Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sandy McClelland of Greyabbey - an Ulster-Scot in the 1916 Easter Rising

This gravestone in Greyabbey old grave yard has intrigued me for a while, of 18 year old Sandy McClelland who was killed in Dublin on 27th April during the 1916 'Easter Rising'. His father James McClelland died the next year aged 61, having also buried two other infant sons.

The 1911 Census of Ireland records a 55 year old James McClelland, of nearby Balligan, who was Church of Ireland by denomination and a stonemason by trade. His wife was Agnes, aged 53, and they had five children - Nellie (21), James (18), Mary (16), Alexander/Sandy (13) and Robert (10). 10 years earlier the 1901 Census also includes three older daughters - Jane (19), Grace (13) and Ellen (11).

116 British soldiers were killed in the Easter Rising, with 368 wounded and 9 unaccounted for. Sandy had been a Rifleman in the 4th Extra Reserve Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles, and was buried here in Greyabbey on 1st May 1916. The Newtownards Chronicle gave a short report, ending with 'Deeply regretted by the sorrowing Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters'.

It is said that his mother Agnes took the rest of the family to America in the 1920s to make a fresh start.

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I'm sure someone has done the research already, but it seems to me that four other Ulstermen serving with the RIR were killed during the Easter Rising. They were:

- C Duggan (Belfast) - J Hanna (Belfast) - LCN Morton (Belfast) - J McCullough (Belfast)

Also killed while serving with the RIR were:

- J Coyle (Middlesborough) - J Mulhern (Dublin) - J Nolan (Dublin) - D Wilson (Glasgow)

A J A Thompson from Enniskillen was killed (serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers) and a J Cullen from Belfast was killed (serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers). A Constable Christopher Millar from Belfast was killed (he was in the Royal Irish Constabulary). A detailed list is available here and includes some pretty grim details of the killings of members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Force.

Whilst this was going on in Ireland, 49,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the Great War. The records are now searchable online here.

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Presumably the McClellands attended St Andrew's Parish Church at Balligan, one of the prettiest and most historic in the Ards Peninsula, built in 1704 from materials salvaged from three older medieval churches which had been restored in the 1620s by Sir James Hamilton from Scotland.

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