Keating, John Alexander Strain (John)
No. 18001, ‘A’ Battalion, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Monday 20 March 1916 (aged 20)
Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France (Grave G. 8)
Bangor and District War Memorial
Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque
Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum
Ballygrainey Presbyterian Church
John Alexander Strain Keating was born on 16 July 1895 and he was a son of William Thomas and Jane Keating (nee Strain) who were married on 10 September 1890 in Ballycopeland Presbyterian Church. William Thomas Keating from Ballyhay, Donaghadee was a son of John Keating, a car man. Jane Strain from Ballyhay, Donaghadee was a daughter of Alexander Strain, a farmer.
The Keating family lived in the townlands of Herdstown and Cottown, Donaghadee before they moved to Newtownards.
William Thomas Keating worked as an agricultural labourer and he and Jane had at least seven children:
William Mulholland (born 29 August 1891)
James (born 20 January 1893 in Herdstown)
John Alexander Strain (born 16 July 1895 in Herdstown)
Eveline Elizabeth (born 9 June 1897 in Herdstown)
Margaret Jane (born 12 February 1899)
Agnes Hood (born 22 September 1900 in Cottown)
These children were all baptised in Shore Street Presbyterian Church Donaghadee.
Albert Edward (born 15 July 1903 in Church Street, Newtownards; baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards).
Their mother, Jane Keating, died of pulmonary phthisis on 8 May 1904 (aged 37) in William Street, Newtownards.
John Alexander Strain Keating worked first as an agricultural labourer and then as a platelayer on the railway. A report in the County Down Spectator after his death stated: ‘He was deservedly popular, he had a quiet disposition, always cheerful and obliging and he kept himself free from the frivolities which usually accompany young manhood’.
John Alexander Strain Keating was a member of the Cottown Company of the Ulster Volunteer Force and, along with other young men from the District, he enlisted in Bangor and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division. He went to the Western Front in October 1915.
Rifleman John Keating was 20 when he was killed in action on 20 March 1916 and he was buried in Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, France.
After he died, family members, friends and comrades placed a notice in the Newtownards Chronicle. Described as the only son of W.T. Keating the notice was from his father, sisters, relatives and friends, his comrade and cousin James Arthur McClelland (subsequently killed in action on 16 August 1917) and his friend John Blair Angus (subsequently killed in action on 1 July 1916). It contained the verse:
Far away in a nameless grave,
My loving son doth lie;
He gave his life for his King and country,
What nobler death could he die?
After John Keating died the Rev Gibson, Presbyterian Chaplain, wrote to John’s father to express his condolences and he described the circumstances of John’s death – John was in the trenches and ‘a shell came through and killed him instantaneously’.
In 1917 the Keating family placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the 24 March edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
No one who knew him need ever be told,
A warmer heart death never made coild;
His cheery way, his smiling face,
There’s none can fill dear John’s place.
In 1918 the Keating family placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice in the 23 March edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:
This day brings back to our memories
A dear son who has gone to rest,
And those who think of him tonight
Are those who loved him best.
Rifleman John Keating is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in the Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum (Page 50) and on the Memorial Plaques in the Royal British Legion Bangor Branch and Ballygrainey Presbyterian Church.
John’s father, William Thomas Keating, died on 27 October 1938 (aged 77) and was buried in Bangor Abbey Graveyard.