Colour Sergeant James Alexander McIlroy



James Alexander McIlroy was born on 28 January 1882 at Mill Street, Ballymena, County Antrim, the second of five children of draper John McIlroy and his wife Jane (nee McCausland). By 1901 he was living with his family at Mill Street and working as an assistant draper. Ten years later he was working as a horse dealer and trainer.

McIlroy Enlisted in the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry on 1 April 1906. He was promoted to lance corporal on 7 May 1907 and lance sergeant on 22 May 1908. On 6 July 1908 at Newbridge the regiment was disbanded and re-formed as the North Irish Horse. McIlroy was one of those who transferred to the new regiment – he was assigned No.51 on the North Irish Horse roll. On 30 November 1908 he was promoted to sergeant.

The Ballymena Observer of 21 June 1912, reporting on the North Irish Horse annual camp at Dundrum, County Down, noted that:

The sports on the afternoon of the 13th were attended with marked success. There were ten events, which were well contested. Sergeant McIlroy, Ballymena, with his charger Nigger won the jumping competition. Nigger also won second prize at Banbridge on Tuesday.

McIlroy was mobilised on the outbreak of war and travelled with A Squadron to Dublin, on its way to France. However he was destined to remain in Ireland. According to a medical board report later that year:

He met with some accident of injury to the side of his head on 8th August in Dublin; there is reason from evidence to attribute the injury to a fall from a horse. A few days afterwards he was admitted at Military Hospital Belfast with a contused wound behind left ear and ecchymosis but no signs of depressed fracture. He was practically unconscious and incoherent in his language but after ten days gradual improvement set in, but his memory was very defective and he became morose and depressed mentally. ...

He suffers from loss of memory and irritability of temper; is liable, whenat all crossed by a trivial incident, to sudden exacerbations of temper; he then calms down. He has lost confidence in his mental powers and is not capable of acting on his own responsibility and is timid and despondent in manner. He complains of attacks of giddiness and insomnia. His pupils are unequal. He has not lost flesh. He is quite unfit to perform any further military duties.

At that time the board could not say whether or not the injury occurred while McIlroy was on duty. However it later accepted the view of A Squadron's commanding officer that "Colour Sergeant McIlroy was not on duty at the time of the accident [and] intemperance at the time was a factor in causation".

Sergeant McIlroy was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service on 6 January 1915. His military character was recorded as "very good".


The image shows McIlroy (at rear) in 1912. The full picture can be seen here.