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Joe Dunne Killurin

Local News > People of our Parish

Joe Dunne of Killurin
A Synopsis of a Speech given by Joe Dunne Jnr.
on the Occasion of the Celebration of the 90 Birthday
of Joe Dunne of Killurin. Saturday 5 June 2004

The party was held in the Bridge House, Tullamore.

It is very rare to be invited to a 90 birthday party. And it’s very rare indeed to be invited to the 90 birthday party of a world war II veteran.
Joe Dunne, as most of you will be aware, was born on 8 June 1914. Shortly after that event World War 1 broke out and raged until 11 November 1918, 10 days after the birth of Joe’s future wife.
Joe was born and brought up in Killurin. After leaving school he found work, as his elder brother had before him and his younger brothers were to do after him, at Clonad, working in the forests owned by Lord Digby. However, despite the joys of being close to nature, Joe quickly became fed up planting trees. He and three friends had ambitions to travel to America and become New York cops. They were however advised by Dr. Kennedy of Tullamore that the best way of achieving this ambition would be first to do a spell in the British Army. Inspired by that idea, Joe and his two friends, Joe Healan and Jimmy Bennet decided to join the British Army, and not just the army but the best of the army. They enlisted, in 1936, in the Irish Guards.
This provided a pleasant and enjoyable life for these adventurous young men who found themselves posted to Egypt and Palestine. There were many adventures at this time, including a tale of an ambulance and a casino. In Palestine, came their first experience of losing friends and comrades.
In 1939, before Joe and his friends could leave the army and travel to America, World War 2 broke out. Having been hardened in the deserts of Egypt, the Irish Guards were sent into Norway to cover the evacuation of the King and his family and hold up the German occupation of that country. Joe also learnt to ski. Here again, they experienced the sadness of losing comrades. There then followed a spell in England and Scotland where Joe augmented his soldier’s pay by snaring rabbits for local butchers and took the odd salmon from a Scottish stream. Joe’s regiment was then sent to North Africa to help with the final push to clear Rommel’s troops from that continent. In one hellish action, during which Joe’s great friend Paddy Mercer was awarded the Military Medal, the Irish Guards were asked to hold a hill known as The Bou. Of the 166 men that went up the hill on 28 March only 77 came down on 1 April.
From here Joe was sent to Italy where he saw intense action in the landing at Anzio [1944]. Joe Dunne was one of the first soldiers to land on the beaches of Anzio in Italy. The fiercest fighting of the war took place at Anzio – the 1 battalion, in which Joe was a sergeant, lost 32 officers and 714 men, killed, wounded and missing. Here he was captured, escaped, fought, took prisoners and saved lives. He was also decorated with the DCM, the highest award other than the Victoria Cross available to non-commissioned officers.
Joe was mentioned several times in the history of the Irish Guards for his bravery and in fact was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
After the war Joe raised his family in London.On 1 April 1961, Joe’s biggest fight began. For it was on that day that his wife, Bridget, whom he had married in 1947 died. Bridget Monaghan had been born and brought up in Cavan and had spent the Second World War driving an ambulance in London. She was a veteran of The London Blitz. They met in London shortly after Joe’s return, had fallen in love and married. Imagine then the severe blow when she dies in 1961 leaving Joe not only bereaved of her love and support but with five young children to look after.
As a soldier Joe had learnt that the most important motto for a soldier was “do your duty”. To this motto Joe now returned and arranged his life so as to cope with the raising of five young children with no thought for his own comfort and pleasure. For this there are five very proud and grateful adults.
Joe commenced work in the Junior Carlton Club. This job he held for the rest of his working life until he retired in 1979. As cocktail barman in the Junior Carlton Club, which was the headquarters of the Conservative Party in England, Joe met and mixed with many important personages from British political and business life. He had the opportunity to meet every Conservative English Prime Minister, including Winston Churchill.
In 1989 Joe Dunne returned to his homeland and heartland, Killurin. Here he was back living alongside his brother, George and his many nieces and nephews.
It is a very lucky thing indeed for a man to have good neighbours and good friends and a loving family, and he has now been joined at Brock Hill by his daughter, Patricia, and his granddaughter, Bonnie.
I would therefore like, once again, to thank you all for being here to join us in celebrating Joe’s 90 birthday and to wish him well for the future.

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