Six of the best

James Durney

In May 1916 the British War Office confirmed that Private Patrick Preston (29), 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who had been reported missing in action since 24 May 1915, had been confirmed killed in action. A report in the Kildare Observer of 27 May 1916 stated that his widow, Mrs. Mary Preston, had six brothers serving in the British army, two of whom were prisoners of war.

It was not an unusual case in Naas, the home of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, for many male members of a family to be serving in the British military during WWI, but six brothers is a large commitment. Research showed that Mrs. Preston was formerly Mary Doran, Corban’s Lane, Naas. She was the daughter of James and Margaret Doran. When her husband died Margaret married Peter McCann, in 1891. The couple had four children – Peter, Patrick, Eliza and James – while Margaret was also mother to six children by her marriage to James Doran – Michael (1883), Mary Anne (1885), John Joseph (1887), William Joseph (1889) and Thomas (1891).

In total four Doran brothers – Michael, John Joseph, William Joseph and Thomas – and two McCann brothers – Peter and Patrick – were in the British armed forces. Pte. Thomas Doran, 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was wounded on 25 April 1915 during the landings at V Beach, Gallipoli. He was sent back to Exeter Hospital in England, where he composed a tribute to the Dublin Fusiliers, ‘Storming of the Dardanelles,’ which was published in the Kildare Observer of 17 July 1916.

Johnny Doran (Regimental number 8630) and his brother Paddy McCann (11591), serving with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, were captured during the retreat from Mons in August 1914. They were held as prisoners-of-war in Seane Lager Camp, Paderborn, and then moved to Limburg Camp, where they remained until the end of the war. Johnny Doran, lived at Corban’s Lane, with his wife, Mary. He was on the special reserve after twelve years service in the RDF and was called up on the outbreak of the war. In Limburg the brothers desisted recruitment to Roger Casement’s Irish Brigade, which the patriot was hoping to raise to fight for Irish independence.

The Kildare Observer of 31 October 1914 reported that Private Johnny Doran, had written to his wife from Germany. The letter bore the date 11 September, but was only received by Mrs. Doran on 24 October 24. It read:

My dear wife, – I suppose you must be in a bad way since you got no letter from me, but it was not my fault. I would have written long ago, but we are only getting the privilege now. When you receive this letter I want you to send me on a box of cigarettes, as we can’t get any smokes here, as we have no money. (The letter goes on to state that the parcel must be under 10lbs. weight, and contains a request that his wife would send him a home-made cake.) It continues: – I must have some one’s prayer, as so far, I am safe and well. Tell Maggie and Sonnie to pray for me until I return. Please God, it won’t be too long. Tell my mother to send on Paddy (The writer’s step-brother) the same as you will send me. Tell her that Paddy and I are prisoner of war together, and Paddy is all right and in good health. Let me know if you have heard anything about T. Higgins, as I did not see him since I came out. I wish to God the war was over until we get home. – Your loving husband. “John.”

Later on 1 January 1916 John Doran was reported to be at Limburg Camp and wrote this letter to his mother, Margaret McCann:

Dear Mother, I now take the pleasure of dropping you these few lines hoping to find you all in good health, as this leaves me at present and Paddy in the best of health. Dear mother, I was glad to get the fags and shirt, as we had a good smoke. Hope Lizzie is minding little Maggie, as my heart lies in her. Let me know in your next letter if you heard from Tom or B., as we hear they are coming out. I hope not. Tell the old fellow and Bessie and Mary that me and Paddy wish them all a happy Christmas, as we will make ours as best as we can. Hoping to hear from you soon, and thanks to Mrs. Loveband for the parcels. No more at present – from your son, J. Doran. 8630 Pte. J. Doran, English Lager Sennelager, Paderborn, Germany.

There are two Michael Dorans recorded as serving in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers – a sergeant and a private. Two William Dorans are recorded in the Dublin Fusiliers, while there is one William J. Doran recorded in the Royal Engineers. There are three Peter McCanns recorded in the Dublin Fusiliers – two lance-corporals and a sergeant. (Further information is sought on any of the above.)

John Doran died in July 1961 at the age of seventy-five. His two sons, John and Bill, joined the British army and served in WWII. John was known as ‘Mons’ because he was born at the time his father was captured in the retreat from Mons.

Mary Doran married Patrick Preston in Naas on 8 October 1907. Patrick was the son of John and Margaret Preston, of Blessington, Co. Wicklow, and was a serving soldier with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, based in Naas Military Barracks. Some years after her husband’s death, on 20 August 1921, Mary Preston, formely Doran, married Richard Wood. They lived for a time at Rathasker Road, Naas.




We talk of Irish regiments, no wonder why we do,

The Dublins and the Munsters, you’ve heard about those two;

You can see by many papers how Irish blood it tells

The way those famous regiments fought at the Dardanelles.


On the 25th of April, when we did make a start,

We were singing Tipperary, a song that reached our hearts;

The ships were packed with khaki lads, such spirits they did show

To the cry Are we downhearted? We quickly answered No.


We got then into our small boats, this way we were to land,

Then every Tommy could be seen with a woodbine in his hand,

There were boys from Tipperary, from Cork and County Clare,

And the boys from County Dublin and the Short Grass, that’s Kildare.


The Turks they were prepared for us, as one and all could tell,

For about one thousand yards from land we were met with shot and shell;

There were bodies floating through the sea and hundreds on the sand,

But the Turks they suffered terribly when we fought them on the land.


The wounded moaning mercy, it was an awful sight;

Those who got badly wounded were wishing for the night,

And when night came our stretcher boys had lots of work to start,

Collecting bodies, legs and arms, the sight near broke their heart.


The Turks were then retreating, their numbers lost were large;

Our officers say Dublins! We’ll have a bayonet charge.

The charge was done, the Turks they run, our lads in ringing cheers,

I can’t forget those Irish boys – the Dublin Fusiliers.


Before I go, I tell you, be proud and give three cheers.

For those brave fighting Irishmen – the Dublin Fusiliers.


Pte. Thomas Doran, 1st Battn., RDF.

Kildare Observer 17 July 1916