No. 17755 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Died of wounds on Monday 27 December 1920 (aged 27)
Holywood Cemetery Co Down
Holywood and District War Memorial
First Holywood Presbyterian Church
Ballyrobert Orange Hall (LOL 1920)
John Graham was born on 11 September 1893 in the townland of Craigavad and he was a son of Samuel and Margaret Graham (nee McMullan) who were married on 15 November 1882 in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church. Samuel Graham from Craigantlet was a son of James Graham, a tailor. Margaret McMullan from Rockport was a daughter of Patrick McMullan, a gardener.
Samuel Graham worked as an agricultural labourer and he and Margaret had at least thirteen children:
James (born 28 May 1883)
Samuel (born 6 May 1885)
Isabella (born 5 January 1887)
Hugh (born 4 September 1888 in Ballyrobert)
Sarah (born 20 August 1889)
Hugh (born 6 November 1891 in Craigavad)
John (born 11 September 1893 in Craigavad)
William (born 20 June 1895; died in 1964)
Robert (born 27 May 1899)
George (born 29 August 1901, died in 1912)
Mary Elizabeth (born 23 September 1903)
Ernest (born 11 May 1906)
Both Hugh and John Graham were baptised in Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church.
The Graham family moved from Craigavad to Spencer Street, Holywood and four brothers served in the Great War. James and Sammy served in the Royal Navy and survived; John was the second of the two brothers to die.
John Graham stood 6 feet 7 inches tall and, against his mother’s wishes, he became a boxer. He boxed under the name John Maharg (Graham spelt backwards). Like his brother Hugh, John Graham enlisted in Holywood and served with ‘A’ Company 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (No. 17755) in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.
It is recorded in the Graham family archives that John suffered shrapnel wounds to the head during the same engagement in which his brother Hugh was killed and John was invalided out of the Army.
In his Army service papers there is no record of John Graham having been wounded and he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on 15 July 1919.
[The Class Z Reserve was a Reserve contingent of the British Army consisting of previously enlisted soldiers, now discharged.]
At discharge he confirmed in writing that he was not suffering from any disability.
John Graham was 27 when he died on 27 December 1920, and he was buried in Holywood Cemetery. The cause of death recorded on his death certificate was olitis media (4 years 5 months) and encephalitis (12 hours).
[Olitis media is inflammation or infection located in the middle ear; encephalitis is inflammation of the brain.]
John Graham is commemorated on Holywood and District War Memorial and, recently, his name has been added to the memorials in First Holywood Presbyterian Church and in Ballyrobert Orange Hall.
His father Samuel died of pulmonary tuberculosis at 15 Spencer Street, Holywood on 14 December 1918 (1856 – 1919 is inscribed on his headstone in Holywood Cemetery) and his mother Margaret died in 1935.