Private William Rooney



William Rooney was born on 22 November 1894 at Cross, Bryansford, County Down, the fifth of seven children of farmer William Rooney and his wife Mary (nee Magill). By 1911 he was living at Cross with his parents and three siblings and working on the family farm.

Rooney enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 8 April 1913 (No.831). He embarked for France with C Squadron on 20 August 1914, seeing action in the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

In October 1915 he was wounded. According to the squadron diary, much of the month was spent providing working parties in the Sanctuary Wood trenches on the Ypres front:

In [the] course of the period in which party was in Sanctuary Wood, wire was put in front of the following trenches: Nottingham Road, Robb Street, Dawson Street, End of B.3, Boden Street, Junction (Rdr?) Sap, B.4.R, B.3.S, B.2.S, A.12.R, Warington Avenue. Working party getting relieved paraded at 5.30 P.M and returned to billets at 8.45 P.M. 2 Casualties

Rooney returned to duty soon after. On 2 January 1916 he was wounded again, more severely this time. According to the war diary:

A party of 2 officers & 60 men paraded at 1.30 P.M. for defence work on the Bluff I.34.c.7.7. One casualty, Pte Rooney severely wounded.

The news was carried in the Belfast News-Letter on 24 January:

Sergeant Major W. Moore, "C" Squadron North Irish Horse, at present home in Downpatrick on leave, mentions two recent casualties in his squadron – Troopers J.[sic] Rooney, of Ballyroney, and Boyd, of Belfast, receiving dangerous bullet wounds. This was the second time for Rooney to be hit.

Rooney was evacuated to the UK for treatment. On 9 January 1917 he was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service (paragraph 392(xvi), King's Regulations).

On 1 July 1966 the Mourne Observer published an article to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It included an interview with Rooney about his experiences:

WM. ROONEY, of Bryansford Gardens, who served with the 'C' Squadron, was twice wounded – in October, 1915, and on 2nd January, 1916. On the latter date a bullet lodged so close to his spine that doctors reckoned it was too dangerous to operate. So he carried the bullet with him – and a lot of agony it caused him at times – for 22½ years, until 1938, when a surgeon in the Craigavon Hospital took a chance and successfully removed it. He still carries that bullet – but in his waistcoat pocket as a souvenir. Mr. Rooney resides with his wife and daughter Louise. His son Jack is a schoolteacher.

Rooney died on 23 March 1968 at Quoile Hospital, Downpatrick Road.


Image sourced from the Mourne Observer, 1 July 1966.