PTE M. J. LONERGAN SERVICE NUMBER 4169
Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan was the husband of my first cousin twice removed, Mary Teresa Joyce, known as Rose. To put that into context, his mother-in-law Ellen Joyce nee Quin, was the sister of my great-grandmother Isabella Hill nee Quin.
Matthew was born in Gympie on the 7th December 1879 to parents Mathew and Margaret Lonergan nee Mullins.
Prior to enlisting in WW1, Matthew had previously served in the Boer War. First of all serving four months in the Imperial Light Horse where he served as Galloper to Colonel White, before joining the ranks of the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen. (A galloper was an officer used by Commanders to carry messages).
Records show that Matthew returned to Australia in 1904 aboard the “Sophocles” from Cape Town. However, he must have returned to South Africa, as a story in the Darling Downs Gazette of 4 May 1907, describes Miss Joyce travelling to South Africa to marry Mr Lonergan.
On returning to Australia, Matthew and Rose had four daughters together, Margaret (b.1908), Marcella (b.1910), Kathleen (b.1914) and Theresa “Tessie” (b.1915).
On 6 September 1915, at the age of 35 years and 9 months. Matthew enlisted in Brisbane. He was described as 5ft 8.5inches with fair complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. Prior to enlistment, he had been employed as an accountant at the clerical branch of the Railway Store Department in Brisbane.
Tessie, his youngest daughter, was just six weeks old when her father enlisted.
In May 1916, Mathew embarked for overseas service, arriving in Marseilles, France on 5 June 1916. Serving with the 25th battalion 10th reinforcements, he was reported as “Missing in Action” at Pozieres, on 5 August 1916.
Pte M.J. Lonergan’s Red Cross file contains many letters from those who witnessed his death that day, when he was ‘hit by an enemy shell and death was instantaneous’. However, despite many letters from his widow to the authorities, his death was not officially declared until 25 July 1917.
Rose Lonergan, left alone with four little girls, wrote to the department several times over the following months, and despite including several letters from eye-witnesses to the death of her husband, the response was that the evidence she provided was “not sufficiently authentic to warrant an investigation to be made”. It was over a year after his death, that his widow was officially informed that he had been killed in action.
During this time, Rose and the girls had lived at several addresses including Holmview, Sandgate and Helen Street, Toowoomba. One can only assume that she stayed with relatives whilst waiting to hear the news of Matthew’s death.
Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan’s name is included in the list of fallen, on the Toowoomba Fallen Diggers Mother’s Memorial, the Australian War Memorial and the Villiers Bretonneaux Memorial in France. His remains were never recovered.
Photo: Matthew Jeremiah Lonergan with three of his four daughters, Marcella, Margaret and Kathleen on his lap. Photo courtesy of John Carroll.
Jacqui Rose Brock DipFamHist