Wednesday 16 October 2019

Jimmy Rossiter remembered on 100th anniversary

Ireland's Call
Ireland's Call

Alan Aherne: Book Review

This Wednesday (October 21) marks the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Jimmy Rossiter who lost his life on the field of battle during the First World War.

I came across this local sports star of the early 20th century while researching the history of my G.A.A. club, Sarsfields, which was published in 2010.

Known fondly around Wexford town as 'Jemmy', he was the first of only four male clubmen to win a Leinster championship medal when the Wexford Juniors beat Dublin in the delayed final of 1911 on January 21, 1912.

His last year playing Senior for the county was 1914, and there's no doubt he would have figured prominently in the four-in-a-row triumphs of 1915 to 1918 if he had survived the war. Sadly, he was dead by the time that first All-Ireland was secured on November 7, 1915.

Official records show that Jimmy, or Jemmy, had died less than three weeks earlier, on October 21.

And now his life as a star footballer and a soldier has been given the recognition it so richly deserves as he is one of the subjects profiled in depth in 'Ireland's Call - Irish Sporting Heroes Who Fell In The Great War'.

Written by BBC journalist Stephen Walker, the book charts the stories of 40 Irishmen from various sporting disciplines who died on foreigh fields during that turbulent time in world history.

A native of Castlebridge, Rossiter was regarded as a 'clever footballer', who was able to read and interpret onfield happenings as well as conributing so much on the ball given his high skill levels.

A talented forward, he played in his first All-Ireland Senior final against Kerry in 1913 and, though Wexford lost, they were regarded as the coming force in football.

He added a second Leinster medal the following year, and scored the vital goal to end Monaghan's interest in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Sadly, Kerry took the ultimate honours once again, this time after a replay, and Rossiter would never be seen gracing Jones' Road in a Wexford jersey again.

He decided to join the British Army in early 1915 and was given a rousing send-off from home, with members of the Fr. John Murphy War Pipers' Band 'playing him to the station'.

He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards, and on August 17 he and his comrades left England for France. Jimmy found himself on the battlefield at Loos in the autumn of 1915, a far cry from the football pitches he had graced with such distinction back home.

In one letter which arrived in Wexford, he explained that he was more nervous before he played an All-Ireland final than he was when he was attacking the Germans.

Rossiter's fitness and athleticism made him an ideal recruit for the Irish Guards as the Battle of Loos raged from late September. A lance corporal, he was captured once but managed a quick escape and sprinted back to the British lines.

He was involved in more fighting on October 21, 1915, suffering a severe head wound which saw him moved to a field hospital, Sadly, he died shortly after being examined, and the news evoked an outpouring of grief when it arrived back in the county he had served so well.

This is a fascinating book, for lovers of sport and history alike.Jimmy Rossiter was a hero to the people of Wexford, and we will remember him this Wednesday on his one hundredth anniversary.

Visit The Book Centre on Wexford's Main Street for the very best selection of sports books.

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