Michael P Daly – Town Clerk Who Went to War
by Alan King, Castlebar Library.
Councillors who attended the monthly meeting of Castlebar UDC in July 1915 were shocked to learn that their Town Clerk, Mr. Michael P Daly, had resigned the previous day and had volunteered for active service with the 6th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers. Dressed in his military uniform, he appeared before the councillors (including his father, M.C. Daly) to explain his decision to enlist. Despite being a member of one of Castlebar's foremost nationalist families (his cousin was James Daly of Land League fame and one time owner of the Connaught Telegraph) one of the reasons given was that he wished to honour the military career of a close relation and hero of his; Major-General Sir Luke O’Connor, VC, K.C.B.
A native of Elphin, Co. Roscommon, O’Connor enlisted as a Private and rose through the ranks to distinguish himself on the battle field, particularly during the Crimean War and was the first army serviceman to receive the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy. He become a legendary figure in military circles and was one of the most decorated servicemen ever to have served in the British Army. He died a few months earlier in February 1915.
Michael P Daly, who resided at the Green (Mall) was the only son of Michael Carey Daly, (known as MC) a Merchant from Main Street who was also a Town Commissioner and later a UDC Councillor for over thirty years. MC later built a terrace of houses on Church Hill (Mountain View) which was known for a while as Daly’s Terrace.
Michael P was only twenty years of age when he was appointed Clerk of Castlebar Urban District Council, succeeding Joseph Sheridan, Spencer Park whose son, Lieut. Henry R Sheridan would be killed in action in France in September 1916. Daly joined up as a private with the Connaught Rangers and a year later was promoted to the rank of Lance-Corporal and appointed Clerk in a munitions depot behind the lines. He later saw action when he was sent to the western front and had to spend a considerable period of time recuperating in a French hospital following the collapse of a trench wall. He was wounded twice in action and a few months before the end of the war, he was again severely wounded at Dieppe Forest in France where he was decorated for conspicuous gallantry in action. As a result of these injuries, his left arm was left permanently paralysed.
After the war, he returned to Castlebar and made a return to the council chamber but this time it was in an elected capacity as he took a seat on behalf of Ex-Servicemen in the UDC elections of 1928. He was appointed Agent for the sale of Woodstock typewriting machines and served as secretary to the local British Legion of Ex-Servicemen for a long number of years, organising annual aquatic sports events up at Lough Lannagh. In 1929, he was instrumental in the building of eight houses for ex-servicemen in the area which subsequently was named Mons Terrace after one of the bloodiest battles of the Great War.
He was defeated in the 1934 contest but regained his seat in 1942 as an Independent candidate. He was defeated once more at the 1945 elections and retired from local politics. On August 31 1945, he died and was buried in the Old Cemetery, Castlebar. He left behind a large extended family which also included the Hynes family, Garveys and Garavans to name a few.
His life and career also strangely mirrored that of Matthew Browne who also at a very young age resigned as Ballina Town Clerk to volunteer for army service.