Sergeant Alexander Weir McKinley



Alexander Weir McKinley was born on 15 March 1895 at Sessaghmore, Castlefin, County Donegal, the third of seven children of farmer (later land commissioner) Robert McKinley and his wife Annie (nee Weir). His uncle John Shepherd Weir of nearby Carrickbrack was magistrate, coroner, land agent, farmer and managing director of the Convoy Woollen Company. By 1911 McKinley was a student at the Boys' Royal School, Dungannon.

McKinley enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 25 and 27 November 1915 (No.1984). He embarked for France with a reinforcement draft in September 1916, where he was posted to B Squadron, part of the newly-formed 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, at Flesselles.

In September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was disbanded and its men transferred to the infantry. McKinley, like most, was transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion – on 20 September. He was issued regimental number 41200 and posted to D Company.

It is likely that he saw action with the battalion in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

McKinley was posted as missing following the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918. It was later reported that he had been wounded (War Office Daily Casualty List, 5 June 1918).

McKinley's brothers also served in the war – Robert as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and Archibald as a cadet in the Royal Navy.


After the war McKinley returned to farming at Sessaghmore. On 25 January 1939 he married Florence Angela Taylor. The Londonderry Sentinel reported on the event:

Donoughmore Parish Church, near Castlefin, County Donegal, was yesterday the scene of a wedding of unusual interest. The contracting parties were Mr. Alec McKinlay, Sessiaghmore, Castlefin, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert McKinlay, and Miss Angela Taylor, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs John Taylor, Gortfad, Castlefin.

Both the bride and bridegroom are well known in social circles in the North-West. They are members of the Strabane Hunt Club, and their associations with hunting found expression even on their wedding day, when both bride and bridegroom wore full hunting attire at the ceremony. They both rode to and from the church on horseback and were accompanied by members of the Strabane and Derry Garrison Hunt Clubs.

The bride and groom are both hunters of renown and have won several cups. In addition to being an extensive farmer, the bridegroom is a prominent horse-breeder, and at one time owned Master Robert, the Grand National winner of 1924.

Snow was falling when the bride arrived at the church, but by the time the service was over the sun was shining brightly, and the happy couple emerged from the church amid showers of confetti and passed under an arch of hunting crops held by members of the Strabane and Derry Hunt Clubs.

The bride was given away by her father and the ceremony was performed by Rev. R. Hoffman, B.A., rector of the parish. The bride was attended by Miss Shiela Hamilton, Ballintra, as bridesmaid, and by Miss M. Merrick, Sion Mills, and Miss M. Craig, Keeloggs. Mr. Geoffrey Taylor, brother of the bride, acted as best man, and the bridegroom's other attendants were Mr. Jack Taylor and Mr. Samuel Craig, Keeloggs. At the reception, which was held at the bride's home, upwards of 150 guests were entertained. Subsequently the happy couple left on their honeymoon, which will be spent on a Continental tour. The bride's going-away attire was a brown costume, with coat and accessories to tone.

McKinley died later that year, on 13 October, at Lifford Hospital, County Donegal, following a riding accident. The Londonderry Sentinel reported:

Deep sorrow has been caused throughout the country, and particularly in the North-West, ... by the tragic death of Mr. Alex. McKinlay, Sessaghmore, Castlefin, which took place in Lifford Hospital following an accident.

Mr. McKinlay, who was a popular member of the Strabane Hunt Club, was an accomplished horseman. On Wednesday he was riding a horse along the road from Raphoe to Castlefin and leading another horse, when the horse on which he was mounted fell, and he was thrown heavily to the ground, receiving fatal injuries.

... Mr. McKinlay was at one time the owner of Master Robert, the former cart-horse which won the Grand National. He was a prominent horse-breeder and extensive farmer, and served with the North Irish Horse in the Great War. He was an enthusiastic Rugby player, and captained Strabane team for a number of years. His father, the late Mr. Robert McKinlay, was a Land Commissioner in the late Mr. Balfour's Government.

At the inquest, which was conducted yesterday by Dr. S. P. Kerrigan, coroner for the district, Mary McKnight, aged 12 years, said she was leaving Mr. Robert Cowan's house when she heard two horses galloping down the hill, on the way from Raphoe to Castlefin. When she got to the road she saw the horses. A gentleman was riding one, and he was leading the other by a rein. The horse on which the rider was fell on its front legs, and the rider rose up from the saddle and went over its head. He "coped" on his head, and "coped" over again. Both horses ran on.

Dr. Charles Bannigan said deceased had a compound fracture of the right leg, with four inches of the main bone protruding; a punctured wound to his forehead, a large swelling over the right eye, a cut in the lobe of the left ear, and an incised wound of the scalp. He became paralysed on Thursday and died yesterday. The cause of death was hemorrhage of the brain, caused by a fracture of the skull.

Robert Cowan said deceased was lying on his back, and his face was covered with blood. He muttered, "Take me on." He was moaning and apparently in pain.

A verdict in accordance with the medical evidence was returned.