Daniel Mcauley was born in Belfast in around 1883, one of six children to John and Margaret Mcauley. John was a farmer, and when Daniel – who was named after his uncle – left school, he found labouring work to help the family bring in an income.
In January 1909, Daniel married Annie Fittis, the daughter of a linen tenter (stretching cloth on a loom while it was drying and maintaining the machines). The couple had had a son, John, eighteen months before, and would have another child, Sarah, later that year.
The 1911 census for Northern Ireland found the young family living with Annie’s mother and two sisters in Dayton Street, near the middle of Belfast. Annie and her sisters were working as flax spinners, while Daniel was a labourer. Tellingly, the document lists inhabitants’ religion – Daniel is the sole Roman Catholic amongst a family of Presbyterians.
War was coming to Europe, and Daniel was called on to do his bit. Sadly, full details of his military service was not available, but what is clear is that he enlisted as a Bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery towards the end of 1914. He was shipped to England, and barracked in Somerset, near Frome.
Sadly, the next evidence of Daniel’s life comes in a wealth of newspaper articles that report on the accident that led to his death.
One soldier was killed and another seriously injured as the result of a horse attached to a Royal Field Artillery wagon bolting at Frome Saturday morning. The wagon was on its way to the stables when the horse got out of control and ran along Christ Church Street West.
One man, who was riding in the wagon, in jumping clear was seriously cut about the head and body, and was taken to the hospital. The other, Bombardier Daniel MacAulay, belonging to Glasgow [sic], remained in the wagon trying to pull up the horses, but the vehicle swerved across the road and he was thrown out, his head coming into contact with a street lamp.
He was taken to the hospital on the police ambulance, but died before admission. He was a married man, about 34 years of age, and was to have gone on leave Saturday in order to visit his sick child. In the morning he received a letter form his wife saying that the child had been seriously ill and had gone blind.
Mr Douglas Mackay, deputy coroner, held an inquest at Frome on Tuesday on the body of the deceased. The verdict was “Accidental death.”Shepton Mallet Journal: Friday 19th March 1915
Other newspapers reported similarly, a couple staring that Daniel was father to three children. There is no evidence that this was the case and, given that all of the reports state that he came from Scotland, when he was Irish, it is likely that this too was an error. Each newspaper give variations of the spelling of his surname too, evidence that spelling was often at the mercy of the person documenting it, even in the media.
Daniel was buried in Somerset and Annie travelled to England to attend the funeral. Again, newspaper reports suggest that Daniel’s brothers also attended, although he had only one male sibling.
Bombardier Daniel Mcauley died on 13th March 1915, aged around 33 years old. He was laid to rest in the Vallis Road Burial Ground in Frome, also known as the Dissenters’ Cemetery (for those who did not follow the English Protestant faiths.