatest athlete this country has ever known, according to the New York Times), while David Lloyd George and FD Roosevelt both had narrow escapes.

October 19: The Nationalist and Leinster Times wrote 'Carlow is suffering severely from the influenza epidemic, which appears to be almost world-wide. Things are serious in Carlow. Over sixty asylum patients have been stricken, and eighteen of the attendants, two of whom have died. All the hospitals are filled and an assistant has been appointed to help the Carlow Dispensary Medical Officer, Dr. L. Doyle. Last week a thousand died in Ireland. Most of the country schools are now closed. In some places the entire postal staffs have collapsed. Throughout Ireland generally, the fearful scourge commonly known as the "Spanish Flu" is taking a toll of the population.'

I have been told about – but not yet seen – the beautifully presented roll books from Rathvilly school, dated July 1918 and Oct-Nov 1918. It shows how badly the community was hit by the Spanish Flu influenza. At least three people died in Tobinstown – Bill Burgess’s brother, Atty Dowling’s mother and one of Betty Scott’s cousins. Children were protected from this information. Nellie O’Toole, who grew up in Rathvilly, recalled how all thirteen houses on Phelan Row were hit. 'My mother said it was so bad my brother Jimmy was beating his head against the wall with it.' The only redemption came from 'the big house up above' at Lisnavagh. 'At midday every day the Rathdonnells sent down a big phaeton [an old fashioned pony and trap] with two men driving and two big churns of soup. Everyone would be out with their tubes and their cans and that. Boiling hot soup! Only for that, we were all gone.'

This letter from the Board of Guardians of the Baltinglass Union, dated 25 November 1918, thanked Lady Rathdonnell 'for the kindly and considerable help which she has given to the people of Rathvilly and the neighbourhood during the present, serious epidemic'. Such good deeds would stand the family in good stead when the War of Independence broke out two months later.

October: 'News has reached Carlow of the death in Palestine of Private Thomas Sunderland, Royal Irish Rifles. He was from Castle Hill in Carlow. He was killed in action on September 21st during the advance on Palestine.'

November 11: End of the Great War. At least 36,000 Irish dead. The war had finally ended in Western Europe. The monarchies had been toppled in Russia, Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and elsewhere. The tide was turning in favour of ‘small nations’ but for Irish republicans, the fight was not yet won.

November 21: Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 entitles women to be elected to House of Commons

December 14-28: Sinn Fein sweep to victory in General Election, winning 73 of the 105 Irish seats in the British Parliament. De Valera and many other Sinn Fein candidates were in prison, "under lock and key of the foreigner” in Lincoln, as he put it (in Irish), but this did not prevent them from hearing the victorious results… Most of those who voted for Sinn Fein were former voters for the IPP (Home Rule) party so Sinn Fein was not entirely new; its mantras carried the weight of many decades of well thought out IPP policy. With that election, the Irish people ratified the ambitions and goals of the 1916 rising. What had hitherto been considered an insurrection was now clearly a movement of massive proportions. Moreover, it had moved from the purely military sphere into the democratic political sphere although another two wars would be fought yet … Sinn Fein decided to establish an Irish Parliament to be known as The Dail. The Ulster Unionist's also emerge as big winners. They sweep the boards and win 23 of the 37 (check) seats in Ulster ... so the divides apparent in Irish politics in 1912, the time of the last election, have merely deepened ...

December 30: The Minute Book of the "Comrades of the Great War Society" records that the first meeting of the society was called by Lieut-Colonel Browne-Clayton on Monday, 30th December, 1918. It was held in the Deighton Memorial Hall, Burrin Street. The meeting was attended by 67 men, many of them ex-soldiers of the British Army, wearing the Discharge Silver Badge. Also among the attendance were a number of men wearing Khaki, home on leave or invalided out. There were also a number of civilians present who had relatives in service. The meeting was addressed by Sapper B.W. Bagenal, 10th Field Company, Australian Engineers. It was decided to establish a "Post" in Carlow town. (Posts had already been established in Rathvilly, Tullow and Bagenalstown). Sapper Bagenal stated: "that it was imperative that rooms or a building should be procured in order to establish a meeting and recreation place for members.'"Other desirable arrangements in the interests of members would include a Library and Reading Room with a plentiful supply of quality newspapers, a Licence to sell Beer would be sought and a canteen established where members who have stood "shoulder to shoulder" in the Great War on the Sea, Land and in the Air, would be able to spend leisure time among old comrades and friends". The Carlow Rootsweb has more of this which comes courtesy of Micheal Purcell.