For the past 8 years, we have been searching for the burial place of this Canadian Soldier Private Samuel McNeice – 150166 – who served with the 79th Bn Canadian Infantry. In spite of having a large amount of information about him, researching as many archives and Churchyards as possible , plus enlisting the help of the Local Authorities around Antrim & Ballymena, we still have not had any success. Therefore we are appealing for help from anyone out there who may be able to assist in helping us to give this man a War Veteran headstone before the centennial of his death is reached on the 26th June 2019.
Interestingly, the Family Trees for the McNeice’s posted on the Ancestry.co.uk database list all of Samuel’s siblings but he is not mentioned, although there is a large gap in the birth dates. We therefore suspect that because he emigrated to Canada, the family members who are compiling these trees are unaware that they have an ancestor missing . When found, we will pass on the information to the families who are maintaining these McNeice trees. We have had no response from any of the McNeice Family Tree listed contacts.
Below is the important selection extracted from the mountain of information we have gathered for this man and we would love to hear from anyone who may be able to help.
Pte McNeice’s death ( 25th June) was posted to the Ballymena Observer newspaper on the 4th July 1919 but with no mention as to where he was to be interred.
We believe that he would have been laid to rest somewhere fairly local to his place of death and we would like to reach out to anyone who may have knowledge of any descendants who might have attended the funeral.
The new 1914-1918 Memorial Wall at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey was unveiled in November 2015. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission intend it to be “a memorial to the missing and commemorates casualties with no known grave”.
Diana Beaupré & Adrian Watkinson (Far From Home project) Brookwood 2018.
Pte Samuel ‘Sam’ McNeice is one of only four Canadians whose names remain displayed on the Memorial. When he enlisted on 2nd September 1915 at Brandon in Manitoba, he declared his date of birth as 19th September 1883 at Ballymena, County Antrim in Northern Ireland.
However, further research indicates that he was more likely born between 1877-79.
His parents were: Samuel McNeice (Snr) and Margaret Ann Hamilton, married in Wellington Street Presbyterian Church on the 21st April 1871.
He appears on the 1901 Census as aged 24 as an agricultural labourer. Listed with him is wife Maggie and daughter Isabella (aged 2) so he or they would have emigrated to Canada some time after that year. Once in Canada and prior to volunteering, he listed his occupation as a “Fireman” with the Fire Department. He also attested to his religion being Presbyterian.
Sam served with the 79th Bn Canadian Infantry and subsequently the 11th Reserve Bn Canadian Infantry. His army service was blighted by serious illness. He was hospitalised with “Pleurisy and effusions” for a total of 352 days in Moore Barracks Canadian Hospital at Shorncliffe Folkestone, Kent (17th February 1916 to 3rd February 1917). Then, he was transferred to Pinewood Sanitorium at Wokingham, Surrey and subsequently on to the Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington.
The Archive Death Card states that his next of kin was his another of his sisters Isabella Coulter of 5 Foome Rd, Ballymena, so it is feasible that this sister took control of his funeral and chose to inter him at a place of her choosing.
His declaration on 29th December 1917 to the Pensions and Claims Board states he was married with three daughters aged 16 (born c 1901), 11 (born c 1906) and 9 (born c 1908). It shows that he had not served at the Front, was unfit for any work and was in a “poor” state of health. Sam wished to take his discharge in England rather than be repatriated to Canada
Maggie McNeice his wife, wrote on 6th October 1917 “In reference to my husband getting home I will look after him well and see that he wants for nothing as he will not be a burden on me nor the Public as I am fit to keep him”. She gave her address as Tullygarley by Ballymena.
Sam was finally discharged from the army as “medically unfit” on 6th February 1918.
Private McNeice was 40 years old when he died on 25th (or 26th) June 1919 at Tully Garley, Antrim Road in Ballymena. (One note: the CWGC states his death to be 28th June 1919) His Certified Cause of Death (26th June) states “Tuber, peritonitis, 4 years”. His sister Ellen Barr (née McNeice), registered the Death on 2nd July 1919 and gave her address as Ballymena. See below. Ellen married John Barr on the 8 October 1902 at Broughshane 1st Presbyterian Church
After almost 100 years, his final resting place needs to be found so that his service to King and Country can finally be remembered on the centenary of his death in 2019 and every year thereafter.
Although he died in 1919, the CWGC cut-off date for war veterans is 31st August 1921.
In this document below, I note that there are a couple of McNeice interments which have no date, nor actual names listed. It is possible that if the burial place of his wife Maggie could be found, then she may have been laid to rest with her husband. Unfortunately we have no death date for her, nor for any of his 3 children who at his death were aged around 9, 11 and 16 years old.
There are so many cemeteries and churchyards around Ballymena that he had to have been buried in one of them, probably not too far from where he died.
Our challenge is to find the location. If you are able to shed any light on this mystery, please contact us via Twitter @canadawargraves or Facebook – Canadians Far From Home.