Mahaffy, Henry Irwin

Mahaffy, Henry Irwin (Harry)

Lance Corporal

No. 397, ‘A’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

attached to Divisional HQ as a Mapping Clerk

Second Lieutenant

Royal Flying Corps

Died in a flying accident on Monday 22 October 1917 (aged 23)


Bangor Cemetery, Newtownards Road, Bangor, Co Down (Grave Wall. 112)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bangor and District War Memorial

Royal British Legion (Bangor Branch) Memorial Plaque

Comrades of the Great War (Bangor Branch) Album in North Down Museum

Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Comgall’s)

Bangor Grammar School

Family grave headstone in Bangor Cemetery

Ulster Solicitors and Apprentices Memorial Plaque in the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast


Henry Irwin Mahaffy was born on 7 September 1894 in Ward Villa, Bangor and he was the elder son of William Irwin Mahaffy (born in County Armagh) and Jeannie Mahaffy (nee Matchett, born in Victoria, Australia).

The Mahaffy family lived in Augustaville, Princetown Road, Bangor and Ward Villa, 66 Clifton Road, Bangor.

William Irwin Mahaffy was a solicitor and he and Jeannie had at least six children:

Henry Irwin (Harry, born 7 September 1894 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Gladys Maureen (born 11 February 1896 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Eileen Violet (born 14 April 1898 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Beryl Alexandra (born 15 June 1902 in Ward Villa, Bangor)

Lorna May (born 28 May 1904 in Ward Villa, Bangor; died 4 November 1986 aged 82)

William Matchett (Billy, born 3 March 1908 in Bangor; killed in action 13 April 1942)

Henry Irwin, Gladys Maureen and Eileen Violet were baptised in Bangor Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Comgall’s).

Their father died on 1 June 1940 (aged 73) and their mother died on 30 December 1951 (aged 84).

Harry Mahaffy attended Bangor Grammar School from 1905 to 1911 and prior to the outbreak of the Great War he was studying law in his father’s firm, H. & W. Mahaffy of Callender Street, Belfast.  He was a member of Bangor Rugby Club.

Harry Mahaffy enlisted in September 1914 and he went to France on 6 October 1915 where he served as a Lance Corporal with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.  In Divisional Orders dated 29 October 1915 he was attached to 36th (Ulster) Division Headquarters as a Mapping Clerk.  In February 1917 he came home to qualify for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps and this he obtained on 9 May 1917.  Second Lieutenant Harry Mahaffy was stationed at Lake Down Camp, Salisbury Plain and it was there that he was killed in a flying accident on 22 October 1917.  An inquest was held at Fargo Military Hospital.  It was noted that he had been flying his de Havilland DH 4 aircraft (A/7676) at a height of between 60 and 70 feet and was unable to get the plane to climb sufficiently to clear some trees.  He veered to the right and the plane nose-dived.  The impact fractured his skull.  He had previously flown solo for 40 minutes in this type of aircraft and a verdict of accidental death was returned.

Second Lieutenant Harry Mahaffy was 23 when he died.

Harry’s father, accompanied by the Rev James Albert Carey Rector of Bangor Parish, travelled over to England by sea to bring back his remains.  His remains were taken by train to Fleetwood for the sea crossing and then by motor from Belfast to Bangor Parish Church (St Comgall’s).  The church was ‘filled to capacity’ and hundreds of sympathisers assembled outside.  A Royal Irish Rifles Brass Band together with a large firing party from the same Regiment lined up along Hamilton Road to wait for the coffin to be brought out of church.  The coffin was draped with a Union Jack and placed on a gun carriage.

The funeral cortege included Harry’s father and his younger brother Billy.  During the Second World War Billy Mahaffy served as a Sergeant Gunner in the Royal Air Force and he was killed in action on 13 April 1942 (aged 34).  Also in the procession were the headmaster, teachers and pupils of Bangor Grammar School.  The County Down Spectator reporter noted that two of the pall bearers (Messrs Barrett and Hewitt) had each lost three sons in the Great War.  At the graveside the committal service concluded with the firing of three volleys and the sounding of the Last Post.