by ehistoryadmin on March 31, 2023

A Naas resident and his Victoria Cross.

The story of finding the final resting place of Corporal John Lyons V.C. (Deceased 1867)

John Gibson

As a result of Covid restrictions I turned my genealogy research pastime into an everyday occurrence spending hours on the computer doing genealogy research on my own family and for friends.

I also had an interest in military history having served for 36 years in the Army Reserve of the Irish Defence Forces. I was stationed in Naas Barracks which was built in 1813 and which was the Depot Barracks of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers up to 1922. The Barracks was closed in 1998 and the Kildare County Council Offices (Arás Chill Dara, Devoy Park) were built on the site.

I became aware of the story of Cpl. John Lyons late last year when I was researching Sgt. Henry Ramage of the 2nd Dragoon Guards who won his Victoria Cross in the Crimea on the 26th October 1854 and died in Newbridge Co. Kildare on the 29th December 1859 age 32. Despite intensive research by a number of people, Sgt. Ramage’s grave has not been identified.

During my research I was directed to https://kildare.ie/ehistory/?s=crimea as this site has a number of articles in connection with soldiers who served in the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny (1857/58) in addition to a wide-ranging content of articles relating to Kildare in times past. This website is part of the services provided by Kildare Library and Arts Service.

The story of Corporal John Lyons VC is not known in the town of Naas. When I conducted an internet search for information, I had several important ‘hits’ about his exploits and which confirmed he died in Naas on the 20th April 1867, but his final resting place was not identified. With time on my hands, I decided to begin a new research project to try and find where Corporal John Lyons VC was buried in Naas.

John Lyons was born to Daniel Lyons and Margaret Muldowney in Carlow in 1825. His baptismal record gives us a date of baptism as being on the 14th May 1825.  His army discharge papers show he joined the 19th Regiment of Foot in Carlow, when he was 18 years 6 months old on the 11th July 1842. When he joined the Regiment, he gave his occupation as Painter. His younger brother David Lyons also joined up on the same day.

John had a chequered army career; the Green Howard Museum records tell us he was recognised as an excellent soldier and promoted twice but unfortunately court-martialed three times in the course of his career. His list of postings read like an itinerary of a world traveller:

  • Malta and Corfu in the Mediterranean,
  • Barbados and St. Vincent in the West Indies.
  • Montreal and Ottawa in Canada.

Returning to England in 1851 he served in each of Winchester, Weymouth, Gosport and also with the Grenadier Company at the Tower of London.

In 1854 his unit was sent to the Crimea and he fought in the Battle of Alma on the 20th September and the Battle of Inkerman on the 5th November 1854.

On the 10th June 1855, when was he was in a trench at the siege of Sebastopol, a live shell landed in the trench, whereupon he picked it up and threw it out, thereby saving his own and a number of his comrades’ lives. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. The Citation[1] reads as follows: ‘For, on the 10th June 1855, taking up a live shell which fell among the guard of the trenches, and throwing it over the parapet.’

Private John Lyons was one of 62 Victoria Cross recipients presented with their medal by Queen Victoria in Hyde Park on the 26th June 1857.

In late July 1857 he and his Regiment were transferred to Bengal in India to deal with the Indian Mutiny. He was promoted to Corporal on the 15th September 1860. After 4 years there he was returned sick to England in 1861.

John Lyons went before a medical review board on the 6th December 1862 and the outcome was that “his discharge is proposed in consequence of his being unfit for further military service”. Medically he was adjudged to be suffering from Chronic Rheumatism as a result of exposure on military service.

Following this outcome, John Lyons was given medical care and attention in The Royal Victoria Netley Hospital, Southampton until his discharge on the 14th July 1863 aged 39 years and 7/12 months and his intended place of residence was stated to be Ireland.

My research began in earnest when I was able to get a copy of his death record from the Irish Govt Record Office in August 2022.

Richard Johnston who was present at John Lyon’s death is his brother-in-law. He married Johana Lyons, who is John Lyon’s sister, in Athy on the 25th September 1857. Richard Johnston was 42 years old and working in Athy Gaol at the time of their marriage, Johana was 26 years old.

We now have a reason for John Lyons coming to live in Naas. He was living with his sister at the time immediately prior to his death on the 20th April 1867. He had been ill with TB for the previous 18 months. It is not clear if John Lyons ever worked as a painter in Naas due to his ill health and he would have been in receipt of a small pension due to his being invalided out of military service. Having been awarded the Victoria Cross, he would also have been in receipt of a £10 annuity.

Johana and Richard had a son Daniel born on the 8th September 1862 in Naas. I also found a birth record for their daughter Margaret Anna Johnston, born on the 8th May 1865 which provides additional information on the family. They were living in New Row Naas and Richard was a shoe maker.

The next record I found for the Johnston family was the death of Richard at New Row Naas on the 18th December 1872 Age 60, ‘retired constable’ from Bronchitis of eight months duration.

Photo Courtesy of The Green Howards Museum Trust

There is a macabre conclusion to the death of Cpl. John Lyons. The photo above, is a daguerreotype[2] and was taken after his demise. His family arranged his corpse to be dressed up in full military uniform with his medals and propped up in a chair.

His Victoria Cross and other medals were sold on the 6th July 1897 in Sotheby’s London for £55 and were bought by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Munro who had served in the 19th Regiment and he presented them to his Regiment (19th). The Victoria Cross and medals are now held in the Green Howards Regiment Museum Trust at Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Zoe Utley, The Collections Manager of the Green Howards Museum Trust drew my attention to an interesting story about the Museum’s acquisition of the daguerreotype photograph of Cpl. John Lyons as recounted by Major M.L. Ferrar in his book “Bygone Days”. He was on duty in Dublin in 1897 and David Lyons (brother), now a pensioner who had served in the Crimea and was wounded at Redan, said he wanted to present Major Ferrar with the photograph of his brother Cpl. John Lyons in his uniform wearing his Victoria Cross and Legion of Honour. Major Ferrar was delighted to accept it and in thanking David Lyons gave him a cash present. As it turns out Major Ferrar was the Museum’s great collector of militaria and the picture is now on show in the Museum’s Crimean case.

So, having taken a few detours and meanderings, it was time to get back to the main point of my research: can I find where Corporal John Lyons is buried? I had been using Ancestry.co.uk as my main research platform, having exhausted the capabilities of Irish Genealogy.ie in the process.

One morning at about 2am a few months back, during one of my research sessions when I was working on Ancestry.co.uk and going through a refined search for information on John Lyons, I was able to conclude that earlier searches had given me his correct year of birth. A new search offered me information on Joannes Lyons (sic), [John Lyons]. This information came from records held in a database “Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655-1915”. An internet search directed me to Catholic Parish Registers at the NLI. (National Library Ireland). Naas Parish Records has four sections and on Microfilm 04208/05 the death records for the period 14th March 1861 to 30th Dec1868 are held. So, fingers crossed I began my trawl through the records which are set out in Latin. I am pleased to say that having studied Latin in Naas CBS under the tutelage of the late Tom ‘Tucker’ Maguire I was able to decipher the all-important record of John Lyons for which I had been searching. I found an entry detailing where Corporal John Lyons is buried and this also confirmed that he lived in New Row, Naas at the time of his death.

Corporal John Lyons is buried in Abbey Cemetery beside Abbey Bridge and the Grand Canal in Naas.

The cemetery gets its name as it is located in the ruins of a former Augustinian monastery that was founded in the 14th Century. In historical documents it was known as the “Abbey of the Mote” in view of its proximity to the Moat just up the road. The monastery ceased to exist following the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII starting in 1536.

The New Cemetery (St. Corban’s on the Dublin Road, Naas) opened in 1888 but on occasion a burial took place in the Abbey Cemetery. For example, the eHistory site (Kildare Library and Arts Service) has an article attributed to The Kildare Observer 2 January 1904 reporting on the death of a Crimean Veteran: Mr. Patrick Turner whose funeral took place in Old Abbey.

I discussed the results of my research with my brothers Bill and David and they both suggested that I get confirmation of other burials in Abbey Cemetery around that time. Following further research, I found online that a survey of the Abbey Graveyard headstones had been undertaken in 1987 by Brian McCabe, Seán Sourke, David Brown, Kevin Burke & John O’Kelly and I used their survey to find a burial in and around 1867. They had a headstone recorded for ‘Murphy 1866’ and there is a record for Michael Murphy Age 73 interred in the Abbey Cemetery in the NLI Naas Parish register.

Having completed my research I invited James Durney, Kildare Co. Co. Historian and Karel Kiely, County Archivist, to review it. Both of them have confirmed the accuracy of my findings and were able to supply me with additional information in relation to Johana Lyons and Richard Johnston which has been incorporated into this article.


My grateful thanks to:

  • Zoe Utley, The Collections Manager of the Green Howards Museum Trust for permission to use their photograph of Corporal John Lyons VC and providing additional information.
  • My brothers: Bill, David and Ger Gibson for their support and encouragement while I was doing this project and reviewing my final draft.
  • James Durney and Karel Kiely for their advice, support and additional material during my research.


[1] Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday, February 24, 1857 Page 659

[2] The invention of the daguerreotype, the earliest photographic process, in 1839 brought portraiture to a wider audience. It was cheap to produce and enabled a family to have an affordable keepsake of their dead family members. The photographer often tried to make the recently deceased look like they were in a deep sleep and adults were commonly posed in chairs.


by ehistoryadmin on March 22, 2023


Leinster Leader, October 18, 1986

The canalside village of Robertstown returned to its former glory for a few hours on Sunday week. It was just like the old Scottish legend in the musical Brigadoon as over two hundred bargemen and their families converged on the quiet village by car, bus, and “shanks mare” for the first ever reunion of canal bargemen.

The idea was mooted by local and former bargeman Paddy Kane, and brought to fruition by himself and local curate, Fr. Merrigan (himself a Barroman from Carlow) who spent some years in Graiguenamanagh before coming to Allen. Those two were ably assisted by a number of other locals like Dick Cross, Mrs. Kelly, Tommy Hannon, and many more good canalside people.

The afternoon’s celebration began with Mass, celebrated by Fr. Merrigan in the old canal hotel, with appropriate readings for the day read by two former boatmen, Dick Cross of Ballyteague and John Connolly, of Graiguenamanagh. In his homily Fr. Merrigan spoke of past times on the Grand Canal, and the slightest trace of a tear came from the assembled marines when he spoke of “11th Mile Bridge” at Tubberdaly, and their former colleague “Midge” Kelly.

But tears changed to laughter and applause when he spilled the beans on some local girls who secretly hoped to meet a former “Barrowman” boyfriend they had not met for years, and maybe renew an old friendship that began so long ago.

Fr. Merrigan also paid tribute to the many boatmen who have passed on to their eternal rest. And as he did, one could sense the presence of thousands of souls of times past all joined with their surviving comrades for just one minute of time. We hope they are now sailing close to the Heavenly Shore.


As the writer mingled with his old friends and former neighbours, he saw people like Tod Aungier and his wife May. He’s a member of a long-tail canal family, and she a member of another: the Dunnes of Ballyteague. Her father and his father before him were “Bank Rangers” on the canal. There were also the O’Neills, from Killina; (Paddy, Brian and Dan); the Conroys from Robertstown; Dick Kelly and his wife from Dublin (formerly from Ballyteague); Jim Moloney, Tom Doyle and his wife Brigid (both coming from a canal background); Tommy Ennis, Mick Herbert and his Dublin born wife down for the day to meet old friends.

After handshakes and greetings all round with lots of potographs [sic] to preserve the reunion for posterity, we were all ready for the afternoon cruise. There to take us were Tommy Hannon and Gerry Kelly, two very reliable and competent boat handlers with many years of steering barges to their credit.

We headed for Lowtown. “This auld boat was taken out new from the dock by my grandfather, old Dick Cross”, said his grandson and namesake, Dick from Ballyteague. “Her number was 52M. My grandfather died in 1946, on Christmas Eve, and the same time as the four men were drowned off Lough Derg Holy Island”. This tragedy occurred when the canal barge, the 45M, carrying an estimated 50 tons of porter, was lost on the Shannon; one of the sad tales of boating indeed.

I asked an old bargeman: “How long were you on the canal”? “Eighty years”, he answered, “forty years by day and forty by night!” And within earshot of the writer, one bargeman greeting another said “Wisha Dan, how are ye goin’ on?” “Great, Tony, and yourself?”, he replied. “God, but it’s great to see ye. You know, we’d have a crew now if we had Anderson (who has since passed on)”.


The oldest boatman present, 90-years-old Peter Duggan from Allenwood, was presented with a plaque, and Esther Conroy, from Lowton, the fourth generation of her family to mind the lock, also received a plaque in recognition of her long service.

“Duggan has very little on me, boy”, declared Edward Cahill, from Graiguenamanagh, who is a sprightly 87 years old, and spent 50 of them on the canal. “And I enjoyed every bit of it”, he said.

“We’re going back slower”, observed Dan Neill; “You see Gerry doesn’t like coming back from Lowtown; he got the wife there”, joked Dan.

But back we came, and in record time. And as we moored one thought of times past when packet boats and horsedrawn barges sailed in and out of this, a one-time famous canal village, with its fine Canal Hotel, and stables, which remind today’s writer of its opulent past.

As we disembarked to the sound of Robertstown’s own Dennis Moran and his band, entertaining the nostalgic boatmen and their wives, daughters, sons, and friends, there was a delicious candlelight meal waiting for us, served as only the Robertstown girls can with their usual Robertstown courtesy. Later the visitors danced the evening away.

“Were any of you lads ever up the Naas canal”, I asked a group busy reliving old times. “I drew coal up to Corbally”, replied Jim Murphy, “aye, and sundries up to Naas”, he also recalled. “Whelan was the agent in Corbally, and Mick Bracken the agent in Naas”.

He went on: “Sure there’s a lot of stories about the Naas branch. There was a man drowned in the harbour in the old days and the swans never went near the spot for years. I used to draw coal up to the gasworks”.

Jim continued: “And big Paddy Curtis would empty the boat in half the time with his huge big shovel. Wisha, God be with the time: you’d be passing the Soldier’s Island and going on up to Rourke’s Lock”. “You’d be either going up to Odlum’s for a load of flour or going all the way up to Naas or on to Corbally”.

Someone else interjected, recalling one of the old “steamers” called The Barrow which was brought over by the British to France during the First World War. “Paddy Connell (God rest him) from Shannon Harbour saw it when he was soldiering over there in France”.

Private boats also plied the canal run by the Smullens, the Hayeses, Gills, Odlums, Shackletons, D. E. Williams, to name but a few.


Paddy Dunne, from Lowtown, told me he started on a barge in 1932 at the age of 14, and he earned 24 shillings a week, less one shilling and threepence for a stamp. His duties were as a second greaser and he had to make tea, clean the cabin, fill the water barrels, etc. “You’d get the water from the 9th Lock, or from Leperstown well (near Athy) or on to the other line near a bridge not far from Edenderry”.

The boats sailed all night. The crew consisted of five people: the skipper, the driver, the deckman, and the first and second greases. During his 27 years on the canal Paddy Dunne got promoted through all those jobs, and ended up as a skipper of the 74M at the time the canal was closed in 1960. At that time he was earning 8 pounds three shillings a week. “It was a hard life, but I loved it”, said Paddy, as he spoke about his life on the canals of Ireland.

I suppose he summed up what everyone felt with those few words; those present: including the Connollys, the Balfes, the O’Neills, the Penders, (from Killina and Ticknevin); the Conroys, the Domicans, the Hannons (from Robertstown); the Bolgers, the McDonnells, the Dochertys,  and the Connollys (from Graiguenamanagh).

So, a great day, and a great occasion, came to an end, and another historic “first” was over. The people of the busy canalside village went home hoping to meet again next year. Who knows?


Re-typed from the original newspaper article by Eimhin Clarke.


March 20, 2023


Nationalist & Leinster Times 9 June 1967 Mr. M. DOOLEY The death occurred at Naas Co. Hospital on Sunday of Mr. Michael Dooley, 10 St Michael’s Terrace, Athy, aged 53 years. He was a member of an old and respected local family. He was husband of Mrs. Mary Dooley, formerly a Miss Logan of Dundalk, who before her marriage was attached to the teaching staff at Barrowhouse, N.S. He was father of John, Peadar, Michael, Donald and Jimmy and of […]
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February 24, 2023


Co. Kildare Heritage in 3D In recent years the technologies available to document objects, monuments, buildings, and landscapes in three-dimensions, have improved in accuracy and become more affordable. As a result, three-dimensional representations of heritage objects and monuments are fast becoming ubiquitous in heritage interpretation and dissemination. County Kildare Federation of Local History Groups have added a K3D section to their website to bring together in one place a selection of 3D models of Co. Kildare heritage objects and monuments. […]
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February 22, 2023


NATIONAL PLOUGHING CHAMPIONSHIPS.  A TRACTOR PLOUGHING CONTEST Leinster Leader 15 January 1938 The National Ploughing Association has decided to include Tractor-Ploughing contests on a National scale in the National Ploughing Championships in the future years. On February 10th at Carlow the competition will take the form of a contest between teams of three operating Fordson, Lanz, and Allis-Chalmers Tractors. The cream of Ireland’s tractor ploughmen will handle the outfits and great interest is being taken in the proposal. The Director […]
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February 15, 2023


This article from the Leinster Leader of 1931 gives an indication of the extreme poverty and hardship experienced by a section of the population in the first decade of the new Irish State. The withdrawal of the British Army and subsequently the Irish Army from the towns of Naas and Newbridge in particular – where they had indirectly and directly employed hundreds of people – along with the long-term economic cost of the bitter Civil War, a struggling Irish economy […]
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February 13, 2023


Obituary Mr Paddy Ryan, Manchester Leinster Leader 10 September 1977 The death took place recently in Manchester of former Kildare star footballer Paddy (‘Darkie’) Ryan. Native of Milltown, Newbridge, he was aged 73. He cam on a s a sub. in the famous 1937 All-Ireland Football Final when Kildare beat Kerry, and was a member of of the Kildare senior football team for may years after that. He won many trophies and honours with the Army Metro team during his […]
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February 10, 2023


Two autograph books from the Rath Internment Camp (1921) and Tintown Internment Camp (1923) are now online. Autograph books were kept by many prisoners. They had become a popular item during World War I, used by soldiers to gather signatures of their battalion comrades or fellow prisoners in Prisoner of War camps.   In the Curragh internment camps autograph books provided internees with an outlet in which to express themselves using drawings, poetry and songs. They also contain prisoners’ names, addresses, […]
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February 8, 2023


OLDEST CELBRIDGE HOUSE IS COMING DOWN The Leinster Leader November 18 1967 – Lena Boylan The oldest house in Celbridge is soon to be demolished by Kildare County Council. For over two and a half centuries it has been a landmark in the town’s history. It is an unsightly building and can only claim the sentiment of some of Celbridge’s older residents whose fathers and grandfathers received their education there in the middle of the 19th century when it was […]
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February 7, 2023


WALLPAPERS, LTD., KILDARE. ANNUAL STAFF DANCE Leinster Leader 15 January 1938 The staff of Wallpapers, Ltd., Kildare, held their first annual dance on Friday, 7th inst., the function being a brilliant success. The venue was the White Abbey Hall, which was most artistically decorated for the occasion, and the attendance was one of the largest seen at a dance in Kildare for a considerable time past. Carnival effects and novelties added to the picturesque character of the scene – the […]
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