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Burger William Wallace was my great-grandfather on my mother's side of the family. Born in Scotland, he emigrated to the the South African Repuclic and was a resident of Pretoria. On 13 September 1899. Major John McBride and four other prominent Irishmen offered to raise a Commando to fight against the British in the Anglo-Boer War. Im mid-September 1899, after approval had been received from the Executive of the ZAR Parliament or Volksraad, an advertisement was placed in the "Volkstem" Newspaper calling for Irish Volunteers to fight for the Boers.

" A call to Irishmen to remember England's manifold infamies against their own country, and on this account to volunteer more readily to fight against a common enemy for the defences of Boer freedom. "

On his medal application form, Burger Wallace claimed service from September 1899 which indicates that he possibly joined the Brigade on the strength of the advertisement. The Brigade was commanded by Colonel John Blake, an Irish-American, who had fought in the Indian Wars before travelling to the then Rhodesia and the ZAR. One of his deputies was Major John McBride who became Burger Wallace's Field Commander.

The Brigade preferred to be known as the 'Avenger Corps" and received no financial or material rewards for their participation in the Boer War. Burger Wallace took part and fought at the Siege of Ladysmith, Colenso, Spioenkop and Pieters Heights. In March 1900, he was wounded during a skirmish near the Biggarsberg. While recovering from this wound, he was captured in Johannesburg on the 8th of June.

He was sent to the island of Ceylon as a Prisoner of War with the POW Number of 3116. He was 45 years old at the time. He later applied for and was granted the Anglo Boer War medal and the Wound Ribbon. These awards are very scarce to member of the Irish Brigade.

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A wonderful family treasure and a great piece of South African history. Many of the men who served in the Irish Brigade were probably no longer in South Africa when the Boer medals were issued, so their medals were never claimed. Do you know of any others in existence? I expect that Henk Loots has some answers.



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Hi Brett,

I believe that Major McBride was executed by the British after the 1916 Uprising.

I was once told that 5 medals were issued to former members of the Irish Brigade but I cannot remember the source.



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Hallo Gents,with reference Major John MacBride (note correct spelling of name) :P

John MacBride was born at The Quay, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill, who survived her son.[1] He was educated at the Christian Brothers' School, Westport and at St. Malachy's College, Belfast. He worked for a period in a drapery shop in Castlerea, County Roscommon. He had studied medicine, but gave it up and began working with a chemist firm in Dublin.

He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joined the Celtic Literary Society through which he came to know Arthur Griffith who was to remain a friend and influence throughout his life.

Beginning in 1893, MacBride was termed a "dangerous nationalist" by the British government. In 1896 he went to the United States on behalf of the IRB. On his return he emigrated to South Africa.He took part in the Second Boer War, where he raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Despite being known as MacBride's Brigade its first commander was in fact an Irish-American, Colonel John Blake, an ex-US Cavalry Officer. The Brigade was given official recognition by the Boer Government, the commissions of the Brigade's officers were signed by State Secretary FW Reitz.

He was commissioned with the rank of major in the Boer army and given Boer citizenship.

The 500 Irish and Irish-Americans fought the British. Often these Irish commandos were fighting opposite such Irish regiments as the Dublin Fusiliers and the Inniskillings. From the hills around the besieged town of Ladysmith to the plains of the Orange Free State, MacBride's Brigade first looked after the Boers' great Long Tom gun, then fought in the Battle of Colenso and later held the rearguard, harassing Lord Roberts' cavalry as the Boer army retreated. However, a larger number of Irish fought for the British against the Boers.

By May 1900 the Irish commandos had split, not unexpectedly, into two Irish Transvaal Brigades. Distractions were also caused by the arrival in the Irish camp of an Irish-American Ambulance corps as well as by the news that Irish nationalist leader Michael Davitt had arrived in the Boer capital. Meanwhile, back home Irish pro-Boer fever, whipped up by Arthur Griffith and Maud Gonne in what was the most popular and most violent of the European pro-Boer movements, proved to be a 'dry run' for 1916.

After the war he travelled to Paris. In 1903, he married the Irish nationalist Maud Gonne, who he had met in 1900 and through whom he had met W. B. Yeats. The following year their son Sean MacBride was born. After the marriage failed amid accusations of domestic violence he returned to Dublin. Gonne separated from MacBride, but never remarried.

MacBride, unlike the other leaders of the Easter rising in Dublin in 1916, was not a member of the Irish Volunteers, and happened to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice, but he offered his services to Thomas MacDonagh and was appointed second-in-command at the Jacob's factory. MacBride, after a court martial under the Defence of The Realms Acts, was shot by British troops in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin.

He was executed on 5 May 1916, two days before his fifty-first birthday. Facing the British firing squad, he refused to be blindfolded, saying "I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence." He is buried in Arbour Hill Cemetery (Dublin).

W.B. Yeats, who had hated MacBride during his life largely because of Yeats' unrequited love for Maud Gonne and who had heard negative reports of MacBride's treatment of Gonne in their marriage, gave him the following ambivalent eulogy in his poem "Easter, 1916":

"This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vain-glorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born."

Kevin in Deva. :beer:

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Will - a fine piece of family history. On the ABO - is that a mark or, a hole. If a hole, it was probably on a watch chain ?

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