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Obituary. Sgt Maj Coughlan VC

Sgt Maj Coughlan VC

From The Mayo News 20 Feb 1915, Westport, Co. Mayo

Death of Sergeant-Major Coughlan

We regret to announce the death of Sergeant-Major Coughlan, which sad event occurred at his residence, Altamount St., Westport At the advanced age of 89 years. Of old age and infirmity rendered him unable to move about as he was accustomed to, and thus was removed from the everyday life of the town, one of it’s most familiar and oldest figures.
Though his demise was not unexpected, his departure for a better and happier sphere will be regretted by those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Young and old knew him to see and knew him to speak to, for who in and around Westport had not heard of the hero of the Indian Mutiny and of the man who had earned by his valour, one of the most coveted honours of the British Army- the Victoria Cross. But though he had won distinction on many a hard fought battlefield, he spoke of his honour with reserve and modest-if, indeed he could be induced to speak of them at all- and showed himself to be a soldier and a man in every respect. Of a kind and affable disposition, he made many friends, and since he came to Westport over 40 years ago he won the respect and esteem of the people of the town. In the evening of his life when old age weighed down upon that splendid physique and robust constitution, he was attended and comforted by kind friends who cheered him in his declining years. And to the last he retained that fighting spirit of his earlier days-it was the one thing above all others that withstood the pressure of old age. A good Catholic, he was an exemplary member of the church to which he belonged and practised his religion constantly and conscientiously. So long as his feet would carry him there he was a constant worshiper at morning Mass in Westport parish church. In his last moments he was consoled and fortified by the rites of the Holy Church and died a happy and peaceful death.

The late Sergeant-Major Coughlan was born in June 1826, and was brought up and educated in Eyrescourt, Co. Galway. Evincing a taste for military life, he joined the 57th (This should read 75th ) Regiment-now Gordon Highlanders-in which he served for over 21 years. He was destined to become famous in the Indian Mutiny and in 1857 he was awarded a medal with two clasps for bravery at Delhi and Lucknow. On the 8th of June in the same year he was wounded in the left knee, but returning to the fighting line, he won fresh laurels. Again in the same year he was decorated with the Victoria Cross for bringing in a wounded private of his regiment in circumstances of great personal danger. Under heavy fire and accompanied by three others, he entered an area occupied by the enemy in great numbers and succeeded in the object of his daring adventure by rescuing Private Corbett who lay severely wounded amongst a number of mutilated men. He was also decorated for cheering and encouraging a party that hesitated to charge down a lane in Subjee Mundee,Delhi, occupied by the enemy who were entrenched on both sides of the lane. Despite a severe and rapid crossfire Sergeant-Major Coughlan led on his men and his pluck resulted in the destruction of every man of the opposing forces. On the same occasion, Sergeant-Major Coughlan returned under crossfire to collect Dhoolies to carry off the wounded and for the successful performance of this gallant deed, he was highly complimented by the officers of his regiment.
Perhaps his most notable feat of valour was during the siege of Delhi. When his regiment charged the enemy, the commanding officer was shot dead, but Sergeant-Major Coughlan, undismayed, encouraged the wavering men by word and example and returned to the attack. The engagement was followed by victory and the Kabul Gate was stormed and taken, in addition to the capture of several pieces of cannon. This achievement was so noteworthy that a memorial tablet and monument were erected over the Kabul Gate and inscribed on the tablet was the name of Sergeant-Major Coughlan. We might also mention that the late Queen Victoria wrote a personal letter complimenting him on his bravery and expressing regret that she was unable to pin the Victoria Cross on his breast herself.
Altogether he had the Victoria Cross, 3 medals including the Distinguished Service Medal and 2 bars. He served 13 years in India and 21 years in the 3rd Battalion, Connaught Rangers. There are at present four grandsons in the Army-three going to the front and one there already, a boy who is only 20 years of age. He is at present fighting at the battle of La Bassee.
As the late Sergeant-Major Coughlan also served for a number of years in the South Mayo Rifles, it occurs to our memory that the only remaining officers of the regiment now living are the present Lord Claremorris and Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel T. Allman, Westport.

The funeral took place on Thursday and was one of the largest, as well as one of the most impressive that has passed through the town for many years. Despite a steady downpour of rain, enormous crowds gathered in the vicinity of St. Marys R.C. Church at noon, and the approaches to the Church were lined with friends and sympathisers of the deceased. A firing party of the Royal Field Artillery and the Fife and Drum Band and Bugle Band of the 10th Hants. Regiment (under the direction of Sergeant Drummer Sinfield) and commanded by an officer in full regimentals, arrived by mail train from Athlone, and proceeding to the Church took up their appointed positions. The firing party, twelve in number, with arms reversed, marched in front of the hearse, and the band with big drum and four side drums draped, marched immediately behind. A detachment of the RIC followed and next came the hearse and mourning carriages. As the cortege moved slowly forward, the drums rolled and the band played the funeral march, “Indian Warriors Grave”. The rolling of the drums and the plaintive fifing of the fifes added much to the impressiveness of the procession and everywhere-crowded streets, suspended business-there was evidence of the last journey of one who in life had won his way into the hearts of the people amongst whom he lived. It was indeed a fitting tribute to one of the bravest and most straight forward of men. Arriving at Aughavale, the firing party took up their positions on each side of the grave, and as the coffin was being lowered into the grave three volleys were fired into the air and the buglers sounded “The Last Post”. The parting salute of the guns, the echoing blare of the bugles-and a hero was laid to rest.
The chief mourners were: Mr. Edward Coughlan (son); Mrs. Edward Coughlan (daughter-in-law); Cuthbert Coughlan (grandson).
Rev. Father Patterson officiated at the graveside R.I.P.
(The hearse and mourning carriages were supplied by Mr. William Kelly, Fairgreen, Westport)

When the military returned to town shortly before 8 0’clock the band played lively airs through the streets. Later in the evening the band again turned out and played “It’s a long way to Tipperary”. They left by the 1030 0’clock up-train for Athlone.

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