Lives Lived and Lives Lost - Portsmouth and the Great War

Although he came from a line of carpenters on several sides of his family, Thomas Gerald McCormack was pitched into the Great War at such a young age that he had no chance to follow any family tradition.
Although carpentry features strongly in the family background, Thomas Gerald's father Thomas snr. only followed the trade for a few years as his occupation in 1911 census was described as an Electrical Fitter working in HM Dockyard. Thomas snr. had married Ellen Davis in 1899 and in 1901 they were living with Ellen's mother Catherine who was a Beer Retailer at "The Prince of Wales" in Sandown, Isle of Wight, though Thomas was absent for census night. Whilst living in Sandown, Thomas snr. and Ellen had three children, Thomas Gerald (b. 1899), Kathleen (b. 1903) and Ronald (b. 1905).
The family left the Isle of Wight before 1911 as the census for that year saw them living at 1 Frogmore Road in Fratton where they had one more child - Harold (b. 1908).
To find the carpentry connection we have to go back one more generation to find Thomas Gerald's grandparents Peter (b. 1841, in Dublin) and Isabella (b. 1842) who in 1891 were living at 123 New Road, Buckland. Peter was then described as a Steam Engine Maker but his eldest son, also called Peter, was a carpenter. They went on to have five more children, two daughters, Laura and Isobella, and three sons Edwin, Thomas and Francis. All three boys were then carpenters or their apprentices. Their mother Isabella came from the Dugan family and her father James was also a carpenter who in 1861 was living with his wife Sarah and seven children at 16 Garden Lane.
At the outbreak of the war Thomas Gerald McCormack was just 14 years old and still a scholar at the Catholic, St. John's College, Grove Road South, Southsea. This might seem like an odd choice of school for the son of a Dockyard artisan but he must have been a bright child. Presumably also, the Catholic Irish roots of the family ran deep, a factor that was emphasised when Thomas left school and joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. His time in the army could not have lasted long as he was killed in action on the second day of the Battle of Messines whilst only 17 years old.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists Private Thomas Gerald McCormack, (40502), 9th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, died on 08/06/1917. Buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord (Grave Ref: III.C.290). Son of Mr. and Mrs. T. McCormack, of 196, Prince Albert Rd., Portsmouth.
Thomas McCormack is remembered on the St. John's College WW1 Memorial and the Cenotaph (as McCormac T.G.). He is not listed in the 'National Roll of the Great War'.
Research Notes
The surname of the family varies between ending in a 'c' and ending in 'ck'. Thomas Gerald's father Thomas snr. was described as born in Dublin in the 1911 census but born in Portsea in others.
Tim Backhouse
March 2014