Private Robert Osbourne


Robert Osbourne was born on 4 March 1900 at Ramelton, County Donegal, the fifth of six children of merchant and farmer (later baker and grocer) Hugh Osbourne and his wife Martha (nee Malseed). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at The Mall, Ramelton, with his parents and four siblings. He later gave details of his family background to Niall McGinley for his book Donegal, Ireland and the First World War:

His grandfather Hugh had come from Scotland to act as land steward at Castlegrove, where he remained for forty years. Robert's father was the sole survivor of his family which succumbed to TB; he worked at leather-cutting in Baine's tannery in Ramelton. ... [The] apprenticeship was seven years, with two days holiday per year. In 1888 he started a grocery shop in the town.

In 1911 the shop was destroyed by fire, but rebuilt thanks to generous support from the community.

Osbourne enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 10 October 1918 (regimental number unknown at present). As he later told Niall McGinley:

Like many young men Robert was eager to join the army. The recruiting office in Letterkenny ... sent him to Omagh to enlist in the North Irish Horse. On 10th October 1918 he signed on and got his uniform; training was at the show grounds of Antrim Town ... His company had been detailed to leave for the front on November 11th but was delayed for a week; training however was kept up until June 1919 when the camp closed. They then went to the Curragh for two months and took part in the peace-celebrations of July 19th; their horses were then handed over to the 8th Hussars.

Osbourne was discharged later that year. He returned to Ramelton, where he farmed at nearby Carnisk. On 30 June 1926 he married auctioneer's daughter Mary Isabel Speer at the 1st Presbyterian Church, Ramelton.