Lieutenant James Blackburne



James Blackburne was born on 20 January 1877 at Albert Road, Carrickfergus, the third of ten children of clerk (later solicitor) Henry Blackburne and his wife Agnes (nee Graham). He was educated at the Model School, Carrickfergus, and Mr J. S. Finnegan's University School, University Street, Belfast.

During the Boer War Blackburne enlisted in the 133rd (Irish Horse) Company, 29th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry (Lord Longford's Horse) – No.40614 – seeing service in South Africa in 1902. On returning to Ireland he joined the newly-formed North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry (No.488), serving from 1905 to 1907.

Blackburne worked in his father's office until his appointment as Clerk of Petty Sessions for the Carrickfergus district. He enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 10 September 1914 (No.1199), understating his age by two years. His previous military experience ensured rapid promotion – to lance corporal on 17 September, corporal on 1 October, and sergeant on 1 November. He embarked for France on 1 May 1915 with D Squadron. On 20 October that year he was promoted to squadron quartermaster sergeant.

On 1 September 1916 the Belfast News-Letter reported that:

Acting Sergeant Major Blackburne, North Irish Horse, writing from the front to his father, Mr. Henry Blackburne, of Belfast and Carrickfergus, states after a reference to casualties:– “You will think it strange how we see these things.  Our captain (Captain Murland) was home several months ago, and he happened to meet one of the proprietors of the ‘News-Letter.’  The conversation brought about the sending of a few copies of the paper to D Squadron.  They are distributed on arrival each day and eagerly scanned.  The ‘News-Letter’ is the only reliable news we get daily from home.  Good luck to the proprietors and workers.  When you see any of the proprietors or any of the ‘News-Letter’ people will you tell them how their paper is read and appreciated.”

Earlier that year Blackburne had applied for a commission in the infantry – with a preference for the Royal Irish Rifles. Although recommended by his commanding officer, it appears he was considered too old for infantry service. On 3 December he submitted a revised application, for the Army Service Corps, Horse Transport Supply. On 17 January 1917 he was appointed a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the Army Service Corps Base Depot at Le Havre (No.20 Reserve Park, 187 Company). He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1918.

Blackburne was demobilised and relinquished his commission on 21 January 1919.

On 24 January 1921 he joined the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (No.1596). He was discharged when the Auxiliaries were disbanded in February the following year. (See the website The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary.)

He died on 24 July 1948 at the Royal Victoria Hospital and was buried in the North Road Cemetery, Carrickfergus. The Belfast News-Letter carried the following obituary:

The death of Mr. James Blackburne, Assistant Registrar in Lunacy, Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland, took place in Belfast on Saturday. He was 71. Son of the late Mr. Henry Blackburne, solicitor, Carrickfergus, he was educated at the Model School there. Subsequently he joined the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry. On his return to civil life he assisted in his father's office until his appointment as a Clerk of Petty Sessions at Carrickfergus. On the outbreak of the 1914-18 war Mr. Blackburne first volunteered from his native town and served with the North Irish Horse (attached to the 51st Highland Division). Later, he was attached to the 20th Army Auxiliary Horse Transport, R.A.S.C. On demobilisation he served with the Auxiliary Division R.I.C. and was later transferred to the R.U.C. When the Ulster Judiciary was established he became a member of the staff, and after being promoted to first-class clerk he received the appointment of Assistant Registrar in Lunacy in October 1945. Mr. Blackburne was a member of the Belfast Sub-Committee of the Legion of Frontiersmen, and was also at one time a member of Carrickfergus Urban District Council. He is survived by a sister, Mrs. Margaret Warren, of Whitehead, a brother, Henry Blackburne, in New York, and a niece, Mrs Molly Blackburne, of London.


The image shows Blackburne (at rear) in December 1914. The full picture can be seen here.