Beatty was an Enniskillen man, born in the Fermanagh town in
1820. His father was a doctor who later became Superintendent
of the Enniskillen Cholera Hospital. The young Beatty had an
interest in engineering from early days and his father encouraged
that interest. In 1842 Jim Beatty joined a civil engineering
firm and was employed first on the construction of the railway
from Norwich to Lowestoft. In the latter part of 1853 Beatty
went to Nova Scotia to survey the route for the European and
North American Railway, a series of lines connecting the port
of Halifax - the closest to Europe - with points in the interior
of Canada and the United States. He returned to Britain in time
to take on another overseas task as chief engineer for the projected
military railway in the Crimea.
had begun in the Crimea and had caught the British Army largely
unprepared. The troops in the Crimean peninsula had a poor support
service and with the onset of the Crimean winter the few tracks
that existed became unusable. A railway was seen as the answer,
linking the port of Balaclava with the allied siege-works at
first a labour force had to be recruited and transported to
the Crimea. Recruitment proved no problem and many of the navvies
were Irish. Beatty's employers had such confidence in him that
they told the War Office that the railway would be operational
three weeks after the labour force arrived at Balaclava. And
Beatty did not disappoint them: less than three weeks after
his navvies disembarked the first wagons rolled on the double-track
line from Balaclava, where a railway yard had also been built.
From a point near the siege-works, single-track spurs led to
the various batteries thus allowing ammunition and other supplies
to be moved easily and speedily.
first the wagons were hauled uphill by teams of horses and allowed
to run freely down to Balaclava but a stationary winding engines
were planned and, later, steam locomotives. In seven weeks seven
miles of railway were laid but Beatty had not finished his task
and additional track was laid, including a branch to a newly
constructed wharf at Balaclava harbour. On 2 April 1855 the
first-ever hospital train ran on Beatty's railway as wounded
were evacuated to the harbour.
Beatty is one of many Irish men and women to feature in David
Murphy's new book Ireland and the Crimean War. Remembered
today, if at all, for a series of tableaux - the Charge of the
Light Brigade, the 93rd Highlanders' 'Thin Red Line' and Florence
Nightingale with her lamp - there is little appreciation of
just how many Irish served in the Crimea and the degree to which
the public in Ireland supported the war and took an interest
in its progress.
reason why there was so much public interest in the war was
the large number of Irish sailors and soldiers who were involved.
At a time when Irishmen accounted for almost two of every five
soldiers in the Army and about one in five sailors in the Royal
Navy, this is hardly surprising. Nor should it be surprising
that the first soldier ever to win the Victoria Cross - instituted
by Queen Victoria to mark the gallantry of her servicemen in
the war - was Irish. Sergeant Luke O'Connor, from Elphin in
County Roscommon, was serving in the 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers)
Foot when he earned his VC. O'Connor was later commissioned,
rose to become a major-general and was also knighted.
Royal Navy played a major role in the war and, as David Murphy
points out, was instrumental in bringing the conflict to an
end. Part of the Navy's work was far from the Crimea and involved
operations in the Baltic. It was there that Charles Davis Lucas,
from Poyntzpass, earned the very first Victoria Cross for throwing
a burning shell from the deck of his ship during the bombardment
of a Russian fortress. By doing so, Lucas saved many lives.
He, too, was to rise to high rank, retiring from the Royal Navy
as an admiral.
points out the terrible losses suffered by a number of parishes
in County Cork. These parishes had men serving in the Royal
Navy and lost many of them in action in the Crimea. Two parishes,
Upper Aghada and Farsid lost about half of their 1841 male populations
in the war. There seems to be scope for much more research on
casualties of the many wars of the nineteenth century as a factor
in the reduction of the Irish male population, something that
is generally ascribed to emigration.
there were many Irish other than servicemen in the Crimea. Some
were nuns from the Sisters of Mercy and Sisters of Charity who
worked as nurses and were much more effective at their role
than was Florence Nightingale. 'The Lady with the Lamp' was
very much the author of her own legend but objective research
shows that soldiers in Nightingale's hospital at Scutari had
less chance of survival than those ministered to by the Irish
nuns of Sister Mary Francis Bridgeman.
there were Irish surgeons to treat the wounded and the sick.
Many men died from cholera and Murphy includes an account written
by Margaret Kirwin, the wife of a soldier of the 19th Foot,
of the death of Sergeant Murphy who had returned from a day's
marching and 'before his wife fried his beefsteak he was dead',
one of many who were 'dying fast of the cholera and black fever'.
Irish policemen also went to the Crimea. With no regular corps
of military police the Army recruited men from the various forces
in the UK for provost duties and the temporary force included
members of both the Constabulary of Ireland and the Dublin Metropolitan
Police. They did their job effectively and in the aftermath
of the war a permanent Corps of Mounted Military Police was
interest in the war was served by journalists who accompanied
the allied force to the Crimea and among them were three Irishmen.
One of the Irish journalists was the famous Times' correspondent
William Howard Russell, who did much to make the public at home
aware of the shortcomings of the military administration in
the Crimea. Edwin Lawrence Godkin, born in County Wicklow, was
the son of a Presbyterian minister who was also the editor of
the Derry Standard and Dublin correspondent of the Times.
Godkin's stories were much more human and told of the soldier
on the ground. Godkin worked for the Daily News, as did a third
Irish journalist. James Carlile McCoan, from County Tyrone.
the aftermath of the war, many Irish towns and cities had tangible
reminders. Not only were there crippled veterans but there were
also Crimean guns, displayed in public places throughout the
land. And streets and roads were named for battles and personalities.
Dublin had Raglan Road and Raglan Lane, Belfast streets named
for the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman and Londonderry
an Alma Place.
Crimean war was one of the major events of the mid-nineteenth
century but in Ireland its memory was overshadowed by the political
developments of the later decades of the century. David Murphy's
book is a timely reminder of a war that was significant to Irish
society and that cost many Irish lives.
and the Crimean War is an important addition to Irish historical
writings and rescues a period of this island's history from
obscurity' Richard Doherty, Belfast Telegraph, 27 July
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