McCann, Thomas (No. 18307)

McCann, Thomas (Tom)


No. 18307, 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Killed in action on Thursday 21 March 1918 (aged 21)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Pozieres Memorial, France (Panel 38 to 40)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for

Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards


Thomas McCann was born on 31 January 1897 in Church Street, Newtownards and he was a son of Thomas and Margaret (Maggie) Jane McCann (nee Galloway, sometimes Galway) who were married on 3 October 1891 in Fourth Newtownards Presbyterian Church.  Thomas McCann from Newtownards was a son of Owen McCann, a labourer.  Maggie Jane Galloway (aged 18) was a daughter of John Galloway, a labourer.

Thomas McCann Senior worked as a gas stoker and he and Maggie Jane had two children:

Robert James Galway (born 23 September 1895 in Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards)

Thomas (born 31 January 1897 in Church Street, Newtownards)

Robert James and Thomas McCann were baptised in Fourth Newtownards Presbyterian Church.

After their mother Margaret died of tuberculosis on 24 June 1898 (aged 25), Robert James (aged 2 years 9 months) and Thomas (aged 1 year 5 months) lived at 59 Church Street, Newtownards with their maternal grandparents John and Maggie Galloway.  Their father Thomas lived with his widowed mother, Mary McCann, at 2 Darragh’s Street, Newtownards.

Thomas McCann Senior worked as a bleach works labourer and he and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Allen (sometimes Allan, a widow) were married on 27 January 1903 in Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church.  Lizzie Allen from Newtownards was a daughter of David Allen, a labourer.

Thomas and Lizzie McCann lived at 37 Church Street, Newtownards and Thomas’s sons, Robert James and Thomas, together with Lizzie’s daughter, Nellie McCullough Allen, lived with them.

Thomas and Lizzie McCann had at least eight children:

David Allen (born 17 November 1903 in Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards)

Mary (born 3 October 1905 in Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards)

Owen (born 9 November 1907 in Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards)

Samuel (born 26 October 1909 in Church Street, Newtownards)

Elizabeth (born 16 December 1911 in Church Street, Newtownards)

William (born 2 December 1913 in Church Street, Newtownards)

Ruth (born 18 April 1916 in Church Street, Newtownards)

Thomas (born 1919 and named after Thomas who was killed in action in 1918)

David and Mary were baptised in Fourth Newtownards Presbyterian Church.

Owen, Samuel, Elizabeth, William, Ruth and Thomas were baptised in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Thomas McCann worked as a grocer’s labourer.  He enlisted in Newtownards and went to France in October 1915.  He served with the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 109th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and was wounded during the Battle of the Somme and again at the Battle of Messines.  Corporal Thomas McCann (No. 18307) was 21 when he was killed in action on 21 March 1918 during the opening battle of the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front.  Captain T.D. Morrison, adjutant of the Battalion and son of the principal of the Londonderry Schools in Newtownards wrote to Thomas McCann’s father.

In the letter he described the circumstances of Thomas’s death, ‘During the attack he went forward with some of his men to drive out a party of the enemy who had entered our line.  He succeeded in his task but unfortunately was killed just as he completed it.  He was buried where he fell.  Your son was one our most promising non-commissioned officers.’  Major J.C. Muir also wrote to Thomas’s father and, in his letter, he said, ‘He died facing the enemy, as every brave man would.’

After Tom was killed in action his family placed a For King and Country notice in the Newtownards Chronicle and it contained the verse:

He fell at his post like a soldier brave,

He answered his Master’s call;

He sleeps far away in a hero’s grave,

For his country’s cause he did fall.

In the bloom of life death claimed him,

In the pride of his manhood days;

None knew him but to love him,

None mentioned his name but with praise.

Around 21 March in subsequent years Corporal Tom McCann’s family placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle and in 1919 the one from his father contained the verse:

Though land and sea divide the spot

Where he is calmly sleeping,

Yet in our hearts he’s not forgot,

But in his Saviour’s keeping.

Now the sad war is fought and won,

Tis now we miss our dear loved one.

The one from his brother and sister-in-law, Robert James and Sarah McCann contained the verse:

We cannot bring you back again,

Oh brother, kind and true,

But although you lie in a lonely grave

Our hearts lie there with you.

This day brings back our memory

Of a dear one gone to rest,

And those who think of him today

Are those who loved him best.

Corporal Thomas McCann (No. 18307) has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France; on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Roll of Honour 1914 – 1919 for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.