Salvator Gavillet – Home Ruler who fought at the Somme but felt forgotten by Ireland

Above: Maria Smith, Granddaughter of Salvator Gavillet, with her own daughter Ann Gordon

Name of soldier : Salvator Gavillet

Name of descendent : Maria Smith

Like many, Salvator Gavillet enlisted for the Great War in the belief that he was boosting the case for Irish independence and Home Rule.

However, when he came home, the atmosphere had changed and a much more separatist movement led by Irish Republicans was dominant. He felt neglected and his efforts forgotten in the emerging new Irish State.

By contrast, the British exchequer provided Gavillet with a pension and a house in Killester, the north Dublin suburb specifically created for veterans of World War One. His grand daughter Maria Smith (pictured below, with her daughter, Ann) also lived there.

Detail from tombstone

Gavillet, who had a Swiss father, originally lived in Glasnevin, off Washerwoman’s Hill and right next to the old Ballymun Church of Ireland graveyard, in which coincidentally, there are a number of WW1 graves.

Gavillet fought at the Somme where he got shot and injured while carrying a wounded comrade. He also lost the sight of an eye, and many of his friends went missing in that long and traumatic Somme engagement. Gavillet lived until 1956.

Your own name : Maria Smith

Your relative : Grandfather, Salvator Gavillet

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in : Western Front, the Somme (pictured below)

Did you have much contact with your grandfather ?

Yes, we saw a good deal of him when we were kids.

What are the most striking memories of him?

My grandad rarely spoke about the war. And he felt disappointed about how it was barely acknowledged by official Ireland and the new Irish State, given the sacrifices made by so many men and their families. .

It was particularly disappointing given that he had enlisted seeking to boost the case of Irish self-rule, and at the urging of the Home Rule leader John Redmond. My grandfather was mindful of Ireland’s parallels with other small countries like Belguim, and Switzerland, where his father came from

Where is he buried?

In Grangegorman military cemetery in north Dublin. Picture of grave below.

Gavillet was born in 1888 to a very large family- there were 14 children in all. His brother Gilbert was also a soldier. His father Charles Francis Gavillet was originally from Dardagny near Geneva in Switzerland and married Susan Doherty in Dublin.

Efforts are currently underway meanwhile to have a memorial garden erected in Killester, in north Dublin. This is in memory of the WW1 veterans, like Gavillet, who lived there with their families.

More details here : Community | Killester Peace Park | Killester

The memorial garden will honour families such as this one, pictured below, at The Demesne in Killester in 1958.

Below is a map for the Killester Garden suburb, as planned by the Soldiers and Sailors Trust. The emphasis was on the ‘healing powers’ of horticulture, gardens and fresh air, after the ordeal of the wartime trenches.

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