Brendan Parsons, 7th Earl of Rosse (b. 1936)
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Brendan Parsons, 7th Earl of Rosse (b. 1936)


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Track 1: Lord Rosse initially talks about his grandfather, William Edward Parsons, 5th Earl of Rosse, who was fatally wounded in military actions in the First World War. He explains that his family had been involved in a number of other military actions including the defence of Birr Castle against Patrick Sarsfield. Over the centuries, the family have been mainly active in many other fields, ranging from music and politics to engineering and other sciences, most obviously astronomy. His grandfather had originally served in the Coldstream Guards in South Africa and when a new regiment of Irish Guards was formed, he transferred, along with other officers of Irish background. Later he was called up as an officer to serve in the Great War. The present Earl’s father, Michael, the 6th Earl, also served in the Irish Guards during WWII, serving as Regimental Intelligence Officer. Brendan himself, now the 7th Earl, served as 2nd Lieutenant in the Irish Guards towards the end of the 1950s. He explains that his grandfather, William Edward Parsons, a Major in the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, was mortally wounded at the Battle of Festubert in 1915. He was medically evacuated, initially to England and then to Ireland, to determine the extent of his wounds, from which he eventually died in 1918. He had been hit by a shell that gouged out part of his head, which left him 80% incapacitated. Brendan reflects on the obvious agony of those who gave their lives for freedom against the military expansionism of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires, and then having to return home to a country which disowned them. He explains that although Birr was said to be a garrison town, serving as the depot of the Leinster Regiment, the garrison was actually in the satellite village of Crinkill. Track 2: Brendan regrets not really having been able to ask his father about his grandfather, though he believes that his parents did talk themselves about what really happened. After her husband’s death, his grandmother Lois married his close colleague in the Irish Guards, Ivo, 5th Viscount de Vesci of Abbey Leix, where they initially brought the children up. After the burning of Birr barracks in 1922, Birr Castle was requisitioned by the Free State Army. While looking at an old photograph of his grandfather in the uniform of the Irish Guards, Brendan speaks about maintaining the tradition of remembering, every second Sunday in November, those who died in service for their country, or later service with the United Nations, with which he himself served. He was brought up by his parents to serve, and he feels that this service has given him great satisfaction and purpose in life. He speaks about his dedication to the ideal of fighting for peace and to make the world a better and safer place to live in. Track 3: Brendan opens part of the extensive archive established in the castle’s Muniments Room, to look at a map showing where the battle of Festubert took place in France, and to read a few letters which his grandfather had previously sent back from the front, describing the Germans as savages for their use of gas. He says he counts himself lucky that he served in more peaceful times and that his father survived his service in WWII. He reads a medical report on his grandfather’s wounds, concluding that he could never again enjoy life. Another letter, written from the front in 1915 on estate business to the land agent Robert Garvey, merely describes in more guarded terms “a rather exciting time” at the front. Brendan concludes by recalling a master at his preparatory school who was still visibly affected by the gas attack which he had survived in WWI.

Additional information



Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

6.49 MB, 6.71 MB, 17.68 MB

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The Earls of Rosse and involvement in the Great War

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore