The McIlree Family

Go to content

Leslie McIlree

McIlrees at War

This is an extract taken from the Mid-Ulster Mail Saturday April 17 1971:

"Mr Leslie McILREE of Maloon, Cookstown, who died on Friday last served in the Army in both World Wars. He was aged 86.

A native of Kingsmills, Coagh. Mr McIlree joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the 1914-18 War (The First World War). He served in Palestine and various parts of the Middle East, being a Machine Gunner at the landing of the Dardanelles. In World War II, Mr McIlree was in the front line of battle at Dunkirk. Involved in a dug-out fray on the retreat to Dunkirk, he was severely wounded by shrapnel, which resulted in a leg injury and slight deafness in one ear.

Mr McIlree was one of eight brothers who served in the First World War and his parents were honoured by a letter of commendation from the then King.

Mr Mcilree worked for a number of years in Orritor Quarry. Later he was employed at Dunman Milk Depot from which he retired at the age of 65.

A keen follower of the Big Drum, he attended drumming matches as far afield as Moy and Balleymena.

Mr McIlree and his wife Lizzie celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary in October last. They were well known in the area and Mr McIlree's passing is deeply regretted by a large circle of friends.

In addition to his widow Mr McIlree is survived by two sons John and Sandy, a daughter Mrs R.J. Rankin (nee Crooks), a brother David and a sister Mrs Mary Curry."

Recollections and Stories from members of the family:

At the age of 53, Leslie was actually too old to enlist for World War II. By that time he had white hair and was showing his age. My father tells me that to pass muster as a younger man he used black boot polish on his hair and was successfully recruited. My Father also tells the tale of an old white haired veteran playing traditional Irish songs on his harmonica to keep up the spirits of young frightened soldiers as they lay waiting for recovery on the beaches of Dunkirk.

The picture on the left is me with Grandfather Leslie and I am pretending to smoke one of his pipes.

My Second Cousin, Nancy Patten describes visiting my Grandfather Leslie when she was 16 and describes the occasion as:

"I was 16 and I spent the afternoon by the fire at his feet listening to all his stories about his youth and his family. He is still one of the most handsome men I have every seen. He had snow white hair, rosy cheeks and beautiful blues eyes and he was so straight and tall. (I saved a match stick that he threw into the grate). I also remember a charcoal drawing on the wall of a man and a woman from about the 1830's-40's by the clothing they wore. I wonder if they were Andrew and Jane or some of Lizzie's people."

I personally remember my Grandfather walking every evening from the Maloon Cottages to the little bridge a hundred yards down the road and sitting smoking his pipe come wind or come rain. I remember staying at 4 Maloon Cottages as a boy and falling into the sewage ditch under the apple tree. I remember washing outside in the freezing cold using an old hand pump to pump water into a basin. I remember some unbelievable 'Ulster Fries' cooked on an old black range in the kitchen (consisting of home made Soda Farls, Potato Bread, Freshly gathered eggs and great welts of bacon).

I remember talking to my Grandmother (Lizzie) about the old days when Leslie used to breed Ponies and would walk to Belfast to sell and buy new stock (only a mere 50 miles or so).

In all this it would be a shame to forget my Grannie Lizzie McIlree who was a complete and utter character in her own right. Even in her 70's she used to walk the couple of miles up the hill to Cookstown to have a gossip and glass of sherry with the local Hairdresser Minnie Baxter and then back home again. No Bus, No Taxi in those days. My fondest memory of her and Leslie was over the old fashioned Wireless that they used to have in the cottage. Lizzie used to turn it on to listen to the dance music and Leslie would turn if off because he thought it of no importance. He would only allow it to be turned on for the BBC World Service News. However, anytime he went for a walk to the bridge or outside to smoke his pipe on would go the wireless and Lizzie would be jigging round the room.

What a couple.....What a partnership...and what memories.

Home Page | Family Tree | Family History | Famous McIlrees | McIlrees at War | Photographs | Sporting McIlrees' | Research Links | Military Books | Site Map

Web Pages produced by John L McIlree ...................Last Modified - 08 January 2008 |

Back to content | Back to main menu