Lance Corporal Hamilton McClay


McClay (left) with George Alexander Browne (right) and James Freeborn Wray (seated), all from Laghey, photographed in France or Belgium in 1914 or early 1915


Hamilton (Hammie) McClay was born on 4 March 1896 at Raneany, Laghey, County Donegal, one of fourteen children of farmer Andrew McClay and his wife Mary (Minnie) (nee Scott). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at Raneany with his parents and ten siblings and working on the family farm.

McClay enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 9 and 12 February 1914 (No.897), with his lifelong friend George Alexander Browne. They embarked for France with C Squadron on 20 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

In June 1916 C Squadron combined with F Squadron and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps until September 1917, when the regiment was disbanded and its men transferred to the infantry. Like most, McClay joined the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September. He was issued regimental number 41477.

McClay was wounded during the Battle of Cambrai, probably during the fighting around Marcoing in December 1917. After recovering he rejoined the 9th (NIH) Battalion. He saw further fighting during the Advance to Victory offensive from August to November 1918, during which he was twice wounded.

After the war McClay returned to Raneany. He married Mary Evelyn Ellen Browne (sister of George Alexander Browne) at Laghey Church of Ireland Parish Church on 26 April 1923. The couple emigrated to Canada the following month, later moving to the US. McClay died in Woburn, Massachusetts, on 28 February 1973.



One of McClay's younger brothers also served in the war, in the Royal Irish Rifles. A newspaper report in December 1917 stated that he had been sent home from France, being underage.


First image kindly provided by Gareth Browne, grandson of George Alexander Browne. Image of Hamilton McClay with his wife sourced from Ancestry public member trees, contributor 'johntrestrail3rd'.