Owen Mulrooney

OWEN MULROONEY (1873 - 1915)

Owen was born in Macclesfield during January 1873. According to the 1881 Census, Owen was living at 7 Watercotes, Macclesfield. The road, now known as Waterside Street, housed many Irish families; Owen's mother, Mary, was born in Ireland. Mary is recorded as 'Head of the Family' and working as a 'Housewife', looking after her seven children. It would appear that the oldest children supported the family - Thomas, aged twenty-one, and Martin, aged seventeen, worked as Labourers whilst sisters Mary, aged nineteen, and Margaret, aged fourteen, worked in the local silk industry as Silk Piecers, joining broken threads in a silk spinning mill. Three year old Sarah stayed at home with her mother as Owen and his ten year old brother attended school.

It is not known what Owen did on leaving school. However, in 1899, Owen was in South Africa, fighting as a professional soldier in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). As a member of the 2nd Battalion of the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster), Owen and his comrades were mobilised at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield. Having received an address from the Mayor of Lichfield, followed by the presentation of tobacco and cigarettes, the following day, the Battalion boarded the SS Dilwara, at Southampton, on 2nd December 1899 and set sail for South Africa. The Battalion finally disembarked at Durban, Natal, on 30th December 1899.

Owen was invalided out of the Regiment on 14 September 1900. This was not before he saw military action in the Battle of Tugela Heights and been involved in the Relief of Ladysmith. As a result of his service, Owen was awarded the South Africa Medal with entitlement to the clasps of the Orange Free State, Transvaal, Tugela Heights, the Relief of Ladysmith and Laing's Nek.

In 1902, Owen married Mary, a local woman about eight years his junior. By 1911, the couple were living at 12 Bank Street with their four children, Joe (aged eight), Mary Lizzie (aged five), Alban (aged two) and William (aged six months). Owen was working at the time as a 'General Labourer'. UK Railway Employment Records show that, supported by a reference from the Borough Surveyor, Mr Adshead, Owen succeeded in gaining employment, on 17 March 1903, as a Labourer for the London and North Western Railway. Starting at 6am, Owen was paid at a rate of eighteen shillings per week. Unfortunately, although he was judged by his new employer to be of 'good' character and have 'fair' abilities, Owen left after two weeks when his 'services [were] not required'.

When War was declared in 1914, Owen re-enlisted at Macclesfield. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. Owen was subsequently stationed in France and Flanders with his Regiment where his Battalion engaged in several heavy battles. Owen survived these battles but it was life in the trenches which proved deadly rather than a sniper's bullet.

Vermin and flies, alongside poor hygiene and a lack of proper sanitation, resulted in typhoid fever being a common feature of life in the trenches during the Great War. Owen contracted typhoid and was taken to a hospital centre near Boulogne. He died here, on Tuesday 6 April 1915, aged forty.

Owen is buried in the south-eastern part of Wimereux Community Cemetery, five kilometres north of Boulogne, alongside other Commonwealth servicemen. Unlike many other Commonwealth War Cemeteries, because of Wimereux's sandy soil, the headstone of each soldier lies flat on his grave. Owen's headstone has a cross in the centre and, underneath his details, the following words, chosen by his wife, are inscribed:

"GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
FROM HIS LOVING WIFE
AND CHILDREN"

Owen's son, Alban, possibly named after our patron saint, went on to become a Middleweight boxer with ninety seven recorded professional fights during the 1920s and 1930s.

Owen Mulrooney
Civic Dignitaries and the Mayor of Lichfield with soldiers of the 2nd Battalion following the presentation of cigarettes and tobacco. (Taken from: kingsownmuseum.plus.com)

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