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Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Patrick Raymond Skehan

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Private 1424

Patrick Raymond Skehan was born in Kilmore on April 27, 1894, the second son of Patrick and Amy (nee Grose) Skehan. Educated at Assumption College, Kilmore, he was a member of the Essendon Rifles Military Band (58th Reg.) and enlisted in the AIF at Broadmeadows on November 7, 1914, listing his occupation as Electrician.

Patrick sailed from Australia with the 2nd reinforcement to 7th Battalion on the HMAT “Clan Macgillivary” on February 2, 1915. On April 5, 1915, he embarked to join Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli and took part in the landing on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, where he celebrated his 21st birthday on April 27. In July he was buried in a SAP which was blown in by heavy shellfire from the German warship “Goeben”. Only two were recovered alive from the SAP due to their proximity to the main trench. He regained consciousness on route to Malta and was admitted to St. Andrews Hospital, Malta with shell shock and suffered semi paralyses for some time.

After Gallipoli, he was transferred to the 1st Pioneer battalion and sent to France. The following is a brief extract from his writings:

“I was a runner at Pozieres and was affected by explosions to the extent of being thrown over and the concussion gave me a headache. On the second time we were in the line I hopped over with about 40 other men to dig a shallow trench for the infantry to “hop off” from. On the following day a shrapnel shell burst right in front of me and for a time I was dazed thinking the whole of the shell had hit me, but after a rest I recovered, I had a G.S.W in the left knee. I went to England and did not rejoin until April 1917. At Passchendaele I was thrown out of a shell hole by concussion and on another occasion was thrown into one, but I carried on until October 1918. The M.O. wanted to send me away, but I asked to be allowed to remain with my unit. In October 1918, I contracted influenza and went to England.”

AWARDED THE MILITARY MEDAL; “HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the under mentioned soldier No. 1424 Private PATRICK RAYMOND SKEHAN”.

The citation reads:

“At Pozieres, France, on August 18, 1916, Pte. Skehan was detailed as a runner for Captain Speckual while 1st Avenue was under construction. During a heavy bombardment it was necessary to dispatch Pte. Skehan with a message to Lieut. O’Brien, on the way Pte. Skehan was hit on the knee by a piece of shrapnel but not withstanding this continued on his way, crawling on his hands and knees a distance of over 500 yards under continuous fire.”

He returned to Australia on the “City of Exeter” and was discharged on June 12, 1919. Due to his war service injuries suitable work was difficult to obtain, however, he worked as a casual labourer with the railways for a period, was appointed librarian in charge of the musical records at the Mildura University till its closure. He then returned to Moonee Ponds and finished his working life at the Maribynong ordnance factory. Blessed with a rich bass voice he often sang in operatic choruses and in St .Theresa’s choir, Essendon. Ocassionally he would visit family in Kilmore, travelling by train to Kilmore East and walking into the township. He never married and passed away on July 4, 1972, aged 78 years, and is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.

In addition to the Military Medal, Patrick was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name appears on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll at the Kilmore Memorial Hall.

Patrick Raymond Skehan in later life
Patrick Raymond Skehan in later life

KILMORE FREE PRESS October 28, 1915
At the Dardanelles

Private P. R., Skehan, son of Mr P. Skehan, J.P., Kilmore, thus writes from the Convalescent Camp, Malta, under date 20th August, to his parents :-

At last I’am on the road to recovery and hope to be soon back in the trenches with the boys. Our battalion, in fact the whole brigade, has suffered terribly, and very few of the originals are left. We have had some horrible experiences, I never thought I would get used to it so quickly it was just like some awful nightmare. Our brigade was the second one ashore, and landed at 9 o’clock. From early morning the “Jizzie”, Buchantte, London and Triumph had been bombarding the forts at Gallipoli, the transports standing just behind. While we were getting into the torpedo destroyers which took us to the small boats we were shelled with shrapnel. Then we had to board the small boats and the naval pinnaces took us ashore, a string of three and four little boats being towed by each one. Then the excitement started. As we neared the shore they turned the machine guns on us from the hills while their field guns fired shrapnel from the flanks. We had to jump from the boats into the water, which was four feet-deep, and rush for cover of the cliffs. It was there we saw the slaughter the landing party suffered. Boats were smashed to pieces by shells, ghastly looking corpses laying and sitting in drifting boats, and others had been shot as they set foot on dry land. We scaled the little hill and went on up Shrapnel Gully. The first days and nights were awful. One of the machine guns of the 7th were manned by Essendon boys, and all were either killed or wounded. I thought I was a goner a hundred times during that week. The second reinforcements joined up with the 7th at Mena two days before they left, but some of us were picked to go as a hold party for the F.A. on the Indian. We concentrated at Lemnos Island and were taken back to the 7th on the Galeka the night before we sailed to the Dardanelles. We entrenched on the top of Shrapnel Gully, and now our trenches run right along the top of three similar gullies and right down towards Kuthier. We have Indian mountain batteries at the back of us as well as our field artillery, well hidden in the ridges, also Scotch howitzer batteries, which fire right over the hills, while the battleships extend from Gaba Tebe right up to the Dardanelles. On 7th May we (2nd; Brigade, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions) proceeded to Cape Helles, at the end of the peninsula, to assist the naval divisions, French and Territorials. We advanced 500 yards from Hood and Drake battalions’ trenches against Acki Babi and got cut up again. We took a Turkish trench which was full of dead, killed by the warships’ shells. We were at Cape Helles three weeks. The British and French troops told us they also had a terrible time at that end as-indeed the large grave yards prove. Shortly after coming back from Gaba Tebe we saw the Triumph torpedoed. While at Cape Helles we saw the River Clyde transport beached high and dry. The Dublins and Munsters landed off her. Father Hearne, of Richmond, was our chaplain; he has gone to Alexandria after being under fire for a couple of stiff months. We blew some Turks up in a mine, and went up to the same caper again. The Turks are brave fellows and just don’t care a damn for death. After their last big charge in June they were killed in hundreds, falling dead off our parapets. Our position is called “A N Z A C,” meaning A New Zealand Army Corps. All nicknames become official, such as Quinn’s Post, Johnston’s Jolly, Pope’s Hill, etc., and the Turk’s big guns are also nicknamed, being known as Asiatic Annie, Lonely Liz, High Velocity Archibald etc. I will be back in the trenches in September, all going well. I am.one of the few lucky ones to keep going from the first day until the middle of July.

[ Ref: 1915 ‘At the Dardanelles.’, Kilmore Free Press (Kilmore, Vic. : 1870 – 1954), 28 October, p. 2 Edition: MORNING., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58428889 ]

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 28 April 2015, p15

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Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Herbert Thomas Skehan

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Private 2142

Herbert Thomas Skehan was born in Melbourne St, Kilmore on January 30, 1889, the eldest son of Patrick and Amy (nee Grose) Skehan. He was educated at Assumption College, Kilmore and graduated Dux of the school in 1909. Up until the time of his enlistment Herbert was a clerk in the tobacco trade in Melbourne and was engaged to be married.

Herbert enlisted at Broadmeadows on July 28, 1915 in the 3/29th Battalion, AIF. During training he was acting Corporal from 26 August to December 16, 1915. He embarked at Melbourne on the HMT Ballarat on February 18, 1916, and disembarked at Suez on March 22, 1916, and was taken on strength with the 29th Battalion on April 1, 1916.

The Battalion then transferred to the Western Front via Marseilles in June, where they took part in an attack against the German positions at Delange Farm in July, then held their positions for 11 days including a heavy counter attack.

During front line action Herbert was hospitalised with Influenza in November 1916 at Etaples, then again in hospital with frost bite in February 1917.  He was transferred to the 5th Army School from May 21 to 27, 1917. After returning to his Battalion Herbert took part in the Battle of Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium which commenced on September 26, 1917. He was killed in action on that day.

The following is an eyewitness account by Corporal W J Marshall, – He was killed by a shell at Polygon Wood, I saw his body soon after. He was buried in a shell hole near where he fell by a party from the company.  No cross was erected at the time, he was a machine gunner, and was in No: 5 Platoon, B. Company.

After the War Herbert’s remains were exhumed and re-buried at Ypres, Belgium, in the Duhallow ADS Cemetery. His father Patrick, as next of kin, received in 1921 a Memorial Scroll, Herbert’s British War Medal, Victory Medal and 1914/15 Star, and a photograph of his headstone. .

Herbert’s name is recorded on the Kilmore War Memorial, the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll at the Memorial Hall, and on the Assumption College Honour Roll.

Information provided by Phil Skehan, Kilmore

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 12 May 2015, p10

Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery, Belgium. Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery, Belgium. Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

Do You Remember? Assumption College Speech Day 1982

The following article featured in the Kilmore Free Press, Wednesday 22 December 1982, page 8.

Were you present? Did the Headmaster’s address impact on your life? Did he give good advice? Does it apply today? Did you enjoy your time at Kilmore’s Assumption College? What do others think?

Tough times … young people need to be resourceful and adaptive

Times are indeed tough for our young people, and they need to be resourceful and adaptive, while not becoming a “Jack of all trades and master of none”, Assumption College Headmaster, Brother Seamus O’Grady, said at the school’s annual speech day and prize-giving.

“The 90th year of the college’s existence has witnessed new developments in buildings, curriculum and student responsibilities. These are things that give us all much satisfaction, a feeling that the college is progressing, that it is adapting to meet the changing needs of our students and the society into which they must enter.

“But the life of the college has to be seen against the background of the world of the 80’s. An education that isolates itself from the context of its own society runs the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant to the young people we serve.

“The gloom of recession hangs over our country, unemployment is taken for granted, even the drought has contributed to lowering our collective morale.

“Times are indeed tough for our young people. They need an education to at least year 11, which in turn can no longer be narrowly academic. “Career choosing” is the preserve of the intellectual elite. For most it is a question of adapting to what is available, rather than what they feel best suited for.

Security Not There

“Here you noticed how the term ‘dole bludger’ has dropped from our vocabulary and has been replaced by terms like ‘retrenchment’, ‘early retirement’, ‘job-creation’? Security is simply not available to many people.

“How does the school respond to this situation? On the one hand, it must to some extent shield its young ones from these harsh realities, to give them time to grow physically, mentally, emotionally … to give then an all too short space for being adolescent.

“With no time to dream visions of the future, our youth become too quickly disillusioned and disappearing. Small wonder that so many seek to live only for the present, indulge in drugs that numb the mind from reality.

On the other hand, school must gradually expose them to the complexities of life, the ambiguities of a society with which they must come to terms. This is no east task. It is a lot simpler to concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic as some naive commentators claim to be the major function of a school.

“what advice can I give you parents? For a start, if you are comfortably secure, why not in a real spirit of Christian caring create jobs for young people? Give the young a chance to be productive. It will only cost you money!

“Secondly, be on guard against ‘single-issue education’, an education which focuses on only one aspect of the student’s development. A too narrow academic education – in itself no guarantee of adequate employment – may neglect the emotional and social aspects of human development, and produce a distorted human being incapable of entering a loving relationship.

“I am not suggesting that everyone should be a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’, but, rather, that our young people need to be resourceful and adaptive.

Dignity and Value

“They are living in a world which regards change and new directions as commonplace in the human condition. Teachers and parents, drawing on experience and wisdom, need to ensure a balanced education is provided for the young people who are entering a society where survival may require a lot more than a job.

“ All activities that we enjoin on them should lead to a renewed sense of their own dignity and value, a quiet self-confidence, a warmth of character, and, importantly, a sense of humour. I guess Christ is still the best model of man to offer to young people.

“So schools and parents have to adapt. Caring for our young people requires a vision that are valuable beyond their productivity. We have to make greater efforts to discern their needs, capabilities and skills, to develop courses that address these needs, to work more closely with them as they move from the world of school to the world of work”, Brother Seamus said.

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Richard Thomas Cooke

Dick Cooke came from Irish catholic roots and was a son of Pyalong. One of twelve living children he was born at home on the family farm on February 24 1896. His father was Nicholas Cooke and his mother was Margaret, nee Ryan.

He was educated at Pyalong State School, then Assumption College Kilmore.

In February 1913, aged 17 he began work as a bank clerk in the Kilmore branch of the Bank of Victoria while undertaking his compulsory military training with the Essendon Rifles Senior Cadets.

In January 1915, he moved to Watchem with the Bank. By April he had been sent to Ouyen.  It was here, in June with his parents’ consent he enlisted.

As part of the 23rd Battalion, he was among the last of the reinforcements at Gallipoli and also part of it successful evacuation.  By the end of the year he was in France. In July 1916 he was wounded in the Battle of Pozieres.  In late August, Richard rejoined the Battalion.  He had survived one of the worst battles of the War only to return to the Somme offensive. On Thursday, 9th of November 1916, Richard was killed on the line at Flers.   He was 20 years old. Later a friend would write: “I can’t say how sorry I am to hear of young Dick Cooke going under. He was such a happy good natured young fellow, always smiling, the sort of lad everybody liked”.  The Kilmore Advertiser described him as “a game, joyous boy and a general favourite”.

He is remembered at the A.I.F. Burial Ground in Flers, France.

In Pyalong, he is commemorated on the Pyalong State School Honour Roll, a Roll of Honour from the Shire of Pyalong, now located in the Community Hall. His name is on a plaque beneath a picture of Saint Joseph in the Pyalong Catholic Church.

In Kilmore, he is commemorated on the doors of the small chapel at Assumption College, on the Honour Board in the Kilmore Memorial Hall and on the Kilmore War Memorial.

By Elizabeth Pidgeon

Richard Thomas Cooke, 1896-1916
Richard Thomas Cooke, 1896-1916

Photo source: Cooke Family

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 9 December 2014, p6