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First pages

In ancient Ireland before and at the time of Patrick (432 AD), until centuries later, many Gaelic Irish had but one name, many of which were nicknames derived within the extended family called a FINE. Many FINEs made up a SEPT (several extended families), and many SEPTs made up a Clan. Later, many names had their origins from the names of fathers or ancestors; some from the names of places or occupations.

 

 

One was known by his or her one name, but identified further as a member of a Fine, Sept or Clan by reference to a father, or grandfather, or renowned predecessor. It wasn’t until the year 1000 AD, that the Ardri (High King) Brian Boru, (Boru- the cow tribute) introduced ‘Mac’ before the use of a father’s name, and ‘O’ before use of a grandfather’s or ancestor’s name. From Brian, came O’Brian, O’Brien.

 

 

With the later legislative and administrative domination of all of Ireland by England, particularly when English speaking bureaucrats recorded Irish names, they spelled them as they heard them. With the Cromwellian Settlement and the Plantation of Ulster in 1601 AD, many Irish had to drop the Mac or ‘O’, from their names.

 

 

 

 

Cambro-Norman invaders of Ireland in 1169 AD were not Gaelic Irish. Most of the invading infantry were Celts from Wales. Many of the Knights were Norman descendants or of Norman-Welsh descent. All became as Irish as the Irish over the subsequent centuries: Barry, Burke, Costello, Cusack, Cogan, Dillon, Fitzgerald, Keating, Nagle, Power, Roche, Sarfield, Purcell, Walsh.

 

 

 

 

Walsh (Welsh, Wales) meant a Celtic ‘foreigner’ (Vealch) to Anglo-Saxons. In Ireland, either Walsh, Bret, Bran, Brannagh or Bretnach (Briton-born Celt) was used to identify Ireland’s invaders from Pembroke, Wales.

PROLOGUE

 

Over a period of seven and a half centuries, Ireland was invaded, conquered and planted with foreign settlers. It never became a melting pot of ethnic groups or religions, except for the Welsh Infantry led by Norman Knight John de Courcy into Ulidia, now Counties Antrim and Down. The Normans and Welsh became as Irish as the Irish.

In 1914, five men, Max Orr, Johnny Donaldson, Davy Sample, Tommy Peebles and Michael Connolly, descendants of invaders, conquerors or planters to Ireland became soldiers, calling themselves ‘United Irishmen’ in military service to Britain during the Great War.

Four of the five were to march at the creation of the new state of Northern Ireland on 1 July 1922. A reunion in Country Antrim, the North of Ireland, was organized for the five, and one of them was to be honored as a hero.

Their reunion would lead to life or death decisions.


Max Orr

 

A forefather of the American Orrs, great grandfather Blaine, was from Ballymoney, Country Antrim. He had been numbered among the United Irishmen, Papists and Presbyterian dissenters to the Church of Ireland, united against taxes, tithes and rents fostered by the English Viceroy’s government of Ireland from Dublin Castle. In 1797, a young farmer named William Orr was hanged for administering the oath of the United Irishmen to two soldiers. Before his death on the gallows William had written: ‘I love my country, and have felt the wrongs done to it’s inhabitants, the injuries of the persecuted Catholics and Dissenters under the weight of tithes, rents and taxes by Clerics of the Church of England, Landlords and the English Government. We united to bring about the most orderly and least sanguinary means of procuring redress - and if uniting means I am a felon, it is not otherwise.’

The government declared martial law in 1798. The vigor of its soldiers in confiscations, rapes and destruction of property transcended the limits of ordinary law. Rebellion broke out, just as it had earlier in America over taxes by the British. On 6 June the United Irishmen in County Antrim were called to arms. The next day they attacked Antrim town led by Henry Jay McCracken. Blaine Orr was with Dissenters and Catholics. Few of those three thousand had muskets, only pikes. The fighting was sharp, but the United Irishmen were driven back by cannon and musket fire. When there wasn't a rising of the people in County Antrim, likely because so many had taken government bribes to inform, there was no chance of success, the government knowing every plan of its enemy. On 11 June, McCracken's remnants surrendered, but Blaine Orr, not having an urge to be hanged, went on the run. He sailed to France, and from France to America. He worked his way into America's North West Territory, became a United States Rifleman in Captain Snelling's Company and fought under the command of Governor William H. Harrison in November 1811 at the battle against the Prophet's town on the Tippecanoe River. Orr’s military service had taken him around the territory. He and other veterans, at the point of muskets, bought Potawatomi Indian land for next to nothing, renamed it Crooks County, built cabins, married, raised children and crops. Tales of Blaine’s heroics in Antrim County during that 1798 Rebellion were lionized by generation after generation of Orrs, no less his participation in the 1811 defeat of the Indians at Tippecanoe.

Max Orr had bought into Blaine’s Ulster United Irishmen story.

He volunteered in 1914 to serve along side Ulstermen in the British Army.

Post the Great War and College, he worked for the Crooks County Newspaper.


Johnny Donaldson

 

Adventurer George Donaldson had settled in Larne, Ireland in 1651 after riding the crest of Lord Oliver Cromwell's subjugation of the Irish. George had fought the Lord's battles to overthrow the tyranny of popery, unfolding God’s great purpose for Ulster. George’s descendants had been in Londonderry the day the apprentice boys had closed the gates of the town to James II. They were in the field with William of Orange. Donaldsons remained loyal to the Church of Ireland. Very few were numbered among the United Irishmen of 1798. The lesser among them had become middlemen, the brightest became managers of great properties, Landlords. They collected more than a living from tenants’ rents.

Johnny volunteered in 1914 to serve alongside Ulstermen in the British Army.

Post the Great War, he went to University. Presently, he controlled a great share of the grains of most Upper and Lower Ballyveely's fertile fields, the mill that refined grain. He had power over sustenance, and as such, was a member of the Orange Order, a zealous Loyalist to the Crown, a very subdued Unionist.


Davy Sample

 

Davy and sister Dorothy Sample, orphans of Josias and Helen, were descendants of Samuel of Cantire. He was attracted to Ballymoney from Scotland by the 1607 offer of Earl James Macdonnell to farm the Earl's Dunluce estates. Samuel had found a valley beautifully situated and romantically interspersed with woods and ponds. He had kept an eye and an ear on the religion and politics of Ballymoney, bending to ensure the retention of fine bottom land. His Presbyterian descendants did too. Non-conformists to the Church of Ireland, they, nevertheless, survived the terrorism of the Lord Lieutenants, the 1641 Irish rebellion, Cromwell of 1652, William and Mary, Queen Anne, participation in 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen and the 1800 Act of Union with Great Britain.

Before the Great War, Davy was numbered high among the players of football, even higher by spectators. Youth idolized him. Team mates idolized Dorothy.

Davy volunteered in 1914 to serve alongside Ulstermen in the British Army.

Post the Great War, Davy sold the bottom land and with Dorothy beside him, built a public house.


Tommy Peebles

 

The Peebles had been planters of some distinction. They had farmed lands of the first Earl of Antrim from 1625 until 1715 when Sir Randal had allegedly expressed his sympathy for the Jacobite cause in Scotland. Joining with forty-seven other freeholders, William Peebles had made accusations against the Earl's life and estates. When the King had found the accusations false, William lost his land. By 1720, the Peebles held not one rood of earth. William converted to the Church of Ireland. The wisdom of the conversion brought with it a multiplicity of temporal benefits to the Peebles over the next century and a half. Yet the Church, with its right of King Henry VIII to compel tithes from Papists and Presbyterians, failed to grow. It was a bitter blow to Enoch Peebles to witness his Church's disestablishment on 1 January 1871. Enoch's forebears had lost the land, he, his clerical and temporal benefits. His descendants turned Presbyterian, and looked to find work where ever they could. Peebles’ Ballymoney had been a center for United Irishmen, both Dissenters and Catholics. They had argued to Dublin Castle that three-fourths of the Irish people were without political rights and the remaining one-fourth completely helpless in the hands of an alien government; that the government of Ireland was being conducted by men whose first duty it was to represent another nation. Dissenters were Presbyterians long opposed to mandatory tithing and acceptance of the doctrines of the Church of Ireland, the state's Protestant religion. Presbyterians were considered Dissenters in 1798 by the British. Dissenters from the north worked to abolish the government's monopoly over large Borough owners who controlled parliamentary seats. Dissenters wanted democratic representation regardless of religion. The United Irishmen found several popular Presbyterian ministers joining its ranks for parliamentary reform; primarily abolishment of the existing system of British ascendancy, particularly the controlling influence of the English Executive over the Irish parliament. Whether by bribes or terror through the burning of houses, the government lessened not its control of parliament or of the people.

Tommy Peebles welcomed a call to arms by the King.

He volunteered in 1914 to serve alongside Ulstermen in the British Army.

Post the Great war, Tommy Peebles felt called as a Warder to lessen the burdens of offenders incarcerated by the British Government ruling over Ireland.

 


Mike Connolly

 

Mike Connolly, on his father’s side, a descendant of an ancient Irish sept, the O Coingheallaigh from County Galway of the family of the Ui Maine and, on his mother’s side, the Bran, Welsh invaders of the north of Ireland in 1177 lead by Norman Knight John de Courcy. The Welshmen occupied Ulidia, Counties Down and Antrim. De Courcy established mottes and baileys across his conquered lands, and, to hold the land, he encouraged his men to intermarry and settle down. De Courcy pointed out Irish women matched the beauty and spirit of the women of Wales, and were available. He favored marriage. Many weddings followed.

De Courcy was removed from Downpartick as the result of an intrigue by Hugh de Lacy. Henry II’s successor, King John of England, was aggrieved de Courcy called himself a prince, and in 1205, created Hugh de Lacy the Earl of Antrim. By 1210, de Lacy was ousted, and in 1221 King John created five bailiwicks, ending, in name only, de Courcy’s Welsh-Norman settlements.

The decades following, County Antrim was divided into stable Manor lands under Royal grants to de Burgo, de Mandeville, MacQuillan and subsequent Landlords.

The Connollys and Brans retained their lands in Antrim’s Upper Ballyveely, the Bran descendants becoming butchers, the Connolly, carpenters.

Mike grew tall, very strong, fast afoot and famous throughout the Catholic and wider Protestant communities for his feats on the hurling pitch. He was so mathematically inclined, schoolmaster Seamus Kenney advocated the lad attend University and become a scholar.

Mike volunteered in 1914 to serve alongside Ulstermen in the British Army.

Post the Great War, carpentry remained his trade, his war injuries curbed hurling.

CHAPTER 1

 

The telegram conveyed a request unlike any Editor Max Orr had ever received, an invitation to be honored for his heroic actions in combat on behalf of his mates serving in the Great War with the BEF, British Expeditionary Force, in 1914. After a parade, Max’s medal would be pinned on his chest on 1 July 1922 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

*

Max was Mid-West America born, educated in rural Crooks County High school that leaned more to bovine agriculture than reading and writing. He had a goat to help him keep the yard’s grass cut at home, as close as he came to farming. Bicycling was his way of life. The legs of the bicyclist caught the eye of basketball Coach Gull. On the court, coach called his leading rebounder ‘Roo’ after nabbing nineteen rebounds and nineteen points during the season’s championsip game. When interviewed by a Reporter from his father’s newspaper, Max attributed his leaping prowess to delivering on bike, the Crooks County News, every morning the years from sixth grade through High School, the time he grew to an inch short of six feet.

Heard in 1914 the heavy sounds of war the other side of the Atlantic, no matter Max’s father as Editor sided with President Wilson’s intention to keep America out of a foreign war, Max argued to his father he wanted to join the British Army to honor his family’s United Irish historical roots in Ulster, Ireland, it being subject to Britain.

“Asinine,” was the stinging response!

Stung to the quick, but of age, Max gave up his paper route and got himself over there.

*

The telegram boy, in a too loose fitting company uniform, didn’t leave Mr. Orr’s office, but doffed his cap to the youthful Editor of the Crooks County News. The boy had crossed the paper crowded room to a large desk covered with more paper, and stood there looking at the good looking man behind the desk, white shirt sleeves rolled to elbows, red tie askew. The boy’s mind was ablaze. How lucky it was that he got the telegram to deliver to Mr. Orr, whom the boy knew was an ‘old timer’ High School Basketball Star, and the boy had heard Mr. Orr had left Crooks County High School and America to go overseas to fight in the Great War in 1914, but serving in the British Army, not America’s. The lad stood in awe as Mr. Orr smiled as if his Medical Doctor had stated his well being was assured for centuries. The boy hesitated to depart. Mr. Orr was known as a real good tipper, so the boy waited politely, hat in hand as if on a street corner looking pitifully for a handout, more so for a tip and got it, carefully tucking the two fifty cent pieces into a pocket. He put his cap back on, doffed it again, and departed, wishing he’d the gumption to have asked for Mr. Orr’s autograph, but failing that, he wished to play basketball as good as had the editor.

*

There was another knock on the editor’s door.

“A telegram, Max? Some body we know, died?” questioned the walk-in Kent Orr, a look-alike older man with short greying hair, brown eyes that glowed, face elliptical with a pointed chin, white shirt rolled to his sleeves, red tie askew. It gave him the appearance of Abe Lincoln.

“No Dad. It’s from Johnny Donaldson, one of my mates in the BEF infantry.”

“Back from 1914? What’s going on?”

Kent’s instinct for a story surged. Years of a career hunting down leads, months reading dispatches about the Great War printed in other newspapers, followed by ongoing worries for the survival of his only child serving in the British Army and came home wounded, now a telegram? There was a story there.

Kent had come to realize only a parent of a youth gone to war could understand the worn out feeling endured every day the youth was subject to death on the front line. Max survived, but he was torn up. What a shock to have home again a son so changed from what he had been. His mother was stunned the baby she presented to the world, that she had raised to health, happiness, and physical maturity had returned to her shattered. Slowly passed the months Mom and Dad worried if Max’s physical and mental wounds would ever heal, followed by exultation when he went to college, graduated and asked to work, not on a bicycle, but as a reporter for the family’s newspaper. He was hired and was a success as a reporter, then his Dad’s replacement as Editor.

“Let it sink in a bit,” Max stated. “I need to give the telegram another read. I thought it was the residue of shell shock at first read, it wasn’t.”

There was a slow shaking, side to side, of Max’s head as if in puzzlement. Eight years had passed. There was no mention of a medal in 1914 when he was invalided out of the BEF. Then his elliptical face lit up like a Halloween pumpkin. “Dad, this may be hard to believe, it’s an invitation from my BEF mate Donaldson stating I’m to be honored in Belfast as a BEF Infantry hero in the Great War and to march with my mates Johnny Donaldson, Davy Sample and Tommy Peebles in parade on 1 July 1922; the medal pinned on me the day of the creation of the new nation state!”

“Honored as a Hero, Max?” Kent’s pride flared. With a news’ reporter’s reaction, he said, “I can see the headline. ‘Max Orr, GREAT WAR Hero!’ I’ll write the story. Tell me.” Kent pulled a chair over to Max’s desk, pencil and paper in hand. He sat down. “I know your were severely wounded. It sure took a long time to heal reasonably, just a touch of a limp. Gives you character, but you’ve never said anything about being a hero.”

“Never inclined, Dad.”

Max lowered his head. Tears toppled. The memories, back home from the front, of his first months in Crookstown resurrected. Every body saw a cripple. Girls avoided him. He didn’t knew why. In high school, dates came easily, particularly after the championship victory. His facial features, much like his dad’s were considered good looking, young Abe Lincoln like. He hadn’t been shot in the face, so why the avoidance. The explanation came from his basketball coach who hadn’t restrained, as was his coaching style, from belittling Max for going off to fight another country’s war, while his own President wanted none of it.

And Dad’s joke, ‘a paper route is out, given the gimp. Don’t know what to do with you.’

That stung. No matter Dad didn’t know what to do with him, Max determined to wait until the buzzing in his ears, and the head aches lessened, to attend college and enter the newspaper business, if not with the Crooks County News, a big city press.

Kent hadn’t seen his boy hang his head in embarrassment since high school. Recollection brought back the memory of his son the day Dad published in the Crooks County News a five inch headline that featured Max’s athletic exploits in his senior year championship basketball game. His son was chagrined. Why?

“What’s the matter, son. Blow steam. I need to know of the acts that got you the medal. I’m still a reporter on this rag.”

*

The newspaper was more than a rag by 1922. Hard to tell it apart from a big city paper. Readership was way up, the future rosy. The Orrs owned the building on Main street in the heart of downtown Crookstown. Bordered, its side of the block, by fine buildings holding professionals: Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists, clothing, hardware and the Corner Hotel. Just across the street was Ellen’s Town Café, Larry’s Barber Shop and the very popular Millie’s Boutique.

1922 in America found prohibition in full flower since 1919. Prohibition had interfered with Max’s way of life. Succeeding his father as Editor and one of four reporters on the Crooks County News, a family owned paper with a ten person staff and county wide circulation, he could control publication of pretty much everything deemed news worthy in the area. Bootlegging had led to his adaption to an inclination to imbibe. He wasn’t a bootlegger, but he knew where boozed flowed, and he wanted a share of it. It helped him forget what should be forgotten. In the big cities, Night Clubs had opened for hardened old rounders and unsatiated flappers. If any one of them had a crystal set with head phones she could have heard the radio on a daily basis. While Warren G. Harding had been easy going, particularly about his friends, he couldn't have been more easy going than Max’s home County's Sheriff Homer Loon. He, regularly, sent his rum squad to seize farmers’ illicit stuff, so rumor held.

It was of some irritation to Max and Sheriff Loon that the United States Supreme Court had ruled that booze could not be transported through the country in bond. Bad luck. Sheriff had a speedy car to pull over any vehicle transporting booze through his county. Crookstown boozers longed for the good stuff. Max criticized that legal holding in an opinion piece, but nothing about booze not being transferred from one foreign ship to another ship within an American port. Rumor, not fact, had big money men were doing just that.

Holding firmly to freedom of the Press, the news which coincided with Max’s point of view was published. He declined to support his former military employer, Britain, screaming the Laws of American Prohibition were a severe blow to the pocket books of exporters just when America was negotiating with its Allies over repayment of loans made to them during the Great War.

*

“Promise not to publish it?” Max looked his father in the eye.

Max sensed the Dough Boys boozing with him down in the hardware store basement bar would see it as self glorification, like most did about the basketball headline in highschool; and the grief he’d endured going to College in 1917 and 1918, when many of his classmates were called up by selective service. Sure, they said, he had been with British soldiers at the start of the war, wounded and left with a limp, but his father was a big shot, so no call came when his American classmates were going to fight America’s war in France. Max felt their anger. It hurt as much as coach’s, his Dad’s, for hurrying to fight the common enemy, although in 1914 Germany-Austria wasn’t yet America’s enemy. As short as was his combat stint, what argument was available to state the time and place of his service against those who did become the common enemy, was foresight, not avoidance of later selective service. None! Stung!

Kent felt pressured to agree not to publish if he were to hear what happened, and was going to happen. Was Max still embarrassed over the basketball headline? The parent took note of his son’s hesitancy, though years had passed since he came back from overseas and gotten over shell shock. Nevertheless, the telegram wrote his son was a hero and his family did not know it! That was the issue. Would the bums over to the hardware store’s basement bar or the farmers market or at Ellen’s Café think father and son of the Crooks County News were pulling a fast one?

Self lionization!

Kent sensed they would. He had to say “yes!” He wanted to hear the story more than publish it. “I promise not to publish the story, Max. I want to hear it. I want to tell you mother. I won’t even bring it up boozing with the guys down in the bar. Okay?”

“Okay, Dad, but tomorrow. I need to think on it.”

“Think, Max. Years have gone by, and now a telegram. I will hold my horses.”

CHAPTER 2

 

Kent Orr held his horses until early morning, he hadn’t as much as whispered a word to his wife their son was a hero, and upon early arrival at the newspaper’s offices, unlocked and entered, promptly walking to Max’s office. It used to be his. He took a seat, waiting. Arriving to work wasn’t a characteristic Kent had before ingrained. He was anxious.

Max wasn’t surprised to see Kent. When had there been a time when Dad had to contain his patience? Over the years he gave orders that were obeyed. Max closed the door behind him, picked up his phone and gave instructions to arriving receptionist Missy to hold calls and visitors.

Missy would. A farm grown woman unafraid of man or beast, or Kent, she knew both big shots were in that office. Something big was happening, she pondered, knowing Kent, since his son took over, came to the office at his leisure. Today, before Max? Something big!

“Tell the story behind the telegram son. For my ears only.”

Max tried to not hold back. His face reddened. Tears again flowed. A handkerchief dabbed the moisture.

Memories erupted. “I had been in England a week when the British Army enrolled me. They took this American up on it, along with every other semi-mobile lad with minimal reading skills and no more than a limited degree of durability required. We were fresh from civilian life, but why I was inches taller on an average than the others surprised me. The guys called me ‘the American,’ to my surprise, in derision because America wouldn’t join the fight.”

“You’d thought they’d thank you.”

Dad was mystified. But the British were big on themselves, no matter the loss of the American colonies. They had subjugated so many more territories, including the one in Scotland and the other over in Ireland that their empire remained. At least in the Royalty’s mind set.

Max looked at him. “I was derided for being an American in the British Army because America would not join with Britain, and again over here at college for being an American for serving Britain.”

“I didn’t know that,” Kent said in sorrow. “You caught both ends of the stick.”

“I did.” It still bothered him. “To get back to the story, at training I wasn’t impressed with the equipment: There was a shortage of Khaki, but an abundance of midnight blue cloth. We were issued midnight blue uniforms. Some dealer made a financial killing, like our down state politicians. We were issued boots that needed to be broken in, canvas webbing, ammunition pouches, pack, and an impressive .303 short magazine Lee Enfield rifle, clip fed, a magnificent weapon.”

“What was the training like?”

“I wasn’t impressed with it either. Looking back, it was pathetic. I had better training at basketball camp. My Officers were all mustached for some unknown reason. All of them and my sergeants had been called up from the reservists. None had battle experience. Yet the British Expeditionary Force I was trained to serve in, BEF we called it, was readying to be sent to France expecting battle.”

“Poorly trained and led, and you were sent into battle?” Dad groaned.

“We were. I was, but my assignment to the BEF had its good side. I was introduced, me a pseudo Ulstermen, to actual Ulstermen from County Antrim: Johnny Donaldson, Davy Sample, Tommy Peebles and Mike Connolly. They were all from Ulster’s County Antrim and knew one another before the army. Connolly and Sample were friends from the sports pitch. Donaldson was from a well to do family that had hired Connolly as a carpenter. Peebles was a boyhood rival of Connolly. They called me Max, not ‘the American.’ We bonded as if they were the starting players with me on the Crookstown basketball team.”

A pause. Max looked into his Dad’s eyes.

“As bizarre as it may seem to you I conjured we were the United Irishmen of 1914. At least, that thought gave credence to the reason, or excuse, I made for going over there to join the BEF. Rather shallow thinking now that I reflect on it. ”

“Your ancestor Blaine Orr wrote the United Irishmen of 1798 were Presbyterians and Catholics. In 1914, were you?”

“Throw in Orange Man Donaldson, Church of Ireland, we were. Not asinine at all.”

“You still remember me saying that.”

“In hindsight, Dad, you weren’t far off.”

Kent felt a sense of relief. He hurt internally for months for having said ‘asinine’ and his only son crossing the ocean to go far from home to get killed.

“Let me hear of your heroic efforts?”

Max’s jaw waggled his chin at the sound of ‘heroic efforts.’ “I wasn’t a hero, Dad, no matter what Donaldson says in the telegram. My mate Mike Connolly was the hero.”

Quizzical eyes drilled him.

“Let me explain. In my BEF unit, as I said, I was razzed by Brits for being an American, lost at sea, or at least in the British Army, my own America afraid to go to war. That was mild compared to the vitriol spewed on Connolly because he was a papist, that is, catholic. Bigotry was rampant in the ranks. We were trained to support one another in battle, but in the barracks or off the front, it seemed the big of body or mouth jumped on the small of body or mouth. But in the case of Mike, he was quiet and one hell of a big catholic, six four with muscles that crawled all over him. He was afraid of no one. The few lads that took him on looked, afterwards, like ground up meat.”

Kent was bothered his son was avoiding telling his tale. “Good for Connolly. Now about you, Max.”

Max over came his self shaming, he’d tell the story as it happened. “No notes, Dad. No one else needs to know.” A pencil was removed from the elder’s hand.

“The British Expeditionary Force had two Corps and 52 infantry battalions, and half a many calvary units.” Max’s voice was subdued. “We were backed up by a dozen and a half field guns, horse artillery and heavy batteries. There were companies of engineers and service units. Indeed, all one hundred and sixty thousands of us had chips on our shoulders.

“Welcomed by the French people when we landed in August, I don’t recall much about dates and time, we were cheered all the way on our march forward, by women, children and old folks. There weren’t many young men around. We ate our fill of apples and pears, often running to a tree line to drop a turd or two, until we arrived at Mons. It’s in Belgium. There we were, on the left flank of the French Army, in Belgium, not France.”

“Belgium?”

“Yea. We dug in along a canal and amid buildings and waited for the Germans to try to cross the bridges. It never crossed my mind back then, I wasn’t a military expert, why we didn’t blow up the bridges at the time before they crossed them. Later, too late. Stupid. Anyhow, I dug myself a good fighting hole. So too the United Irishmen. When the German infantry came down hill toward the water, many of them hidden by houses and shops, they came in blocks five across, a hundred and fifty deep. They advanced as if they didn’t knew we were there. I could see their officers holding pistols as if using them to force their men forward. Couldn’t be, I told myself. Their men carried rifles. The whole scene seemed unreal until incoming artillery landed behind our firing line, as if their forward observers didn’t know we were dug in. My .303 Lee Enfield rifle could fire fifteen rounds a minute, but I carried just so many clips of ammunition. I conserved. I concentrated on each target.” Max paused. “Hell of a thing to call an infantryman a target, but that was what we were. Targets! I brought down several. So had my Ulster mates. The attack slowed sharply. When you think you’ve stopped them, you hadn’t. It wasn’t over.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

For his service in Korea, Staff Sergeant James F. Walsh was awarded the Combat Infantry Man Badge, a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He holds four college degrees and worked forty years in juvenile courts and social agencies. He has published in professional journals, in popular magazines and in novels: Killers From a Distance (Combat in Korea); Land Of Last Life (Nursing Homes Mystery); and in books: A Lot Of Bull (Back Acre Humor); and The Leprechauns of Union Township (Children Fantasy).