While the medal was one of three in Denis Tangney’s suitcase stolen in a London train station in the 1940s, it was located only 20km from where his family still lives today in Tralee.
The discovery was made by Castleisland man, Dermot McCarthy, when he cleared out a cottage in the area a few years ago. The inscription for Pte D.E. Tangney of the Royal Munster Fusiliers seemed like enough information to go on to locate its rightful owner or his family.
But Dermot’s initial efforts to trace the owner or his family proved fruitless. Having contacted other Tangney families in the Castleisland and Killarney areas, he had almost given up hope of getting the 95-year-old medal into the right hands.
It was when he brought it to the attention of local photographer, John Reidy, the trail heated up again, as his sharing of the story through John’s Maine Valley Post website and a local paper last week set alarm bells ringing for one reader.
Robert Tangney, grandson of Denis Tangney, got a call from his sister, Gail, about the story and it was pretty clear to them that this was one of their grandfathers’ long-lost medals.
The family story was that his three war medals disappeared with other belongings in a suitcase stolen from him at Euston Station in London in the 1940s.
As a painter by trade, he often went back and forth to England for work and the way he took the medals with him were an indication of how much they meant to him. But while replica medals were issued to the family in recent years, the way his Victory Medal showed up out of the blue has shocked and delighted them.
“For this to happen on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war is just an amazing coincidence. But to think that after all these years, it would show up so close to his home is even more amazing,” said Robert.
“In fairness to Dermot, he showed tremendous goodwill trying to find the rightful home for it. My grandfather had no ties at all to the area it was found, so maybe they ended up in a car boot sale or an auction or something before coming back to Kerry, we can only guess,” he said.
Denis Tangney was born in 1892 and signed up at the local Ballymullen army barracks in 1914, before landing in France with the 8th Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers in late 1915. After a shrapnel injury received in November 1916, he spent three years in English and Dublin hospitals before returning home to Tralee.
Robert only earlier this year self-published a history of Ballymullen Barracks, in which his own late father Denis, who died five years ago, had a deep interest.
His grandfather died in 1978 when Robert was still too young to ask the questions he would love answered now about his war experiences. But his memory will be kept alive with the restoration of his Victory Medal to the family, and it will hold pride of place in Robert’s home.
While this mystery has finally been solved, however, the origins remain unknown of a ‘Black and Tan’ medal for War of Independence participants Dermot McCarthy found alongside Denis Tangney’s medal in the Castleisland cottage.