RTE to tell story of four Kilkenny brothers who died in WWI, and the one who survived

A real-life 'Saving Private Ryan' - the Shea brothers' story tonight on Nationwide

Sam Matthews


Sam Matthews




File picture: Trench warfare in WWI

The appalling human cost of war will be brought home tonight by an episode of RTE's Nationwide, which will look at the toll World War I took on one Kilkenny family.

The major Hollywood film Saving Private Ryan told the tale of a group of brothers, all but one of whom were killed in WWII - but a horrendous real-life version of the tale was visited on the Shea family during WWI.

Five sons - John, Richard, Patrick, Joseph and Michael Shea - went away to fight in the Great War. Only one, Michael, returned home to Kilkenny to live out his days.

There are few records, and no photos exist of the men, nor does a copy of the letter their mother, Margaret, sent asking about her boys and what happened to them. But there is a return letter confirming the four had been killed.

The story would not have come to light without the research of relative Jim O’ Keeffe, who will feature on tonight's programme. See Nationwide tonight at 7pm on RTE 1.