THE volunteers at the Kealkil Community Charity Shop have become overnight media darlings after they discovered two World War One medals in an old tweed jacket.
The medals, belonging to a Private Ryan of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, were found by shop volunteer and park keeper at Carrianass Castle, Steve Roffe.
‘It was an old tweed jacket, very worn out and I was going to place it on the pile with the other items that were beyond selling in the shop,’ Steve told The Southern Star.
‘Then I thought I felt something in the pocket and out came this clear plastic bag with the two medals inside.’
The medals, both of which are inscribed with Private Ryan’s name and his military number, immediately grabbed the imagination of Steve’s fellow volunteers and they decided to find out as much as they could, not only about the medals, but the story of Private Ryan as well.
‘We got onto the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, to Terri Kearney and Kevin Tomlinson,’ Ed Smith, treasurer at the Carrianass Castle Community Group said. ‘We’ve discovered, thanks to Kevin, that Private Ryan had been a volunteer who joined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers in the first year of the war, 1914.’
As the name suggests, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, or the ‘Munsters’ as they were known locally, recruited from across the southern counties and the regiment saw action firstly in India and then during the first World War, in Gallipoli, Palestine, and on the western front during the Battle of the Somme. When the war ended the ‘Munsters’ were disbanded with the other southern regiments in 1922, with the foundation of the state.
‘We’ve had other discoveries like this one over the last few years,’ Terri Kearney said. ‘We are working with a number of experts to get as much information. What’s very strange about the discovery of the medals is that they were found in someone’s pocket, not in a box or a tin where they would have been kept for safe keeping. These mean something special to someone who carried that about with them.’
The volunteers at the charity shop think that the bag containing the jacket was dropped off last October.
‘We discovered that Private Ryan, who possibly hailed from Co Tipperary, enlisted in the army in 1898 so we think he must have been in his early 30s when he volunteered for active service,’ Steve said. ‘He would definitely have seen service in Gallipoli and then on the western front at the Somme, and we also know that he survived the war, was demobbed (left the army) and then rejoined again. We also know that he was nominated to receive a bravery award, the Military Medal, but it was not awarded, for some reason.’
With a number of experts on the case, the Kealkil group hopes that it won’t be long before they have more information about Private Ryan.
‘We have enlisted the help of Jerry Conroy, curator at the World War Memorial Room at Camden Fort’s research centre,’ Steve continued. ‘We will also be sending all the information we have to the British military records service at Kew outside London, and from this we hope to learn more about Private Ryan and perhaps find out what happened to him after the war, or if he has any relatives that we could send the medals to.’
The Kealkil Charity Shop, part of the Carriganass Castle Community Group, has been open for just over three years.
‘We plan on holding an open day here on Saturday March 2nd for people to come along and see the medals, and perhaps bring some information about Private Ryan with them,’ Ed said.
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