Back To . . . 28th Foot The North Gloucestershire Regiment
Notes related to William Irwin supplied by DBurrows
MAJOR WILLIAM IRWIN (1784-1840)
Major William Irwin was referred to by Alexander Irwin as his “double cousin”, which means that they were related through both Alexander’s father, Christopher Irwin, and his mother, Eliza, whose maiden name we do not know at present.
Through a record of a deed, dated 1838, we learn that in 1833, Captain William Irwin had transferred to Alexander and his heirs, the lands of Clooskert in the County of Sligo, with the obligation that Alexander allow Thomas Irwin of Moorfield remain on the premises for the rest of his natural life, for the yearly rent of forty-five pounds sterling. We are led to believe these may have been the relatives with whom the orphaned Alexander lived.
In the interview with the Markdale Standard IN 1913, Henry D. Irwin spoke of Major William Irwin of the 28th Gloucestershire Regiment. ”Just a century ago he was in the very thick of things in connection with the struggle with Napoleon Bonaparte. He was mentioned in despatches and won various decorations, one of these, an eight-pointed star, has engraved on it the names Nive, Vittoria, Pyrennes,
Barossa, Nivelle, Waterloo, Orthes, Albuhera, while another adorned with the Sphinx, testifies to his valour in Egypt. He was a giant of six feet four, and so well able to look over the head of his great commander, the Duke of Wellington, who stood five, seven.”
The decoration mentioned, which the family had always assumed to be a Peninsular War medal, turns out to be the central portion of an officers hat badge. The Army lists do show Major William Irwin to have had both the Peninsular Medal and the Waterloo Medal. The curator of the Royal Canadian Military Institute (Toronto), Lieut. Col Heard, offered to try to find them. There is a Waterloo Medal on display at RCMI, a gigantic thing, the size of a pie plate, probably designed to hang on the wall. The curator suggested that the Parker Gallery, which has “runners” all over the world, should be able to locate Major Irwin’s medal fairly easily, but the cost of obtaining it would be substantial, R.H. (Bob) Irwin has donated the hat badge to the RCMI, and any member of the family may see it by applying to the curator.
From the book, Cap of Honour, The Story of the Gloucestershire Regiment, the following account:
“But on the other side of the town the 28th had been in action. They had moved up to Toulouse a few days before the battle, April, 1815 and had been “put in the most delightful villas.” On that famous Easter Sunday the first task of the 28th was to drive in enemy outposts from the bank of a river. Then they came across a large mill which the French had fortified and “which annoyed us very much”. They therefore attacked the mill, and “carried it in good style.” But that was largely owing to the heroism and strength of Lieutenant Irwin of the Grenadier Company. As the Regiment advanced on the mill men fell fast, because the enemy had loopholed a dry brick wall, from which they were able to deal a murderous fire on the advancing 28th. Lieutenant Irwin ran forward, got hold of the top of the wall. Tugged it until a large piece came down, and then, assisted by his Grenadiers, all stalwart men, pulled down enough of the wall to make gap through which they rushed and soon drove off the enemy. After that the regiment formed up and drove back the enemy opposite them, and sent them right back into Toulouse.
In June, 1815, at the battle of Quatre Bras, a prelude to the battle of Waterloo, the 28th Regiment was again cited for withstanding its ground and performing the impossible. The 28th was the only English Regiment in that battle mentioned by name by the Duke of Wellington in the Waterloo Dispatch. On June 18, Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo, in which the 28th took part.
A family story comes down from the battle of Quatre Bras, told to Bob Irwin by his father, that during the early charges of the French cavalry, the 28th fired at them with little effect and that as they wheeled away, an Irish renegade with the French made indecent gestures to them. The next time they charged, Lieut. Irwin said, “Let me through here, lads.” He went in font of the square and as the renegade came past, grasped his foot and threw him off his horse.
From the record, “War services of the Majors” (RCMI), we learn that Major William Irwin served in many battles on the Peninsula from the beginning of 1809 to the end of the Peninsular War. He was wounded at Talavera and severely wounded at Vittoria. He was present at Waterloo on the 16th of June (1815) when he was again severely wounded, and on the 18th,
In 1835 the Regiment sailed for Australia, the purpose of the voyage was to escort convicts and then to provide guards for them in New South Wales. Regimental Headquarters was established at Parramatta, a few miles north of Sydney in 1841. Major William Irwin was appointed Assistant Engineer and Superintendent of the Convict Stockade. He died there, and a memorial plaque was placed in the Church of St. John’s, Parramatta, once the Garrison church:
“Sacred to the memory of Brevet Major William Irwin of H.M. 28th Regiment, who died at Parramatta the 12th of November 1840, aged 56 years. This tablet is erected by his brother officers as a token of their esteem and admiration of his long and gallant service of 35 years in the Corps.”
The cemetery of the church is the oldest in the colony of New South Wales. Still standing, of the original building, are the twin towers which are of bricks made by convict hands. Our book committee was pleased to receive pictures of the church, the plaque, and the grave of Major William Irwin, from Douglas and Beverly Mann in Coolamon, NSW. Doug is a descendant of Johnston Irwin, eldest son of Alexander Irwin, who emigrated to Australia in 1846.
Bob Irwin, a Major in the Armed Forces in World War II, carried the blackthorn walking stick which had belonged to Major William Irwin, throughout the campaign. His father, William A. Irwin, wrote in 1952 that Major William Irwin’s widow “came to Canada with the Family; they had no family”. According to church records at Parramatta, Major Irwin was born at “Moorheld”, Co., Sligo……”Moorfield” is probably the correct spelling.
R.H. (Bob) Irwin, grandson of Harry D. Irwin, supplied the information from the RCMI. He added, “I am impressed that Major Irwin was mentioned twice in a brief regimental history covering 256 years. He must have been highly thought of. The Gloucester’s have a most distinguished history…… in Korea, though decimated, they held off a Chinese attack in divisional strength and prevented them from overrunning the American lines. They received a USA Presidential citation.”
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