Northern Ireland news

Story of Donegal priest Fr James McRory told in Coleraine First World War book

Archie Kelly's name on the Coleraine war memorial. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE story of a Donegal priest severely injured in the First World War is told in a new book being launched in Coleraine.

Fr James McRory, from Inishowen, was one of three priests who served in Co Derry to be appointed chaplains during the Great War.

A talented footballer, he was educated at St Columb’s College in Derry before his ordination in Rome in 1909.

With fellow Donegal man Fr Hugh Smith from Moville and Fr William Device, a native of Castlederg, Co Tyrone, he served at the front from 1914 until he was severely injured in 1917.

Fr McRory’s story is recounted in The Coleraine People and The Great War by Ronnie Gamble and William Wilsdon, which will be launched at an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of the Somme, November 19.

All three priests, who were given the rank of captain, returned to serve the Church in Coleraine following the war.

Fr McRory was born at Dunree, north of Buncrana, in 1881. On one occasion he spent a full six weeks in the trenches “unable to put his nose out” because of the intensity of the fighting.

He was wounded in the head and arm at the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917 and after spending some time in a Liverpool hospital, he came to Coleraine town on leave.

The exhibition “Somme 100” has been organised by First Coleraine Presbyterian Church to mark the end of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Among the many poignant letters featured will be one written by an officer to confirm the death of Coleraine teenager Archie Kelly.

From James Street in Coleraine, he was just 15 years old when he was killed on the first day of the Somme.

“Clinging to the hope that there had been a mistake and that Archie might still be alive, Mrs Kelly knitted socks for him and met trains arriving at Coleraine station, longing for him to turn up,” a spokesman for the organisers said.

The Somme 100 exhibition takes place at the church halls in Abbey Street, Coleraine from Tuesday to Saturday November 15-19.

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