Fallen soldiers and white feathers


Sir, – In response to Sean Connolly’s letter (August 23rd), in which he throws doubt on whether Charles Frederick Ball, former assistant keeper at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, was prompted to enlist after being sent a white feather, might I state that I have it from a reliable source that this is true.

According to Seamus O’Brien, head gardener at Kilmacurragh Gardens, the story of how Ball received the white feather was told to Donal Synott, the then director of the “Bots”, by Sir Frederick Moore’s son, Maj Gen Frederick Moore, who knew Ball. During a visit that he made to the National Botanic Gardens many years after Ball’s death, Moore identified the particular room that had been Ball’s office before recounting to Donal Synott the story of how the white feather had arrived at “poor Charlie Ball’s” desk.

Readers might also be interested to know that by a cruel twist of fate, the despicable white feather campaign of the first World War, where the feather was given as a symbol of cowardice, was initiated by an Irishman, Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald, in August 1914 – just a month before CF Ball enlisted in the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Could I also add that in mentioning the story of the white feather in my piece on the Irish National War Memorial Gardens (“Garden of tranquility”, Magazine, August 16th), my intention wasn’t in any way to besmirch the reputation of CF Ball, a man who was hugely liked and admired, and who acquitted himself bravely on the battlefield, but to highlight the awfulness of the war that led to his death. – Yours, etc,


Manor Kilbride,

Blessington, Co Wicklow.