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Remembering Private Lawrence Heenan

Details of the solider killed on active service in World War 1

Private Lawrence Heenan was born in Scotland, the son of Laurence, a coal miner from Ireland and his wife Margaret Heenan, from Lanarkshire. The couple had eight children, of whom Lawrence was the fif

The exact location of his birth is uncertain. In his attestation papers completed on joining the army he is said to have been born in Denny. Stirlingshire but in the 1891 census he is recorded as having been born in about 1886 in Broxburn, Linlithgowshire in the south of Scotland.

By the time of the 1891 census the family was living in number 10 Stirling Row in the Duniplace district of Stirling, a house which had two rooms with windows. His father and two of his elder brothers, James and John were working as coal miners and his elder sister Ann was a paper mill worker. Ten years later the 1901 census shows that Lawrence is himself a coal miner.

Lawrence (known also as Laurence) Heenan enlisted into the Argyll and Sunderland Highlanders Regiment at Stirling on October 27, 1914. He gave his age as 28 years and four months and declared that he was working as a miner. He measured five feet 2 inches, weighed 125 lbs and had a 37 inch waist. He was described as having a fresh complexion with brown eyes and hair. The medical officer noted that he was under height but otherwise was a good recruit and would develop to the required standard.

Consequently he was assigned to the 10th (Service) Battalion as a Private with the service number of S/6222. 

His first months were spent in billets first at Bordon, then New Alresford and finally, in February 1915, at Bramshott. His conduct was good throughout except for one period in December 1914 when he was found drunk in his billet and was fined 7 days pay.

In May 1915 orders were issued to join the Expeditionary Force in France. The Battalion landed at Boulogne on May 11. A short time after arriving at the front, he made a will in which he declared: “In the event of my death I leave the whole of my property and effects to my father Lawrence Heenan of 17 Herbertshire Street, Denny.”

Lawrence Heenan was killed in action in Flanders, Belgium on October 15 the same year. The war diary for this period records that on that day the 10th battalion was in camp away from the trenches having been moved back from the line the previous day. There are no reports of attacks or casualties on 15th, but two days earlier Company A within the battalion had been in trench 29 near Dickebush while Companies B and C were in reserve dug outs at Canal Bank and Spoil Bank. 

The diary notes:

At 6am the enemy exploded a large mine under old CRATER in trench 29. This did a great deal of damage in front and at the BLUFF and was most regrettable in that we lost about 70 men, 14 of whom were killed and 16 missing. All dug outs nearby were completely blown in causing many men to be buried. The men though for the most part new to trench warfare stood absolutely firm under these most trying circumstances.

The list of those who died during the Great War, published on behalf of the War Office in 1921, lists 30 men from the 10th Battalion including Private Lawrence Heenan who died on October 15. The inference is that he died as a result of the mine explosion on the 15th.

The Scotsman newspaper reported his death on Nov 4, 1915:

Lawrence Heenan, 10th A and S H, was killed in action about 15th October.  Official intimation was received by his father Mr Lawrence Heenan, Herbertshire Street. Pte Heenan was 25 years of age and, previous to joining the army a year ago, worked in Wodyet Pit, Denny. Mr Heenan has five sons in the army.

Lawrence Heenan's death is commemorated at the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres, Belgium on panels 42 and 44. He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. A war gratuity of £3 5 shillings and 10pence was paid to his father in March 2016. A sum of £3 was paid to his brother James in November 1919.

Lawrence Heenan's Family

Father: Lawrence Heenan born abt 1850 in Ireland. Son of Patrick Heenan, a farmer, who had died by 1869. He worked variously as an ironstone miner and then coal miner.  Documents held by the War Office indicate that he died in October 1918

Mother: Margaret Curren, born in Airdrie, Lanarkshire about 1851. She died before her husband. 

The couple married at Denny in Stirlingshire, Scotland on 22 Oct 1869. In the early years of their marriage they lived in Denny, Stirlingshire where four of their children were born between 1870 and 1879. They then moved to Broxburn, Linlithgowshire where their son Laurence and daughter Mary were born. By 1887 they were in Rosehall, Lanarkshire where their son Thomas was born. 1889 saw them in Slamannan, Stirlingshire where their final child Margaret was born. After his wife's death it appears Lawrence Heenan returned to Denny where he lived with his daughter Ann and her husband Patrick McNally. 

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