Keenan, William John (No. 106512)

Keenan, William John


No. 106512, 15th Company, Royal Army Medical Corps

Died of disease on Saturday 15 June 1918 (aged 61, CWGC)


Dundonald Cemetery (Grave C3. 47)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Father-in-law of Driver John Gray (No. T/27962)


Three separate official records state that Private William John Keenan (No. 106512) was born in Donaghadee:

  • His 1900 attestation papers
  • His 1901 census return
  • His 1916 attestation papers

There is some inconsistency about his age in official documents:

1918 CWGC                     61 (born around 1856/1857)

1900 attestation                42 (born around 1857/1858)

1901 census                     42 (born around 1858/1859)

1911 census                     52 (born around 1858/1859)

1916 attestation                56 (born around 1859/1860)

1918 Register of deaths     56 (born around 1861/1862)

Private William John Keenan (No. 106512), 15th Company, Royal Army Medical Corps, died of pneumonia at Victoria Barracks Military Hospital on 15 June 1918.

William John Keenan was born in the late 1850s/early 1860s in Donaghadee and he was a son of Robert and Agnes Keenan (nee Kane) who were married on 5 January 1858 in Millisle Presbyterian Church.  Robert Keenan, a labourer from Whitechurch, Ballywalter, was a son of John Keenan, a labourer.  Agnes Kane from Killaughey, Donaghadee, was a daughter of Samuel Kane, a labourer.

Robert Keenan worked as a labourer, kiln man and carter, and he and Agnes Keenan (nee Kane) had at least six children:

William John (born in the late 1850s/early 1860s in Donaghadee)

Hugh (born 29 December 1864 in Ballyhemlin)

Margaret (born 11 November 1866 in Ballylisbredan)

Francis (born 24 February 1869 in Ballylisbredan)

Francis (born 31 July 1873 at 6 Goudy’s Court, Belfast)

Annie (born 20 August 1875 at 6 Goudy’s Court, Belfast)

William John Keenan was living at 10 Baltic Street, Belfast when he and Ellen Gunning, a domestic servant, from 13 Great Victoria Street Belfast were married on 8 April 1882 in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Church, Ballymacarrett, Belfast.

William John Keenan worked as a dock labourer and he and Ellen Keenan (nee Gunning) had 16 children including:

Mary Kane (born 17 October 1886 at 28 Bond Street, Belfast)

Rebecca (born 17 October 1888 at 11 Victoria Square, Belfast)

Margaret (Maggie, born 23 January 1890 at 7 Victoria Square, Belfast; married John Gray)

Ann Jane (born 29 June 1891 at 7 Victoria Square, Belfast)

Francis (born 24 February 1893 at 9 Seymour Row, Belfast)

William John (born 29 December 1894 at 17 East Street, Belfast)

Alexander (born 26 July 1896 at 54 East Street, Belfast)

Agnes (born 29 February 1898 at 32 Moore Street, Belfast; in 1911 census it was recorded that, aged 13, she attended school 3 days a week and worked in a mill 3 days a week)

Annie (born 1 February 1900 at 7 Empress Street, Belfast)

Martha McCall Hanna (born 14 February 1904 at 12 Swift Street, Belfast)

The Keenan family was living at 5 Clermont Lane, Belfast when Ellen died as the result of malignant disease of the liver on 1st January 1910.  In 1911 the Keenan family was living at 7 Malcolm Street, Belfast.  William John Keenan’s last recorded address 19 George’s Street, Belfast.

William John Keenan enlisted with Royal Army Medical Corps on 7 May 1900 and was discharged on termination of period of engagement on 6 May 1901. He re-enlisted with Royal Army Medical Corps on 12 January 1916, and his service papers record that he had previous Army service with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (25th Regiment of Foot) from 1874, being awarded the 1878 Afghan Campaign Medal, the 1882 Egyptian Campaign Medal, and the 1882 Khedive’s Bronze Star. His 1916 Attestation also refers to RAMC service ending in May 1903, so he may have re-enlisted with the RAMC Reserve.  In his 1916 attestation papers it is noted that he was 5 feet 8½ inches tall.

Private William John Keenan (No. 106512) died of pneumonia at Victoria Barracks Military Hospital on 15 June 1918 and he was buried in Dundonald Cemetery (Grave C3. 47).  His wife Ellen is mentioned on his CWGC headstone, which is a joint memorial for William John Keenan and Driver John Gray (No. T/27962), his son-in-law, from 19 George’s Street, Belfast who died on 27th October 1919.  There are two inscriptions on the headstone:

For William John Keenan:



For John Gray:



John Gray and Maggie Keenan were married on 14 February 1916 in St John’s Church of Ireland Church, Belfast.  John Gray, a Private in the Army Service Corps (A.S.C.) from 36 Crimea Street, Belfast was a son of Frederick Gray, deceased.  Maggie Keenan from 16 Meenan Street, Belfast was a daughter of William John Keenan, a labourer.

John and Maggie Gray (nee Keenan) had two children:

John (born 10 May 1918 at 19 George’s Street, Belfast; died of broncho pneumonia at home following measles 3 January 1920)

William John (born 22 June 1920 at 19 George’s Street, Belfast; died of shock in the Ulster Hospital, Templemore Avenue, Belfast following intussusception 21 November 1920).

Driver John Gray (No. T/27962) died of cardiac disease on 27 October 1919 at 19 George’s Street, Belfast and his brother-in-law, Alexander Keenan was with him when he died.

John Gray’s widow Maggie married Andrew Dunbar on 3 February 1923.