and the Crimean War
The event which eventually caused the outbreak of the war
was somewhat bizarre. During the summer of 1850 Orthodox
and Roman Catholic monks clashed in Bethlehem over the question
of who should control the church of the Nativity. These
clashes resulted in the death of several Orthodox monks,
writes David Murphy in Ireland & The Crimean War.
There were tensions in Europe, between the Russian Tsar
Nicholas 1, who sought to enlarge his empire, and the Sublime
Porte at Constantinople, and a serious crisis erupted when
the Tsar sought to assume the protectorate of all of the
Greek Christians in the Ottoman empire.
Here in Kildare the outbreak of the Crimean war also made
a permanent impact with the decision of the War Office in
1855 to construct a camp for 10,000 infantry on the Curragh
In later years, local resident Major Edmund Mansfield, told
Lord Walter Fitzgerald that the military authorities
established a camp of instruction on the Curragh without
asking permission of anyone, the idea being that it was
only a temporary arrangement.
When seventeen year old Lieutenant Alexander Bruce Tulloch
returned from the Crimea and was posted to the Curragh in
1856 he did not like the place a more dreary quarter
for a lot of young fellows than the Curragh could hardly
be imagined ...I for one wished the regiment was back in
the Crimea again, and I fancy many others also did.
To celebrate the end of the war a great national banquet
was given in Dublin, which was attended by soldiers from
Newbridge, Naas and the Curragh Camp. A couple of years
later it was decided in the Camp that clothing left
over from the hospitals in the east during the Crimean war
was to be given to the wives of soldiers sent overseas now,
who are badly off and not accompanying their husbands.
One of the most bizarre photographs of an Irish Crimean
veteran, David Murphy writes, is the study of
Corporal John Lyons of the 19th Foot. Lyons, a native of
Carlow, who won the Victoria Cross for his bravery on 10
June 1855, returned to Ireland after the war. He died in
Naas in April 1867 and his relatives dressed him in his
uniform, attached his medals and prepared him for burial.
They then decided that, as Lyons looked so spruce, to have
his photograph taken and propped his body in a chair for
the local photographer. This photograph has been used in
works on the Victoria Cross ... but usually only the head
and shoulders of the study is used. The full photograph
is pretty macabre.
Four Irish regiments served in the Crimea, 4th Royal Irish,
6th Inniskilling, 8th Kings Royal Irish, 18th Royal
Irish, 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers), and it
is estimated that Irish troops made up one third of the
army, and that over 7,000 Irishmen died in the campaign.
There were Irish Sisters of Mercy, doctors, priests, engineers
and navvies in the war, while amongst the war correspondents
were W.H. Russell from Tallaght, E.L. Godkin from Co. Wicklow,
and J.C. McCoan from Co. Tyrone, Irishmen also served in
the armies of France, Turkey and Russia.
In October 1854 at Little Inkerman when the
Russians attacked the picket of Lieut. John Conolly, 49th
Foot, his men engaged the enemy and Conolly defended
himself with his sword until it eventually broke. He then
took his brass telescope and wielding it like a club, attacked
the advancing Russians. Conolly won a Victoria Cross
for his bravery during that battle. Born in
Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal he was a son of Edward Conolly
of Castletown, Celbridge. He died at the Magistrates House,
Curragh Camp in 1888.
This sad story was published in September 1857 in The Freemans
Journal: A young man named Patrick Sheehan was brought up
in custody of Police-constable Lynam, charged with causing
an obstruction on the thoroughfare in Grafton Street.
The constable stated that the prisoner was loitering in
Grafton Street for the purpose of begging, having a placard
on his breast stating forth that he had served in the Crimea
in the 55th regiment; that he had lost his sight in the
trenches before Sebastopol, and that he was discharged on
a pension of six pence a day for nine months; and that this
period being now expired, he was now obliged to have recourse
to begging to support himself. A Crimean medal was found
on his person ... the prisoner was committed for seven days
While the casualties of the Crimea are commemorated on war
memorials, such as that at Tralee courthouse, the men were
not subsequently entirely forgotten. There are many references
to the war, its heroes and casualties in the volumes of
the Irish Sword, the Journal of the Military History Society
of Ireland, and only last year a large group from that Society
made a tour of the battle sites in the Crimea. David Murphys
thesis is a welcome addition to the list.
Courtesy of the Leinster Leader