St. Brendan’s (Church of Ireland) church, Birr, which is situated in Oxmanstown Mall is by all accounts a fascinating church. While the exterior may look like a normal church the memorials on the walls inside are an interesting incite into Birr’s long history and association with the Leinster Regiment and the British Army.
Many of the memorials in the church where erected by the comrades, friends and relatives of the deceased, this article will examine theses memorials and the names that they commemorate. Information has been gathered about each of the names from different sources.
In Memory of
Captain Richard Trench Kirkpatrick DSO
Lieutenant Henry Edward Clonard Keating
Corporal Frederick Gale
1st Battn Leinster Regiment
Who were Killed on Service
In Africa During the Year 1898
Is Erected by the Officers
1st Battn Leinster Regt
Richard Trench Kirkpatrick was born on 25th September 1865 in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. His parents were Alexander Richard and Catherine Louisa (nee Trench) Kirkpatrick.
Richard was educated in Rugby, Warwickshire. Afterwards in February 1885 he entered Sandhurst College, for training as an officer. He graduated in April of the same year. Upon leaving Sandhurst he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Leinster Regiment.
Lieutenant Kirkpatrick was promoted to Captain in September 1893. Captain Kirkpatrick became a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in 1897 and contributed information to the interest of geographic knowledge. Awarded the Distinguished Service Order in May 1898 in recognition of services preformed in Uganda, Captain Kirkpatrick had been under fire at least nine times while in Uganda and had been present when the Soudonese troops, who had formed the escort of Major MacDonald’s expedition mutinied.
Captain Kirkpatrick along with seven other men where murdered by natives on 25th November 1898. Captain Kirkpatrick had left the main column of Major MacDonald’s expedition to northern Uganda for survey purposes.
Along with the Distinguished Service Order, Captain Kirkpatrick is entitled to an East and Central Africa medal with claps Lubwa’s and Uganda 1897-98.
Henry Edward Clonard Keating was the son of Edward and Mary Keating. He was born on 13th December 1872 in Colchester, Nova Scotia, Canada.
In December 1891 Henry was admitted to Sandhurst Military. He gave his former trade as being a civil engineer. He had an exemplary record and graduated in September 1892. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment. Keating was promoted to Lieutenant in August 1894.
In August 1898 Lieutenant Keating was mention in the London Gazette for service with the Colonial Office, this presumably led him to serve with the West African Frontier Force in Nigeria. On 9th October Lieutenant Keating was leading a party of men close to Yelwa on the River Niger when they were ambushed by natives. Lieutenant Keating along with Corporal Frederick Gale and 12 native soldiers where killed.
In response to the attack a British force returned to the scene of the ambush and burnt several native villages and shot over 100 enemy and hung 7 who were thought to be responsible for the unprovoked attack.
Lieutenant Keating was buried at a British Fort in Yelwa, he is also commemorated on a family grave in Saint James Cemetery, Toronto, Canada.
Frederick Gale served as a Corporal in the Leinster Regiment. Not a great deal is known about him other than he was killed in the same ambush as Lieutenant Henry Keating.
“In Memory of
Captain XXX Regiment
Who Died 23rd May
Erected by His Brother Officers in Affectionate Remembrance”
John Courtenay Julian was born around 1845, not much is know about his life before he joined the British army.
John’s military career began on 14th October 1868 when he purchased a commission as an Ensign. John further purchased promoted to Lieutenant on 24th December 1870. John was promoted to Captain on 30th November 1878.
Captain Julian died on 23rd May 1879. He was interned in Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr, Co. Offaly.
“In Memory of
William Henry Kerans
Captain 3rd Leinster Regiment
Acting District Commissioner
Died at Idah. S. Nigera West Africa
29th July 1907 Aged 31 Years”
William Henry Kerans was born in Punjab, Indian on 14th May 1876. He was the son of William Robert and Anne Kerans. William Robert Kerans was a Surgeon Major in the Army Medical Department and lived in Parsonstown towards the end of his life. William enlisted in the 13th Hussars at Birr on 11th November 1894. He was 5 foot 6 inches, had blue eyes and fair hair. William only served for 3 months buying his discharge for 10 pounds on 13th February 1895. He spent his limited service at home. William rejoined the army in October 1900 gaining a commission into the 3rd battalion, Leinster Regiment as a Second Lieutenant.
Second Lieutenant Kerans served in the Boer War with the 3rd Battalion. His service entitled him to Queen’s South Africa Medal. William continued to serve in the Army as a professional soldier after the Boer War. He made the rank of Lieutenant on 11th April 1903, further more he was promoted to Instructor of Musketry on 20th February 1904. Then in April of the same year William was promoted to Captain. Captain Kerans was seconded for service under the Colonial Office in October 1904 and he served in Nigeria. Here he became appointed Acting District Commissioner. Kearns died on 29th July 1907 after a few hours of contracting blackwater fever.
“In Memory of
Adrien Patrick Woods
Lieutenant 1st Battn
The Prince of Wales Leinster Regt
who died at Birr Barracks November 11th 1907
Aged 25 years
Placed by his Brother Officers”
Adrian Patrick Woods was the second son of William E. Woods J.P. and Francis Woods (Nee Lucar) of 8 Oxmanstown Mall, Birr. He was born on 17th March 1882.
He originally joined the King’s County but was subsequently commissioned in January 1901 as a Second Lieutenant. The 3rd Battalion was stationed in the barracks at Birr. Second Lieutenant Woods served in South Africa during the Boer War and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 5 Clasps for his service. He was promoted to Lieutenant in July 1906.
Lieutenant Adrian Patrick Woods died in Birr Barracks on 11 November 1907 from pneumonia. He was just 25. It was noted in his obituary that he was popular amongst the ranks and was a keen sportsman.
1st World War Memorials
“To The Glory of God
In Loving Memory Of
George J.C. Ryall
Royal Munster Fusiliers
Killed In Action In France on 21st of March 1918
Aged 23 Years
Only Son of Gerald F. Ryall, of Glenacurrach, Dromoyle.
Also of Robert Sheppard 1st Irish Guards
Killed in Battle at Festubert 18th of May 1915,
Aged 25 years.
Son of the Late B. Sheppard, of Kilcolman Parish.
Erected as a Token
Of Esteem by the Late Parishioners of Kilcolman
George I.C. Ryall was the only son of Gerald Ryall. He was born in Aghacon, King’s County. George was schooled in Dublin. During the War he served as a Corporal in the Royal Munster Fusiliers. He was killed in action on the 21st March 1918. This was the 1st day of the German Spring Offensive. George is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, France.
Robert Sheppard worked as a postman before the War. He was the son of Benjamin and Hester Sheppard of Kilcolman, King’s County. Robert was born in 1883. Robert joined the Irish Guards at Birr and served in France. He was a Lance Corporal. He was killed in action on the 18th May 1915 during the Battle of Festubert.Robert has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, France.
“The Windows in the Adjacent Aisle,
Have Been Erected in Proud and
Thankful Memory of the Men
Of This Parish Whose Splended
Self-Sacrifice Helped to Win
The Great War 1914 – 1918”
The names on this brass memorial plaque are as follows, addition information is also included about the individuals.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s search engine only produces one hit for “W.S. Ball”, a private in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who was killed in action on 11th January 1917. A connection to Birr has yet to be established and there is always the possibly that this W.S. Ball is the wrong person.
Geo. Frederick Coore Mein
George was the eldest son of Major Fredrick Coore (King’s Shropshire Light Infantry) and Jane Mein (Nee Frend). They had married in Roscre, Ireland in 1877. George was born in Newport, Shropshire on 7 December 1881. However his mother died in 1884, and Frederick remarried in 1892. The connection with Birr comes in the form of one of George’s sisters, Norah living in Birr with an uncle (a brother of Jane).
George was educated in Chatham House, Ramsgate. Afterwards he followed in his father’s footsteps and also served in the army. He served as a private during the Boer War with the 25th Company Imperial Yeomanry. He is entitled to a Queen’s South Africa medal with the clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902.
Between the interim of the Boer War and First World War George moved to Auckland, New Zealand and took up farming. During the outbreak of the First World War he joined up for Imperial service and served as a private with the Auckland regiment. Private Mein took part in the capture of Samoa, both New Zealand and Australian forces helped captured the German controlled island in August 1914. Then after returning to New Zealand, George again volunteered for active services and embarked for Gallipoli. George was killed in action on 7th August 1915 during the battle of Chunuk Bair, while advancing along Rhododendron Spur.
George has no known grave and is commemorated on the Chunuk Bair memorial in Turkey. George is entitled to a 1915 star trio and memorial plaque.
A native of King’s county John was born in Parsonstown on 17th May 1896. His parents were William, a carpenter and Hanna Eades. They lived at 17 in Cappaneale Street, Birr.
John enlisted sometime in mid 1915 into the 9th (Tyrone) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The 9th battalion went overseas in October 1915. John made the rank of Lance Sergeant.
Lance Sergeant Eades died from wounds on 6th December 1916. He rests in Bailleul Communal cemetery extension, France. John is entitled a British War medal and Victory medal.
An older brother of John Eades, Robert Eades was born on 10th October 1893 in Parsonstown.
Robert like his father was a carpenter by trade. At some time after 1911 Robert moved to Quebec Canada. Robert joined up on the 30th November 1915. He enlisted in the 73rd Battalion Canadian Infantry. He was 5 foot 10, ad grey eyes and brown hair.
Private Eades died on 5th April 1917, just a few days before the battle of Vimy Ridge. Robert is buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery, France.
The son Rev. Samuel Hemphill and Flora Margaret Delap Hemphill, Richard Patrick was born in King’s county on 17 March 1894. Richard’s father was Minister at St. Brendan’s church from 1892 – 1914.
Patrick was educated at St. Columba's College, Rathfarnham, Dublin, Campbell College, Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin were he studied medicine. In both Campbell and Trinity College he had been a member of the Officers Training Corps. (Campbell College was the only secondary school to have an O.T.C. in Ireland).
Patrick was commissioned into the 6th Battalion, Leinster Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in December 1914. He served overseas in France and Flanders with the British Expeditionary Force from May to November 1915 entitling him to a 1914-15 Star trio. For 14 months from November 1915 Second Lieutenant Hemphill was stationed in Salonika and was in charge of a company. He was attached to the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt and promoted to Captain. On the 24th March 1917 he was killed in a flying accident at Heliopolis, Egypt. He was interred in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.
Lt-Col H W Weldon, late 1st Battalion, Leinster Regiment wrote: For nearly a year he was under me during 1915 when I was Adjunct, and for a short time his Company Commander, and I can honestly say I never knew a more conscientious, capable or pluckier soldier. He was loved by his men, and had he been spared, I feel sure he would have made a great name for himself, if opportunity occurred. I think he was one of the nicest boys I ever met, and one I shall never forget.
Joseph Leopald Frederick Hill was born in Tipperary in 1895. Joseph served as a Sergeant in the 1st battalion, Irish Guards. He died of wounds on the 13th April 1918.He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial and also on a family headstone in Clonoghill cemetery, Birr.
“J L F Hill Fred
Serg 2nd Bat Irish Guards
Killed In Action At Borre France
April 17th 1918 Age 21 Years”
As inscribed on the family grave.
Charles W. Howes
Born in India in 1887, Charles’ parents were William Robert, a British army officer and Lucy Howes.
Charles entered Trinity College to study medicine in October 1908. Whist in Trinity he was a member of the Officer Training Corps. After he graduated he was a teacher and taught in Co. Cavan and at Birr.
It would appear Charles’ father William moved to Birr for a period of time. Charles enlisted in the Leinster Regiment in November 1914. Charles married Mabel Gick on 25th September 1915 in St. Brendan’s church, Birr. He had been commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry as a second lieutenant in July 1915.
Shortly after getting married Charles went overseas to France with the Durham Light Infantry. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1916. He served for almost 3 years before being killed in action on 22nd April 1918 whilst leading his company, 'W' on an attack at Martinsart Wood on the Somme. Sadly and unknown to Charles, his wife had given birth to a baby girl a day before is death.
Major Howes was laid to rest in Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
Henry T.K. Mitchell
Born around 1891, Henry Theophilus Kelly Mitchell was the son of Thomas and Fanny Mitchell of 19 Oxmanstowns Mall, Birr. Henry was commissioned in the 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on 27th December 1914. He entered theatre in August 1915 and was serving in Asia. He died on 11th November 1915 from a fatal riding accident. He is commemorated on the Delhi Memorial, India.
An elder brother of Henry T. K. Mitchell, Thomas was born in on 8th December 1882. Thomas was admitted to Sandhurst College to train as an officer in January 1901. He completed his training in Decemember and he was noted to have exemplary conduct. He was commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment as a Second Lieutenant. Promoted to Captain on 2nd February 1911
He married Elizabeth Violet Harold of 15, Goldington Avenue, Bedford, England, though the date and place is yet unknown.
Major Mitchell was sent to Mesopotamia in January 1916. In late Feburay 1916 he was promoted to the administrative position of Deputy 'Assistant Adjutant-General, then to Staff Captain in December. Then sometime later he was promoted to Major (LG reference has not been found).
He died on 12th April 1917 from wounds received in action. He now rests in Baghdad, Cemetery, Iraq. His medals, a British War Medal and Victory Medal were applied for by his widow, Elizabeth.
The eldest son of George and Ellen Murray, George was born in Parsonstown in 1890. George enlisted in the Leister Regiment before the War and was a professional soldier. When War broke out he was sent to France in December 1914 along with his battalion. He was commissioned in the Leinster regiment in January 1915 having worked his way up the ranks. He made his way up to Captain and served with the 1st battalion, Leinster Regiment. George was mentioned in Dispatches in June 1916.
George was killed in action on the 4th July 1916. It was reported he was trying to spot a German machine gun position when he was struck with a bullet under his ear.
He was laid to rest in Ration Farm Annexe cemetery in France.
Frederick Nixon Eckersall
Frederick was the eldest son of Eckersall Nixon and Constantia Mary Anne (Nee Armstrong). He was born in Castletown, Co. Meath. Frederick’s father was a Reverent and was based in Ettagh Rectory in King’s county for a period. His wife was Florence Eleanor Nixon – Eckersall of Gloucestershire
During the War Frederick served as a Major in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He entered into France in October 1915. He was mentioned in dispatched, gazetted in May 1917. Major Nixon-Eckersall was killed in action on 10th November 1917. He was buried Ypres Reservoir cemetery, Belgium.
Philip Anderson O’Brien
Born in Belfast in 1895. Not much can be found about O’Brien. He was commissioned in the Leinster Regiment as a Second Lieutenant and presumably he spent time living or stationed in Birr. He went overseas in December 1914 with the 1st battalion and was attached to the 2nd battalion. He died from wounds on 9th March 1915 and was buried in Boulogne Eastern cemetery, France.
A native of Birr, William was born on 12th March 1896 and the son of John and Fanny (nee Talbot) Odlum. William lived on Newbridge Street. William served as a Private in the Irish Guards. He also had a brother, John who served in the Machine Gun Corps. William was killed in action on 9 September 1917. He is buried in Artillery Wood Cemetery, Belgium.
Born in Parsonstown on 27th December 1881, John was the son of John and Ellen Perry. They lived at John’s Place. John immigrated to Canada sometime between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. He married in Canadian and they lived in St. Edmonton, Alberta. His wife was Thomasina Perry. John joined the 49th battalion, Canadian Infantry in December 1915 and served as a private. He saw service in France and was killed in action on 9th June 1917. John Perry is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, FrancePrivate Perry’s name is also commemorated on the family headstone in Clonoghill cemetery, Birr.
Born on 11th October 1884 in Killoughy, Tullamore. Albert was the son of John and Sarah (nee Gill) Pretty. He appears to have immigrated to the United States and lived in Seattle Washington. His brother James lived in Canada. Albert worked as a farmer’s horseman. Albert joined the Canadian Infantry in September 1918 and upon enlisting he was described as being 5 foot 8 inches and having brown eyes and hair. Private Pretty died one month later in England on 17th October 1918. He is buried in Plymouth Cemetery, England.
William E. Earl of Rosse
Born on the 14th June 1873 and son of Lawrence Parsons, 4th Earl of Rosse and Frances Cassandra Hawke. William was educated at Eton and Oxford Universities. William served as a Lieutenant with the 1st battalion, Coldstream Guards in the Boer War and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal. He was promoted to Captain in 1900 and then to Major in 1906. He had married in 1905 to Frances Lois Listerkaye. William Parsons rejoined the army for service in the First World War. He served with the Irish Guards. He was seriously wounded in the head in May 1915 in France. Major Parsons died from his wounds on 10th June 1918. He died at home in Birr castle. His funeral took place on the 13th June 1918 and his remains where brought to St. Brendan’s old graveyard in Birr. He had a military funeral which was very well attended.
John Forrest Ruttledge
The son of Colonel Alfred and Mary Ormsby Ruttledge. John was born in Birr on 1st August 1894. John attended Sandhurst Military college. He entered training to become an officer on 12th February 1913. He completed his training on 17th December 1913. He was commissioned in the 2nd battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant. He must have been following his father’s footsteps as Alfred had been a colonel in the same regiment. John was promoted to Lieutenant in November 1914 which was around the same time he was sent to France. Lieutenant Ruttledge was mentioned in the London Gazette in March 1915 as having been awarded the Military Cross.
“For great coolness and gallantry on 19th December, 1914 near Neuve Chapelle. When his company were moving over open ground under heavy fire many casualties occurred, and Lieutenant Ruttledge remained to the last helping the wounded away to cover.”
Lieutenant Ruttledge was promoted to Temporary Captain in April 1916. Captain Ruttledge was killed in action on the 1st day of the Battle of the Somme along with thousands of men. He is remembered with honour on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
Joseph was the son of Daniel and Annie Skerritt. They lived in Townspark, Birr, King’s County. Joseph served as a Sergeant in the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was killed in action in Gallipoli on 29 Apr 1915. Joseph was just 26. His name is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey.
A native of Birr, Launcelot Joseph Moore Studholme was born in 1884. He was the son of Joseph and Mary Studholme. Launcelot was commissioned in the Leinster Regiment in December 1914 and rose to the rank of Captain. He was Mentioned in Dispatches which appeared in the London Gazette in January 1917. Captain Studholme was killed in action on 9 September 1916 while on the Somme with the 7th battalion, Leinster Regiment. Captain Launcelot Studholme has no known grave is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
More research is need to determine who this mans identity is.
“To The Glory Of God
In Loving Memory of
Major Frederic Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall
(Royal Garrison Artillery)
Oldest Son of the Revd. Eckersall Nixon
Born 29th Sept. 1869.
Killed in Action 10th Nov. 1917.
And Buried at Ypres”
“To The Glory of God
And in Grateful Memory of
Lancelot J.J. Studholme
Captain 7th Leinster Regiment
Only Surviving and Dearly Loved Son of
The Late Joseph Studholme & Mrs. Studholme
Ballyeighan King’s County.
Killed in Action on the Somme The 9th of
September A.D. 1916 Aged 31 Years. While
Trying to Save A Wounded Comrade
Greater Love Hath No Man Than This
That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends
Erected As A Tribute of Esteem By The
Parishioners and Rector of Kilcolman Who
Mourn the Loss of a True Friend & Parishioner
A Valued Member of our Synod and Counci
And a Devoted Churchwarden for many
Years During Which he was a Generous Donor
To Both Parish Churches and School”
“In Memory of
William Edward Parson
Fifth Earl of Rosse
Major Irish Guards
Born 14th June 1873
Joined Coldstream Guards
14th May 1897 Served in the
South African War
Transferred to the
Irish Guards 2nd May 1900
Died 10th June 1918 From
Wounds Received in Action
In France 18th May 1915”
2nd World War
“In Proud and Grateful Remembrance
Of Those Who Gave Their Lives in
The Second World War
The names on the memorial are as follows;
Aymer Vivian McIvor Campbell
Aymer was the son of Brevet Lt.-Col. Charles Augustus Vivian of the Indian Army and Mary Hastings Vivian (Nee Studholme, Mary was the brother of Launcelot Studholme who was killed on the Somme). Mary was a native of Birr. (Charles died during the First World War). Campbell served as a Captain in the 2nd battalion, Black Watch. He was killed in action on 21 November 1941 while fighting at Tobruk. He was 32. Aymer’s brother John was also killed during the war. John was Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force. He died on 8 September 1941. Aymer Vivian’s name is commemorated on the Alamein memorial in Egypt
Sadly this man is too hard to narrow down. Further research is required.
Charles Desmond Hackett
Squadron Leader Charles Desmond Hackett served in 27 Squadron Royal Air Force. Charles died on 4th April 1941, he is commemorated on the Singapore memorial. He was the son of Charles Bernard and Dorothy Hobart Hackett, stepson of Olive J. Hackett of Birr, Co. Offaly.
Richard Henry Johnson was the son of William and Elizabeth Johnson of Woodfield, Birr. He joined the Royal Engineers and was posted to the 17th Field Company. Lance Sergeant Johnson took part in the Normandy Landings on the 6 June 1944. His unit was responsible for laying pontoon bridges during the invasion. The 17th Field Company had the task of bridging the Caen Canal, which they did on the 8 June 1944. This is also the day that Lance Sergeant Johnson died. Lance Sergeant Johnson was laid to rest in Ranville War Cemetery in France.
The identity of this man is unknown.
Robert Thomas Neville
Robert was born in Birr on 24th October 1911. He was the son of William and Emma Jane Neville. At some point during Robert’s early life he moved to Canada, an exact date is unknown as he can’t be found on passenger lists of the time. Presumably on the outbreak of War Robert enlisted into the Royal Canadian Air force. He served as a Pilot Officer in 419 Squadron. His squadron originally flew in a Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber but converted to using Lancaster Bombers. On 23 October 1944 while on a bombing mission to Essen, Germany Pilot Officer Neville’s bomber took heavy anti-aircraft fire and was shot down. The crew of seven men all lost their lives.
Robert and his comrades are buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany.
Patrick Mervyn Wilson
Patrick was the son of Dr. R. Mervyn Wilson and Mrs. N. K. Wilson of Birr. Patrick served as a sergeant in the British Columbia Regiment. Sergeant Wilson was killed on 9 August 1944. He is buried in Bretteville-Sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery, France.
Acknowledgements and Sources
Venerable Wayne Carney, for allowing access to St. Brendan’s church and its records
Mr. Andrew Boughton
Mr. Roger Lunt, a relative of Charles Howes, for allowing use of family photographs
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers that Died in the Great War
De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
The Geographic Journal