Watch: Amateur historians in battle to reunite family with Private Ryan medals found in charity shop

Watch: Amateur historians in battle to reunite family with Private Ryan medals found in charity shop
Terri Kearney, manager at the Skibbereen Heritage Centre holding the two World War 1 medals, the 1914-14 star and the victory medal. Picture Dan Linehan

Amateur historians are sleuthing away in an effort to reunite relatives of a World War One soldier with two medals he won during that conflict.

Media and military history buffs from all over the country have homed in on the story after the two medals were found in a jacket which was among a bundle of old clothes donated to a charity shop in West Cork.

The medals were found by Steve Roffe, who has worked for three years as a volunteer at the Kealkil Charity Shop, near Bantry.

He said old photographs have previously been discovered in donated clothes and they were able to hand them back to families, but in this case the bundle of clothes was left outside the shop by an unknown person.

The charity shop sells off the best clothes, exports others and cuts up the worst for use as cloths.

"I presumed the clothes had belonged to some old bloke who had passed away. I picked up this little old tweedy-type jacket and I felt something in the pocket. The two medals were in it, which came as something of a shock. I never found anything like that before in old clothes," Steve said.

Kealkill Community Charity shop staff where two World War 1 medals, the 1914-14 star and the victory medal were found inside the pocket of a man's jacket. Included are from left, Mary McCarthy, Steve Roffe, Sarah Smith, Margaret and James O’Mahony, Ed Smith and Mick Cremin. Picture Dan Linehan
Kealkill Community Charity shop staff where two World War 1 medals, the 1914-14 star and the victory medal were found inside the pocket of a man's jacket. Included are from left, Mary McCarthy, Steve Roffe, Sarah Smith, Margaret and James O’Mahony, Ed Smith and Mick Cremin. Picture Dan Linehan

He said he tried to Google information about the medals which belonged to a Private Patrick Ryan, but didn't make much progress.

It was then that the charity shop decided to send them to Terri Keane, manager of the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, who enlisted an expert to trace Private Ryan's past

That expert, Kevin Tomlinson, was able to ascertain that Private Ryan had been a volunteer who joined the 1st Battalion of the Munster Fusiliers in the first year of the war, 1914.

It is possible that he was born in the Tipperary area.

The medals that were found in a coat handed in to a charity shop
The medals that were found in a coat handed in to a charity shop

Ryan was mainly involved in a labour unit digging trenches and building other military fortifications.

He almost certainly served with Allied forces in Gallipoli, which took serious casualties after coming under withering and constant attack from the well-organised Turkish Army.

Mr Tomlinson believes that Ryan was evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt in January 1916 and subsequently transferred to Marseille, France before heading to the Western Front in the summer of that year.

Ryan was nominated to receive a bravery award, the Military Medal, but it was not awarded for some reason.

He managed to live through the war and was given an honourable discharge, but later enlisted again.

Almost nothing is known yet about what he did after finishing his military career.

The Irish Veterans' Association tweeted their thanks to the charity shop yesterday.

They said the charity has done the right thing and hope it will lead to the return of the medals to Private Ryan's descendants.

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