Wexford People

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'For years, family never spoke of the War - it's great that now we can talk about it'


Martin Comerford with headstone in Crosstown (D Tucker)

Martin Comerford with headstone in Crosstown (D Tucker)

Martin Comerford with headstone in Crosstown (D Tucker)


A WEXFORD man has had long-dormant memories stirred of his late grandfather following the publication by this newspaper of a 12-page feature commemorating Wexford's war dead.

Martin Comerford is the grandson of James Patrick Comerford, of 7 Wygram Close, who was killed when his ship was torpedoed by the submarine U-86 150 miles from the Scilly Isles on May 28, 1917.

The captain and 20 men, including James Comerford, were killed in the attack.

Martin, aged 71, said that it was only in recent years that his family has spoken of his grandfather after decades when the actions of those Irishmen who died in the Great War were airbrushed from history.

'He was on the cargo ship, the Antinoe. He wasn't in the services, but we rarely spoke of him,' said Martin, whose mother was a Hogan.

His mother's brother Patrick Hogan was executed with fellow republicans James Parle (from Clovervalley) and John Crean (from Taghmon) by Free State soldiers at Wexford Jail on March 12, 1923.

'There was very little spoken of anyone in the (Great) war, even when I came back - in 1995 when I came back to Wexford I asked one of the councillors to try to find out more about my granfather, but nothing came of it.'

He said the family had originally lived in John Street, but his grandfather 'disappeared' for six months in 1916 when his ship was blockaded in Russia.

'The family was evicted because they didn't pay the rent.. my grandfather paid it when he came back and they moved to 7 Wygram Place,' said Martin, adding that he had no picture of his grandfather and had been unable to find a death certificate for him.

'It's only in the past couple of years that we have been trying to find out more. I spent most of my life in the UK,' said Martin, who now lives in Bannow.

'I think it's great now that we can discuss it. When I was growing up we never spoke about it,' he said.

His grandfather, who was 42 when he was killed, had worked on the ferries out of Wexford.

Patrick was the son of Martin and Mary Comerford, of John Street, and husband to Julia Francis (nee Connors) of Coolcotts.

The couple had three children, Martin, John and Edward; Martin was a renowned goal keeper for the Volunteers and Edward, won a junior county championships with the same club.

Speaking about his grandfather, Martin said there was a war memorial in Tower Hill, London, with his surname spelled in Irish as 'Comerton' .

His body was never recovered, although the family marked his passing at the family grave in Crosstown Cemetery.

'For many, many years we thought and spoke about what happened here, not what happened in the war,' he said.