Honouring Stonyhurst alumnus at his Somme grave
Relatives of a Stonyhurst alumnus who died in World War I will be travelling to the Somme Battlefields next month to mark the centenary of his death.
Lieutenant Patrick Joseph McCusker was born on 24 March 1894 in Neilston, a village and parish in East Renfrewshire in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. After being educated by the Jesuits at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, he returned to Scotland to study medicine at Glasgow University before receiving his commission. In 1916, it was reported that he was wounded and missing; it was subsequently confirmed that he had been killed in action, on 13 November 1916, during the Battle of the Ancre, the final large British attack of the Battle of the Somme. He was 22 years old.
Around 60 of Lt McCusker’s relatives are expected to visit the site, exactly 100 years after his death, including some who will be travelling from Australia for the occasion. They will start their weekend of commemoration with a visit to the Somme War Museum on 12 November before taking a coach trip around the Somme Battlefields. They will then gather to pay their respects at his graveside at Knightsbridge Cemetery in Mesnil-Martinsart, northern France.
“One of the cousins mentioned it years ago,” Jacqui McCusker told her local newspaper, the Barrhead News. Jacqui is married to Lt McCusker’s great nephew, James. “We talked about it because it was the centenary. It’ll be nice to have a reunion — there are people who have never met each other ... It’s a nice excuse for everyone to get together and commemorate.”
Another of Lt McCusker’s relatives is the parish priest at St James’ Catholic Church in Renfrew. He will celebrate Mass at his great uncle’s burial site on Remembrance Sunday.
He died in the grace of God
The 9 December 1916 edition of The Tablet reported: "We regret to record the loss in action of Lieut. Patrick Joseph McCusker, Royal Dublin Fus., youngest son of Mr. James McCusker, of 132, Trongate, Glasgow, and Dromore, Co. Tyrone. He was educated at Stonyhurst, and was a medical student at Glasgow University at the outbreak of war.”
Following Lt McCusker’s death, his Company Commander – a Catholic officer who also described himself as a ‘great friend’ of Patrick – wrote to his parents: “I feel his loss immensely, as do all officers in the company. He died in the grace of God. He and I were at Confession two days before the battle, and I think he was at Holy Communion on the following morning... Sympathizing with you in your loss."
A total of 1,012 men from Stonyhurst fought in the First World War, including three recipients of the Victoria Cross. Lt MCusker was one of 167 Stonyhurst alumni who gave their lives for King and Country. The Stonyhurst College War Record 1914-1918 records that Lieutenant McCusker was "killed in action in France, November 13th, 1916, at the Capture of Beaumont Hamel, during the Battle of the Ancre 1916, twelfth of the Battles of the Somme, 1916".
On Remembrance Sunday, 13 November, the Stonyhurst community will be commemorating their war dead, with Mass in St Peter’s Church at 9.30am, followed by the Combined Cadet Forces Senior Company Parade and Remembrance Service at Hurst Green, starting at 11am.