Neill, James Dermot

Neill, James Dermot


‘A’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, transferred to

108th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), 36th (Ulster) Division

Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 29) 

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 5 C and 12 C)

Holywood and District War Memorial

Holywood Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) War Memorial

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) Book of Remembrance

Holywood Masonic Lodge No. 381

Royal Belfast Academical Institution

Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club

Family grave headstone in Holywood Priory Cemetery

First World War Roll of Honour of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

Brother of Lieutenant Robert Larmour Neill


James Dermot Neill was born on 5 December 1886 and he was a son of Sharman Dermot Neill and Anne Symonds Neill (nee Tomlin) who were married on 29 July 1885 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Church Belfast.  Sharman Dermot Neill (aged 27) from Hillbrook, Holywood was a son of James Neill, a gentleman.  Anne Symonds Tomlin (aged 29) from Ulsterville Avenue, Belfast was a daughter of Robert Tomlin, a draper.

The Neill family lived in Martello Terrace, Holywood and then at Ardmoyle, Ballycultra

Sharman D. Neill was a diamond merchant and watchmaker with premises at 22 Donegall Place, Belfast.  His firm also produced cap badges for the Ulster Division.  Sharman and Anne Neill (nee Tomlin) had five children:

James Dermot (born 5 December 1886)

Moya Gillon (born 27 November 1887)

Katherine Tomlin (born 7 February 1890)

Robert Larmour (born 16 July 1893 at 62 Wellington Park, Belfast)

Anne Kingsley (born 24 May 1897)

After attending Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) James Dermot Neill attended colleges in England (Aldenham, Hertfordshire), Switzerland and Germany as well as Queen’s University Belfast where he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps.  He was also a director in his father’s firm, a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and a member of both the Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club and Holywood Golf Club.

James Dermot Neill was posted to the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (1st County Down Volunteers) in September 1914 as a Second Lieutenant and he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in February 1915.  In February 1916 he was transferred to 108th Company, Machine Gun Corps in the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Lieutenant James Dermot Neill was 29 when he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; on Holywood and District War Memorial; in Holywood Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church; in Holywood Masonic Lodge No. 381; on the QUB War Memorial; in the QUB Book of Remembrance (Page 44); in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 501) and in RBAI.

In August 1932 a French woman named Madame le Bayon was visiting the Thiepval area and she found a small silver medallion in the shape of a horse shoe with a chain. The medallion was inscribed ‘Lt. J.D. Neill, 13th R.I. Rifles’.

Madame le Bayon obtained contact details for the Neill family and asked if they’d like to have the medallion returned. James Dermot Neill’s father replied by saying that ‘he was most anxious to recover this memento of his son whom he knew possessed it and probably wore it as an ID medal’.

Lieutenant James Dermot Neill’s father, Sharman D Neill, died on 21 April 1934 (aged 76).