Sunday, 31 July 2016
‘The Doctor, the Countess and the Organist:
1916 tales from Saint John’s, Sandymount’
I am back in the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Sandymount this morning [31 July 2016], presiding and preaching at the Sung Eucharist at 11 a.m.
This month’s edition of the Church Review tells how Saint John’s is planning an exhibition for Heritage Week next month [25-28 August 2016] as part of the programme for the 1916-2016 centenary commemorations.
The exhibition – ‘The Doctor, the Countess and the Organist: 1916 Tales from Saint John’s, Sandymount’ – reflects the connections between Saint John’s and its people with the events of 1916, both at home and abroad.
The exhibition focusses principally on the dissonant narratives of a Sandymount resident, Dr Charles Calthrop de Burgh Daly, and Cecil Grange McDowell, the organist of Saint John’s. At the time, the Incumbent of Saint John’s was the Revd Fletcher Sheridan Le Fanu.
Dr Charles Calthrop de Burgh Daly of 71 Park Avenue, Sydney Parade, was a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was fired on by Countess Markievicz in Dublin in April 1916. He was standing in the window of the University Club when Countess Markievicz stepped from behind a statue in Saint Stephen’s Green and fired at him.
Cecil Grange McDowell, from Carlow, was the organist and choirmaster at Saint John’s and a vestry member. He was also an engineer with Dublin Corporation and an artist who specialised in architectural work. He went on to change his name to Cathal Mac Dubhghaill. He forsook his background to join the rebellion in 1916 and he wrote the first arrangement of the National Anthem.
While he was fighting with Eamon de Valera at Boland’s Mills in Easter Week 1916, he was baptised a Roman Catholic by a Father O’Reilly from Westland Row.
After the rising, he was prisoner in Richmond Barracks and Frongoch, and in 1921 he married the poet Maeve Cavanagh MacDowell of the Irish Citizen Army. She was a sister of the cartoonist, Ernest Cavanagh, who was killed in 1916 and who is remembered especially for his cartoons in the The Irish Worker of William Martin Murphy during the lockout in 1913, depicting him as ‘William Murder Murphy’ and the ‘Vulture of Dartry Hall.’
Cecil McDowell or Cathal Mac Dubhghaill died 10 years after the Rising in Nice in 1926.
The exhibition will recall other elements in the life of Saint John’s during 1916, including the loss of Dr Daly’s younger son, Charlie, during the Battle of the Somme, and the launch of a book by Emily French de Burgh Daly, the wife of Dr Daly and a sister of the songwriter Percy French. The book, An Irishwoman in China describes the time when the family lived in Manchuria, where Dr Daly was the medical officer at the British consulate.
Alyson Gavin, a genealogist and churchwarden of Saint John’s has researched the memorial plaque in erected Saint John’s in 1920 and naming local men who fought in World War I.
Second Lieutenant Arthur Charles de Burgh Daly of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was only 19 when he was killed in action at the Battle of Ginchy on 9 September 1916. His parents had lived in Newchwang in Manchuria, in China, where he was born. When his parents returned to live in Ireland, he went to school in Worthing and Tonbridge Wells, and was planning to have go up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
But on leaving school he obtained a commission on 26 August 1915 and was sent to the front on 19 July 1916. He went straight into the fighting on the Somme and took part in the Battle of Guillemont on 6 September.
In his last letter home, written on 8 September, he said: “We attack Ginchy tomorrow. In case of accidents, I played the game two days ago, and will, please God, tomorrow.” On the following morning, he was killed at the head of his men charging the German trenches. He got no further than four or five yards before he was shot through the brain by two bullets from a machine gun, and was killed instantly. He is buried at Delville Wood cemetery in Longueval, France.
Due to an administrative error, his family received a telegram on 18 September 1916 giving his date of death as 4 September. However, his letter dated 8 September, the actual day before his death, had already arrived at his family home in Sandymount. His family believed some mistake had been made and they hoped that he was still alive. His father, Dr Charles de Burgh Daly, wrote to the War Office pleading for clarification. The War Office eventually established that the wrong date had been given erroneously.
His elder brother, Major Ulick de Burgh Daly of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was wounded at Richebourg L’Avoue on 9 May 1915. Shortly after his return to the Front in June 1916, he was invalided home with appendicitis. He was subsequently “mentioned in dispatches” for distinguished services.
Their sister Lucy was in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nursing service, where she served in hospitals around Dublin and at a British army base in Boulogne before being demobilised in 1919.
Another name on the memorial in Saint John’s is Captain Edward Stafford-King-Harman, who was the heir to the vast Rockingham estate in north Co Roscommon and to his family title of baronet. The family had moved to Taney, Dundrum, but attended Saint John’s Church, Sandymount. He married Olive Pakenham-Mahon of Strokestown Park, Co Longford and after joining the Irish Guards in 1911, and was later posted to Flanders in September 1914.
He was reported missing after intense fighting at Klein Zillebeke on 6 November 1914. Reports indicate that Harman’s company were holding the frontline when they were surrounded and cut off from the main body of British troops. For some time, there was confusion about whether he had been killed or captured as a prisoner of war.
During the eight months that followed, Edward’s family wrote continuously to the War Office, seeking confirmation and an indication of his status and the possible location of his body in France. In June 1915, the family were finally notified that he was listed as “killed in action in Ypres” in Flanders on 6 November 1914.
Posthumously, he was promoted to the rank of captain in the midst of confusion surrounding his death. Edward Stafford-King-Harman was honoured in the Irish Life magazine on 30 July 1915 in a supplement entitled “our heroes from Mons to the Somme August 1914 to July 1916.”
At the time of his death, his wife, Olive was pregnant at the time and she gave birth to their daughter Lettice Mary Strafford-King-Harman on 10 April 1915. Olive and Lettice returned to live at Strokestown, and the Rockingham estate was inherited by Edward’s brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Cecil William Francis Stafford-King-Harman. Sir Cecil sold off what remained of the Rockingham Estate in the early 1960s and died in 1987. Most of the estate was bought by the Land Commission, and a large part of this land later became part of Lough Key Forest Park.
Private John Drew Mitchell of 21 Ailesbury Road, who is also named on the memorial, was a son of Frank William Drew Mitchell, the Secretary of the Congested Districts Board, and Emily Wild. He died on the same day as Charles de Burgh Daly, at the battle of Ginchy. As Trooper JD Mitchell, he transferred from the Royal Horse Guards to the 1st Battalion, the Gloucestershire Regiment, on 13 May 1916 and he entered the conflict on 23 May. He received a fatal wound and died in action at the age of 28. He was buried at Heily Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbé.
The other names on the memorial include: Second Lieutenant Thomas Coote Cummins of the York and Lancaster Regiment, who died of wounds in France; Lieutenant Eric Greaves, MC, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers; Private Trevor Eyre Symes, of the Royal Highlanders; Second Lieutenant Ivan Philip Watson of the Royal Irish Rifles; Second Lieutenant John Godfrey Baird Dunne of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who died in Persia; Corporal Ronald Stuart Baird Dunne, of the Army Service Corps, who was killed in action in Thessaloniki; Corporal Henry Augustus Kavanagh of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who was killed in action in Palestine; and Private Arthur Thomas Avison, Machine Gun Corps.
A verse below the memorial says: “As gold in the furnace hath he tried them and received them as a burnt offering.”
The exhibition at Saint John’s closes on 28 August with a recital by the organist, Eoghan Ward, featuring music from both narratives, including pieces by Cecil MacDowell.
Eoghan Ward has been the resident organist at Saint John’s since 2012. He began his musical career as a chorister in the Palestrina Choir at Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral under Ite O’Donovan. He received his first organ lessons at Clongowes Wood College under Raymond O’Donnell and, after reading music at Trinity College Dublin, he studied organ under Dr Kerry Houston.
Admission to all events is free. The opening hours are: Thursday-Saturday, 25-27 August 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday 28 August, exhibition 12 noon to 3 p.m., recital 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Saint John’s Church is located on Park Avenue, Sandymount. The nearest DART station is at Sydney Parade. Buses 1 and 47 stop at the church, and buses 4, 7 and 8 stop nearby at Ailesbury Road.