Mullan, James (No. 6637)

Mullan, James

Lance Sergeant

No. 6637, ‘G’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Died of wounds on Sunday 28 November 1915 (aged 32) (39 CWGC)


Le Bizet Cemetery, France (Grave B. 4)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Newtownards and District War Memorial

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

Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards


In some records James Mullan’s surname is spelt Mullen, and in others McMullen.

In the Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919 database it is recorded that James Mullan was born in the townland of Ballyblack, Newtownards.  Evidence from civil birth registration records suggests that he was born in the nearby townland of Ballywatticock.

In the CWGC Debt of Honour website it is recorded that James Mullan (aged 39) was the ‘Husband of Mrs M. Mullan, 6 Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards’.  Evidence from 1911 census records (aged 28) suggests that he was born around 1883/1884, and evidence from pension records suggests that he lived with, but wasn’t married to, Mary Donaldson (nee McKee).

In the Press, following James’s death, it was noted that he had been a Reservist who rejoined on the outbreak of war.  He had an aunt called Maggie Adair and in civilian life he worked as a farm labourer.

Best available evidence to date suggests that:

James Mullan was born on 2 November 1883 in the townland of Ballywatticock and his mother, Agnes Mary Mullan (McMullen), was unmarried.  James’s father’s name, subsequently scored out, was James Jeffrey.  James’s maternal grandmother, Jane Mullan (McMullen), registered his birth.

James Mullan was a grandson of Hugh and Jane Mullan (McMullen, nee Kirk) who were married on 12 April 1856 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.  Hugh Mullan (McMullen, aged 22), a widowed labourer from Ballyblack was a son of Patrick Mullan (McMullen), a dealer.  Jane Kirk (aged 24), a spinster from Ballyblack was a daughter of Harris Kirk, a farmer.  Their daughter Margaret (Maggie) was born on 19 May 1865, and it is likely that their daughter Agnes was born before that.  Maggie Mullan (Mullen), a servant from Ballywatticock, and Robert Adair, a labourer from the townland of Greengraves, were married on 11 November 1890 in Ballyblack Presbyterian Church.  Robert Adair died on 29 January 1921.

The 1901 Census for Ballywatticock shows widowed Jane Mullen with her son Patrick, aged 34, and grandson James, aged 17, an agricultural labourer and Roman Catholic.

In 1911 census returns it is recorded that farm labourer James Mullan (aged 28) was living at 4 Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards with his wife Mary Elizabeth Mullan (aged 40) and their three children – Thomas John Mullan (aged 12), Hugh Mullan (aged 8) and William David Mullan (aged under 1 month).  It is also recorded that James and Mary had been married for nine years, whereas in fact, they were not married.  Mary had four children, three of them still living.

Mary was a widow who had previously been married to James Donaldson.  James Donaldson and Mary McKee were married on 10 May 1894 in Comber Parish Church of Ireland Church, and James, a quarryman in Scrabo Quarry, died of a fractured skull, as the result of a quarry accident, on 12 December 1896 (aged 36).

James and Mary Donaldson (nee McKee) had one child:

James Donaldson (born 16 February 1895 at Glassmoss; died of meningitis 27 January 1902 (aged 6) at Front Shuttlefield, Newtownards)

Subsequently Mary Donaldson (nee McKee) had two more children whose surnames were registered as Donaldson:

Thomas John Donaldson (born 13 July 1899 at Back Shuttlefield, Newtownards)

Hugh Donaldson (born 17 January 1904 at Thomas Street, Newtownards)

In 1911 both boys were using Mullan as their surname.

James Mullan (Mullen) and Mary Mullan (Mullen, formerly Donaldson, nee McKee) had a son, William David, born on 26 February 1911 at Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards.  Their daughter Mary was born on 1 January 1913 at Darragh’s Lane, Newtownards and she died as the result of an intestinal obstruction on 19 April 1913 (aged 3 months).  Baby Mary’s aunt (Maggie Francis, nee McKee) was with her when she died.  Maggie McKee and Edward Francis were married on 7 September 1895 in Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, Newtownards.  Edward Francis died of tuberculosis on 11 November 1899.

Having previously been a Reservist with the 4th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (Royal North Downs) James rejoined the colours in Newtownards at the outbreak of the Great War.  He was attached to the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and posted to the Western Front in October 1914.

Lance Sergeant James Mullan made his will on 7 November 1914 and in it he bequeathed the whole of his estate and effects to Mary Mullan, of 6 Darragh Street, Newtownards.  In the will Mary was incorrectly described as his ‘mother’.  In subsequent Army records Miss Mary Donaldson, was named as his sole legatee.

In September 1915 Lance Sergeant James Mullan was granted a week’s home leave and he was only back in the firing line for about two months when he died on 28 November 1915 from wounds sustained while he was with a working party repairing communication trenches.  At that time his ‘wife and family’ were living at 6 Darragh’s Lane, Church Street, Newtownards, and they placed a Killed in Action notice in the 25 December 1915 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle.  It contained the verse:

Oh, how patient was his suffering,

When no hand could give him ease;

God, the helper of the helpless,

Saw his grief and sent him peace.

James’s aunt, Maggie Adair of 12 Robert Street, Newtownards, also placed a Killed in Action notice in the same edition and it contained the message:

The remains of my beloved nephew were laid to rest in France.  He nobly did his part for us all and fell.  May the blessed Lord raise him up again on the last day to life everlasting.

Lance Sergeant James Mullan (No. 6637) was buried in Le Bizet Cemetery, France and he is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the PCI Roll of Honour for Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church Newtownards.