Story of husband and wife killed separately at Easter 1916 to be screened

John and Margaret Naylor died in France and Dublin, leaving three children

Irish soldiers during the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme,  July 1st 1916. Photograph:  IWM/Getty

Irish soldiers during the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme, July 1st 1916. Photograph: IWM/Getty


One of the saddest stories to emerge from Easter Week 1916 was the death of husband and wife John and Margaret Naylor. They were both fatally injured on the same day, April 29th, 1916, the last day of the Easter Rising.

Pte John Naylor of the 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers was killed during a gas attack on the 16th (Irish) Division at Hulluch in northern France. He was one of 532 men from the division who died in the attack. His body was never found and his name is on the Loos Memorial to the Missing.

On the same day, his wife, Margaret, was caught in the crossfire at Ringsend Drawbridge. The intensity of the fighting on the last day of the Rising was such that she lay wounded and nobody came to her aid for six hours. She died three days later in hospital.

In the space of as many days, the couple’s three children, Margaret, Kitty and Tessie, were left as orphans. They were taken in by the dead woman’s sister.

The story of John and Margaret Naylor has been made into a 45-minute film by the cross-community Newtownabbey Arts and Cultural Network.

The Rose and the Fusilier will have its Dublin premiere at the Irish Film Institute on Saturday, October 22nd, at noon.

The members of the network tracked down Frank McNamee, a grandson of the Naylors, who told them the full story of the family.

Dublin City Council librarian Anne-Marie Kelly said the cross-community nature of the network made the film a perfect fit with its centenary commemoration programme. She said: “It is a story that harks back to the past. This is a Dublin story in a commemorative year.”

A short preview of the film was acted out at the launch of the Dublin Remembers: Stories from the Somme exhibition at Dublin City Council’s library and archive in Pearse Street on Friday.

The exhibition is based on material in the archives of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, which was placed in the possession of the Dublin City Council archives. It features stories of many of the men from Dublin who fought in the Battle of the Somme.

Among them was Second Lieut Herbert Lemass (17), from Blackrock, who was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1914. He was killed two years later, aged 19, during the Battle of the Somme. The centenary of his death occurs on Sunday.

His first cousin was Seán Lemass, who, aged 16, was one of the youngest volunteers to fight in the Easter Rising. He would go on to become taoiseach.

Herbert Lemass is buried in Caterpillar Cemetery in the Somme.

Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, Lemass, who was then taoiseach, said: “In later years it was common – and I was also guilty in this respect – to question the motives of those who joined the new British armies at the outbreak of the war, but it must, in their honour and in fairness to their memory, be said that they were motivated by the highest purpose.”

Launching the exhibition, Lord Mayor Brendan Carr said it was “vitally important” to remember everything that happened in 1916 and not just the Easter Rising. A lot of our brave men went over there [to the Somme] and lost their lives and were not given the same recognition. They deserve to be commemorated.

“This is Dublin City Council’s contribution to ensure that these men are remembered. I’m not sure we have taken the time out in our State to commemorate them the way we should have.”

Brian Moroney, the events secretary of of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, said its purpose was to ensure the stories do not fade away.

The regiment had been involved in the first day of the Somme, in the last day (November 13th), and at the battles of Guillemont and Ginchy in September 1916.

“We can truly say when we look at the stories from the Somme that there cannot be a street in Dublin or a village or town in Ireland that was not in some way touched by the Great War,” he said.