Private John Higgins


John Higgins was born on 10 January 1868 at Campbell's Court, Lurgan, County Armagh, son of labourer Thomas Higgins and his wife Margaret (nee Mulholland). On 20 October 1888 he married Sarah Johnston at the Church of Ireland Parish Church in Lurgan. The couple had seven children over the next thirteen years.

Higgins enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry at Belfast on 5 March 1901 (No.35180), a month later embarking for South Africa with the 74th (Dublin) Company. He returned home on 1 September 1902 and was discharged six days later.

Between 1901 and 1911 Higgins and his family moved to Belfast. By the time of the 1911 Census they were living at 14 Lawyer Street, he working as a general labourer.

Higgins enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 31 August 1914 (No.1093), his previous military experience no doubt ensuring that his age was overlooked. On 1 May 1915 he embarked for France with D Squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 51st Division.

Higgins remained with the North Irish Horse until late August 1917, when he was transferred to the Labour Corps (No.388305) and posted to No.664 Home Service Employment Company.

On 9 June 1918 he was discharged, being no longer physically fit for war service due to illness, having suffered impairment since entry into the service (paragraph 392 xvi (a)(i), King's Regulations). He was granted a pension due to rheumatism and general debility, aggravated by his military service.


At least two of Higgins' three sons, Samuel and Thomas, also served during the war. On 19 June 1915 the Belfast News-Letter reported that:

Miss Lily Higgins, of Factory lane, Lurgan, has received information that her brother, Private Samuel Higgins, 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers, was wounded on the 27th April at the Dardanelles, and is now in hospital in Egypt. Private Higgins has a brother serving with the R.I.R. at Holywood, and his father, Trooper John Higgins, of the North Irish Horse, is at the Front.

On 8 January the following year the paper reported:

Mrs. Higgins, of Bridge Street, Lurgan, whose husband, Trooper John Higgins, is serving with the North Irish Horse in France, and who has two sons also serving in the army, has been the recipient of good news. Some time ago the wife of one of her sons – Rifleman Thomas John Higgins – who resides in Pernau Street, Belfast, received official intimation that her husband had been killed, and the family accepted the news as true. The other evening Mrs. Higgins had a visit from a friend in Belfast, who was in the act of offering consolation when a knock came to the door, and to her amazement in walked her son that was supposed to be dead, along with his wife, on whom he had sprung a similar surprise on New Year's morning. Private Higgins believes the error was due to the fact that tunics of himself and a comrade were changed after both had been wounded. His comrade subsequently died, and the death was recorded as that of the man whose number the tunic or disc bore.

Both sons survived the war, though Thomas John had contracted malaria and Samuel suffered from neurasthenia and had lost his right forefinger.