Elizabeth Lady O’Connell (b. 1923)
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Elizabeth Lady O’Connell (b. 1923)


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Track 1: Elizabeth O’Connell talks about her own family, the MacCarthy-O’Learys of Coomlogane, Millstreet, Co. Cork, and mentions a memorial window dedicated to the family in the Parish Church. She recalls her grandfather, William MacCarthy-O’Leary, who served in the South Lancashire Regiment and was killed in the Boer War, and states that there is a statue of him on the (Boer War) Memorial in Warrington. William’s sons were all involved in WWI including her father, John MacCarthy-O’Leary, and she explains that her father, though wounded, survived the war but died of scarlet fever in 1923. Elizabeth’s youngest uncle, William (Billy) served in the Munster Fusiliers and was killed in the trenches in 1916 by a sniper’s bullet. He wrote home very frequently to his mother, Mary MacCarthy O’Leary (née Considine), and she copied all his letters into an exercise book. Both he and Elizabeth’s maternal uncle, William (Willie) Fogarty, the eldest son of William and ‘Nannie’ Fogarty of Artane House, Co. Dublin, who served in the Irish Horse Regiment, were killed in 1916. He and Billy MacCarthy-O’Leary had been at school together. They were both just 22 years old when they died. Elizabeth reflects on her visit to a Military Cemetery and how emotional it proved to be, with so many gravestones (including both those of Billy MacCarthy-O’Leary, and Willy Fogarty) just bearing the inscription “Known unto God.” Elizabeth’s grandfather’s second son, Donagh MacCarthy-O’Leary had a very distinguished career. He served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order with Bar for “Conspicuous Gallantry and Devotion to Duty.” Elizabeth reads some of her uncle Billy’s letters, written in the Turkish trenches, quoting from the exercise book of his transcribed letters kept by her grandmother, Mary MacCarthy-O’Leary over the years. She remembers her uncle Donagh, who was almost a father to her, as her father John had died when she was three months old. Another letter from Billy is read, in which he describes the horror of rats in the dugouts which kept him awake all night. Track 2: The letters of the three MacCarthy-O’Leary brothers have been collected together, and these are examined. Elizabeth reads some excerpts from the letters which describe conditions in the Dardanelles. Track 3: A letter from the War Office reporting on Billy MacCarthy-O’Leary’s wounding and his location at the hospital in Alexandria is read, as is a later letter which Billy wrote following another stay in hospital. He later suffered from severe enteric fever and was again hospitalised and later invalided home. Elizabeth says that he insisted on returning to the Front when he had recovered, and she reads a report from a fellow officer in the regiment, written after Billy was killed by a sniper in 1916. She reflects on the emotional impact of these letters. She recalls joining the VADs in WWII (as her mother had done before her in WWI) and explains that she worked as an auxiliary nurse in various military hospitals for a few years in Kent and Oxford. Track 4: She discusses her uncles’ military decorations, including the DSO with Bar, the MC and the Croix de Guerre, and she mentions that a memorial plaque to her uncle Donagh may be seen in the chapel dedicated to the Royal Irish Fusiliers in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

9.91 MB, 14.13 MB, 8.61 MB, 10.07 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



The MacCarthy-O'Learys of Millstreet, Co. Cork

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore