Spielberg film resembles story of four brothers from Offaly


Marie Dunne from Inchicore in Dublin will not be going to see Saving Private Ryan, the Spielberg film which tells of the horror of war.

It tells the story of four brothers who went to war, only one returning. The film is set in the second World War, but for Marie Dunne the story is too close to reality.

Marie Dunne, whose maiden name was Burrowes, was the only child of Jim Burrowes who lost three of his brothers from Clara, Co Offaly, in the first World War.

Her three uncles, George, Frank and Luke, all died in the war and, although her father, Sapper Jim Dempsey Burrowes, of the 72nd Field Company, the Royal Engineers, survived, he too went to an early grave, probably because of wounds sustained in the war.

"I am not going to see the film because I believe it would be too hard to take," she said this week. "Our family lost three sons and that was very hard.

"My son who works in the US went to see the movie there and he advised me not to go to it because he thought it would be too violent for me."

The story of the Burrowes family was told this week in the Tullamore Tribune by journalist Tadhg Carey; the information was based on research carried out over the last three years by Mr Tom Burke of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association.

Marie Dunne, Jim's only daughter, provided the information on her father's life from his birth in Clara on August 10th, 1895, to his death in Mountmellick in 1946.

He came from a family of 12 children, and his father was a builder. He was the youngest in the family, and his mother died giving birth to him.

He was brought up in River Street, Clara, by his aunt and his uncle, Tom. Having left for Dublin at the age of 15 Jim trained as a carpenter in the building firm, McLoughlin and Harvey.

On August 31st, 1914, he joined the British army, following in the footsteps of his brothers. As a carpenter, he was posted to the Royal Engineers and, following training in England, was sent to the Dardanelles, arriving at Suvla Bay on October 13th, 1915.

Jim kept a short diary of his time in the war and recorded on January 9th, 1916, that as the soldiers left the Dardanelles, they were shelled by the Turks, which runs contrary to the popular belief that the Allies slipped away unnoticed.

While he was serving his term in Mesopotamia, he was wounded in the leg and shoulder: he was de-mobbed on April 19th, 1919.

In the meantime, his three brothers, who had all been in the regular army, had lost their lives. His eldest brother, George, a sergeant in the 1st Battalion of the Linconshire Regiment, who had seen service in the Boer War, died of wounds received near Ypres on February 4th, 1915. He was 37 years old.

Frank, who was a corporal in the 2nd Battalion of the Connaught Rangers, was already six months dead. He had been killed at Mons on August 22nd, 1914, aged 31.

Finally Luke, who was a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery, lost his life near Ypres on April 21st, 1917. He was 29 when he was killed. Altogether, according to Tom Burke, at least 35,000 native Irish men died as a result of the conflict. "What we don't know - and may never know - is the total number of Irish who perished, because many joined up while living in Britain or in other parts of the world like Canada and the US."

Jim Dempsey Burrowes, who according to his daughter never spoke about the loss of his three brothers, went on to work in the US. He met his wife, Mary, from Co Clare there and returned to live in Clare for a time.

He died in August 1946, aged 51, and is buried in Mountmellick.

An exhibition featuring the story of the Burrowes family and many other Irishmen and women who participated in the first World War continues at the Dublin Civic Museum, 58 South William Street, Dublin 2. The "Let Ireland Remember" exhibition it is open from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will run until the end of January