Two soldiers who died tragically in Fermoy in 1942 during ‘The Emergency’ were honoured in a special ceremony in the Co. Cork town on Saturday.
The men, Sgt Michael J. McElligott, Rathea and Lieutenant Thomas Ryan a native of Cashel, Co. Tipperary drowned in the River Blackwater while taking part in one of the biggest army manoeuvers in Ireland at the time.
Full Army Regalia
With full army regalia and back packs the men were swept down-stream by a rapid current on September 6th. 1942.
A plaque was unveiled in their honour on a wall close to the area of the tragedy by friends and comrades in 1992 to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.
There on that occasion in 1992 was Mrs. Irene McElligott the widow of Sgt. McElligott
Wreath Laying Ceremony
Mrs. McElligott returned to Fermoy on the 58th anniversary of the event which loomed so large in her life and she took part in a wreath laying ceremony on that day in September 2000.
Her daughter, Annie O’Connor, Castleisland and her grandson Jeremiah also attended the commemoration on the day almost 18 years ago now.
At last Saturday’s commemoration ceremony, Mrs. Annie O’Connor took the place of her late mother and she was accompanied by her daughter Margaret and Margaret’s daughter, Emma Fleming.
Relief and Revelation
Saturday’s event also brought great relief and revelation to Mrs. O’Connor and her family as she found out that the father she never knew had tried, heroically, to save his comrade, Lieutenant Ryan on that tragic day in 1942.
The family always believed it was the other way around and felt responsible, somehow for the second part of the double tragedy.
United Nations Veterans’ Association
Post 2 Secretary John Wade, and his comrades including Post 2 Irish United Nations Veterans Association Chairman, Con ‘Rocky’ Roche – a Kanturk native living in Castleisland and private John O’Mahony from Scartaglin who was wounded in the Lebanon in April 1980 when two of his comrades killed in an attack on their post by members of the South Lebanese Army.
How Saturday’s Commemoration Came About
A few years ago, a brief conversation in John B’s pub in Listowel, between Billy Keane and Irish United Nation Veterans Association member, John Wade, last week led to a dignified remembrance ceremony in Fermoy.
Billy related some details about a local soldier who drowned during The Emergency and that it would be a good thing to remember him in some way.
A Huge Exercise
John did some research and discovered that in September 1942, the Irish Army was holding a huge exercise, with 20,000 soldiers, in the Fermoy area.
Whilst crossing the River Blackwater, in Fermoy, the rope being used to assist the troops crossing the river had snapped and men were being swept away.
Chairman Con ‘Rocky’ Roche
Sgt. Michael John McElligott, from the Rathea area, heroically tried to save a comrade, Lt Thomas Ryan from Cashel, but both tragically drowned.
When John discussed this, with the newly-formed Post 2 IUNVA, – Irish United Nations Veterans Association – the chairman, Con ‘Rocky’ Roche was able to tell the members that Sgt. McElligott’s daughter, Annie, was actually living in Castleisland and that he knew her.
Contact was made with Annie and, last Saturday, accompanied by her daughter Dr. Margaret Fleming and Margaret’s daughter Emma, they went with Con to Ashe Quay in Fermoy, alongside the River Blackwater, where there is a plaque erected in memory of the two men.
A Guard of Honour
They were joined by Post 2 Secretary, John Wade and member Private John O’Mahony from Scartaglin. Members from the local IUNVA Post 25 in Fermoy joined their comrades and all formed a Guard of Honour.
Annie laid a family wreath and an IUNVA piper, Anto Byrne from Dublin, played a lament whilst the IUNVA members saluted their fallen comrades.
UN Memorial Wall
Later that day, they all went to the Post 25 Annual Mass and Remembrance Ceremony organised for deceased members from Fitzgerald Barracks, Fermoy and Lynch Camp, Kilworth.
After the Mass in the Garrison Church, at the UN Memorial Wall, Annie laid another wreath remembering her father, Sgt Michael John McElligott, Rathea and the man he tried to save, Lt. Thomas Ryan, Cashel.
So, from Billy relating some facts to John, the local UN veterans were delighted to have been able to pay tribute to a local hero and his comrade.
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