By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The horror of war that hits home for the mother who loses three sons in the film "Saving Private Ryan" happened to a number of Irish women during World War I. One had to endure the trauma of losing three in just one week. Another family, the Burrowes of Clara, Co. Offaly, sent four lads off to war only to have one return.
The story of the deaths of the three Burrowes brothers is featured in an exhibition at the Dublin Civil Museum organized by Tom Burke, chairman of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association.
The only brother to survive the war, Jim, never spoke about his dead brothers, according to his daughter, Boston-born Marie Dunne, who’s 72 and now lives in Inchicore, Co. Dublin. Dunne said she will not be going to see the Steven Spielberg movie. Her son Leonard, who lives in Cincinnati, saw it and advised her not to go because it might upset her.
No wonder. Three of Dunne’s uncles, from a family of 12, never returned from World War I. Since their mother had died in childbirth and their father shortly afterward, neither had to endure the shock of receiving the dreaded "killed in action" notification to next-of-kin. That grief fell to the surviving siblings.
"It was a terrible tragedy for them," Dunne said.
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Frank Burrowes was a corporal in the Connaught Rangers who died at age 31 at Mons in August 1914. His brother George was a sergeant in the Lincolnshire Regiment who died at 37 near Ypres in February 1914. Another brother, Luke, was a gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery who was 29 when he was killed at Ypres in April 1917.
Dunne said times had been hard for her father and his brothers and sisters when their parents died. After the war her father, who served in the Royal Engineers in the Dardanelles and Mesopotamia, immigrated to America.
"He had a sister in New York, so he gambled and drank all the way over on the boat," she said. "He arrived in Ellis Island and he hadn’t got the minimum number of dollars to get through, but he managed to talk his way out of that.
"He then found his sister had gone to Boston to meet him because she was expecting he would arrive there. He was penniless but managed to sell his watch to raise the train fare to Boston, where he had four sisters — so he was O.K."
Jim met his wife, a nurse from County Clare, in Boston, and the family returned to Ireland in 1934.
"I never remember any pension from the British army," Dunne said. "When he was demobbed, that seemed to be the end of it. There was an insurance pension from America every month and my father built a dance hall in Mountmellick."