Private Michael James McCann


Michael James McCann was born around 1869 in Donnybrook, Dublin, a child of gardener (also packer and porter) Hugh McCann and his wife Charlotte (née Roe or Rowe).

On 17 January 1888 at Dublin he enlisted in the 21st Hussars (No.2968) – he had earlier been rejected due to his chest size being 'under'. He embarked for India on 3 September 1889, not returning home until February 1896, when he was placed in the Army Reserve. He was discharged on 16 January 1900 on completion of his 12 years' service, his conduct recorded as 'very good'.

On 20 November 1898 he married Mary Forde at the Roman Catholic Chapel of Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines. The couple had four children over the next ten years.

McCann worked as a poulterer then a van driver until 17 February 1904, when he enlisted in the Royal Garrison Regiment at Chester (No.7949). He embarked for South Africa on 8 June 1904, returning in October the following year, when he was discharged in order to re-enlist and complete his 14 years with the colours, this time with the 21st Lancers (No.6459). He was discharged when his 14 years were up on 21 January 1910.

By the time of the 1911 Census he was living with his wife at 43 Antrim Road, Belfast, and working as a fish and poultry merchant. It appears that she died soon after.

McCann enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 8 and 10 August 1914 (No.976), understating his age by about four years. Just days later, on 20 August, he embarked for France with C Squadron, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. He probably fell ill or his age made it difficult for him to endure the stresses of active service, for on 10 January 1915 he returned to the UK, bringing to an end his overseas war service.

On 17 February 1915 he married widow Mary Robinson (née Hawthorne) at St Paul's Church of Ireland Parish Church in Belfast. The couple had two children over the next three years.

McCann remained with the North Irish Horse at its Antrim Reserve depot until 9 July 1917, when he was one of around thirty North Irish Horsemen not fit for front-line service who were transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to No.664 Home Service Labour Company. McCann was issued regimental number 333704. On 17 November that year he was posted to No.395 Home Service Labour Company.

On 27 March 1918 McCann was discharged, being no longer physically fit for war service (paragraph 392 xvi, King's Regulations). His character was recorded as 'very good' and he was awarded a pension, due to myalgia and varicose veins, both aggravated by his military service.

After his discharge McCann lived at 95 Vernon Street, Belfast. He died there on 6 March 1949 (see article below).


Belfast Telegraph, 9 March 1949