ne of the tragic and most interesting things to come out of the Great War and
the Second World War was the issue of broken families, servicemen from one
side who married and/or had children with womenfolk of the other side. One
such man to fall for the Faraliens charms was Tom Reilly, from North Longford
(Irish Longfort Thuaidh),
a grand-uncle of mine.
is the only photograph we have of my grand-uncle Tom Reilly. It graces
the cover of Passing By Our Planet, my second book of poetry.
Tom had the distinction of fighting in two world wars, in the uniforms
of two separate armies. What regiments he was in we don’t know, and only
one picture of him in combat uniform while in the US cavalry from 1917.Tom
came from a large family, born in Ireland while it was still part of the
United Kingdom. He emigrated to America, travelling over and back every
few years, unlike many of his countrymen. What he worked at we don’t know,
we do know he hit skid row on a few occasions. He joined the US Army and
came to Europe in 1917, and was unscathed bar one day when he felt his
leg wet, taking his foot out of his boot only to find it full of blood, having
suffered shrapnel wound. Probably due to the shock, he never felt the pain
at the time.
After the war, he met and settled with a German girl, whose parents
were shopkeepers somewhere near the Rhineland/Saarland area, we think. She
twins and tragically died in childbirth. He gave them to her parents
to rear, and promptly went to America once more. He was in Ireland circa
he stood as godfather to my mother. Whether he went straight to England
then we don’t know. Suffice to say he enlisted in the British Army for
his arms and legs in Dunkirk. He died in military hospital in 1953, and
that’s the last we heard of him.
Trying to trace his grave and sons has proved fruitless, bar one
possible incident. My father was in our local, Haughs of Banagher, when Michael
approached him asking, laughing, had he ever heard of two Germans called
laughed and said he had not. Only when talking to my mother was the
connection with Tom Reilly considered. An operation to track the Germans
that night was thwarted by running into bad company (good friends!!!)
with whom he enjoyed the night.
We know Tom Reilly had twins, called Tom and Ned, or German variants
thereof. The child called Ned was named after a brother — possibly
a twin — of Tom.
Efforts to track his through the Royal British Legion proved fruitless,
alas. However, a posting on the Lowlands Listserve has brought
my attention to
a website where you type in a name, and the site shows you the states
with the highest numbers … and there are seven listings of Reilly
in the Saarland-Rhineland
area!!! So, now I must check these out.
• Tomás Ó Cárthaigh’s Website
• Tomás Ó Cárthaigh’s Works in the Lowlands-L Gallery