The Kavanaghs: A Martial Family
My story begins in September 1876 when my great grandparents Martin Kavanagh of Knockbaun, County Carlow and Catherine Corcoran of Skehana, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny, were married. They lived in Knockbaun for a time where the first of six children, Alice was born in 1880, subsequently they moved to Barrack Street Kilkenny City where Thomas, Edward, James my grandfather, Catherine and the fourth son Martin were born in 1891. The Census of 1901 records them as living at Hebron Road. In 1911 the family was residing at No 11 Wolfe Tone Street (or Hospital Road as it was then known). In fact the 1911 census records Alice as married to a William Bollard who had enlisted in the British Army, Catherine was also married to a Jeremiah Ryan who was serving in the Army.
By 1914 the four brothers had enlisted and a letter to the Editor, 22nd March 1915 The Kilkenny Moderator read as follows:
King Street Kilkenny
I beg the favour of a small space in your widely read paper to make a few remarks concerning the above family. Martin Kavanagh, of Wolfe Tone Street, an old and respected employee of the Kilkenny Corporation has four sons and two sons in law with the colours in France, fighting with the Expeditionary Force. Such a noble example of patriotism and unselfishness creates a unique family record and should serve as a stimulus to other young men in our midst who are eligible for service in the Army to go and do likewise. Apologising for trespassing so far on your valuable space,
I remain, yours etc.
In August 1914 hostilities had broken out and Thomas the eldest son was at the front, and one of the early casualties, his date of death is recorded as 19th October 1914 and is buried in Le Touret Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Edward was the second son to fall, date of death was given as 9th May 1915 and he is buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.
A report in the Kilkenny People of 22nd May 1915 read,
Martin Kavanagh, Wolfe Tone Street, Corporation labourer, received a letter from his son of the same name who is in the trenches “somewhere in France.” After stating that the writer was well, the letter proceeded: “I hope it will not knock you about to let you know that Ned got wounded on the morning of 9th May and died in the evening at 5 o’clock. He knew he was dying and shook hands with all his comrades and bid them all goodbye.”
The report goes on Ned Kavanagh whose death is thus pathetically described is another son of old Martin Kavanagh , and like his brother, young Martin was in the 2nd Batt. Royal Irish Regiment. A third son Thomas was also in the 2nd Batt Royal Irish Regiment. He went to the front the same time as Capt. J. A. Smithwick and has been missing since the 19th Oct. His name has not been returned amongst the Prisoners of War and there is some grounds for believing a worse fate has befallen him. A fourth son James was until recently in Queenstown with the 4th Battalion of the same regiment. It will thus be seen that Martin Kavanagh had four sons with the colours. One of them has been killed in action, one is missing since October, a third is still fighting in the trenches, and the fourth will probably soon be in action.
In addition to this, two of his daughters are married to soldiers, one of them James Ryan being at the front while the second William Bollard is with Kitcheners army somewhere in Tipperary. Very few can beat his record.
James (my grandfather) saw action in France and was a casualty, been brought to Cork, where he died of his wounds in January 1918, he was brought home to Kilkenny and rests in what was known as Potters field, Williams lane nowadays known as O’Loughlin Road.
Martin the fourth son, was mobilised in August 1914, disembarked in France in Oct 1914, sentenced by his Commanding Officer on 3/1/1915 to 28 days Field Punishment No 1 for missing tattoo on 31/12/1914, found drunk in town that same night (The unusual severity of the sentence due no doubt to the C in C Field Marshal Sir John French, having inspected the Battalion on New Years Day). The 2nd Battle of Ypres May 1915 saw Martin in action where he suffered back injuries and gas poisoning. He was invalided out of the Army in Fermoy November 1915.