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Names of boys burned out of care home released


Irish Times, Mon, Feb 20, 2012

THE NAMES of Protestant orphan boys burnt out of their Connemara residential care home during the Civil War have been released for the first time. Many of them were believed to have been sent to Australia

After 90 years, a list has emerged containing the names of 21 of the boys who were briefly taken into care by Barnardo’s in London in October 1922. The list was found in the files of the children’s charity following an enquiry from The Irish Times .

The boys’ orphanage at Ballyconree, Clifden, Co Galway, was burnt down by anti-Treaty republican forces in July 1922 for allegedly teaching the boys to be “pro-British”.

The outrage received little coverage at the time. It was overshadowed by other momentous events convulsing a country in the midst of a Civil War sparked by conflicting attitudes to the Anglo-Irish Treaty which led to the creation of the Irish Free State.

The Royal Navy dispatched a gunboat to Galway to evacuate 33 boys and the staff to safety in London.

The boys, aged between five and 16 years, were first given shelter in a Salvation Army hostel in west London and were subsequently moved to a care home in Kensington, run by a Miss D’Arcy, at Nevern Road. Then, in October, 21st of the boys were taken into care – temporarily – by Barnardo’s.

During the summer of 1922, an appeal to assist the orphans was published in the Times of London and an unknown benefactor offered to pay their passage to Australia.

Contemporary media accounts record that 23 Irish boys, accompanied by a matron, Miss White, sailed from England on November 9th aboard the steam-ship Euripides bound for Sydney. Upon arrival in Australia some of the boys were sent to a residential care facility, the Burnside Homes at Parramatta; others were assigned to farming families and fostered.

Last month, an Irish Times reader in Australia, Elaine White (née Elaine Patricia Millar) told the paper that her late father,Walter Horace Millar “was one of the Clifden orphans who were sent to Australia”.

Aged 13, he was assigned to a family who ran a sheep station in Queensland and later joined the Royal Australian air force. He died in 1952. A subsequent search of the Census of Ireland, 1911, revealed that Walter Horace Millar was, in fact, a Dubliner. In 1911, he was recorded as being a “nurse child” living in a one-room tenement in Clarendon Street with Mary Hogan, a Church of Ireland nurse, and her daughter. It is not known how or why he was transferred to the orphanage in Connemara. The fate of the other boys who sailed to Australia with him – and of those who stayed behind in London – remains unknown.

Meanwhile, the fate of the inmates of the Protestant girls’ orphanage at Clifden is also unknown. Although their facility – in a building now housing the luxury Abbeyglen Castle Hotel – was not attacked, the British authorities decided to also evacuate the girls and the staff for their own safety.

According to the transcript of a House of Lords debate in 1922, “On July 6 two of His Majesty’s ships were sent to Clifden by Admiralty instructions to secure the removal of the girl orphans and the staff, and to bring them to Devonport. Accommodation has been secured in that town through the courtesy of the trustees of the Lady Rogers Charity.”

No records have come to light with a list of the 25 girls’ names – nor is there any available information about their subsequent lives in Devonport or elsewhere.

Of the 33 boys, the only list found, to date, is the Barnardo’s list of 21 names. It is likely – though not certain – that all of these ended up in Australia.


THE FOLLOWING is a list of names of Connemara Protestant orphan boys evacuated to London during the Civil War in 1922.

Most, if not all, are likely to have been shipped to Australia later that year. The list contains the names of 21 boys. But, in all, 33 boys were evacuated from Connemara. The fate of the 12 unnamed boys is unknown.

ALFRED Michael (aged 16)

McNERLIN John (14)

DUNN Joseph (15 and a half)

DIXON William (14)

RIORDAN Jack (15)

ANDERSON Jack (15)

ANDERSON Willie (12)

ANDERSON Thomas (9)

METCALFE John (10)

METCALFE Thomas (13)

METCALFE Ferdinand (9)

MORGAN Richard (13)

MORGAN John (12)

MORGAN Godfrey (8)

MILLAR Walter (13)

McMURRAY Thomas (10)

LONGMORE John (10)

MILLAR William (11)

HAMILTON Frank (7)

FARRELL Albert (10)

SHAW Samuel (10)

© 2012 The Irish Times

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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