THE FAM­I­LIES OF THE FALLEN

The de­scen­dents & rel­a­tives of WWI mps percy clive and d.d. shee­han give Their per­spec­tives on Their ancestors’ sac­ri­fices

History of War - - PARLIAMENT’S SACRIFICE -

“IT WAS A HOR­RIFIC WAR AND YOU CAN’T IMAG­INE WHAT IT WAS LIKE IN THE TRENCHES”

DAN SHEE­HAN & NOREEN STE­WART GRAND­SON AND GREAT-NIECE OF D. D. SHEE­HAN MP

D.D. Shee­han was the MP for Mid Cork and a mem­ber of the Ir­ish Par­lia­men­tary Party and the All-for-ire­land League. Dur­ing WWI he served as a cap­tain in the Royal Mun­ster Fusiliers. Al­though he sur­vived the war his two sons Daniel and Martin, as well his brother in-law, were killed. Two more chil­dren, Michael (an of­fi­cer) and Eileen (a VAD nurse and am­bu­lance driver) were se­verely wounded on ac­tive ser­vice but sur­vived.

What was the im­pact of WWI on your fam­ily?

NS: As well as hav­ing the two boys that died and Michael who was in­jured, the broth­ers also had a sis­ter who was an am­bu­lance driver and was wounded. Also, my grand­fa­ther Robert O’connor, who was D.D. Shee­han’s brother-in-law, was killed on the first day of Pass­chen­daele so a lot of the fam­ily were in­volved in WWI.

How did the losses res­onate in the fam­ily in the sub­se­quent years?

DS: It was talked about be­cause we all knew about it, but there were nine mem­bers of that fam­ily and there was a hell of a lot of fight­ing go­ing on so it was al­most ‘par for the course’.

My grand­fa­ther was the MP and he was in the ‘All Ire­land’ (Home Rule) group. He was also the ini­tial per­son who in­sti­gated the Royal Mun­sters in south­ern Ire­land to raise an army be­cause at that time south­ern Ire­land was a bit on the Ger­man side as well. When he came back from the war Sinn Fein had been work­ing against him. His house was set on fire and he had to spend three years over in Bri­tain. His sons were al­lowed to re­main in school but they had to go back to Eng­land dur­ing the hol­i­days. I knew my grand­fa­ther and he used to stay at our house, but he wouldn’t re­ally talk about the war.

NS: When the Black and Tans came to Ire­land [dur­ing the Ir­ish War of In­de­pen­dence] they were go­ing round burn­ing houses. They came to our fam­ily house and were about to burn it but some­body said that my grand­mother was the widow of some­body who was killed in WWI. She brought out her widow’s pen­sion book to show them and so they spared the house, but un­for­tu­nately they went up the road and burned down some­one else’s house in­stead.

How im­por­tant is it that sto­ries like the Shee­hans’ dur­ing WWI are re­mem­bered by to­day’s gen­er­a­tions?

DS: To­day’s gen­er­a­tions have to re­alise what that gen­er­a­tion gave up to give them the life they have had. It was a hor­rific war and you can’t imag­ine what it was like in the trenches. That’s the im­por­tant thing, we don’t seem to have so much re­spect for the army now and we’ve had a much eas­ier life.

NS: I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in it and I was in Pass­chen­daele for the 100th an­niver­sary. I try to pass on the story to the next gen­er­a­tion by telling them and nowa­days with so­cial me­dia you can post pho­to­graphs and bring them up to date with the story. One of my neph­ews is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested, and I hope he’ll be the one to pass it on. For me, it’s even more im­por­tant to­day than ever to work towards world peace, par­tic­u­larly with the threat of nu­clear war. It doesn’t even bear think­ing about what would hap­pen if there were a Third World War.

The fight­ing at Pass­chen­daele af­fected the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands, in­clud­ing the fam­i­lies of serv­ing MPS like D.D. Shee­han

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