Pte Thomas Conlon

Co. Meath

thomas conlon, duleek. 


Thomas was born on the 4th of June, 1896, and was baptised the following day.   He was born and raised in Larrix Street, Duleek, Co. Meath. His father was a man named Richard Conlon (born 19/11/1863), a fruit farmer.  

His mother was called Brigid McCabe (born 31/12/1865, or possibly 1/1/1866). Brigid had three children with Richard: Bartholomew (1892), Margaret (1894), and Thomas. It seems Bartholomew died during childhood, or was fostered away, and tragically, Brigid herself died giving birth to Thomas, or soon after. She was roughly thirty years of age. In the 1901 census, Richard is noted as a widower. Thomas' sister Margaret is believed to have become a nun. 

Richard re-married, eventually, to another Brigid, whose maiden name was Donnelly. Together, they had a number of children, Thomas' step-siblings. They included Richard (1907), James (1908), Matthew (1910), Patrick (1912), Catherine (1914), Peter (1915), Rosanne (1917), and Eva Mary (1922). Not all of these children would survive to adulthood. Most interestingly, Richard and Brigid had a son in 1919, three years after Thomas died in France, whom they also named Thomas. The passing on of a name from a deceased sibling to another was a tradition of the time.  

To the right, we see the Conlon family's home in Larrix Street as it stands in Duleek today. They occupied a Class 2 house (stone construction, slated roof, and five rooms), as described in the 1911 census. 

Following his mother's death, Thomas lived at home with his father and his new step-mother. By the time of the 1911 census, he was fourteen years old, living at home with his stepmother, who was only fourteen years older than he was, as well as three small brothers, ranging in age from nine months to four years old. More and more step-siblings would enter the household over the next few years, before his enlistment with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. 

It would appear that the Conlon family were relatively well-off, owning roughly twenty acres of land in total, around Larrix Street, divided up into small fields of two or three acres each. They were fruit farmers, growing mostly raspberries, strawberries, and apples which were used for jam-making. Richard was also one of the first people to bring milk delivery to Duleek, and did so with a small wooden cart from an outlying farm.  

The Conlon family had a well on their property and this well was used by many people in the vicinity. Brigid was known to keep geese in the back garden, which posed a problem to the local schoolboys who would have had to run past in order to hang about the well, as was the fashion, much to Brigid's annoyance.  

Thomas attended primary school in Duleek. Both Richard and his second wife were at least partly educated: they could both read and write. 

To the left, we see Thomas' primary school in Duleek, now the parish centre. 

The entire family was Catholic. Thomas was baptised, as were his siblings, in the Catholic church in Duleek.  

To the right, we see the Catholic church in Duleek, and the Conlon family's gravestone, located in the old graveyard in Duleek. 

Due to their comfortable status, it can be assumed that Thomas did not enlist out of material need. Whether he left out of boredom, seeking adventure, or out of discomfort at home, we do not know. It was customary in the area at the time to enlist out of a sheer lack of anything else to do in and around Duleek: little work, little goings on. Two other boys from Larrix Street, named Heaney, enlisted too.  

During my research, I heard of a story that occurred in Duleek during the First World War. A passer-by, returning home, observed a soldier sitting outside of a house in Larrix Street late at night.  It was not until the following morning that a telegram arrived at the same house, informing the family that their son, who had gone to war, had been killed. Whether or not this story applies to Thomas or one of the Heaney brothers I could not ascertain.

The Huguenots came from France in the late 17th and early 18th centuries to Ireland, bringing the traditions of fruit farming and basket weaving to Duleek and the surrounding areas. Ironically, Thomas would travel to France, and would die there, at only twenty years of age.  


Thomas enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in Drogheda, Co. Louth. He served as a private in the 9th Battalion, which were attached to the 48th Brigade in 16th (Irish) Division. His service number was 23914.  

Following training, Thomas shipped out from Dublin in August 1916, at twenty years of age, only five months after the Easter Rising ravaged the city. I was lucky enough to attain a digital copy of Thomas' will, written in his own hand, in which he leaves all of his earthly possessions to his father, Richard, at home in Duleek. A soldier would have been requested to fill out his will shortly before dispatch. The will is signed the 18th of August, implying Thomas left a day or two later. The war diary for the 9th Battalion informs us that a large draft of men (105 men) joined the battalion in France on the 25th of August- this was probably when Thomas arrived in France.  

Above, to the left, we see the page from the 9th Battalion's war diary for the day of Thomas' death. To the right, we see Thomas' will, written in his own hand, leaving his possessions to his father, Richard. 

The war diary gives us quite a detailed account of the battalion's position and movement at the time Thomas arrived. They were stationed near Guillemont, in the Somme region of northern France, and were involved in the Battle of Guillemont, which took place from the 3rd to the 6th of September. The war diary describes the 9th Battalion's movement through various farms in the French countryside, and then to the Sherwood and Fagan Trenches, in front of Trones Wood. They were under heavy shelling from the enemy, and it can be assumed that the battle saw many casualties amongst the battalion. They were ordered forward towards the Sunken Road east of Guillemont on the 5th, though their guide led them astray, due to their difficulty seeing the railway lines they were following in the dark, and they were forced to return to the Sherwood trenches once again. Early on the morning of the 6th, the battalion advanced in Guillemont, blanketed by fog, in which they found it difficult to differentiate between roads and shelled houses in stark countryside. The shelling continued, and several of the men in charge, Captains and Lieutenants, were severely injured. A and B companies moved to extend their hold on Guillemont due north, while C company went to give support to the Irish Rifles, who were having a rough time elsewhere. On the 6th, these three companies were relieved by the Connaught Rangers and returned to the Sherwood and Fagan Trenches; D company went to aid the 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers on the Sunken Road. However, by the end of this day, the 6th of September 1916, Thomas Conlon had been killed, most likely a victim of the shellfire that tormented the battalion throughout their advance on Guillemont. 

For his service, Thomas was posthumously awarded two medals: a Victory Medal, and a British War Medal. Richard would have received these at home in Duleek, now bereaved of his twenty year old son, lost in the battlefields of France, just as many others were, both from Meath and across the island of Ireland.  

Thomas is buried at XIV. E. 4., Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont, France, having spent only twelve days in active service in France. 

He was one of the 4,858 men from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who lost their lives in the Great War. 

Rest in peace. 


In regards to his family at home, Thomas' step-siblings grew up, and scattered throughout the country. However, several remained in Duleek, including Joseph, who took residence in the family home, and Matthew, who occupied his father's original homestead outside of Duleek in Bellewstown, before returning to the village itself.  

Thomas' half-brother Thomas, born after his death in France, went on to become a butcher in Cavan. This man's son, Damien Byrne, resides in Duleek.   

Thomas' name is inscribed in the war memorial in Drogheda. 


I've always enjoyed history as a subject in school, and when I found out that I had been lucky enough to receive a place on this trip, I was delighted to have the opportunity to engage with history on such a personal level.

After initially being given the name of my soldier, I went about finding what I could online, through the various records available on the internet. Thomas' family turned up, at first, in the 1901 census, and then again in the 1911. As well as this, I found various military records: death, burial, gravestone, etc. From here, I could piece together some loose details about his childhood, and how he died in France. 

To the left, we see the Conlon family's census form from 1911, detailing occupants of the house, family members, etc. 

Several days were spent conducting footwork in the village of Duleek itself (many thanks to my father for driving me through erratic weather, including a freak blizzard). Chance encounters with some very kind people in the village sent us from door to door, asking about the Conlon family, and the possibility of living relatives in the area. I was fortunate enough to discover the Conlon family plot in the old graveyard in the village, where upon I learned of the extensiveness of Thomas' family. An afternoon was spent in the parish registry office, where I sieved through the available birth records, and compiled a list of all of Thomas' relatives, and mapped out a rough family tree. 

By chance, my research aligned with the arrival of the Gallipoli 100 Year Commemoration weekend nearby in Kells. There, I came into contact with Gordon Power, who generously explained the various military records and files that could be found, and what exactly they could tell us about Thomas' experience in France. He scouted out surviving documents, aided and encouraged me to look further, and dive into the archives myself. I was shocked in finding Thomas' will, written in his own hand, and the war diary for his battalion, which details their movements up until the day he died.

At times it seemed that I was looking to no avail, until I came into the contact of Liz Lynch, a member of Duleek Heritage Group. Liz was an invaluable help in giving me a rounded perspective of Duleek at the time that Thomas was alive, and putting me in contact with his living relatives. She kindly lent me books, talked with me for hours on end, and led me throughout Duleek and its surroundings, to Thomas' father's homeplace, and the Conlon family home in the village. She also invited me to an evening with the Duleek Heritage Group, where I learned more about the Conlon family and their situation at the time that Thomas was alive. 

To the right, we see the home place of Thomas' father, Richard, located in Bellewstown, four miles outside of Duleek. 

Finally, I was introduced to Thomas' living relative in Duleek, Damien Byrne, who gave me a better perspective of the Conlon family, and what Thomas' life would have been like at home in Duleek before enlisting with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.