Laying a soldier to rest at home, at last

Some 40 family and extended family members of the late Michael K. Holmes gathered for a remembrance ceremony in Clomantagh Church graveyard recently to honour the Johnstown man who lost his life in World War I.

Some 40 family and extended family members of the late Michael K. Holmes gathered for a remembrance ceremony in Clomantagh Church graveyard recently to honour the Johnstown man who lost his life in World War I.

The ceremony included prayers, a playing of Taps and a flag-folding. Members of the American Legion veterans organisation joined the family who had come from Kilkenny and Cork.

Master of ceremonies on the day was Micheal’s nephew Billy Holmes of Johnstown, who was grateful to be able to help Michael to return home at last, with a plaque of remembrance placed on Michael’s parents’ grave.

Before a family member carried out research to find out about Michael, Billy said, he knew “only very little (about Michael) because it was a big family and my father was the third youngest. Mick went to America when my father was only a baby.”

Peggy Murray had begun to look into Michael’s story when the 1911 Census information was brought to light a couple of years ago and she realised that she knew very little about the man who was her grand-uncle.

Of the ceremony that they held on October 27 – which was the anniversary of his death – she said: “It was great to meet up on a happy occasion, and it was absolutely lovely to put him to rest at his parents’ grave.” For the family’s younger generations, she said: “They have his story now and maybe they can investigate further.”

Michael had emigrated to Bayonne, New Jersey, and was conscripted into the US Army to fight in the first World War. He was killed just before the Armistice on November 11, 1918, and his body was never recovered.

His family has now brought him home in spirit, however, with the plaque resting at the grave of his parents, William and Margaret.