hundred Sligo lives were lost in the Great War
The recent decision by Sligo Corporation to name part of
the new inner relief road after a former Mayor of Sligo,
Michael Conlon, has focussed attention on Sligomen who fought
in World War 1. Eight Conlon brothers from Sligo Town fought
in the war, four of whom were killed in action. Michael
was exempted from further service because of his brothers
Mary Matthews reports We are the Dead. Short days
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields.
Dr. John McCrae
Between town and county many Sligomen enlisted in the Great
War, of whom an approximate five hundred were either killed
or died of wounds, several others were missing and many
left disabled for life. While the majority of them died
in the Flanders trenches, other perished in the Dardenelles,
Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Balkans and Salonika;
more, of course, were lost at sea.
Joe Burns, whose father, Michael enlisted, says: I
was five years old when my father left for the war and I
remember it well. As he was attached to a supply section,
he was lucky enough to survive with just a facial wound
but I lost five uncles at sea. Times were hard and people
joined up for different reasons: they very quickly found
out, however, that there was very little glory attached
to the conflict. I suppose the economic situation of the
time had a lot to do with it.
Married men got 6d per day plus keep while their wives got
12/6 per week, one child5/-,the next 3/6 and each following
child2/-. Separations allowances were paid to the dependants
of single men who had been earning a wage prior to enlistment.
The Conlon family of Sligo suffered greatly. Eight brothers,
Alex, Andrew, John, James, Patrick, Joseph, Thomas and Michael
joined up. Four of them, Andrew, James, Patrick and Thomas
were killed in action. Because of this, Michael was given
compassionate leave and exempted from further service in
the trenches. He was later to become Mayor of Sligo and
very much involved with Sligo Rovers.
Another Mayor of Sligo, John Fallon served in the Dardanelles
and was also a keen supporter of Sligo Rovers.
Four Higgins brothers from Skreen also fought. John was
killed in France, Louis in India, and Bertie died of wounds.
Eddie was the only one to survive.
Miss Gillie Burke, SRN of Collooney volunteered to work
in the field hospitals in Flanders. She cared for the wounded
amid appaling conditions. She died in 1959 and is buried
Perhaps one of the best known Sligomen to have fought in
the Great War was Private Martin Moffatt of Knappagh Road,
who was awarded the Victoria Cross for extreme bravery,
being only one of three to be awarded the honour in Ireland.
He left the army in 1918 and worked afterwards as a harbour
constable in Sligo.
Two members of the Wood-Martin family, Frank and James,
died in Flanders.
At age fourteen, Private John Condon of Waterford was reputed
to be the youngest soldier to be killed in the war. In fact,
he was killed a few days before his fourteenth birthday
and is buried in Tyne Cot cemetery.
His cousin Sonny Condon, says: While my cousin may
have lied about his age at enlist, it has only emerged quite
recently that towards the end of the war they were actively
encouraging boys of that age to join up with the promise
of a great adventure ahead. There was no schoolboys
adventure attached to the first World War; it was a war
of blood, guts, mud and misery. A memorial to John
Condon is being erected on the Quay in Waterford.
Sergt. John McGuinn, of Cashel, Tubbercurry, showed great
bravery at all times. He was killed at Ypres on March 27th,
1916. The letters that he wrote home to his mother in Cashel
were full of hope and cheerfulness, yet heartbreaking to
read afterwards. His nephew, James McGuinn, has written
an excellent book entitled Sligo Men in the Great
War which is available in Sligo Co. Library.
Commdt Brian Cleary of the Army Press Office says: Soldiers
of whatever army always respect each other and those men
were of their time. It is quite appropriate that they should
By Mary Matthews
Courtesy of the Sligo Champion