Edward Keegan – Sudan War veteran with a Republican son

Name of soldier : Edward Keegan

Descendent : Marie Fitzgerald

Edward Keegan had a military career which took him far from his home in the Liberties in Dublin city. A member of the Royal Irish Regiment, be fought in the Egypt and Sudan campaign in the 1880s and was part of the Nile Expedition of 1884-5. Back in Ireland, however, Edward Keegan he would later see his son, Thomas, join the Irish Republicans.

Perhaps Thomas was inspired by his father”s military adventures. Or maybe it was an act of fillial rebellion. Or more likely, Thomas was just caught up in the revolutionary fervour which had developed in Ireland.

It is a fascinating story and we are grateful to Thomas’s Granddaughter Marie for the details and photographs. Keegan is here pictured in his Royal Regiment with blue faced collar and cuffs, and wearing his campaign medals, including the Egypt medal with a clasp for the ‘The Nile 1884-85’ and the Khedive’s Star – the Khedive was the ruling British ally in Eqypt.

The Egypt – Sudan campaigns were a significant series of military operations which secured the British Empire in north east Africa : especially important given that this cornerstone region oversaw the Suez Canal and the naval journey east to Asia. But it was not without difficulty, especially in Sudan where there was an ongoing Mahdi resistance to Egyptian – and British – rule.

The 1st Battalion, Royal Irish had been stationed in Meerut in India when they were ordered to Egypt in August 1884.

The Battle of Tamai in the Sudanese War, 13 March 1884

Apparently, the regiment had originally wore an ugly grey serge similar to that of convicts, and issued from store. But a new fighting kit was devised by their commanding officer Colonel M.J.R MacGregor.

This consisted of a Khaki coloured frock and trousers of cotton drill, and a helmet covered with the same material. Under Colonel MacGregor they were considered ‘the best dressed regiment in India’, where one of their first duties had been to attend a durbar in Rawalpindi.

In the extract below, from a history of the Sudan campaign, the Royal Irish are described as ‘intensely Irish’ and ‘…..easily brightening into excitement when their own stirring national airs are played by the band’.

However, their appearance, on return from Africa, was a different matter. They sailed on the SS Stirling Castle from Alexandria to Plymouth on the 24th August 1885 and on their arrival, ‘want of sleep, and prolonged exertion’ had put its ‘stamp upon every soldier in the campaign. The account describes them looking like’ tramps when they marched in : ragged clothes, almost no boots at all, dusty and very thirsty’.

The whole campaign had been a mixed success. Part of its purpose was a managed withdrawal from Sudan in the face of Mahdi pressure, including the rescue of an ill-fated evacuation mission by General Gordon in Khartoum. However, in the 1890s, the British and Eqyptians tried to reassert control, leading to new hostilities, such as the infamous Battle of Omdurman in 1898, led by the Kerry-born Lord Kitchener.

Your own name : Marie Fitzgerald

Your relative: Great grandfather Edward Keegan

Period of activity: Egypt-Sudan campaign 1880s, Nile Expedition, 1885-86

Specific regiment: Royal Irish Regiment

Area served in : Egypt, Sudan

The Battle of Abu Klea, September 1885, painting by William Barnes Wollen.

Do you have any mementos of Edward, or of his Republican son Thomas ?

Just the photograph of Edward above, in his uniform. And the correspondence relating to Thomas below.

Where are they buried?

My grandfather Tom Keegan (IRA) is buried in Deansgrange cemetery. My great grandfather Edward was apparently buried near St. Nicholas church in Francis Street.

Edward’s son Thomas joined the Anti-Treaty Republicans

Anti Treaty rebels in the Four Courts, under attack from Pro Treaty forces., 1923

Edward’s son Thomas would later join the Irish Republicans and fought in the Irish Civil War, on the Anti Treaty side. He was aged about 19. He lived in North King Street, itself a scene of significant conflict in 1916. His pension details are below. Edward had been living with his family at 54 Francis Street, before moving to North King Street.

Reproduced beneath is the 1911 Census return for 54 Francis Street. James’s mother Elizabeth is listed as a fish dealer and his brother William as a porter at the Abbey Theatre.

Reproduced below is the application form from Thomas Keegan for an Irish War of Independence pension. There was some controversy about the applications for such pensions from Anti-Treaty Republicans, who had, after all, opposed the State and taken up arms against it.

Great Aunt Sally – ‘You’ll get no more sons from me’

Name of soldier : Michael Lavelle

Descendent : Sarah Anne Byrne

Sarah Anne Byrne grew up in Phibsborough with her Mum Carmel and her late father Liam, who is still sadly missed. Every year the family go to Inishbofin Island, off the coast of Mayo, for a long holiday. The house originally belonged to her great Aunt Sally, pictured on the island in 1939.

Great Aunt Sally had a son killed at the Second Battle of Ypres in 1917, while another son, Peter, fought and in the Boer War with the Connaught Rangers and came back traumatised. When the army came looking for another family recruit for World War One, Sally apparently told them ‘you’ll get no more sons from me!’

Your own name : Sarah Anne Byrne

Your relative : Great Grandfather Michael Lavelle

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Scots, 13th Battalion

AWinston Churchill served in WW1 with the Royal Scots regiment

More about the Royal Scots here :The Royal Scots Fusiliers | World War 1 | VisitScotland https://www.visitscotland.com/about/history/ww1-centenary/scottish-regiments/royal-scots-fusiliers/

Areas served in: Belgium and France. Second Battle of Ypres

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died there on 1st of August 1917

Where is he buried?

His body was not found, but his name is on Menin Gate memorial

Do you have any mementos of Michael?

No, we just have the stories. ……………………………………………………………………………………..

Michael’s brother Peter was in the Boer War

Your other relative: Great grandfather Peter

Period of activity: Second Boer War, 1899-1902 (Image of soldiers crossing a river below)

Specific regiment: Connaught Rangers

Areas served in : South Africa

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in 1932, aged 52

What are your most striking memories of Peter?

Apparently, he was an excellent flute player

Where is he buried?

On Inishbofin Island

Above : As a millennial Christmas present, Queen Victoria sent all soldiers serving in the Boer War the gift of a tin of chocolate. This one still has its chocolate inside.

John Coyle – Chain smoking veteran who never spoke of war

German WW1 army belt, kept by John Coyle

Name of soldier : John Coyle

Descendent : Gary Coyle

Gary Coyle is an artist, originally from Dun Laoghaire and now living on Dublin’s Northside. He exhibits with the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery and was elected a member of artists body Aosdana in 2009. He was elected a member of the Royal Hibernia Academy in 2007.

Gary’s work embraces various media, including drawing, photography and spoken art/performance. In 2018, he had a one man show spoken word show at the Project entitled My Magnetic North.

Gary’s grand father and great uncle, who were second generation Irish born from Glasgow, both served in the First World War.

Your own name : Gary Coyle

Your relative: Grandfather John Coyle

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Don’t know

Areas served in: France

Did you have much contact with him?

No. He smoked himself into an early grave, 13 years before I was born. Apparently, he never spoke about the war. I think it completely traumatised him.

Where is he buried?

In Mount Jerome cemetery (pictured above)

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, a leather belt and buckle (pictured at top).

My grandfather got it off a German soldier and wore it until he died. It’s a standard issue army belt, and the motto on the buckle says ‘Gott Mit Uns’, which means ‘God is With Us’. And now I wear it.


Gary Coyle’s Great Uncle also served

Your other relative: Great Uncle Thomas Maguire

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: The Royal Dragoons

Areas served in: Belgium. Second Battle of Ypres

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he was killed in action in 1916 and his body was never found.

Where is he buried?

My Great Uncle’s body was never found. His name is on the Menin Gate at Ypres (above).

Do you have any mementos of him?

I have my grandfather’s German belt, as I said, which I sometimes wear. And someone else in the family has the Great Uncle’s campaign chest

Christopher Mulligan – From Nelson Street to Second Ypres

Name of soldier : Christopher Mulligan

Descendents : Stella Geragthy and her brother Aidan Maher

Nelson Street is a small, narrow street linking Eccles Street with Berkeley Street on Dublin’s North city. It is named after the British naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose column adorned Dublin’s O’Connell Street before it was bombed in 1966. In Brendan Behan’s play The Hostage the street is the location for the kidnapping of a British soldier by Republicans in 1958.

Christopher Mulligan lived at No 33 Nelson Street before he left for the First World War. He was about 24 when he joined the army and was trained in Cork. Today his granddaughter Stella Geragthy lives in Malahide and her brother Aidan Maher lives in Point Roberts, Washington, USA. Both have kindly shared below images of Christopher’s army paybook and postcards sent from the Western Front.

According to Stella, Christopher had been working a printing company in 1914. ‘He was told to go and fight for Little Belgium and his job would be there for him on his return. His step brother wouldn’t speak to him when he returned, presumably because of the 1916 Rising !’

Above : No 33 Nelson Street : home of Christopher Mulligan.

Your own name: Stella Geragthy and Aidan Maher

Your relative: Grandfather Christopher Mulligan

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Artillery

Areas served in : Belgium, Second Battle of Ypres

Above : painting of Second Battle of Ypres

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in 1944 before we were born

What are your most striking memories of him?

We don’t remember too many stories about Christie. He played piano at social events and pubs. We were told that in the pubs, men would just leave a beer for him on top of the piano by way of appreciation. This contributed to his heavy drinking which began as soon as he returned from the trenches. He was affected by his experience, as so many were.

Where is he buried?

Glasnevin cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, his army paybook and two postcards sent to our mother when she was 2 years old in 1916 from “somewhere in Flanders”. All are pictured below.

Our cousins sold his sword and hat which we used to play with when we visited our grandmother who lived in Mount Prospect Road, Glasnevin .

Christopher ‘s army paybook, from 1916, above and below

‘Instructions to Soldier’

Above: Officers signatures firmly inscribed.

Above : A check on equipment and clothing

Above : Christopher’s Last Will, hastily drawn in.

Above : Cover of Army paybook.

Postcards home. Christopher was injured in 1916 and moved to France

‘Bon soir’ : inscription on postcard

Above : postcard from ‘Somewhere in Flanders’

Below : Newspaper report on Christopher Mulligan’s funeral in 1944. Note the attendance of the Irish Bookbinders and Paper Rulers Union, of which Christopher had been a member.

Note also, the adjoining newspaper story about the developing suburb of Crumlin, to which people were then transferring from inner city areas and tenements, like Nelson Street. Coincidentally, Crumlin was where Brendan Behan’s family were relocated to.

Below is a drawing of ‘the’ Nelson Street doorway in Behan’s play The Hostage. The drawing, by English artist Paul Hogarth, is from the book Brendan Behan’s Island (1962) which has many fine drawings of Ireland at this time. The book’s text is by Behan.

Below : A similar perspective on a Nelson Street doorway, 2021. Renovations are in progress.

As it happens, the occupants of No 30 and 32, who lived right next door to Christopher, were also in World War One. But they didn’t come home.

William Lawler from No 30 was killed in June 1916 and is buried at Vermelles British cemetery and John Newman from No 32 was killed at Ypres in June 1917 and remembered on Menin Gate. This is a high number of combatants from one small street, not to mention the many who enlisted from the adjoining streets.

John Downes – From Eccles Place to Suvla Bay and Palestine

Name of soldier : John Downes

Descendent : Dick Wynne

Dick Wynne is a sprightly and dapper 82 year old man who could pass for a man ten years younger, or more. He lives in Ashtown, North Dublin and used to work with the Office of Public Works, tending to public parks and monuments.

When his grandfather died, his mother was brought into a Catholic institution as a young woman. Unlike many, she and her son, Dick, were grateful for this route away from poverty and had good memories of the nuns.

Your own name: Richard Wynne

Your relative: Grandfather John Downes

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Irish Fusiliers

Areas served in: Gallipoli, Salonika (Greece), Palestine, the Western Front

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died when I was very young

Service medal form for John Downes

What are your most striking memories of him?

That he went to many places in World War One!

Where is he buried?

Glasnevin cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him?

Just the Army papers reproduced here.


James Downes, brother of John, also served

John Downes brother, James, also served in World War One, first in The Leinster regiment and later with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

But there is much less known about him. He lived at Eccles Place, just behind No 7 Eccles Street, which is immortalised as the home of Leopold and Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.

Pictured below is James’s discharge paper. His date of birth is stated as 1884 but it should be 1894.

Thomas Hennessy – From Pimlico to the trenches

Name of soldier : Thomas Hennessy

Descendent : Sean Maher

Until it recently closed, the small Post Office on Dublin’s Berkeley Road was overseen by Sean Maher, a friendly figure who always looked out for the many old people and welfare recipients who used his post office.

Berkeley Road is like a street in a quiet country town and yet it connects the city centre and Parnell Square to the North city and Phibsborough. It faces the old Mater Hospital and Eccles Street, on which Leopold Bloom lives in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The funeral procession in Ulysses comes up here en route to Glasnevin.

Originally, the Georgian developer Luke Gardiner had planned the road to be an arterial route to his Royal Circus proposed for the junction with Eccles Street. Former President Sean T O’Kelly grew up on the street.


Like many in the north city area, Sean’s grandfather is buried in the British military cemetery on Blackhorse Avenue, just by the Phoenix Park.

Your own name : Sean Maher

Your relative : Grandfather, Thomas Hennessy

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment : Royal Army Medical Corps

Areas served in: Belgium and France.

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he died in 1943

What are your most striking memories of him ?

None really. When his former house in Pimlico, Dublin recently came up for sale, there was a proposal by relatives to buy it. But it didn’t happen

Where is he buried?

Grangegorman military cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him?

We have his medals (pictured above, and reverse below)

By an extraordinary coincidence, Thomas Hennessy is buried in Grangegorman military cemetery, just one space away from Peter Hand, the grandfather of Peter Hand, who works at Phibsborough Post Office – the next post office to that on Berkeley Road. Details in the cemetery register below :

John Nolan – Fighting the Bulgarians in Greece

Name of soldier : John Nolan

Descendent : Fergus Curran

The Balkans Theatre is one of the less well known aspects of World War One, at least in the popular imagination. It is also known as the Macedonian Front, or the Salonika campaign – after areas associated with this part of the war. Basically, the Allied powers came to the aid of Serbia, which, was after all, the ostensible reason that the whole European conflict had begun.

Serbia was under attack from Bulgaria, which was using the international conflict to pursue land it felt should have gained in previous Balkans conflicts.. This regional rivalry complicated the war in the region, as did the fact that Greece, where much of the fighting occurred, was itself divided politically, with some Greeks keen to support the Germans and Turks, as the Bulgarians were doing. (These Balkan tensions would reoccur in subsequent decades, right down to the wars of the 1990s)

Allied forces, including Dublin Fusiliers such as John Daly, were based in the Greek port city of Salonika, (or Thessalonika) Many had come there after the gruelling experience of Gallipoli. John was the only son of Thomas and Kate Nolan, from Tram villas in Terenure.

Your own name: Fergus Curran

Your relative: Uncle John Nolan – My Mother’s only brother

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in: Greece, Balkans campaign

John was fighting with the Fusiliers 6th battalion in northern Greece gaining and losing ground to Bulgarian forces, when he was killed on 3rd October 1916, aged 18. He was acting corporal at the time and his no. was 18890.

Details of this fighting are in a book called ‘Orange, Green and Khaki’, in Chapter 24.

Pictured above : the Galway-born General Bryan Mahon (right) who led the Bulgarian campaign, seen here resting in Salonika

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he was long gone before my time

What are your most striking memories of him?


Where is he buried?

Struma military cemetery, NE of Thessalonika

Do you have any mementos of him?

The only memento I have is the ‘dead man’s penny’, a metal plate send to each family of a casualty (pictured below) .

James Murphy – From Dorset Street to Salonika

Name of soldier : James Murphy

Descendent : Kathleen Leydon

Kathleen Leydon is a woman steeped in Ireland’s experience of the First World War. Her grandfather was killed in Salonika, Greece fighting in the Balkans, while the grandfather of her late husband, Tommy, was killed by a German shell in 1918. Tommy had been very active in the Dublin Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association.

Both grandfathers were Home Rule nationalists who believed they were advancing Irish independence by supporting the war effort. They were also affected by the lack of work after the Dublin Lockout of 1913.

Kathleen lives in a cosy cluster of houses overlooking Phibsborough Luas Station and the Harry Harry Clarke Bridge – which is appropriate given that Clarke, the famous stained glass artist, is also associated with many memorials commemorating the Great War. Clarke’s windows adorn nearby St Peter’s Church.

Kathleen’s own house is adorned with plaster carvings and columns, which is unusual for a house this size (see picture below). This is because her husband, Tommy, was a plasterer by trade and became an expert stuccodore, helping to repair the ceilings of Georgian houses and old castles

Kathleen grew up on Dorset Street and in a tenement on Mountjoy Square, about which she has many stories. Her husband Tommy passed away in 2014 : and the entry on his own grandfather, Patrick Leydon, is below.

Your own name: Kathleen Leydon

Your relative: Grandfather, James Murphy

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in: Balkans campaign, Greece, Macedonia

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he was killed there

What are your most striking memories of him?

That he joined for Home Rule

Where is he buried?

In Sturma, Macedonia

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, his medals, pictured below


Patrick Leydon – A Dublin plasterer who never came back

Name of soldier : Patrick Leydon

Descendent : Tommy Leydon

Kathleen’s husband, Tommy Leydon passed away in July 2019 and is sadly missed. He was very active in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association and went on trips to old battlefield sites on the Western Front and to Gallipoli. Originally from Gloucester Street, now Sean McDermott Street, his family had a long involvement in the military, including in the Crimean war and at the Normandy landings in 1944 during World War Two

His grandfather John was also a plasterer by trade but after the Dublin strikes and Lock Out if 1913, John found it hard to get work, and heeding the call of Home Rule leader John Redmond, he joined the European war effort. He had the very bad luck of surviving almost all of the war before being killed suddenly, two months before its end in November 1918.

Your own name: Tommy Leydon (pictured above)

Your relative : Grandfather, Patrick Leydon

Period of activity : World War One

Specific regiment : Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in : The Western Front. He had survived most of the war but in September 1918, two months before the war’s end, a German shell hit his trench and killed 18 men, including himself.

Did Tommy have much contact with him?

Patrick was already gone before Tommy’s time

Where is Patrick buried?

He has no known grave but his name is listed on the Ploegsteert war memorial in Belgium


Hanging together : the two medals of the respective grandfathers of Kathleen, and Tommy Leydon.

Joe Richardson – from the Great War to Great Western Square

Name of soldier : Joe Richardson

Descendent : Eileen Richardson

Eileen Richardson is a strong, sparkling woman, typical of the Cabra spirit. Her background is also typical of the area, which was expanded dramatically in the 1930s to rehouse people from the north inner city.

Eileen is originally from a tenement on Buckingham Street, of which she has fond memories. The tenements were large Georgian houses which, over generations, had been turned into informal and often crowded flats. She describes going down into ‘the area’, the stairwell communal space between flats, where the children of different families played, and where Mrs Kelly gave them cream crackers – then a luxury.

The tenements were also a key source of recruitment for soldiers, particularly the Dublin Fusiliers. The British army not only offered a secure and relatively good income, but also a camaraderie and discipline for the men, and the prospect of foreign travel and adventure.

Your own name : Eileen Richardson

Your relative : Father in law, Joe Richardson

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment : Royal Irish Rifles

Areas served in: Belgium and France.

Did you have much contact with him?

No, he had passed away before I met his son, Matt

What are your most striking memories of him ?

That he lived on Great Western Square (below) in Phibsborough but the family had to vacate when Joe died.

Great Western Square was built for railway workers but houses there were also given to ex servicemen. Many railway workers enlisted for World War One and there are commemorative plaques, such as in Amiens Street Station and at the old Broadstone terminus.

Where is he buried?

Grangegorman military cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him ?

The medals pictured above

Charles Campling – a pastor in the trenches

Soldier’s name : Charles Campling

Descendent : Susan Dawson

Susan Dawson is the founder and chairperson of Phibsborough Village Tidy Towns (PVTT), an active community group for this important North Dublin city area. As well as tidy ups and flower planting, PVTT organises biodiversity and cultural events, such as a Bloomsday reading in the local library.

Susan is also active with the church, both with All Saints Church of Ireland in Grangegorman and as a lay Presbyterian pastor for the hospital service.

In this role, she is following in the tradition of her father, who is still an active chaplain in his 90s, and her grandfather, whose experience and war time diaries have inspired his family, not least in the creation of a powerful and moving musical oratorio.

Your own name: Susan Dawson

Your relative: Grandfather, Canon William Charles Campling

Period of activity: World War One September- November 1918

Specific regiment: Served as Chaplain to the Essex Regiment and the 11th Somerset Light Infantry of the British Forces

Areas served in: Belgium and France.
11th Corps HQ was at Busnes, northwest of Bethune
Joined his two units on the south bank of Lys, 18 miles west of Lille. His war ended on the Belgium border on the banks of the river Scheldt or Escaut, north of Tourai.

Did you have much contact with him?

Yes, we would visit him regularly during my childhood. He died when I was 15 years old. He never spoke of his wartime experiences and no one knew of the existence of his diaries until after he died.

What are your most striking memories of him?

He was very tall, 6’6”, very deaf and quiet. I remember staying with him and granny when he was retired and living in Rousham, Oxfordshire.

I slept in a small camp bed beside his big single bed. My granny slept in a different room. It was decided that I would sleep in his room because he would not hear me, and my granny was a light sleeper and easily disturbed. I am not sure why they would think I would make a disturbance at night time!

Where is he buried?

In Pershore, Worcestershire. UK He was born 1887 and died 1973

Do you have any mementos of him?

I have a photo of him in his army uniform and a small glass dog ornament that belonged to him, copies of small leaflets of prayers he wrote (pictured above) and a copy of his diary. His diary can be obtained on line – http://alumni.trin.cam.ac.uk/Document.Doc?id=17

My brother, Andrew Campling composed an oratorio for narrator, tenor solo, choir (SATB) and orchestra inspired by grandfather’s WW1 diaries. ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’.

The oratorio was performed in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin 7th November 2015. The concert was in aid of Focus Ireland.
Three choirs–
Dublin Bach Singers, Musical Director Blanaid Murphy
Dublin Airport Singers – Musical Director Paul Deegan
London Dockland Singers – Musical Director Andrew Campling.
The orchestra were Dublin based musicians.
Narrator – Bryan Murray

More details here:
Phibsboro Village Tidy Towns – Phizzfest http://phizzfest.ie/concert-in-christchurch-cathedral.html

Complete recording here: