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 –

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

Complete recording here:

Patrick McCormack – From Patrick Street to the Somme

Name of soldier : Patrick McCormack

Descendent : Tony O’Neill

Tony O’Neil lives at the top of Monck Place, a pleasant side street linking the main Phibsborough Road to Great Western Square.

His address, at No 18, was once a well known one for model railway collectors, not just in Ireland but in the UK and beyond. It was the location of the Model Railway shop, run by Ciaran McGowan, which sold model sets and parts and specialised in O Guage trains : these are highly accurate replica models of actual trains, fabricated in assembled iron parts.

Tony’s living room is where model collectors would drop in and meet, as No. 18 had also been a social gathering spot. Coincidentally, it is right next to the square built by the Great Western Railway to provide houses for its engine drivers – and for ex soldiers.

Your own name: Tony O’Neill

Your relative : Grandfather

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Areas served in: France, Belgium, Battle of the Somme

Did you have much contact with him?

Yes, we saw a good deal of him

What are your most striking memories of him?

That he was a lively, strong man who lived to a good age (nearly 90) as did his wife (mid 90s). He worked for Dublin City Council after the war

Where is he buried?

Glasnevin cemetery

Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes, some photos – and documents which I can’t find just at the moment.


Meanwhile, pictured below is an ‘O’ Guage model train engine, built at Monck Place. Further information on the Model Railway shop is also below, including an RTE TV report from 1985.

RTÉ Archives | Lifestyle | Model Railway Kits

McGowan Built MODELS – Questions & Answers – Irish Railway Modeller

Frank Thornely – The man in the painting

Name of soldier : Frank Thornely

Descendent : Lucinda Thornely

In a famous painting, which now hangs in City Hall in Belfast, Frank Thornely is depicted, with his arm raised, leading the charge of the 36th Ulster Division at the Somme on 1 July 1916. The image is especially iconic for Ulster Unionists.

The casualties on the day were in excess of 55,000 from an advancing force of 120,000, and the Battle of the Somme is rightly considered to be one of the major military catastrophes of all time.

Less well known, is that the officer leading the advance was not an Ulsterman, and had never been to Ireland before joining the Royal Irish Rifles in December 1914. He was Frank Thornely, an Englishman, who had volunteered to join the army directly from leaving Uppingham School in Rutland.

His granddaughter, Lucinda Thornely, now lives in the grounds of Rosnaree House in County Meath, right by the site of the Battle of the Boyne of 1690, an event even more iconic for Ulster Unionists.

The house has guest facilities, fishing expeditions and there is also catering business run by Lucinda. More at

Your own name : Lucinda Thornely

Your relative : Grandfather, Frank Thornely

Period of activity : World War One

Specific regiment : 11th (Service) BN The Royal Irish Rifles (South Antrim Volunteers).

Areas served in : Belgium and France. The Battle of the Somme.

Did you have much contact with him?

Sadly I didn’t know him but, according to my own father, my grandfather was a gentle and funny man

What are your father’s most striking memories of him ?

His father took him to the battlefields in 1947 when he was 10 and he still has the vivid memories.

Where is he buried?

Charing crematorium in Kent, England

Do you have any mementos of him ?

Yes, we have many photographs and letters. Some were donated to the Somme Association at Newtonards, Belfast


Above : Frank Thornely at age 18, after receiving his commission


In 2016, some of Frank Thornely’s family visited the site of the Somme battlefield. More here :

Somme hero’s children make pilgrimage to the battlefield on centenary –

Daniel Donfield – serving in the desert with Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia

Soldier’s name : Daniel Donfield

Descendent : Kenneth Donfield

T. E. Lawrence, pictured above in traditional Arab dress, is one of the most famous figures in military history. Popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia, he fought in the desert during World War One with the Arabs against the occupying Turks, who were German allies.

Lawrence was actually half Irish and would have grown up at the ancestral seat of Delvin, County Westmeath, if his father had not run away with the daughter of a servant – Lawrence’s mother.

Irishman Daniel Donfield was with T. E. Lawrence on the Palestine and Sinai campaign and remained friends afterwards with the veteran adventurer and author. Donfield was also at the Somme on the Western Front where he was gassed but survived.

His grandson, Kenneth Donfield, is an art lecturer at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and an accomplished portrait painter. Below is his image from a self portrait.

Your own name : Kenneth Donfield

Your relative : Grandfather Daniel John Donfield

Period of activity: World War One

Specific regiment: Royal Irish Fusiliers, (Listed as 10444, A/Corporal, 9th Batt, 25 April 1917)

Areas served in: He was at the Battle of the Somme (pictured below) and he served in the Middle East with T. E. Lawrence

Did you have much contact with him?

He died before I was born, in February 1962. He was 71 years old.

What are your most striking memories of him ?

He was lost in the trenches in the war and blinded by gas. He was sent to a military hospital in Belfast and fully recovered his sight.

Where is he buried?

In Deansgrange cemetery, South Dublin

Do you have any mementos of him?

I was told that he was friends with Lawrence as they served together for many years. Indeed, when they were making the film about Lawrence with the great Peter O’Toole – image below – they came to ask my grandfather about his memories of Lawrence.

Hugh Bredin – from Leitrim to two world wars

Soldier’s name : Hugh Bredin

Descendent : Deaglán de Bréadún

Deaglán de Bréadún is an author and journalist. For many years, he was an Irish Times correspondent, covering the Northern Ireland peace process and international affairs. He is the author of The Far Side of Revenge – Making Peace in Northern Ireland (2001, and 2008).

Deaglán’s uncle Hugh Bredin fought in two world wars and was mentioned in dispatches by Field Marshall Douglas Haig.

Your own name: Deaglán de Bréadún

Your relative: Lance-Corporal Hugh Bredin (uncle) from Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim

Period of activity : World War One and Two

Specific regiment: Royal Irish Regiment; Inniskilling Fusiliers; Royal Artillery.

Areas served in: Belgium and France.

Did you have much contact with him?

He was a house-guest at my family home in County Wexford after his retirement.

What are your most striking memories of him?

He was mentioned in despatches in the First World War and evacuated from Dunkirk in the Second World War. Amiable person, battle-scarred.

Scene from the movie Dunkirk (2017)

Where is he buried?


Do you have any mementos of him?

Yes – the photograph and documents reproduced see above.