DEPUTY Mayor of Craigavon Colin McCusker has made an emotional journey to visit the grave of a relative killed i the First World War.
Cllr McCusker made the trip to Belgium last week 24 years after his late father and former MP Harold McCusker had found the final resting place of Rifleman Thomas Robert Corkin,
Thomas Corkin was in the 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd County Down) (Pioneers) which was formed in Lurgan in September 1914 from the Down Volunteers and became known as the Pioneer Battalion to 36th (Ulster) Division in January 1915.
In July 1915 it moved to Seaforde in County Down and in October 1915 they landed at Boulogne in Northern France. Thomas was the only child of James and Rachal Corkin, and was a full cousin of Councillor McCusker’s grandmother Mrs Lily McCusker. He was from Ballygargan and signed the Ulster Covenant in Knocknamuckley Parish Hall.
Councillor McCusker said: “While I was aware that my grandmother had a relative killed in the First World War, and that my late father had visited the grave a matter of months before his own untimely death, like most teenagers, I never paid much attention to my family history. However, having made the effort to find this young man’s grave, all of a sudden I have found my interest in my family history re-ignited.”
“Clearly the young Thomas was a committed Ulsterman, probably joining the Ulster Volunteer Force, which then became the Royal Irish Rifles, part of the 36th Ulster Division.”
“Thomas Corkin was 23 when he died on the 21st June 1917, no doubt leaving distraught parents, who had lost their only child. I can only try to imagine the devastation they felt, losing their only child, and being told he was buried somewhere in Belgium. The grief must have been unbearable.
“I have since found out that Thomas Corkin is remembered on Portadown War Memorial as well as Knocknamuckley Parish Church, and I’m keen to find out if he was a member of the Orange Order.”
Thomas was involved in the Battle of Messines, and the capture of the Belgium village of Wytschaete (called White-sheet). His grave is in the Wytschaete Military Cemetery.