Poppy In memoriam Poppy

Private Samuel Cosgrove



Samuel Cosgrove was born on 10 July 1875 at Castle Avenue, Portadown, County Armagh, one of at least six children of weaver and labourer William Cosgrove and his wife Rachel (nee Watson).

He first worked as a barber, but on 5 October 1894 enlisted in the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles at Belfast (No.4398). He served in South Africa from 1897 to 1899, then in India, before returning to South Africa in February 1901 during the Boer War. In 1902 he had problems with tooth decay, leading to many extractions, and was returned home to recuperate and to be fitted with dentures. On 4 October 1906, he was discharged on the conclusion of his twelve years' service.

On 30 January 1903 Cosgrove marrried Agnes Shaw at Trinity Church in Belfast. Over the next twelve years the couple had nine children. By the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his family at 7 Matchett Street, Shankill, and working as a labourer (or rivetter's mate) at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Soon after, they lived at 27 Bracken Street, and then 49 Harrison Street, Belfast.

Cosgrove enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 27 August 1914 (No.1043). No doubt his previous military experience allowed the recruiters to overlook the fact that he was 39 years old. At the end of 1914 he embarked for England with D Squadron, where they waited orders for France. Before that could occur, however, Cosgrove fell ill. He returned to Ireland where a medical board on 21 June found he was suffering from valvular disease of the heart which "originated at Bedford in Dec. 1914. States that when riding he became very short of breath. He was exposed to all kinds of weather going from his billet to where the horses were kept. Complains of dizziness, of seeing black spots in front of eyes, and of being short of breath on exertion." On 9 July 1915 he was discharged from the service as no longer physically fit for military service (paragraph 392(xvi) King's Regulations). His military character was recorded as 'fair'. He was awarded a military pension.

On 23 September 1916 Cosgrove re-enlisted in the Inland Water Transport Corps of the Royal Engineers (No.205063), reporting for duty two weeks later at Sandwich. He failed, however, to mention his service with and discharge from the North Irish Horse. His illness persisted and he was unable to perform any of his duties. A medical report found that he "ought not to have been re-enlisted" and on 21 February 1917 he was once again discharged as being no longer fit for military service. His military character was recorded as 'good'.

Cosgrove died of pulmonary tuberculosis and heart disease at his home in Harrison Street on 10 December 1917. He was buried in the Belfast City Cemetery, grave D1 277. His wife Agnes and their eight children were awarded a pension. The following notice appeared in the Belfast Evening Telegraph:

Military honours were accorded the funeral, which took place to the City Cemetery yesterday, of Samuel Cosgrove, Royal Engineers, formerly of the Royal Irish Rifles and the North Irish Horse. The deceased was invalided out of the service in February last, and had been in failing health since, death taking place on Monday, 10th inst., at his residence, 49 Harrison Street. He had a long and eventful record of Army service. In 1894 he joined the 1st Royal Irish Rifles, and served with them 12 years, taking part in the arduous South African campaign for which he held medal and five bars. At the outbreak of the present war he joined up with the North Irish Horse in August, 1914, and had served almost a year when he was invalided out. His patriotism was such that when his health improved he once more entered the service, joining the Royal Engineers in September, 1916, and remaining in that corps until his discharge, as stated above, last February. He was 40 years of age, and by his death his widow and a family of eight, ages ranging from 12 years to a babe in arms, are deprived of a breadwinner. The remains, draped in the Union Jack, were conveyed by gun carriage from the home to the cemetery, a band of the R.I.R.s and firing party attending. The service was conducted by Rev. M. G. Gardner B.A. After the interment the "Last Post" was sounded and a farewell volley fired. The principal mourners were – Mr. John Cosgrove and Mr. Thomas Cosgrove (brothers), Mr. Wm. Addis (brother-in-law), and Mr. Stirling. ... It may be mentioned that a brother of the deceased, Wm. Cosgrove, is serving at the front with the R.A.M.C.



At the time of his death Cosgrove was not officially identified as a casualty of the war, although given a military funeral. A submission made to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission through the In From the Cold Project, seeking a correction to this oversight, was accepted on 4 February 2021.


Image and text from the Belfast Evening Telegraph, kindly provided by Nigel Henderson, Researcher at History Hub Ulster. Gravestone image by Martin White via Nigel Henderson.