In addition to paying homage to Saint Barbara, its patron saint, the Artillery Corps is unique within the Defence Forces, in that it has an historical figurehead, namely Gunner James Magee, from whom derives the Corps unique esprit de corps, its rich heritage, and its enduring values of professionalism, respect, loyalty, selflessness, physical courage, moral courage and integrity.
Since the establishment of the Artillery Corps on 23 May 1923, Gunner Magee’s courage, heroism, and resourcefulness have inspired gunners of all ranks, and his heroic stand during the Battle of Ballinamuck on Saturday 08 September 1798, has been commemorated and honoured by the Artillery Corps.
Arising from his defiant stand in Ballinamuck, Gunner Magee received national recognition in 1954, when the Government formally named the Military Barracks in Kildare Dún Uí MacAoidh (Magee Barracks), which garrisoned the Depot and School Artillery, and the 1 AA Regiment.
This reflects an appropriate tribute to Gunner Magee, recognising his resilience and unquestioning valour in the face of superior forces, a fact that is made all the more poignant considering the futility of his heroic stand.
The Magee Gun Trophy honours and commemorates the unquestioning courage of Gunner Magee and his gun crew, their resourcefulness in their ability to keep the gun in action, and their ultimate sacrifice for Ireland. Gunner Magee and his gun crew embodied those values which continue to inspire the present generations of Irish gunners of all ranks..
Honouring Gunner James Magee, the Artillery Club commissioned an oil on canvas painting of the “Battle of Ballinamuck” by Thomas Ryan PPRHA. Restored by Ciara Brennan MA in 2014, the painting is currently on loan to the 2 Artillery Regiment, and is on display in the Officers’ Mess, Custume Barracks Athlone.
Marking the 220th Anniversary of the Battle of Ballinamuck, the Artillery Club commissioned a paper titled Gunner Magee Defender of Artillery Corps Values. The article, written by Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham (Retd) is available in the Publications Section of this website.
Familiar with the oral traditions of 1798, in 1949, the bilingual novelist and poet Eoghain Ó’Tuairisc composed “An Gunnadóir Mac Aoidh”. Using folk-history accounts of the Battle of Ballinamuck, the poem emotively depicts the last stand of Gunner Magee, The poem was republished in 1964, in a well-received collection of poetry titled Lux Aeterna. Lieutenant-Colonel Denis Burke, OC Depot and School Artillery, translated the poem into English, the last stanza is as follows:
At Ballinamuck one Saturday we lost the .fateful fight.
But the saga of this GUNNER is recounted day and night.
On a gallows tree they hanged him as the sun sank in the sky.
“Christ be with me on this journey” – prayed Magee to God on High.
Photographs by Paul Pakenham.
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