|Date of Birth||April 23, 1884|
|Place of Birth||Clogheen, Cork|
|Next of Kin||Mrs A O'Flaherty, mother, Clogheen, Cork, Ireland|
|Trade / Calling||Locomotive Engineer|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||14th Machine Gun Company|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Machine Gun Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Kenora, Ontario|
|Age at Enlistment||30|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||October 22, 1932|
|Age at Death||48|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Thomas Francis O’Flaherty was born on 23 April 1884 in Clogheen, County Cork, Ireland. Their first born child, his parents were Thomas and Anne (née O’Dell) O’Flaherty. Other children born to the family were Lawrence, Margaret Mary (Peggy), Jeremiah, John Joseph, Edward, Jane Mary, Morgan, Annie Kathleen, and Elizabeth (Betty). Parents Thomas and Anne were school teachers and opened and ran the first school in the community of Clogheen. Both the 1901 and 1911 Ireland censuses found the family in Coolymurraghue, Saint Mary’s, Cork, with Anne listed as a widow in 1911.
Thomas was the first in the O’Flaherty family to immigrate to Canada, according to the family arriving in 1908. A cousin, Laurence O’Flaherty who lived in nearby Ballinhassig, a community about 15 kilometres from Clogheen, also left for Canada in 1908. The two young lads ended up in Kenora, Ontario where they found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. With their occupations given as firemen with the CPR, the 1911 census found Thomas and Laurence living on School Street and listed as boarders with the Baxter family. Later that year Thomas made a trip back to Ireland, returning to Kenora aboard the Virginian in early March of 1912.
Thomas and Laurence answered the call to service early in the war, signing their attestation papers on 22 October 1914 in Kenora, both listing their occupations as locomotive engineers. Just over a week later, the lads were on their way to Winnipeg, Manitoba to begin training with the 27th Battalion. The 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion was the first independent battalion to be raised in Manitoba in the First World War, raised as part of a response to the demand for reinforcements early in 1915 as Canada struggled overseas.
After training for several months, met by a large crowd of well wishers at the Kenora station, the 27th Battalion passed through Kenora from Winnipeg on 12 May 1915, heading east on the first leg of the journey overseas. On 17 May the 27th Battalion left Quebec aboard the Carpathia, and after a few months in England, on 18 September 1915, disembarked in Boulogne, France. As a Private, Thomas was paid at the rate of $1.00/day as well as a field allowance of 10 cents/day.
In early January of 1916 Thomas was promoted to Lance Corporal and granted an eight day leave. The first major offensive of the 27th was the battle of St Eloi, 5 kilometres from Ypres. Begun on 27 March 1916 by the British, the Canadians joined in on 4th of April with the 27th Battalion taking over the front line, fully exposed to artillery fire. Casualties were high. One of the most notable battles of Somme the 27th Battalion participated in was the Battle of Courcelette, begun on the morning of 15 September 1916. This battle marked the first time in history that tanks were used in warfare although all 6 tanks were knocked out that day. Lasting until 22nd of September, the Canadian Corps lost about 7200 soldiers. During this battle Thomas was promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant a month later.
In mid February of 1917 Thomas, appointed Temporary Lieutenant, was seconded for duty to the 14th Machine Gun Company that had been organized at Floringhem, Belgium that January. With this promotion his rate of pay was increased to $2.00/day plus a field allowance of 60 cents/day.
On 15 May 1917 Thomas was first admitted to the No 7 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne and then the No 14, diagnosed with enteric fever, severe (typhoid fever). By mid June he was invalided to the Officers Hospital at 33 Upper Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. By November of 1917 Lieutenant Thomas O’Flaherty was found medically unfit for service and was invalided back to Canada on the Araguaya (hospital ship) that left Liverpool on the 19th. A Kenora newspaper article in early December told of his warm welcome home although he was to spend time in the Military Hospital Convalescent Centre/Manitoba Military Hospital Tuxedo as well as an outpatient at Deer Lodge Hospital, both in Winnipeg.
On 4 November 1919 Thomas married his childhood sweetheart Mary Frances Walsh in Kenora. Mary had arrived in Canada aboard the Adriatic on the 17th of October. The 1911 Ireland census had found Mary, her parents John and Eliza(beth) (née Ambrose) Walsh and siblings Michael, Edward, Lillie, and Margaret farming at Ballysheehy, Saint Mary’s, Cork.
By the 1921 Canada census Thomas, Mary, and Thomas’ sister Margaret were living at 534 3rd Street North, immigration year for Thomas and Margaret given as 1907 although Margaret didn’t immigrate until 1919. Thomas and Mary had given birth prematurely to a daughter in September of 1920 and she died the next day. After the war Thomas had continued to work as an engineer for the Canadian Pacific Railway but was also working as a mining recorder until he was forced to choose a single profession, that being with the railroad. The couple gave birth to two more children, Thomas Ambrose and Kevin Finbarr.
Tragedy struck the O’Flaherty family in the form of a locomotive engine boiler explosion on 20 October 1932 near Dryden, Ontario that caused the deaths of three employees. Myer Harris died instantly and Thomas O’Flaherty and John Paterson later succumbed to their injuries in the Dryden hospital. At the time Thomas was survived by his wife Mary and two sons Ambrose and Kevin, as well as brothers Edward and Joseph and sister Peggy (Moore) in Kenora and family back in Ireland. Over the years Thomas had been an avid supporter of sports and bred and trained dogs as a hobby. Very evident was his love of the lake as he traded purchased island property for a large boat to transport his family on beautiful Lake of the Woods.
After the accident life was not easy for Mary but the family managed. Both boys attended university with Ambrose becoming a lawyer and Kevin a mining geologist. Thomas Ambrose married Marie Theresa McCarthy and had seven children, Maureen, Catherine, John, twins Mary and Jane, and twins Ann and Paul. Kevin married Margaret (Peggy) Wismer and the couple gave birth to eight children, Thomas Joseph (d 1964), Mary Margaret, Elizabeth Anne, Kathleen Louise, Eveline Patricia, Cecilia Jane, Michael Edward, and Kevin Patrick. Many members of both families continue to make Kenora their home. Mary Frances (Walsh) O’Flaherty died on 7 March 1970 in Kenora and is interred with Thomas in the family plot in Lake of the Woods Cemetery.
Thomas’ cousin Laurence that had enlisted with him on the same day was reported as having died of his wounds on 17 April 1917. It appears that Thomas’ brother Lawrence served as Private with the Royal Munster Fusiliers and was killed in action on 22 March 1918. His brother John Joseph (Joe) served during the war with 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, later moving to Kenora after the war. Following in their father’s footsteps, during WW2 Thomas Ambrose served with the Canadian Armoured Corps and Kevin with the Royal Canadian Air Force as a pilot.
by Judy Stockham
Photograph of Thomas with the machine gun courtesy of his son Kevin.
Photograph of Thomas with the 27th Battalion is from the commemorative book of the 27th Battalion, Military District No. 10, 1915.