Remembrance-Two Grandfathers And World War One

As a native of Liverpool, with Wexford roots from my maternal grandfather, I grew up with stories of the family farm back in Ferns, and stories of my grandfather, Henry Gahan, a Liverpool man, who was a veteran of the trenches of World War One.

As a member of the Royal Engineers, he would crawl out into no man’s land-that very dangerous space between the British and German trenches-to try and intercept German messages on their telephone lines. However, at the end of 1916, as a result of the wet conditions of the trenches, he became ill and was discharged from the army and returned to his job as a post office telegrapher in Liverpool.

A hundred years ago on 11 November 1918, he was on duty in Liverpool’s main post office, in his role as a telegraphist. He was responsible for receiving and sending messages via morse code-a series of dots and dashes-along radio lines, one of the main methods of electronic communications a century ago.

That Monday morning, at his desk, at 10.26 am he received the following message from London:

“Prime Minister Makes Following Announcement. Armistice Is Signed At Five O’Clock This Morning And Hostilities Are To Cease On All Fronts At Eleven Am Today”

So ended the First World War, the war it was hoped would be over by Christmas 1914 and the war it was hoped that would end all wars. The war claimed the lives of over sixteen million people.

I was telling this story to one of our  Irish Chaplaincy Seniors volunteers, Anne Harding, who told me the  story of her grandfather, Richard Evans, also a native of Liverpool, also with links to Wexford, this time Saltmills, where his wife was from, who died in the First World War and is buried in Fouquieres Churchyard Extension in Northern France.

In 1914, waiting to go to war Richard wrote these words in a letter to his wife Annie:

“My darling wife, Just a few lines hoping and trusting that, as the weather gets warmer, you will get well and be your dear old self again.

I am afraid dearie, you must be prepared to hear that I am going to France next week,without leave. Everyone in England has to go without leave.  I would give my life not to have to tell you this but God help me it must be done and you must face it bravely, as you have often faced trouble before and for our children’s sake.  You must forget me being out there and think of me still in England.  You can’t do me any good by worrying and if I know that my own little girl is quietly and calmly waiting for the day when I return I shall be contented, for I am coming back.  I feel that I shall before this year is out.  The war will be over and I will be united to you once more and forever more. Won’t that be grand?

Annie dear, promise me you won’t worry – the time will soon slip by.  I am going again to Holy Communion on Sunday and will offer it up for your health, so cheer up love and I will look forward to us being lovers once more. Heaps of love and kisses to your dear self and our sunny children.

From your loving and devoted Husband. Xxxxx

Xxxx  Xxx      I will send a wire at the last minute.”

My grandfather apparently never talked of his experiences of war, and it was only following his death, that his wartime diary came to light and what he had done. He finished his diary with the stark statement that volunteering for the army was “the worst days work I ever did”.

Anne’s grandfather Rifleman Richard Evans of the King’s Liverpool Regiment paid the ultimate price, laying down his life on active service.

It is poignant indeed to think that a century later, two of us here at the Irish Chaplaincy, both have Irish Liverpool grandfathers with Wexford links who were both caught up in that shattering conflict.

This Remembrance time, let us remember all who have suffered and still suffer as a result of war and renew our efforts for a peaceful world with justice for all.

The World is a Hankerchief

My wife and I were staying with friends in Liverpool and Paul was telling us about his voluntary work as Chair of the St Bart’s & Friends Community Sponsorship Scheme, by which careful preparations are made for the welcome of a Syrian refugee family into a parish. Paul mentioned the excellent input the group had received from Sean Ryan of Caritas Salford who is the national lead for the scheme. “Sean the musician?” I asked. It was indeed the same Sean that I had been in Rome with a few weeks ago for the Caritas Leadership Week and with whom I’d enjoyed a couple of great sessions of music. Continue Reading

A rewarding volunteer task

Matthew came to see us last week.  He spent a whole day in our office.  We had quite a bit for him to do because another regular volunteer was taking a well deserved break.  Among other things, Matthew prepared 50 Information Packs for Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas.  Each pack needs envelopes which are pre-stamped.  These are sent out to prisoners who are new to us.  They contain a large colourful map of Ireland and a poster with Irish pictures to brighten up a prison cell.  Our latest ICPO Newsletter

We have contact information for our services and other organisations which people may need.  Pur packs tell people what we can and cannot do for them.  We have over 250 new people every single year so our Information Packs are a very important resources.  If they are not ready and waiting then our extremely busy caseworkers have to stop what they are best at, go to print and prepare the information packs themselves.  It is extremely frustrating and time consuming to have to do this.  So we’ve made it a challenging but rewarding task for our volunteers and despite it being a very boring tedious job, Matthew does it more cheerfully than most.

He makes sure to enjoy a chat and some music to lighten the load.  The time saved by a volunteer doing this means our caseworkers ensure that the continuous requests and letters which need responses get done efficiently and with the least interruption possible.

Matthew loves working with us as a volunteer and we love Matthew’s work because it allows us to do our jobs better.  Thank you Matthew!  Go raibh míle maith agat!

Travellers in Prison Newsletter September 2018

Our latest Traveller in Prison Newsletter TIPN September 2018

Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month 2018

Celebrations for Gypsy Roma Traveller History month went on around many prisons in England and Wales. The Traveller Equality Project attended events in HMP Thameside, HMP Highdown, HMP Chelmsford and HMP Erelstoke to name a few. All events were well attended and celebrations included
traditional meals, music, story telling and socialising. GRTHM coincides with Appleby Fair and this too was a fantastic event attended by many.

Appleby-in-Westmorland is a market town in Cumbria, north-west England and has been host to the fair since 1775. The picture above displays some of the horses that were at the fair this year. The fair was well received in the media this year, with many national newspapers reporting on the positives of the fair, the beauty of the horses and the fun had by all.  If you celebrated Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month in your prison, please get in touch and let us know what you did.

Traveller Equality


Caritas at Villa Palazzola

I get the chance through my work to meet a lot of great people, in some interesting places (from prisons to palaces), and the Caritas Leadership Week near Rome did not disappoint. We were a group of fifty, representing a range of Catholic charities and dioceses in England and Wales, staying at Villa Palazzola, a 13th century Cistercian monastery perched above a volcanic lake, Lago di Albano, and according to the website ‘Rome’s best kept secret’. Continue Reading

Emigrants Walk – Mayo

We are delighted to announce a fundraising walk in aid of our Elderly Campaign, which takes place on Saturday October 6th 2018 in Mayo, Ireland.

Starting at 11 am from the Trailhead in Mulranny to Newport.

All are welcome to join us.  Those taking part will include Alan Brogan (former Dublin Gaelic footballer) who is Ambassador for this campaign to raise funds to support elderly Irish living alone in London.


Campaign details are available here.

DONATE.  Choose Elderly Campaign from the list.  Don’t forget to subscribe also to our Newsletter.

For further details please contact or 0207 482 5528