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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 29 November 2020

Search launched after WWI medals found in pocket of donated jacket

The medals were found in a tattered old coat that was donated to charity.

A CHANCE FIND in a charity shop has sparked a search for the relatives of a Private Ryan who served in the Munster Fusiliers during World War One.

The British Army medals were found in a threadbare jacket that was handed into Kealkil Charity Shop near Bantry in West Cork.

ryan medals Patrick Ryan's 1914-15 Star (left) and Victory Medal (right). Source: Skibbereen Heritage Centre

The poor condition of the coat meant it was set to be recycled and the medals were nearly lost but for the intervention of a diligent volunteer who checked the pockets. 

The ornate tokens date back to the First World War and the volunteers set about trying to find out more about their owner.

The medals, which are the 1914-15 Star and the Victory Medal, gave a few handy clues as they reveal that they were awarded to a Private P Ryan from the Munster Fusiliers. They are also impressed with Ryan’s service number.

In a bid to track down Ryan’s relatives the charity shop contacted the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, which had previously successfully discovered the background of Stephen Sweetnam who was killed in action in 1916 when he was 19-years-old.

Sweetnam’s Memorial Plaque, also known as the ‘Dead man’s penny’, is now on display in Aughadown Church of Ireland in Cork where he lived with his uncle who was the Vicar.

Through an extensive trawl through war records Kevin Tomlinson discovered that Ryan’s first name was Patrick.

He volunteered for war early, likely signing on in either Tralee or Cork, and was enlisted in the first Battalion of the Munster Fusiliers.

ryan-doc Source: Skibbereen Heritage Centre

The battalion was shipped out to the Balkans, so Ryan’s first experience of war was possibly in Gallipoli or in Egypt. From there he was sent to the western front and saw active service in June 1916.

He was later transferred to the Labour corps, meaning he was no longer fit for active service. He was honourably discharged but, remarkably, reenlisted and was sent back to war.

Patrick was also nominated for the Military Medal, which is given out for bravery in battle, however, for reasons unknown, he never received the award.

The rest of Patrick Ryan’s life remains a mystery.

“We don’t know what happened to him after he got back,” Terri Kearney, of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, told TheJournal.ie. 

It would be great to find his relatives so the medals can go where they belong. Hopefully the public appeal will jog someone’s memory.  

The heritage centre is saving Private Ryan’s medals until a proper home is found.

Anyone who thinks they may know anything about Patrick Ryan can contact the Skibbereen Heritage Centre here or Kealkil Charity Shop here.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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