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corisande

Percentage Catholics serving in different Irish Regiments

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corisande

I am trying to get actual figures here, rather than generalities. I know I have seen the percentages of Catholics by regiment, but for the life of me cannot find it now.

By the very recruiting areas, the number of Catholics varied across Ireland. Can anyone point me at the actual composition recruited per regiment.

As an aside, did the Royal Irish Rifles "mix" battalions or did they put the Catholics in one and Protestants in different ones.

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Patrick ODwyer

I know the Connaughts had a majority of Catholics as, I think the Royal Irish Regiment. It must have been similar for all regular Irish units though the proportion would change on the area of recruiting. The 7th Royal Irish Rifles were said to be a 'Catholic Battalion' but all these units had non Catholics. The first two were regular units (like 1st and 2nd? Royal Irish Rifles) and were therefore mixed. Not much help but a start.

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corisande

I am not sure if the generality forces the particular.

In other words if Royal Irish Rifles were (mainly) Protestant, would a Catholic man from Belfast opt for (say) Connaught Rangers? I am trying to see if there are any hard figures, or whether I have to use the "hand waving" arguments :-)

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Patrick ODwyer

The 7th RI Rifles were in the 16th Division (which the RIR history descrbes as having ' a great majority' of Catholics); it trained in Cork. My grandfather in law was in them (a Catholic from the North). However some Belfast Catholics did join the CRs - a small book was recently published on them.

The regular battalions were more mixed and you can probably see this through the census of 1911. In any event as most regular battalions were largely English, Catholics would not be in a majority, whereas they might be in 'Irish' regiments recruiting in the South (CRs for eg).

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corisande

My particular interest with Royal Irish Rifles is with 2nd battalion, because of those that joined the Irish Brigade as prisoners of war. There were 3 (as far as I can ascertain).

7483 Bailey who came from Dublin

7708 Greer who came from Wexford

7576 Scanlan or Scanlan, who was a boilermaker and I have been unable to trace. I assume he was catholic (in Irish Brigade) and came from Belfast (only because he was a boilermaker)

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Patrick ODwyer

The 2nd RIR in December 1914 was described by Fr Gill SJ as 'about 70%' Catholic chiefly from the North of Ireland. This was, however, a regular battalion that recruited in the North but also nationally (within Ireland). The service battalions were not so mixed and I think only the 7th Battalion had a significant number of Catholics.

Worth reading The 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War by James W Taylor.

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corisande
Worth reading The 1st Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War by James W Taylor.

I do have 2nd Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War by James W Taylor. :)

That quote from Fr Gill of 70% Catholic chiefly from North is interesting. Taylor does not appear to go into religion, but in 1914 says they were 83% Irish, with 50% North and 33% South

I never really though of them as a Catholic regiment - bet that remark winds someone up!

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Patrick ODwyer

I did not know he brought out a history of the 2nd Battalion, I must look out for it, thanks. That probably has a lot more detail on its make up. That Gill quote came from his 1st Batt history.

83% Irish, with 50% North and 33% South - that may suggest a similar figure of Catholics. Some of the 17% non-Irish may, of course,, be Catholic.

I note that in the regiments I study a small number of English men also converted in India to marry Catholic girls there and, when stationed in Ireland this probably happened too.

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corisande

Taylor's history of 2nd Battalion is worth having, but tends to concentrate more on the officers than the men. And is more on the actions of the battalion than their composition.

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Patrick ODwyer

I think he had a personal interest in the 1st.

'tends to concentrate more on the officers than the men' - tytpical of most regimental histories then!

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corisande

As my interest is in Casements Irish Brigade, most regimental histories tend to gloss over prisoners of war in general, and those that joined the Irish Brigade in particular.

There is a mention though in an appendix to the ones that joined the Irish Brigade, but really does no more than give their service numbers.

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Patrick ODwyer

I wonder if you went through the register of Courts Martial if you would find these men? Did the army just forget about their actions after the war or was it followed up?

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corisande

Basically most were "forgotten" to the extent that they just came back in, got their pension and left.

Their records, where they exist, rarely show any disciplinary action. Even Keogh, the Sgt Major, got his medals, even had a replacement Star reissued.

I don't think the British Army had the stamina/stomach, call it what you like, to do anything about them.

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Patrick ODwyer

On the 1911 census for a relative's Irish Unit (CR); his page shows 25 men

19 Irish (all now in the Republic); 5 men from London and what I think is a man from Lanarkshire, Scotland. Interestingly no religions given.

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ulsterlad2

Is the quote by Father Gill in the 1st Battalion book as well?

It's def in the 2nd Bn book. He mentions the brigade having 1200 Catholics and the 2nd bn being 70% so.

I'd say that all the battalions were mixed to some extent. I'd a relative in the 2nd Bn who then got moved to

the 7th Bn were he was killed and he wasn't a Catholic and I know a bloke whose relative came from Donahagdee

, (a very Protestant town), and he was killed while with the RDF.

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Patrick ODwyer

Yes it is in the 1st Battlion book but about the 2nd Battalion. These regular battalions were always mixed and men from all faiths and parts of Ireland (and the rest of the UK) were in them, though I suppose some, like the Connaughts tended to have more Catholics but just because of their traditional recruiting areas (largely in the Southern counties). The regular army had no Battalions built on considerations that may have had a part in the recruiting of new army Battalions.

My wife's grandfather was a Catholic from the North and served in the 7th RIRifles. Although this unit had a large % of Catholics it was not exclusively so by any means and inherited some French speaking Jersey men to boot!

As you probably know there was a lot of movement between units in 1918. I am sure regular soldiers in particular would have served where sent.

I just read an interesting story of the 1st Life Guards (not an 'Irish' regi,ment) where a man from Wexford had to do chores on a Sunday. When he challenged this he was told something like 'as he was an ruddy Irishman, he was therefore a ruddy Catholic and could not get excused for Divine Worship' - when he pointed out he was in fact ' a ruddy Protestant' he was allowed to go in future.

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mhifle

Hi,

From the 1911 Census for the Connaught Rangers, Depot, Galway

Roman Catholic 154 (89%)

Church of England 16 (9%)

Jewish 2 (1%)

Methodist 1 (1%)

Total 172

Regards Mark

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corisande

Thanks Mark

Never thought of trying it that way. I should be able to use 1911 census for the others too

There is always more than one way of skinning the poor old cat!

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mhifle

Hi,

From the 1911 Census for the 2nd Battalion, Connaught Rangers, at the Curragh

NCO's and Other Ranks

Roman Catholic 505 (77.34%)

Church of England 131 (20.06%)

Methodist 16 (2.45%)

Presbyterian 1 (0.15%)

Total 653

Regards Mark

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corisande

So what, if any, is the significance of there being twice as many C of I in the 2nd battalion as in the Galway depot?

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Desmond7

Cannot help with question above, but a look through the various Presbyteries in 'The South' throws up much useful information. See below for example.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancest...aught.html#bina

I think overall it is fair to say that barring the obvious 'political' battalions in the 36th and 16th Divs (up to autumn 1916), one can state that regular battalions in Irish Regts were largely representative of denominational affiliations as per recruiting area.

The Royal Irish Rifles (I argue) is an exception. People are always referring to it as a 'Northern' regt but the Rifles ALWAYS had a very strong link to Dublin and recruited well in that city and its environs.

Thus Lucy's comment (from memory) of ' .. the Macs and the O's and the hardy Shankhill boys ..' (is that right?)

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corisande

Interesting that link

Not many Connaught Presbyterians seemed to join Irish Regiments!

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Desmond7

And (sadly but not surprisingly given the old attitudes) you will find a large number of Presbyterians in other parts of 'The South' gravitating towards Ulster Div units ... just as 6th Connaughts (for example) attracted large recruitment from northern Catholics.

As you will see, a swift root around Eddies extracts throws up even more questions!

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mhifle
So what, if any, is the significance of there being twice as many C of I in the 2nd battalion as in the Galway depot?

Will the Regular Battalions get a higher number of none RC recruits due to taking recruits from all over the UK, while the Special Reserve will be very recruiting very locally.

I think there are alot of 3rd Battalion Special Reserve on the Depot Listing

Regards Mark

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mhifle

Hi,

From the 1911 Census for the 4th Battalion, Connaught NCO's and Other Ranks

Roman Catholic 124 (99.2%)

Church of England 1 (0.8%)

Total 125

Regards Mark

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