John Bellingham (b. 1929)
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John Bellingham (b. 1929)


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Track 1: The background to his home at Glencara House, Co. Westmeath, once owned by the Kelly and Hume-Kelly family, is explained by John Bellingham. The family originally settled in Ireland at Castlebellingham, Co. Louth, and his paternal great-grandfather, William Bellingham, moved from Louth to Kildare in the 1830s and built a seaside cottage at Howth in County Dublin. His paternal grandmother was Nannie Hone, a member of the artistic family. John’s father, Arthur Stuart Bellingham, was always known as Stuart. Long after the war, when he had finally retired from the British Army, Colonel Stuart Bellingham wished to farm more ambitiously and he and his wife moved to Glencara, which extended to about 350 acres. John explains the difficulties encountered on the 60-acre farm on the Hill of Howth, and the consequences of De Valera’s election promises in the 1930s. Track 2: John explains that his maternal grandfather’s library from his Ayrshire home was rescued and reconstructed at Glencara. The occupation of the house by the IRA, and the subsequent departure of Major Hume-Kelly and his French wife are recalled. John’s parents bought the house in about 1936. Track 3: John recalls some stories of his father and explains ‘God’s time’ in County Westmeath in some detail. He tells an anecdote relating to Andrew Jameson of Howth, who was Stuart’s godfather, and the Larne gun-running. Curiously, Stuart himself was also part of the Howth gun-running, though Johnny explains that his father had no political sympathies despite these activities. Stuart was studying architecture in Trinity College, Dublin, but did not complete his degree and enlisted as a volunteer with the Gunners (Royal Field Artillery) at the depot in Kilkenny. John talks about Stuart’s cousins, the brothers Edward and Roger Bellingham, and an incident when Roger Bellingham who, while aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant, took part in a Volunteer parade at Castlebellingham. He was to die in Flanders during WWI. Stuart Bellingham became a liaison officer with the French, and John remembers that his father had quite a few stories to tell about that time. He recounts an anecdote about General Pétain’s difficulty in finding a firing squad and Stuart Bellingham’s part in the famous Christmas 1914 truce. Stuart’s encounters with German ex-soldiers after the war are mentioned. In 1918, he was gassed and was posted back to Dublin where he was appointed ADC to General Macready. His son discusses his horse-coping activities, buying troopers for the army. Track 4: Stuart Bellingham’s military career is further discussed, and details are included about the Ashtown ambush. John recalls the meeting of his father and the IRA commander of that time following the formation of the Military History Society, and Stuart’s interest in military history is recalled. An amusing anecdote about Captain Bellingham’s pig-keeping activities is recounted. John explains that his father went with Macready to Gibraltar after the departure of the British Army from Ireland, and his later postings are outlined. The way in which the arsenal handed over by the British Army to Michael Collins ended up in a war at Tangiers, and the connection with Stuart Bellingham is explained. The fact that the Hill of Howth was a safe area during the Troubles and was not threatened by either side is discussed. The destructive effect of WWI on Westmeath families, including the Smyths of Gable, and his Scottish relatives is mentioned, as is the fact that John maintains that his father saw himself as an Irishman. He also reflects on the concept of nationality and says that his father thought Home Rule for Ireland would have been a better solution, and that the breakup of the British Empire was a mistake. With the outbreak of WWII, Col. Stuart was called up again and served in France and England as a Staff Officer. John talks about his older brother Henry who served in the Royal Navy. At this time, John was at school in England and he did National Service after the war as a trooper in the Horseguards on the Russian border. His younger brother joined the Irish Guards some time later. John’s memories of the Allied devastation of cities in Germany, and also his interpreting duties, are discussed. He remembers that he knew about the German concentration camps from his older comrades and he reflects on the denial of them by some in Ireland at the time. Track 5: John tells an anecdote about a local former Old IRA man who sought his father’s assistance in obtaining an IRA pension. He discusses his conversion to Roman Catholicism. His time in France after the war is recalled as are his stay at the chateau of Princess Marie de Croӱ and her book about both wars entitled ‘War Memories’. He explains how this lady had cousins in nine different armies at one time. He again talks about his father’s interest in military strategy rather than politics. The events of the 1920s in Ireland are considered, and John talks about war memorials, including that at Castlebellingham and a plaque at Dundalk church (now removed). Both of John’s brothers continued their army service after WWII, and he describes how they both died accidentally while in the Army during peacetime.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Irish Country House and the Great War


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

8.38 MB, 8.06 MB, 9.70 MB, 8.31 MB, 12.01 MB, 15.15 MB

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The war-time service of Stuart Bellingham

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore