Orr, Francis (No. 8298)

Orr, Francis (Frank)


No. 8298, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Wednesday 5 May 1915 (aged 24)


Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, France (Grave I. C. 8)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Journey of Remembering Belfast Book of Honour

Newtowngrange War Memorial, Midlothian, Scotland

Newbattle Parish Church of Scotland, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Brother of Rifleman Nicholas Orr (No. 741)

Half-Brother of Private Hugh Orr (No. 9285)

Uncle of Rifleman Andrew Orr (No. 55918)

Uncle of Rifleman John Orr (No. 18/774)


Five members of the Orr family were killed in action during the First World War and to understand the relationship between them it is useful to begin with Francis Orr’s father, Nicholas Orr.

Nicholas Orr worked as an agricultural labourer and lived in the townlands of Ballyferris, Ballywhiskin and Ballyhaskin before moving to Belfast where he lived in Leopold Street and Crimea Street:

Nicholas Orr and Margaret Kinney (sometimes Kenny) were married on 12 November 1859 in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church.  Nicholas Orr, a full-age bachelor from Whitechurch, worked as a labourer and he was a son of Francis Orr, a labourer.  Margaret Kinney, a full-age spinster from Ganaway was a daughter of William Kinney, a farmer.

Nicholas and Margaret Orr (nee Kinney) had five children, all of whom were baptised in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church:

John (born 12 May 1860)

Francis (born 1862; died)

Ellen (born 18 June 1864; married James Taggert on 3 May 1890 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office)

Francis (born 17 November 1866; died from heart disease 7 December 1875)

Hugh (born 14 November 1869 and killed in action 17 May 1915)

After their mother, Margaret Orr, died from bronchitis on 19 January 1872 (aged 34), their father, Nicholas Orr, married Eliza Jane Mawhinney (sometimes McWhinney, sometimes Mawhinnie) on 30 July 1877 in Newtownards Registrar’s Office.  Nicholas Orr, a 32-year-old widower from Ballyferris was a farmer and he was a son of Francis Orr, a labourer.  Elizabeth Jane Mawhinney (born 13 May 1865 in Ballylimp) was a 21-year-old spinster from Ballyferris and a daughter of William Mawhinney, a labourer.

Nicholas and Eliza Jane Orr (nee Mawhinney) had at least twelve children:

Nicholas (born 28 June 1878; died in an accident at Ballymacruise 16 August 1897; he died from a fractured skull after falling from a cart)

Margaret (Maggie, born 29 December 1879 in Ballyferris, married Harry James Rogerson, a driver in the Army Service Corps stationed at Victoria Barracks Belfast on 25 December 1908 in St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral Church Belfast)

William (born 2 July 1881 in Ballyferris)

Eliza Jane (Unnamed female child in civil records, born 9 July 1882 in Ballyferris; married Thomas Dixon on 20 November 1912 in Sinclair Seaman’s Presbyterian Church Belfast)

Francis (born 8 August 1885; died from convulsions 13 August 1885)

James Andrew (born 19 August 1887 in Ballywhiskin, served with a Scottish Regiment)

Sarah (born 28 October 1888 in Ballywhiskin, married Henry Savage on 30 August 1913 in Mariner’s Church of Ireland Church Belfast)

Edwin Dorrian Colvin (Edward, later called Francis or Frank, born 14 December 1890 in Ballywhiskin) Frank was killed in action 5 May 1915

Robert Melville (born 6 November 1893 in Millisle, served as a Company Sergeant Major with the Royal Scots and was home on leave from active service when he and Margaret Jones were married on 5 December 1916 in St Matthias’ Church of Ireland Church, Lower Falls, Belfast)

Minnie McCaw (born 16 October 1895 in Millisle; died from marasmus 14 April 1896)

Nicholas (born 8 May 1898 in Millisle and named after his brother Nicholas who died in an accident at Ballymacruise on 16 August 1897; killed in action on 24 March 1918)

Albert Edward (born 18 February 1901 in School House Brae, Donaghadee; died from debility 20 April 1901 in School House Brae, Donaghadee)

Their father, Nicholas Orr, died on 13 July 1920 at 112 Bristol Street, Belfast.

John Orr, eldest son of Nicholas and Margaret Orr (nee Kinney), lived in the townlands of Kilbright and Ballywhiskin, Millisle.  John Orr worked as a labourer and he and Mary Baird were married on 22 December 1882 in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church.  They had seven sons all of whom were baptised in that church:

John (born 18 March 1883 and killed in action 22 November 1917)

James (born 1 December 1884; died 20 January 1940)

Francis (born 28 February 1887 in Kilbright, served with a Canadian Battalion)

Hugh (born 29 April 1889 in Kilbright, served aboard HMS Illustrious)

Alexander (born 13 July 1891)

Andrew (born 17 August 1893 and killed in action 31 July 1916)

Nicholas (born 15 October 1895 in Kilbright, served with the Machine Gun Corps)

Their mother, Mary Orr, died on 29 July 1898 (aged 40) and their father, John Orr, died on 10 February 1930 (aged 69).

Francis was the first of the five Orr family members to die, then Hugh, then Andrew, then John and then Nicholas.

Francis Orr was born on 8 August 1885 in the townland of Ballyhaskin and he was baptised in Carrowdore Parish Church of Ireland Church (Christ Church).  Francis Orr was a half-brother of John Orr whose sons Andrew and John were also killed in action.

For a time, Francis Orr lived with his aunt, Mrs Melville, in the village of Newtowngrange, Midlothian, Scotland and he worked there as a miner.

Francis Orr enlisted in Belfast, he served with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and he was 24 when he was killed in action on 5 May 1915 near Tilleloy in France.

Rifleman Frank Orr was buried in the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, France and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:



When arrangements were being made for the wording of the inscription, his mother, Eliza Jane Orr, was living at 278 Crimea Street, Belfast.

Frank’s parents placed a death notice in the Belfast Telegraph and it contained the verse:

No matter how we pray,

No matter how we call,

There is nothing left to answer

But his photo on the wall.

Jane Campbell of 14 Ewart’s Row, Belfast also placed a death notice in the Belfast Telegraph and it contained the verse:

He wandered far from where his heart

Had bound its earthly tie,

And in a far-off distant land

His body now doth lie.

Sadly missed

Rifleman Frank Orr is commemorated in the Belfast Book of Honour (Page 519), on Newtowngrange War Memorial, Midlothian and in Newbattle Parish Church of Scotland, Dalkeith, Midlothian.