First Donegore Presbyterian Church

FIRST DONEGORE  AND THE 1914/ 1918 WAR.


This year will see the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. This will seem like long ago to most of us but it is an important part of our history. We need to remember especially the 30 men from this Congregation who served with British forces, of whom 3 were killed and 10 were wounded.  They are listed in the table below. We did not have access to this information until recently*.


We have returns for the 12 Congregations in the Templepatrick Presbytery.** 485 by men associated with these Congregations participated in the war effort. The largest contingent, 123, was associated with Antrim, followed by 45 from Muckamore and 41 from Killead. Twenty per cent of the total served with Empire forces e.g. Canadian or Australian. They had emigrated but their home Congregations still claimed them. Overall, 11per cent were killed and 15 percent wounded.


The 1914/1918 War was one of the largest in history.  More than 6 million combatants were killed.  The technical military reason for the high casualty rate was that advances in firepower were more than a match for soldiers stuck in the trenches. We can only imagine the horrors the soldiers experienced at the front. Many of those who survived could not bear to talk about if afterwards. One telling example: the life expectancy of a young second lieutenant in the trenches was put at six weeks: he had to be first ‘over the top’ whenever an advance was tried.


The trigger for the War was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a Serbian student in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. In the month following that dire event the European powers drifted into war. The main adversaries at the beginning were Britain, France and Russia - the Allies – and Germany and Austria-Hungary - the Central Powers.  A distinguished historian*** has described the statesmen of 1914 as ‘ sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing…yet blind to the horror they were about to bring into the world.’


Despite the developing major European crisis the politics of Ulster continued to dominate at home. During July 1914 Unionist resistance deepened against any imposition of Irish Home Rule.  It looked possible that Nationalists and Unionists would soon be fighting one another. On 3 August German troops poured across Belgium: the UK declared war on Germany the following day. Now everything changed. The outbreak of war temporarily defused the Ulster situation; it put Home Rule on ice; and averted the need for military control in Ireland.  Patriotic emotion ran high. Irish Nationalists were very sympathetic to Catholic Belgium. In the euphoria surrounding these events traditional enmities were suspended.  John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, even said that  ‘the armed Catholics of the South will only be too glad to join arms with armed Protestant Ulstermen.’ (Redmond’s brother, Major Willie Redmond, was killed in action in 1917, aged 56. His Irish Division was fighting alongside the Ulster Division).


Sir Edward Carson and  James Craig  responded to Lord Kitchener’s “I want the Ulster Volunteers” with an offer of thirty-five thousand men. Kitchener  offered to keep the UVF together in one Ulster Division.  Thus we find that half of those joined up from  local Congregations were placed in various battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles. (RIR).  12 of those from First Donegore  joined the 12th Battalion RIR.  


Many thought that the war would be over by Christmas: there was no comprehension of the four terrible years which lay ahead.  Victory for the Allies was by no means assured and more and more men were thrown into the war.


Despite the speed with which the 36th (Ulster) Division was formed it was not committed to the French Front until October 1915. The Battle of the Somme commenced on 1 July 1916. Troops of the Ulster Division climbed out of their trenches and formed up in no-man’s land. In first two days 5,500 men of the Ulster Division were killed or wounded. A terrible sacrifice had been made. Back in Ulster the 12th July 1916 celebrations were completely abandoned. .


From the list we have only the most basic information about the 30 associated with our Congregation. We know their service units.  We know that 5 out of our 12 men serving in the Royal Irish Rifles were wounded.  There are five entries for Parkgate men who emigrated and served with the Canadian forces.  Of these two were killed in action, two wounded, and one was taken prisoner and escaped.  We had 4 men, presumably all doctors, who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Of  two Minford Doctors listed, one was wounded and the other died of his wounds.  


We had two pioneers in what became the Royal Air Force.(in April 1918)  One was George J McKinney (b.1893) son of our Minister, Alexander McKinney.  The other was a very young George Stirling (b.1899) who was to become a long serving Clerk of Session.


We know more about some of these 30 men than others.  It is hoped that making these names available will enable us to  research into who they were and what they did.  In particular we would like to have information from their descendants so that we can build a comprehensive picture of this unique group.


If you have any relevant information we would be very pleased to hear from you via the email address at the bottom of this page.


Donald Alexander


*Our thanks to Gordon Dunlop who followed up this source on the ‘Eddie’s Extracts’ website which we also gratefully acknowledge. I much regret I was not able to deal adequately with this valuable bit of our history in the Parkgate Presbyterians.


**The source of these records carries the advice that although the Congregational returns were correct at the time but it was subsequently found that a number of names had been missed. Also, some uncertainty must apply to the recording of those who were wounded.  


***Christopher Clark (2012): The Sleepwalkers – how Europe went to war in 1914.

Name


Address

Rank

Regiment

Remarks

Agnew

Thomas

Parkgate

Private

R.I.R.


Curry

Wm.

Parkgate

Sergeant

1st S.C.D.

Wounded

Davison

Andrew

Dunadry

Private

12th R.I.R.


Donald

Robert

Donegore

Private

12th R.I.R.


Finlay

Thomas

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.

Wounded

Graham

C.

Dunadry

Private

R.F.A.


Graham

N. C.

Dunadry

Captain

R.A.M.C. M.C.


McCall

Thomas

Doagh

Private

R.I.R.

Wounded

McClure

Frank

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


McConnell

Thomas W.

Doagh

Major

G.P.O.


McGrugan

Alex.

Parkgate

Private

B.T.S.


McGrugan

George

Parkgate

Private

1st I.G.

Wounded

McGrugan

Hugh

Parkgate

Private

12th and 13th R.I.R.

Wounded

McKinney

George J.

Parkgate

Corporal

R.A.F.


McQuade

Robert

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


Minford

A. McK.

Parkgate

Lieutenant

R.A.M.C.

Died of Wounds

Minford

J. B.

Parkgate

Lieutenant

R.A.M.C.

Wounded

Nesbitt

Wm. John

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.

Wounded. Prisoner

Saunderson

Wm.

Doagh

Captain

R.A.M.C.


Skelton

Dan

Templepatrick

Private

12th R.I.R.

Wounded

Steele

David

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


Steele

Frank

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


Steele

James

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


Steele

Samuel

Parkgate

Private

12th R.I.R.


Stirling

George

Parkgate

Private

R.A.F.








COLONIAL FORCES





Jameson

John

Parkgate

Private

Can. M.R.

Killed in Action

Lowry

Wm.

Donegore

Private

Can. Ex. F.

Wounded

Saunderson

Henry

Doagh

Private

Winnipeg Rifles

Prisoner. Escaped

Todd

John

Doagh

Private

Winnipeg M. R.

Killed in Action

Todd

William

Doagh

Private

Winnipeg M. R.

Wounded

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN IRELAND - ROLL OF HONOUR 1914 - 1919

For further information please contact us by email at info@firstdonegore.org