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30 July 2014
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Stephen McCauley

  on next : Arts Extra


This year marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the first World War. In honour of this, there are free events across the country, online activities and special broadcasts.


Private James Megahey

By Trevor Temple


Private James (Jamie) McGahey (10959), 10th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Derry Volunteers), died on July 16, 1916, from wounds received fifteen days beforehand, on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. He is interred in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Hessen, Germany, and his name is inscribed on St Columb's Cathedral Memorial to World War I. His name is also commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.


James McGahey was a prominent footballer in the city of Londonderry prior to the Great War. He was one of six brothers who joined up at the outbreak of that bloody conflict, a contribution to the war effort acknowledged by Sir Edward Carson in a letter to the brothers' mother, Elizabeth, around December 1914.


Elizabeth died on February 27, 1920 after falling on some stairs.


A decade after James McGahey's death one of his brothers, Charles Humes (Charlie) McGahey, placed the following tribute to his dead brother, and other fallen comrades from the Fountain area, in a Londonderry newspaper: "Just a thought in passing for my brother Jamie and my good old pals Billy Ballantine, Jamie Gilliland, Nicky Maxwell, Jamie Glenn, Tommy McElhinney, Lindsay Moore, who died that we might live. After all, patriotism, like love, is self-sacrifice."


Charlie McGahey died, after a period of failing health, at the Waterside General Hospital, Londonderry, on October 22, 1957, aged sixty-eight. He was an ex-councillor, and also carried on a furniture business in John Street, from which he retired some years before his death. Eagerly interested in sport, particularly football, Charlie McGahey played for the old St Columb's Court, Institute, and Corinthians football clubs. He was also a member of the Church of Ireland Men's Club, and the Walker Club of Apprentice Boys of Derry. At the time of his death his wife, Mabel, two sons, James and Harold, and three daughters survived him.  


Another of Private James McGahey's brothers, William McGahey, was a well-known public figure in the city of Londonderry, and reached the military rank of Company Sergeant Major. William McGahey was educated at the Cathedral Schools, was the founder of a billposting business, and an active member of the U.V.F. Most of his public work was conducted before the Great War. For twelve years he represented the East Ward of Londonderry as an official Unionist on the Corporation, and was one of the senior magistrates of the city, having received his commission in 1912. When the 'B' Special Constabulary was being inaugurated, he acted for a period as sergeant-instructor. He was a member of the Foyle Defenders Loyal Orange Lodge 1495, and was also a Freemason, being attached to St Clair 362 Lodge, Glasgow. He was a keen debater, and was a member of St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry, Men's Guild. For a time he was a member of the select vestry of the Cathedral.                


William McGahey was keenly interested in soccer, and was one of the prime movers in connection with the formation of Derry City F.C., and was also one of the founders of the long defunct Corinthians F.C. In his younger days he was himself a noted footballer and played for the Hibernians and Derry Celtic senior teams and other local elevens. In 1910, he won an Irish Cup runner-up medal, having played as left half on the Derry Celtic team against Linfield in the final. He retired from the game owing to an injury he received in a match.


William McGahey played a considerable part in the quelling of the Easter Rising of 1916, and subsequently Sir John Leslie, of the 12th Inniskilling Fusiliers, addressing the troops who were through the fighting, thanked them for their bravery during this time. William McGahey was called out to the front, and when Sir John Leslie shook hands with him he said he and the 12th Inniskillings were proud of him for the magnificent example he had shown to the men, rallying them time and again when subjected to heavy firing by the rebels. Company Sergeant Major McGahey, in reply, said he had only done his duty.


William McGahey's wife, Mary, was a native of the city of Londonderry, where she spent most of her life. A State Registered Midwife, she served the medical profession for more than forty years, and died in May 1961, after a period of illness, at Altnagelvin Hospital, aged eighty-four. 

William McGahey predeceased his wife by almost thirty years, dying at his residence, 43, Fountain Street, on August 16, 1933. His son, Sergeant William McGahey, joined up in the First World War as a lad of sixteen years of age. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered again, served throughout with the North Irish Horse, took part in campaigns in North Africa and Italy, and was mentioned in Despatches for his services in the Field.


See also:

Carson's Letter



People's War


Diamond War Memorial Site
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