Thursday 19 April 2018

Heroic Irish soldier's Zulu War medal sells for €85,000

The Zulu War medal, with clasp, awarded to Private Michael Minehan in 1879
The Zulu War medal, with clasp, awarded to Private Michael Minehan in 1879
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A medal awarded to an Irishman for his heroic defence of Rorke's Drift during the ferocious 1879 Zulu War has sold for more than €85,000 at auction.

The medal, awarded to Cork-born Private Michael Minehan, of the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Foot Regiment, was described by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb as "extremely rare". What made the medal, with clasp, even more valuable was the fact that Private Minehan's citation was by Lt Gonville Bromhead, who won a Victoria Cross.

Some of the 24th Infantry Regiment with Private Minehan circled in red
Some of the 24th Infantry Regiment with Private Minehan circled in red

Furthermore, such medals have spiralled in value thanks to the interest generated by the 1964 film 'Zulu', which starred Michael Caine.

A new book, by Lt Col Dan Harvey of the Defence Forces, has highlighted the remarkable role played by Irish soldiers in the Zulu War. His book, 'A Bloody Night', outlines the heroism of the various Irish soldiers in the Rorke's Drift battle.

Some 16 Irish soldiers formed part of the 150-strong British unit which made a last stand on January 22-23, 1879. Days earlier, a British force had been annihilated by the Zulus at Isandlwana.

Private Minehan's medal came up for auction in London and was expected to fetch €30,000.

The private, who was from Castlehaven in west Cork, was described by auctioneer Nimrod Dix as typical of the infantryman that every officer wants under his command.

He joined the British army when he was 18 and went on to serve in South Africa, India and the Mediterranean.

In 1884, he was discharged after contracting a serious illness, returned to Ireland and died in 1891.

He was buried in Castletownshend.

Irish Independent

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