Private William McGeown



William McGeown (or McGowan) was born around 1871 in County Antrim, one of twelve children of damask linen weaver William McGeown and his wife Anne Jane. It is probable that he served in South Africa during the Boer War in the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) and the 2nd Dragoon Guards (regimental number 3806).

On 5 October 1903 he married Eliza Watson in St Anne's Church of Ireland Parish Church, Belfast. They moved to Lisburn soon after, where McGeown's family lived, William finding work as a labourer and damask weaver. At the time of the 1911 Census the couple was living at Ward's Court, Lisburn, with their two surviving children. Two more would be born before Eliza's untimely death in the Lisburn Workhouse in April 1916.

McGeown enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 17 and 20 August 1914 (No.1009 – later Corps of Hussars No.71198). Within days (no doubt thanks to his earlier military experience), on 20 August he embarked for France with C Squadron, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

On 14 February 1915 he was admitted to No.4 Stationary Hospital suffering from influenza.

McGeown remained with the regiment for much of the war, though how much time he spent in France and Belgium and how much at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp is not known at present.

On 20 February 1918 he was transferred to the Army Service Corps (No. T/394061). He was discharged on demobilisation on 25 August 1920.

After the war McGeown returned to Lisburn. He died at his daughter's residence at 47 Church Street on 23 November 1941.


McGeown's brother Robert also served in the war, in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was killed in action near Hill 60 on the Ypres front on 8 May 1915, and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. His son James was killed in Italy during World War 2, on 2 March 1944, while serving with the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles. He is commemorated on the Cassino Memorial. Two other sons also served – William in the Royal Marines and Robert in the Australian Army.


Belfast Telegraph, 31 March 1944


Robert McGeown (son of William) on enlistment in the Australian Army 1941


Image of McGeown sourced from Public Member Trees – contributor 'johnkidd42'.