Stephen Murphy's Quest to Photograph the Graves of the Irish Nationals Killed in Korea and Buried in Ireland

Stephen is the nephew of William Francis Murphy killed in Korea

On a sunny but cold November day I drove to Galbally en route, to Adare with my aunt in order to photograph the headstone of PFC. Billy Scully.

Galbally is a small village nestling under the impressive Galtee Mountains.  It actually won a tidy town award in 1994. There Billy Scully was laid to rest In January 1951. With sadness I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the grieving Scully family as they stood at that very spot over 50 years ago.

I thought about his brother and sister who actually made the trip to Washington DC last year for the PC ceremonies. Billy’s brother, Jimmy, was a proud man on that day as He tearfully accepted the certificate on behalf of the Scully family.  

As I entered Galbally Cemetery, I felt that it would take a while to find the headstone. However remembering that the Harrington marker in Castletownbere was a simple narrow upright stone, I soon found what I was looking for after a quick scan of my surroundings. 

My aunt ,as is her wont when visiting a cemetery ,brought along a bottle of holy water which she sprinkled on this as well as the other 3 graves which we visited.

From there we passed through nearby Emly Co. Tipperary, native place of Sgt TJ O’Brien, MIA. Regrettably TJ’s remains were never recovered for interment in his native place.

From there we proceeded to Kilteely, Co Limerick, where the remains of Pvt. John F.Dillon were laid to rest in 1953. Kilteely Cemetery is to be found beside the main (only) street of this tiny hamlet. As you open the cemetery gate, the Dillon headstone stands right before your eyes (if you know what to look for).

All the known sad details of young Dillon’s life came immediately to mind - how he left a broken -hearted mother and young siblings behind when he returned to his native Connecticut, at the age of 17, and once again when he was KIA in Korea.

Little did he realize what lay in store when he departed from these shores. 

Kilteely is a rather desolate dreary place today.  Small wonder indeed that young John Dillon felt the need to leave and return to his native Connecticut all those years ago.  Clearly there was not much in prospect for him if he stayed in Kilteely except life itself.

The smiling innocence of his youthful face on his army photo filled my thoughts as I stood beside his grave.

Three hours had elapsed since we left Cork. We arrived at our destination and a welcome rest at the Woodlands Hotel in Adare, where we stayed for the next 3 nights.

We motored west to North Kerry the next morning in the direction of Listowel.  Our destination was Moyvane and specifically Murhur Cemetery where we hoped to locate the headstone of the valorous Cpl Patrick Sheahan. With the help of the local post mistress we found the Murhur burial ground.

I reflected on the events of 1953 when his casket was placed before the high alter in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and what it must have been like for the young 14 year old Bridie Cox grieving at the graveside of her beloved big brother who was killed on the battlefields of Korea.

I felt privileged to be able to pay my respects to this war hero in the tranquil surrounds of this rural burial ground. Patrick Sheehan had himself endured bereavement at this graveside a few years before he departed for America.  Then, Patrick would have watched as his father were placed in the ground of Murhur Cemetery. 

Difficult to comprehend, that when Paddy Sheahan left Moyvane in 1947, he was doing so for the last time, and that his and mother and young sister Bridie would never see him again. Mary Sheahan. his sister who was tragically killed when hit by a car in the Catskills in 1954 was also interred in this grave. Her name is inscribed on a headstone beside that of Patrick, alongside the names of her parents.

I would have paid a visit to Bridie in Ballylongford at this time if I had been travelling alone. As it happened I had 4 travelling companions with me that day.  My sister and her husband ,accompanied me on this foray into North Kerry since they were very Keen to pay their respects to the Korean War dead.

Quietly we drove out of Moyvane ,along the main street so familiar to Patrick Sheahan all those years ago.  We then headed off to Listowel where we stopped for lunch. After a brief rest we wended our way towards Tralee before veering off towards the village of Lixnawi in search of the resting place of the John Canty

With the help of directions from a friendly Lixnaw local we arrived at Kiltomey Cemetery and we located the grave after a short search.  Obviously the headstone had been painted grey ,(rather appropriate for a dismal looking village) in the not too distant past.

Two years ago, in pursuit of details about his regiment a relative of John Canty visited the grave at my request and reported that the Inscription was then practically illegible after so many years of neglect.

The circumstances of John Canty’s death in Korea were tragic to say the least.  I left with the impression that he had up to recently been largely forgotten in this quiet country graveyard for the last 5 decades….

We returned to Adare along the coast road which took us through the town of Glin.  My thought turned to KW fatality PFC. Patrick McEnery ( MIA ) who was a native of Turaree Lower,Glin, Co. Limerick.

Also during the day we were in the vicinity of the Templeglantine hometown of PFC. Billy Collins who was interred in Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale, NY.

So at long last I have visited some of the Irish KW graves. 

No doubt you will be as touched by the photos of the headstones as I was when I visited the cemeteries themselves. A very moving experience.

Gravesites visited by Stephen Murphy . . .

Thank you Stephen! It was kind of you to take on this task and also to keep such a moving record.

Irish on the Wall

Irish in the Korean War

The Irish in WWII

Irish in Other Wars and Armies