On February 1st, 1915, the Irish Guards were attacking a stretch of the La Bassee canal in northern France. Lance Corporal Michael O’Leary (24), a former policeman from Macroom, Co Cork, ran forward in front of his men, mounted a railway embankment and shot five members of a German machine gun crew. O’Leary then attacked another machine gun crew 60 yards farther on, killing three more Germans and capturing two.
His comrades looked on in amazement. One said that “O’Leary came back from the killing as cool as if he had been for a walk in the park”. For his near suicidal act of bravery, O’Leary was awarded the Victoria Cross and promoted to sergeant.
He was an authentic Irish hero, a nationalist from a poor background. O’Leary conformed to all the stereotypes of the fighting Irish. He became a celebrity. His most enduring legacy was this memorable recruitment poster extolling Irish men to follow his example. “An Irish Hero - 1 Irishman defeats 10 Germans! Have you no wish to emulate the splendid bravery of your fellow countryman?”
Reporters came from all over to interview his parents. His father, Daniel, nonplussed by all the fuss, made a statement that was pure Irish: “I am surprised he didn’t do more. I often laid out 20 men myself with a stick coming from Macroom Fair, and it is a bad trial of Mick that he could kill only eight, and he having a rifle and bayonet.”
We are delighted to be able to present these fascinating rarities of old Ireland for you to own.
We look forward to helping you create your own collection that can be treasured and admired by your family for many generations to come!
Dimensions: 16” X 10” approx