The Woodgate sculpture and its amazing background story

The Thomas Woodgate memorial, constructed by Stapleton Engineering Kilkenny, at The Market Yard, Kilkenny

Possibly one of the sculptures that attracts most attention in Kilkenny city is that of Thomas Woodgate, which is situated outside The Kilkenny Courthouse at the Market Yard.

Constructed by Kilkenny Company Stapleton Engineering, the story behind the monument is intriguing.

The following is a synopsis of the story of Thomas Woodgate.

A boy of 14, killed in the final weeks of World War I, is commemorated with this public sculpture in Kilkenny.

Thomas Woodgate duped recruiting officers by claiming he was 18 and enlisted in the Royal Air Force on September 19, 1918.

He left his home in Mill Street in Callan, Co Kilkenny, to begin a journey to join his training squadron in Egypt. He sailed on the RMS Leinster steamship from Dún Laoghaire, then known as Kingstown, on October 10.

However, shortly after leaving the harbour, a German submarine attacked the ship with torpedoes and sank it.

The Irish boy was one of 569 men, women and children who lost their lives in the attack. Thomas’s tombstone in the military cemetery in Grangegorman in Dublin stated he was 18.

His true age was revealed a century later when the Kilkenny Great War Memorial Committee was organising a public memorial for the 829 who lost their lives in the war who were from Co Kilkenny.

WW1 Memorial Committee chairman Donal Croghan said the ages of those who died were being included on the newly built memorial.

When Thomas’s age was being checked, the records in Callan parish showed he was born and baptised on New Year’s Eve 1903.

The Great War memorial was unveiled in 2018. Mr Croghan said the sacrifice of Kilkenny soldiers was immense. “On a single day, seven women living in Walkin Street received news that they were widowed by the war,” he said.

The monument is also dedicated to all young people who left Ireland to fight in conflicts around the world and it commemorates those who lost their lives in the sinking of the RMS Leinster.

Thomas Woodgate was son of Edward J. and Hanora Woodgate, from Mill Street in Callan, County Kilkenny. Thomas was the youngest Irishman of the Allied Forces to be killed by enemy fire during World War One.

This project was spearheaded by ‘The Kilkenny Great War Memorial Committee’ and supported by Kilkenny County Council and Martin Stapleton Engineering.


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