08 Aug 2022

Memorial Mass and talk for fallen Tipperary soldier on Friday

Memorial Mass and talk for fallen Tipperary soldier on Friday

The Costello Family Photo 1920/1921 (Full details below).

A memorial Mass to remember local soldier Michael Costello, originally from Clonaspoe, will take place in the Church of the Assumption, Knockavilla, this Friday July 22 at 7,30pm.
After Mass refreshments will be served in the Community Hall, where information about his life and death will be shared by friends and relatives of Michael.
This event is organised by friends and family of Michael Costello, and all are invited to come along.

Costello Family Photo 1920/1921
Back Row: Left to Right: Michael O’Carroll, Jim Fogarty, Thomas Costello, Edmond Cosstello, Johnny
Costello, Willie Costello, Michael Costello
Middle Row: Left to Right: Ellen O’Carroll (Costello), Sarah Costello, Katie Costello, Josie Costello
Front Row: Left to Right: Maggie Fogarty (Costello), Helena Costello (O’Brien),
Katie Costello (Lewis), Mai Costello, Tommy Costello
Extreme Front: Paddy Costello and Nora Costello
Babies: Nellie Fogarty and Tommy Costello

One hundred years ago on July 20th 1922, Michael Costello of Clonaspoe, Dundrum lost his life in the Infirmary Hospital, Waterford having succumbed to wounds inflicted on him on July 18th at Ferrybank when the National Army advanced on Waterford. He was a Free State soldier  Service No. 55351 (also 192) A Coy, Kilkenny Barracks under the command of Colonel Commandent John T. Prout, a native of Dundrum. 

John Prout was born in 1880 in Dundrum but emigrated to the United States & enlisted with the United States 69th Infantry Regiment. He spent some months attached to the French command & was awarded the Croix de Guerre. After the war he returned to Ireland and joined the Irish Republican Army, serving as a Training & Intelligence Officer to the Third Tipperary Brigade, based at Galtee Castle. When the split came over the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922 he sided with the Treaty and subsequently joined the National Army, where he was given the rank of Commandant General and command of the South-East, based in Kilkenny. In 1923 he organised a number of successful operations which helped to bring the Civil War to an end. He returned to America and settled in New York. He died in 1969 and is buried in Vermont. (Taken from “Tipperary People of Great Note” by Martin Quinn).

In all probability a friendship developed between John Prout and Michael Costello, both being from the same area, leading to a job offer as a Private in the National Army which Michael accepted so as to earn money for his parents as his father did not have consistent work due to ill-health. Michael had not been involved in the War of Independence.

The following is an excerpt taken from James Langton’s book “ The Forgotten Fallen-National Army soldiers who died during the Irish Civil War”:  “Prior to the National Army advance on Waterford, Private Costello had taken part in several engagements at The Four Courts in Dublin and in Kilkenny.

In a letter written by his father Thomas Costello which was addressed to the Secretary of the Provisional Government and dated 11/9/1922, he expressed the pride that many but not all parents had in relation to the choices their sons had made on either side of the Treaty divide when he wrote:

“While I grieve his loss, I do not judge his young life for the cause to which he was devoted. Nor did I seek to prevent him when he first indicated his desire to join the National forces. Rather, I was the provider for the spirit that prompted him to it, for I felt he was compelled to take this cause by a high and sacred sense of duty”.

Michael Costello 1897-1922

The account in The Irish Independent of Thursday July 20th 1922 is as follows:

“ An advance was made on Waterford on Tuesday by Co. Commandant Prout O.C Kilkenny. A column under his command left Kilkenny in the morning, reaching the outskirts of Waterford shortly after 6pm. Considerable road obstructions in the shape of fallen trees, demolished railway bridges & road trenches were encountered but an advance party of engineers quickly cleared these away.

The column which was accompanied by an 18-pounder gun reached Kilmacow shortly before 1 o’ clock and a halt of a couple of hours was made. The party split into three sections and advanced on the city from different points. They joined forces on the heights overlooking the city at Ferrybank & one section advancing  across the top of the hill were fired on with Thompson guns from posts at each end of the city. Volunteer Costello, a native of Dundrum , Co Tipperary, being wounded in the shoulder.”

The Munster Express dated 22/7/1922 gives this account:

“Under the command of Colonel Commandant Prout and Commandants Heaslip and Paul (a native of Waterford) the Free State troops were enabled to advance on Waterford by the capture of Thurles and the consequent clearing of a very considerable area of country in that neighbourhood. Col. Prout and his men left their base at Kilkenny accompanied by motor & horse transport and bringing with them an 18 pounder field artillery gun.

Their advance was hampered and delayed by extensive blocking of roads and the blowing up of bridges between Waterford and Kilkenny. These obstacles were negotiated without any great difficulty and at about 6.50pm the certainty of the Free State troops having arrived was verified by a small advance party of them being observed on the brow of the hill over Sallypark, and then for the first time the citizens were startled by the loud and brisk report of machine – gun and rifle fire directed by the Republican forces from their positions in the city. As a result of this firing, Volunteer Costello, one of the Free Staters was seen to fall wounded and he died on Thursday in the Infirmary. The Free State troops posted along the rook replied to the fire and from 7pm until after 10pm there was occasional sniping across the river.”

The Tipperary Star of July 29, 1922 under “Thurles Tidings” has a very poignant account of Michael Costello’s funeral, though there are some inaccuracies as it states that he was an only son which was not the case as he had five brothers( more family details later):

“On last Saturday night the remains of Volunteer Costello, Dundrum, arrived at 10 o’clock in Thurles by motor from Waterford and were placed in the mortuary chapel of the Cathedral. Deceased who was a gallant soldier was wounded the previous Tuesday in an attack in the city of Waterford and died on Thursday. He was an only son and was barely 25 years old.

On Sunday his heartbroken parents & sisters arrived in Thurles overwhelmed with grief at the great and irreparable loss they have sustained. After last Mass the remains which were accorded military honours, were removed to Dundrum for interment. A large body of National soldiers with arms reversed marched in single file by either side of the hearse which was preceded by Very Rev. Canon M.K. Ryan. The coffin was covered with the Tricolour and bore several beautiful wreaths. As the mournful procession wended its way towards the native place of the deceased soldier, it grew in proportions and at the graveyard was of immense size, the countryside for miles around having paid a last parting tribute to the memory of a brave man. Over the grave three volleys were fired and the Last Post sounded.”

After extensive research I have been unable to obtain a Death Certificate for Michael Costello or to ascertain where he was buried.

In her application to the Army Pensions Board in December 1923, Mrs Helena Costello, Michael’s mother stated that she had failed to obtain a Death Certificate for her son nor could she ascertain where his death was registered. This application was witnessed by Edward Cussen, Head Teacher of Knockavilla National School and dated 10th December 1923. In April 1923 an award of payment of fourteen shillings per week was granted, pending the setting up of the Pensions Board. This was termed Dependents’ Allowance. His File Number was 2D33.

Reunion Photograph August 26, 1995
Families of the original Costello family from Tipperary and United States, the
Tipperary families being Costellos, O’ Carrolls, Delaneys and Fogartys.

 The Civic Guard Report states that 

“ the applicant is the mother to Michael Costello, deceased, the wife of a farm labourer, residing at Clonaspoe, Dundrum. As this woman’s husband is in delicate health and not fit for all kinds of labouring work, she was almost wholly dependent on her son Michael. At the present they are in poor circumstances, and there is a young family of three boys and one girl to bring up. The husband can only work casually, & his earnings are not consistent. The deceased Michael Costello, prior to his joining the Army was constantly employed by farmers, and his earnings averaged about £25 per year. I am informed that he gave his mother £17 a year of this money”.

On March 12, 1924 under the Army Pensions Act 1923, a gratuity of £100 was paid to Mrs Helena Costello, Clonaspoe, Dundrum, Co. Tipperary. The previous payment of fourteen shillings per week was terminated following receipt of the once-off gratuity payment. £100 was the maximum allowable under the Army Pensions Act 1923. Helena Costello was extremely disappointed with this gratuity and corresponded regularly with the Army Pensions Board right up to 1927, making further claims but to no avail.  The reason for her persistence was that they needed a new dwelling house as the one in Clonaspoe was no longer fit for purpose and her son Michael had promised to assist her in building a new one on a plot of land(three statute acres) which had been allotted to his father at Blackbridge, Dundrum upon the division of the de Montalt Estate.

As well as dealing with the irreplaceable loss of a son, Helena and Thomas Costello had also lost out on the income from their son, an income which would have helped them build a new house, but through scrimping, saving & the help of good neighbours, they realised their dream and moved from the Bog Road to River View Cottage, Blackbridge, Dundrum in 1927.

Michael Costello’s final resting place has remained a mystery and it is by pure assumption that I consider it to be in Toem graveyard as both of his parents were subsequently buried there in 1947 and 1948 respectively. Other Costello family members continued to be buried there up to the 1960’s.

Michael Costello was born on March 15th 1897 at Clonaspoe, Dundrum to Thomas and Helena Costello(nee O’ Brien). He was their fourth child, having two older sisters, Maggie (1893) and Ellen (1896, my grandmother). He had one older brother, Edmond (1894). Nine more siblings followed, Sarah (1899), John (1900), William (1902), Katie (1904), Johanna (1905), Mai (1907), Thomas (1908), Patrick (1909) and Nora (1911). He was baptised in the Church of the Assumption, Knockavilla where one of his sponsors was John Brien. He attended Knockavilla National School. After leaving school he spent most of his time working with farmers in the locality.

The 1911 Census states his occupation as a Farm Labourer and he continued as such until he joined the Free State Army in 1922 which I assume to have been for the purpose of earning a decent wage and regular income with which to help his parents. His name does not appear on any Volunteer list during the War of Independence.

Prior to Michael’s death, Maggie, Edmond and Ellen had left home to marry, Maggie to Jim Fogarty, Edmond to Katie Lewis and Ellen to Michael O’Carroll, while Sarah, Johanna (Josie) and Mai had emigrated to the United States. In March 1924, the children included in the gratuity allowance were John, Thomas, Patrick and Nora. William and Katie had obviously left home by this time also as they are not mentioned in the Pension Application. Later they both married, Willie to Katie Lonergan & Katie to Johnny O’Dowd.

Some time after John and Thomas joined their sisters in America where they all made new lives for themselves and raised families there. Sarah and Josie came on holidays a few times, Thomas came back once, while May & Johnny never returned.  Paddy continued to live at the Blackbridge until his death in 1966. The youngest of the family, Nora married Jack Delaney and she passed to her eternal reward in 1992.  Paddy’s wife Margaret (Ciss) died in 1999, the final link to the original family of thirteen. A large family scattered around Co. Tipperary and New York. 

In 1995 quite a number of family members of the five who went to America came to Ireland to meet their Irish cousins & a reunion took place at the Golden Vale, Dundrum on August 26th.

It seems that talking about Michael and the part he played in the Civil War was a taboo subject among his siblings as he was rarely spoken about by them. In fact many grandnieces and grandnephews had never heard mention of him at all. I was fortunate to have a little basic knowledge of him as his sister Ellen O’Carroll (nee Costello), my grandmother lived with us and she occasionally mentioned him. My abiding memory is a large framed photograph of him in our house. The glass was damaged during decorating of a room one time. My grandmother was not impressed and from that day to this I don’t know what happened to that photograph.

Michael Costello was most definitely a Forgotten Soldier. Apart from family members not having heard of him, neither did any of the present people of Knockavilla, though some remembered Paddy Costello living at the Blackbridge and working in the area.

It is right and fitting that he should be remembered and prayed for on this the centenary of his death. There will be a Memorial Mass in the Church of the Assumption, Knockavilla on this Friday, July 22 at 7.30pm. All are welcome to attend so please spread the word among all the relations out there, of which there are many.

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