No. 18572, ‘A’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Thursday 16 August 1917 (aged 31)
New Irish Farm Cemetery, Belgium (Grave XV. B. 14)
Family grave headstone in Kilcoo Church of Ireland Graveyard
In the Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919 database it is recorded that Richard O’Brien was born in Bangor. This is incorrect.
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Richard O’Brien worked as a gardener for Samuel Cleland Davidson at Seacourt, Bangor. At the outbreak of war Samuel Cleland Davidson offered the employees in his gardens at Seacourt the same terms that he had offered the workers in his Davidson & Company (Sirocco) Engineering Works in Belfast if they joined up – five shillings per week paid to the man’s wife, mother, or sister throughout the war and then, reinstatement after the war.
Richard O’Brien was born on 15 March 1886 in Aughacullion, Bryansford, Co Down and he was a son of Richard and Mary Ann O’Brien (nee Douglas, sometimes Douglass) who were married on 30 October 1874 in Kilcoo Parish Church of Ireland Church. Richard O’Brien, a full-age bachelor, and labourer from Bryansford was a son of Daniel O’Brien, a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Sergeant. Mary Ann Douglas, a full-age spinster from Tollymore Park, Bryansford was a daughter of Robert Douglas, a farmer.
Richard and Mary Ann O’Brien and their children lived in the townland of Aughacullion, Bryansford, Co Down. Richard O’Brien Senior was a labourer and farmer and he and Mary Ann had twelve children:
Rose (born 29 April 1875)
Mary Ann (born 28 June 1876 in Bryansford; married William John McCrea from Waterask, Dundrum in Kilcoo Parish Church of Ireland Church 20 July 1910)
Ellen (born 28 December 1877)
Henry (born 30 April 1879)
Robert (born 5 February 1881)
Catherine (born 10 May 1882)
James (born 6 April 1884)
Richard (born 15 March 1886 in Aughacullion, Bryansford, Co Down)
William (Willie, born 4 April 1888)
Nicholas (born 30 June 1890)
Daniel (born 22 September 1891)
John (born 12 November 1894)
Richard O’Brien Junior enlisted in Bangor, and he served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.
Rifleman Richard O’Brien was killed in action on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck and the Rev Robert Kelso, chaplain to the forces, wrote to Richard’s eldest brother to express his sympathy. In his letter, the Rev Kelso outlined the circumstances of Richard’s death, ‘Your brother was acting as stretcher bearer, and he was killed late in the day. Before the end he had behaved in a most gallant and courageous manner and all who saw him at work amongst the wounded are loud in their praises and unanimous that his conduct deserved the Victoria Cross. All over the battlefield, regardless of personal safety he attended the wounded, dressing them and getting them back to the medical aid post. By his splendid example, coolness and endurance he inspired all around him and no doubt saved many lives by his labour. His conduct has been the talk of the battalion since he came out and, should a posthumous honour be awarded him, all his comrades will be rejoiced’. He was buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery.
In his will Rifleman Richard O’Brien left all his property and effects to his niece Mina Spiers and, because Mina was ‘too young’ he left it in his sister’s charge. He named his sister as Mrs John McCrea of Waterask, Dundrum, Co Down.
Mina Spiers was born on 18 August 1904, and she was a daughter of Thomas and Ellen Spiers of Murlough. Mina’s mother Ellen died of nephritis on 15 November 1905 (aged 27).
Rifleman Richard O’Brien’s parents died within a few weeks of each other in Aughacullion, Bryansford in 1914. His father Richard died of senile decay on 3 January and his mother Mary Ann died of acute rheumatism on 8 February (5 February on family grave headstone).