Martin Murray

Co. 45

Private martin murray

Martin- A Casualty of the Combat

Private Martin Murray was a Mayo man known only to the British Army as number 22228. Like so many others, he came from a large family and voyaged across the world on behalf of his country. Martin fought alongside six million men in some of the most historic battles of WWI. His dedication, selflessness  and intellect made him a valued member of the Welsh Regiment but at the expense of his life.

Soldiers of the First World War are often remembered just as that, soldiers. Whilst the war was indeed a turning point in his life, number 22228 was a man who loved to swim and had a passion for music. I can only hope that his rich story will allow you to visualise the face behind the number.

Martin's Early Life

Martin Murray was born in 1877, the same year as the birth of activist Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and the year in which the National History Museum was established. For me, that puts things into context. Born to John Murray and Sarah Melvin, they originally lived in Ballina, but ultimately resided in Sarah’s home place of Glenree. Historically, having links to land in the country entitled you to rent the highly sought after holdings from the landlords. Not everyone was afforded the opportunity to migrate to the countryside so the family had been lucky.

Martin's dwelling place in Glenree. this is where he reside with his parents and many siblings.

A more recent aerial shot of the family's homplace.

His Family History

Martin was one of ten children but unfortunately two boys died as infants. Two of Martin’s elder siblings, Sarah and Mary, moved to America which was a common occurrence for those dwelling in rural Ireland and indeed all of Ireland at the time, along with another brother, Patrick. Unusually, Martin was not the only sibling to enlist in the British Army, his three other brothers Michael, Thomas and John also enlisted. Martin’s youngest brother Richard attempted to join but was deterred by his friends. He returned home to Glenree where to this day, his son still resides.

John Murray's Connections

John Murray, Martin’s father, was known locally as “The Tailor Murray.” His most noted client however was Fr. Peyton (The Rosary Priest). The famous saying “The family that prays together stays together” is attributed to him. Peyton is the founder of the movement called, ‘The Family Rosary Crusade.’ He staged massive rosary rallies in key American cities and was helped by world renowned figures including Bing Crosby and Harry Truman. John Murray was a personal friend of the famous clergyman and often made suits for him before his influential departure to the States. The Father Peyton Centre itself is situated in Attymass, only a short distance from the home of his relatives and attracts thousands of visitors per year. Unfortunately, Fr. Peyton’s most memorable mantra could not be seen within this family unit who were eventually torn apart by war.

Father Peyton delivering one of his many influencial speeches.

Martin's Hobbies

There is very little known about Martin as a child but music seems to have been huge part of his life as he sang and was known to have been talented musician, playing the flute. His nephew Gerry remarked that he was an excellent swimmer and swam the length of the picturesque Lough Talt. Singing is a tradition that has been carried through the generations and it is something that the Murray’s hold dear.

His Early Career

He attended Glenree National School and would later go on to teach there from 1891 until 1895. There is no doubt that Martin was an extremely intelligent man to have been given this position of authority. However, the salary of £3 was pittance for a competent young man, so he made the bold decision to leave the area and unite with his estranged siblings in the US. His actions subsequent to this are a bit of a grey area due to the fact that he was living away.

Glenree National School played a pivotal role in Martin's life.

The school is now a holiday home in the idyillic location.

Martin's Army Life

From records, it can be established that he enlisted through Carmarthen, Wales. He served as part of the Welsh Regiment under the 2nd Battalion as a Private. He was involved in many battles such as the Battle of Mons and the Battle of Ypre. The map of the Battle of Aisne was taken from The Welsh Regiment, Second Battalion Diary. The hand written documents recall the events of ‘The Great War’ from the perspective of Martin’s Battalion in the trenches.

The document on the left clearly states the causalities of the Ghelvveld. On one day alone, 2 were killed, 19 were wounded and 123 were missing. Martin along with thousands of men lived lives of uncertainty every day.

The insightful diaries of Martin's battalion.

The deatiled anaysis of each day paints a dark picture of the life so many endured.

The End of The Road

It can be presumed that the Murray brothers joined on the grounds of gaining independence for Ireland, a promise made by Britain to those who were prepared to sacrifice their lives, yet was never fulfilled. As a result, families shunned these courageous men. Martin fought gallantly during the Battle of the Somme and it is likely that there he sustained fatal injuries. Martin was killed in action 9/1/1917, aged 40.

The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. For five months the British and the French armies fought the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a fifteen mile front. It was 141 days of horror.

Martin's Achievements

Martin was entitled to the Victory Medal, also referred to as the Inter Allied Victory Medal. He also would have received the British War Medal which was automatically awarded in the event of death in active service. However, medals were often left to collect dust and in the case of the Murray brothers, the items used to commemorate their bravery have vanished.

The Victory Medal.

The British War Medal.

His Will

The Wills Act 1837 ordered every soldier fighting in WWI to draw up a will before their departure. This sad yet necessary commitment for me really shows the true extent of the selflessness of these men. Martin’s plain but heart breaking will reads; ‘In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my father John Murray, Glenree, Bonniconlon, Ballina, Co. Mayo.’

The Men Behind the Misery

Martin's brother Michael was a Private with the Connacht Rangers and moved through the ranks from there. He was killed in action 19/12/1914, aged 33.

Thomas Murray was a Lance Corporal with the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was killed in action 1/7/1916, aged 28.

His brother John was a Private stationed in Inverkeithing, Scotland. He was killed in action 22/12/1914, aged 39.

After fighting on behalf of their country, none of the four brothers ever got to step foot on Irish soil again.

Commemorating the Comrades

Martin is buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery amongst 674 others and lies next to many of his comrades. However, he is not alone commemorated in Belgium. On the 7th of October of 2008, Mary McAleese laid a wreath on behalf of the people of the country at the Mayo Memorial Peace Wall in Castlebar. The monument includes Martin’s name and sits prominently in the heart of my county town.

Martin's grave in Poperinghe New Military Cemetary.

The Mayo Memorial Peace Wall.

The Story Continued...

Interestingly enough, the story does not stop there. One of Martin’s nephews Thomas Murray joined the Irish Army and served in the Congo. He is pictured on the left side of the photo with his arms around the child.

Also, another one of his nephews, Jimmy Murray, went on to join the NYPD. The Murray family is no stranger to serving their country and prioritising the protection of civilians and this deep rooted belief is evident throughout every generation.

"A generation which ignores history has no past- and no future"

-Robert A. Heinlein

My background

My Application

I can distinctly remember being introduced to the My Adopted Soldier programme by my ever so talented and enthusiastic teacher Ms Gannon. She informed my class of the necessary entry process and what the outcome would be. Honestly, I stared at the interactive white board with a degree of courage but an abundance of apprehension. As I am an only child from the West of Ireland who is afraid of my own shadow, I could never have predicted that I would be a beneficiary of this scheme.

People. That is what initially attracted me to this competition. What is history without the humans behind it? World leaders are often remembered in either a positive or negative light. The instructions that they give are credited with the success or failure of an era. However, it is ordinary people all around the world like Martin Murray who make the change. Everyday people risk their lives for others only to be counted as a faceless statistic. History essays that are filled quotes and numbers, retained and then regurgitated are worthless if the candidate cannot identify personally with the event.

I applied for the competition as I love to tell stories and connect with the past. I never imagined that it would have this much of an impact on my perspective and that I could connect so easily with a man who lived one hundred years before I.

Martin's Family

I was so lucky to have met Martin's family very early in my research. Sarah Murray, Martin's Great Niece was my closest contact and so kindly provided me with a vast amount of information.

Meeting Martin's relatives was imperative as I could learn about his hobbies and interests, things that could not have been found in military records. Through them I got to meet Martin, the soldier, but also Martin, the Mayo Man.

I spoke with Gerry Murray, Martin's nephew (pictured left) who reminisced about his uncle and his talents which was incredibly special. He told me about all four of his uncles who had fought in the First World War and how none of them ever got the chance to set foot on Irish soil again. Martin's presence is still felt in Bonniconlon as Gerry and his wife reside on the same plot of land that Martin once lived on.

My Research

Whilst the Murray family were truly instrumental in acquainting me with Martin, I took to the internet to find his presence in the military records. The Welsh Regiment Records gave me the series of battles that Martin's battalion was involved in. I tracked down his medical card and discovered that 557 other soldiers had died on January 9th 1917. On, I was able to attain Martin's will which was a sad moment. Every piece of information I unearthed drew me closer to Martin. Whilst his files were dusty, so to speak, they existed and I felt as though his memory would always live on.

The Trip

To say that visiting Belgium accompanied by fourteen of my newest friends was the trip of a lifetime would an understatement. From the minute we were greeted by David in the Leuven Institute, the fun began.

Leuven's architecture was truly breathtaking and as we all roamed around the city, the bonding process began. Our 'group chat' that had previously been quiet and rather reserved was now alive as we texted each other between rooms and shared our excitement for what was ahead.

The group gathering around a piece of the Berlin Wall outside the European Parliament.

One of the many photos that I will treasure from the trip.

Every historical site that we visited seemed overwhelming sad. It provided me with a new found apreciation for the life that I live and taught me just how much people suffered not so long ago.

Visiting the Pool Of Peace was an unforgettable experience. It was difficult to Imagine that somewhere so tranquill had such a dark and tragic past.

The sight where Joshua's soldier and many like him were executed was incredibly sobering.

Our Meeting

Finally visiting Martin's grave was a very surreal experience. Even though I felt as if I knew this man, it only dawned on me that he was a living, breathing person as I looked upon his place of rest. I  realised then the sheer futility of war and the tragedy that had been inflicted on a generation.

Being a small town girl with not a lot of courage, I could not believe Martin's bravery as I visited his grave. The thought of him leaving Glenree and going to War with no guarantees of survival was so humbling. I could leave Belgium and return home to my family after visiting the sites where these very men were killed. That, unfortunately, was not a privilege that these men were given.

Speaking with Eileen and Brian at Martin's graveside.

Laying soil and some heather from Glenree at Martin's grave.

Seeing Martin's grave amongst a sea of white headstones was very moving.

The German Aspect

Having the German students accompany us on this trip definitely enhanced my knowledge about the First World War.

The German graveyards were so stark compared to the beauty of Tyne Cot. The phrase "History is written by the victors," became more and more evident with every memorial we visited. Over the course of the trip I befriended many of the German students and discovered that we had similar interests despite being from different countries.For instance, Patricia and I both listened to the same bands and shared a love for clothes and cosmetics. I realised that surely Martin had things in common with those in the opposite trenches one hundred years ago. If not, they were all young men who did not deserve to die. Coming together with the German students in the European Parliament was indicative of just how far we have come.

Martin, my friend

As I ventured out to Bonniconlon (Martin's homeplace), I suddenly realised that I lived in quite a developed part of rural Ireland! Although picturesque, the area was extremely isolated and I could not imagine it being  very different to when the Murray brothers set sail. I saw his home, his surroundings and I saw him. Ploughing the land, teaching in the school and enjoying the beauty Glenree has to offer. I could directly empathise with his cause after researching his life. I would never have had the courage to leave this untouched part of the world and fight a battle that would ultimately take the lives of eleven million soldiers.

History for me has never been so poignant.The trip allowed me to experience the horrors of war through my own eyes and not through a gaudy history book or a Powerpoint presentation. Visiting the first graveyard alone put everything that I had ever learned in a classroom or discovered via a screen into perspective.

A word of thanks..

I would like to extend my gratitude to Gerry Moore. His genuine passion for history is so inspiring and without his work and dedication, I would never have had been able to embark on this trip of a lifetime. He made everyone feel at home and had such a warm presence. I cannot thank him enough for his generosity and kindness. I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to research an heroic man like Martin Murray.

I would also like to thank the whole My Adopted Soldier Committee for their kindness and support. Their dilligent work  behind the scenes certainly did not go unnoticed.

I cannot thank the Murray family enough for their invaluable contribution to my research.

Finally, I would like to thank all of my fellow students that joined me on this incredible journey. You wonderful bunch were a pleasure to work with and I am proud to call you my friends.