One in 10 Mullingar men died in WWI
More than 10% of the male population of Mullingar was killed fighting in World War One (1914-18).
Recent research by Colm Connaughton has revealed that over 300 men from the greater Mullingar area, many of who were barely out of boyhood, perished on the battlefields of Europe during the war, which ended on Armistice Day, November 11 1918.
Speaking to Westmeath Examiner, Cllr Ruth Illingworth says that almost every family in the area would have at least one relative that signed up.
“The Mullingar area had one of the highest recruitment rates in the whole of Britain and Ireland. When you think that the population of Mullingar was around 5000 at the time and more than 300 local casualites, it means that more than 10% of the area’s male population died during the war.”
Two local men Maurice Dease from Coole, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers and was one of the first soldiers on the British side killed in the war, and George Boyd Rochfort, who was born in Middleton Park House, both received the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest honour given to British servicemen. A second lieutenant in the Scots Guard, Boyd Rochfort received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Westmeath.
“Sometimes the impression is given that the majority of Irish soldiers came from the upper classes or were Protestant but they came from all classes and the majority of them would have been Roman Catholic,” Cllr Illingworth said.
Lt Dease was actually a member of a prominent Catholic family.
Mullingar had a very active branch of the Royal British Legion for decades, which organised remembrance services every Armistice Day up until the 1970s.
During her tenure as chairman of Mullingar Town Council in 2009 Cllr Illingworth held a remembrance service in Columb Barracks and has held one every year since.
"Lots of people come whose relatives fought in the war. It’s most moving."