Friday, 27 January 2012

McCullen review

so now it would appear that the McCullen tree consists of :

James McCullen, Coastguard, 16th Feb 1873 aged 74
Ellen McCullen died 7th March 1890 aged 74 (she may have been the second wife of James based on the 1841 census). Yet to find her maiden name.

Eveline McCullen b1856 d 14th June 1857
James Jocelyn McCullen 60 in the 1901 census. On the 1871 census he was Second Mate on HMS Imogene, age 31. Died 20th April 1904 aged 64.

Francis Groom McCullen b 15th June 1850. Joined Royal Navy 15th June 1868. Died 11th October 1888 in Portaferry after a long illness. Commanding Officer of H.M. Cruiser "Squirrel".

Eliza McCullen married to John Sumner. Does she later become Elizabeth Rule?

Margaret McCullen aged 56 in the 1911 census. Died 9th August 1947

Charles Augustus Edward McCullen b 1st July1849. Enlisted in the Royal Navy 1st July 1867 for 10 years. Re-enlisted 1st July 1877 for 10 years. Died in England in 1918.

From Coastguards of Yesteryear :

McCULLEN. Erected by James J.McCullen in memory of his sister Eveline who died 14th.June 1857 aged 1 year. Also his father James McCullen of H.M. Coast Guard who died 16th.February 1873 aged 74 Years. Also his brother Francis Groome McCullen R.N. Commander of H.M. Cruiser ‘Squirrel’ who died 11th.October 1888 aged 36 years. Also his mother Ellen McCullen who died 7th.March 1890 aged 74 years. Also the above James Jocelyn McCullen R.N. late Chief Divisional Officer of Coast Guards, who died 20th.April 1904 aged 64 years. Also his sister Elizabeth K. Rule who died 14th.November 1921 aged – years.  Margaret M.McCullen died 9th.August 1947.
Reference; Ballyphilip Church of Ireland Graveyard.

From the 1841 census for Fleet in Dorset there are children who would be too old for Ellen to have given birth to :

Thursday, 26 January 2012

McCullen of Portaferry

A thread on the Great War Forum re records of Irish Volunteers led me to do a quick Google and one of the options that came up was a site to do with Portaferry in County Down, where my Great Grandmother Jane Maria McCullen was born. She was the daughter of Catherine Carson from Dublin and Charles Augustus Edward McCullen from County Louth. They had married in Dublin in 1877, with Catherine listed as living at a very interesting address.

Looking at the website re Portaferry, I noticed that there were references to M'Cullens relating to a John David Sumner who was killed in 1915. His surviving maternal uncle is listed as Mr C A E M'Cullen, RN, chief officer of coastguards, retired. Data that matches Charles Augustus Edward McCullen who had retired from the Coastguard as a Chief Officer (Petty Officer) before the Great War. I was aware of Francis McCullen and James McCullen of Portaferry but had not been able to tie them in any way to Charles.

Gerald and George Smyth

Jerry Murland's book Departed Warriors give a good account of the Great War service of Lt Colonel Gerald Brice Ferguson Smyth and his brother Major George Osbert Stirling Smyth. Both highly decorated. Gerald Smyth lost part of his arm in 1914 and nearly lost the other arm when wounded later in the conflict.

Gerald caused controversy with comments at Listowel to members of the Royal Irish Constabulary which led to his being shot by the IRA a short while later in Cork. He had been in Ireland for a very short amount of time.

George Osbert appears to have got himself a transfer to Irish Command to be involved in tracking those responsible for the shooting of his brother. He was himself killed in the early hours of 12th October 1920 when searching a house for Sean Treacy and Dan Breen in Drumcondra. Captain White was killed during the same incident.

The National Library of Ireland has 3 photos of George's funeral cortege travelling through Dublin labelled as the funeral of Major Smyth and General Boyd. Major General Boyd was actually an official mourner during this procession and the other coffin is probably that of Captain White. I have sent an email to the NLI and hopefully they will correct their data re the photos. T Ryle Dwyer writing in The Squad gets the brothers names wrong - suggesting Colonel Ferguson Smyth was shot in Cork and his brother Major Gerald Smyth being shot in Drumcondra. Similarly, White's auction house have a photo of Gerald Smyth's coffin which they half suggest is George Osbert Stirling Smyth rather than Gerald (even though the photo itself is labelled Gerald).

The Smyth brothers were both buried in Banbridge. Captain White was buried in Kingston Cemetery, London. Major General Boyd died in 1930.

As in so many instances, there is a link to Kathy's family - the Fernside Raid in which Smyth and White were killed revolved around Dan Breen and Sean Treacy. Both had been to see Kathy's Gt Grandfather and his daughter who were in Drumcondra to get a passport from Michael Collins. Breen and Treacy were followed from this meeting back to Professor Carolan's house, Fernside,

Easter Rising : Military Medals

As a result of their work during the Easter Rising, two young ladies were awarded the Military Medal (possibly the first ladies to receive this award).

Louisa Nolan was awarded hers for attending to wounded at Mount St whilst under fire. 

Florence Williams was awarded hers for attending to wounded in the Dublin Castle area whilst under fire.

Having been contacted by relatives of both these ladies as a result of a posting on, I'm hoping to find out a bit more what they subsequently did.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Irish Volunteers - Sweeney

while the better halfs' family has a number of rebels and fenians on the family tree, mine are near non-existent. Most seemed to be focused on earning a living (and in some cases drinking it away).

The Sweeney's, related by marriage, are the only ones that have shown up so far as having an interest in Irish independence.

George, Michael and Patrick were the children of Hugh and Bridget Sweeney. Bridget by all accounts was a fierce supporter of the independence movement. though Hugh and Bridget are listed in the 1901 census as English speakers, the children are all listed as Irish speakers, even 3month old Michael.

George Sweeney was a member of the Irish Volunteers but followed the Redmond route into the British Army. He was killed in 1917 aged 19.

His brother Michael was also a member of the Irish Volunteers but too young to enlist in the army. Not too young to be a member of the South Dublin Union garrison during the Easter Rising though. He went on to fight during the War of Independence, was wounded, later imprisoned in Mountjoy but killed after the Truce and just before the Civil War erupted. Shot by a member of the National Army whilst escaping from a lorry at the corner of Grafton St and Nassau St. It was reported that his funeral at Mount Jerome was attended by over 3000 and his death was raised by Harry Boland. Today, like his older brother, few would even have heard of him and he appears as a footnote.

Their younger brother Patrick was involved in running messages during the War of Independence.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Private John Miranda, Connaught Ranger

Reading around WW1, the Easter Rising, Tan War, Irish Civil War, there are a number of people that become "persons of interest" to use the police term. John Miranda is one such person for me; the last of the Connaught Ranger mutineers in India, left behind when the bodies of Sears, Smyth and Daly were repatriated to Ireland.

Private John Miranda died in Dagshai military prison following his arrest for taking part in the Connaught Rangers mutiny. He, like a number of the mutineers, was English rather than Irish. Born in Liverpool/Bootle, his parents address at the time of his death was 11 Shelley Street, Bootle. His gravestone/memorial carries the  army number 7144229 which he would have been issued as a result of the British army renumbering exercise of 1920. During the Great War he was 5734 and then 35038, Connaught Rangers. His service record is most likely still with the Ministry of Defence.

In the 1901 census, John and his older brother Joseph are living with his mother Elizabeth (age 31?), her father Andrew Higgins (his country of birth is given as Sweden with British in brackets) and her nephew, another Andrew Higgins. No sign of the father.

In the 1911 census, John and Joseph are away at separate school institutions. Elizabeth has aged to 49 and is living at 11 Shelley St, Bootle but lists her place of birth as Ireland, with unmarried daughters Elizabeth and Annie McArdle (25 and 18 respectively) at the address. Elizabeth states married for 5 years with no children. No sign of Joseph Miranda.

Joseph Miranda appears to have joined the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards after the Great War, as number 19412. He was charged with stealing by civil authorities and discharged from the army in August 1920. During the Great War he had served as 202158 Royal Garrison Artillery and 518345 Labour Corps. He listed his occupation as seaman. So far, no other information found re Joseph.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Admiral Nelson

On this day in 1806, Admiral Nelson was given a State Funeral and buried in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

In Trafalgar Square, a statue of Nelson stands on top of a large column. A similar column had been constructed earlier in Dublin and referred to as Nelson's Pillar.

In 1916 the statue in Dublin was used as a target by some rebels in the Easter Rising. The pillar in Dublin was unceremoniously destroyed in 1966 by Irish nationalists with a "tidy up" completed by the Irish Army. An Lar became familiar on the Dublin buses as a hasty replacement sign.  The head of the statue can now be seen in the Dublin City Archive in Pearse Street.

While there was much controversy caused by having a statue of an English hero adorning the main street in Dublin, one part of Nelson's history remains neglected. Namely that it was this English hero who stood as a character witness for the Irish rebel, Colonel Marcus Despard who was hung and beheaded in 1803.

In a twist of irony, one of Despard's relatives was involved in the defence of Trinity College in 1916 as a member of the Officer Training Corps. Ernest Despard was killed in 1917 while serving with the Tank Corps.

Saturday, 7 January 2012


prompted by a question on the Great War Forum regarding books on the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Irish Civil War I realised that I'd bought quite a few books recently and that I'd not updated my information on LibraryThing so decided that today was the day to do that so job done.

Have to do some work on tagging and maybe even getting around to doing some reviews.

The most recent purchases have been

Courage and Conflict by Ian Kenneally. Reading this at the moment.
The Irish Times Book of the Century (following a thread on the forums)
Fron-Goch and the birth of the IRA by Lyn Ebenezer (just read)

On the list for acquisition soon are

Ambushes and Armour by W H Kaut
Revolution by Padraig Og O Ruairc
Harry Boland's Irish Revolution by David Fitzpatrick

Friday, 6 January 2012

The well travelled cooper

Having identified my Gt Gt Grandfather as one Hugh Niland, a Dublin cooper who worked at Guinness I found I was having no luck finding out anything about him.

A few years back, I then somehow stumbled upon a Hugh Niland mentioned in an online record at the British Library with regards India. Sent off for a copy of the document and duly found that this was my Hugh, He'd enlisted in 1854 into the 2nd Bombay Regiment of European Infantry, part of the Honourable East India Company, and gone across to India. The Indian Mutiny took place while he was there but he didn't seem to be involved in this. Ditto the Anglo-Persian war took place and some Bombay troops were sent to this but not Hugh. With the transfer of the HEIC regiments to the British Army, Hugh appears to have decided to leave and is discharged in November 1859 and makes his way back to Dublin.

Back in Dublin he marries Ellen Hawkins and has a child. Then disappears again.

Late in 2011 I had a look at the records and there's a new record for a Hugh Niland, a cooper from Ireland enlisting in the US Navy. A website called then appears to have a record for the widow of a Hugh Niland. Upon signing up for the free trial it turns out that this is my Hugh Niland once again and the fold3 document is his widows application for a pension following his death in Dublin in 1894. He appears to have taken a chance to emigrate to Canada (this tallies with an entry in the Coopers Guild records at UCD), gone across to New York and enlisted in the US Navy for one year. He then re-enlisted for another year and serves on a ship off the coast of Florida intercepting British ships trying to break the Union blockade of the southern states.

Having travelled from Ireland to India, back to Ireland, over to Canada and the USA before going back to Ireland, Hugh is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in an unmarked grave. There is a possibility that he is entitled to a US Veterans gravestone.

Of the 4 children of Hugh and Ellen, Ellen died when a young girl; John, Hugh and Joseph all became coopers.Only Joseph then undertook any form of military service. He in turn had 4 children and offspring here have served in the Royal Air Force, Parachute Regiment and Special Air Service.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Knocklong 1919

Although my better half is C of I, she has quite a bit of republican family history.

The maternal Gt Grandfather, Martin Joseph Pender, is listed in The Paper Wall as a proof reader at the Irish Independent and as having republican sympathies. I've contacted the author of this book, Ian Kenneally, to see if it's possible to find out some more information about Martin Pender's career. Of Martin's children, Charles became a compositor at the Irish Independent while Aidan became editor of the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald.

The paternal grandfather, John Joe O'Brien  from Galbally in Co Limerick, was in this thick of things early on and participated in the rescue of Sean Hogan at Knocklong in May 1919. John Joe's brother Ned also took part, being wounded in the action and eventually making his way to the USA where he worked with Harry Boland. Jeremiah Ring, one of the policemen at Knocklong, later became a friend of and regular visitor to John Joe.

Ned and John Joe's younger brother William Patrick (aka Willie Pa) was arrested after the Easter Rising (though he took no part) as a member of the Queenstown, Co Cork Volunteers. He was sent to Wakefield and then onto Fron-Goch. Willie Pa died shortly after his release in November 1916.

One of the RIC men accused of mistreating Willie Pa at the time of his arrest was Sgt James Kingston. John Joe believed that he shot and killed Sgt Kingston at the fight at Annacarty in which Sean Wall was killed.

Of the men detained by the authorities after Knocklong, Edmund Foley and Patrick Maher were tried, found guilty and suffered death by hanging in Mountjoy Prison on the 7th June 1921. Immediately after their execution, the last man to be executed by the British in Ireland, Black and Tan Constable William Mitchell, was hung for his part in a robbery/murder in Co Wicklow.

Thomas Toomey's book "The War of Independence in Limerick 1912-1921" carries a good chapter about the Knocklong Rescue and touches on some of the exploits of John Joe and Ned O'Brien.

Both John Joe and Ned wrote Witness Statements for the Bureau of Military History.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Death Penny

The starting point for my interest in WW1 etc was the Death Penny sitting on the mantlepiece at my grandparents house in Harold's Cross in Dublin. My Gt Grandfather Joseph Niland was employed as a cooper at St James's Gate, Dublin by Guinness. For reasons unknown he enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers in April 1915 and was posted to 179th Tunnelling Company. This unit was involved in digging the tunnels and laying the mines that signalled the start of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. Y Sap and Lochnagar crater being the end results of the huge explosions.

Work is currently being undertaken by the La Boisselle Study Group to excavate some of the tunnels dug by the unit.

Joe Niland was killed in March 1917 when 2 German shells landed on his section pay parade. The War Diary gives the time of death as 7:10pm and lists Joe and his colleagues He and his colleagues are buried in Faubourg D'Amien cemetery in Arras in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.

A downside of the CWGC website is that you can't add any more information to the entry that they have so Joe Niland now has an entry on the website where I've added photos of his wife and 4 children.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


hello and welcome to my first blog posting.

The purpose of this blog is to collect together a few strands re my interests in The Great War, The Easter Rising of 1916, the Anglo-Irish War and the Irish Civil War but it will stray off into other areas too. This is not meant to be an academic project nor an attempt to suggest that I'm an expert; it is a hobby and an attempt to record bits and pieces of knowledge, books, personalities, myths, resources, etc that I stumble across or have ideas/opinions/questions about.

At the moment, I am a member of the following forums/groups

The Great War Forum (focus on 1914-1918)

Dublin Forum (has some threads re Easter Rising, Anglo-Irish (Tan) War, War of Independence)

Rootschat (a family history forum with threads covering the areas listed above) (touches on some of the areas of interest in the History and Military sub-forums)

Royal Irish Constabulary (focus on the RIC but with info re Black and Tans and Auxiliaries)

Landships (focus on modelling tanks and armoured vehicles)

Facebook Irish Volunteers group

Then there are a number of websites of interest (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list) :

Irish Medals

War of Independence

Irish Volunteers

Irish Military Archives (starting the process of bringing material online)

The Irish Story