The McIlree Family

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The Fighting McIlrees'

McIlrees at War

Father and Son Medals

The Rector of Ardtrea wrote to the King to inform him of his Parishioner, Mrs. McIlree, having eight sons in the army. He received a reply and an enclosed letter for her - the transcript of which is below. After the letter there is a poem written about the eight brothers by an unknown author (if anyone knows who it is please email me).

David (Davy) McIlree

Privy Purse Officer

Buckingham Palace
1. Feburary 1915


I have the honour to inform you that the King has heard with much interest that you have, at the present moment, eight sons in the army. I am commanded to express to you the King's congratulations and to assure you that His Majesty much appreciates the spirit of patriotism which prompted this example, in one family, of loyalty and devotion to their sovereign and empire.
I have the honour to be, madam, your obedient servant

F. Ponsonby
Keeper of the Privy Purse

Leslie and John Leslie

The Fighting McIlrees

There's a widow in Tyrone who is living all alone
As the nations meet in deadly clash of arms
But the King upon his throne
Knows she has given all she owns
To keep the country safe from wars alarm

Who else has given eight sons to face the foeman's gun
Is it not the limit of a mother's love?
While some will grudge but one
To fight the cruel Hun
And frightful menace from our homes remove

That mother may be proud and may praises long and loud
Await her and her valiant family
For you'll search in vain today
Amid the battle fray
For a record like the house of McIlree

Napoleon once replied when asked "Who best has tried
Mongst women to do service in your realm?"
'Tis she who's gladly given
The most sons sent her by Heaven
To gird the sword and dawn the battle helm

Oh gallant brothers eight may peace with honour wait
Upon your splendid fight for Britain's sake
And may all those who falter
To enlist, know that a halter
Hangs above the head of all that's now at stake

Once let the tyrant stand upon your native land
'twill be be too late to crush him and there'll be
Such slaughter that you'll pray
Upon that dreadful day
That you'd been a son of widow McIlree

Marion, Leslie and Lizzie

Jude Buttery's Grandfather, David McIlree, was one of the eight brothers and her husband belongs to a folk group called 'Flaxenby'. The group have put both the Kings Letter and the Fighting McIlree poem to music in a track called the 'The Kings Letter'. There is an article in Radio Shropshire about this and a link to the song.

Radio Shropshire Article -

Link to the song -

There is a memorial tablet in St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Ardtrea. It is of solid brass on a black marble mount, and is erected near the soldiers’ memorial pipe organ. The Rector dedicated it at morning prayer on July 27th, 1919. The inscription being as follows:

“To the glory of God, and in recognition of the men from this parish who fought inthe Great War, 1914-1918.”

The McIlree Family are included as followed:

Killed in Action.

Alex M’Ilree, Private, 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, at first Battle of Ypres, May, 1915.

Also Served, '

Leslie M’llree, Pte., 6th Royal Irish Fusiliers .

John M’Ilree, Pte., 6th Royal Irish Fusiliers

Andrew M’Ilree, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers

Samuel M’Ilree, Royal Field Artillery

David M’Ilree, Cpl., 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

This shows 6 of the 8 brothers and I believe the other two brothers must have live outside the townland/local area. Alexander McIlree who died in the First World War is also featured on the Memorial in the main street of Cookstown.

Full details of the St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Ardtrea memorial tablet can be found at

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