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.