Father Peter Michael O’Leary, Roman Catholic Church…The present officers of the (8th Regiment Royal Rifles, Quebec) are: CO. Hon. Lieut. -Colonel W. M. Macpherson. Chaplains Rev. P. M. O’Leary and Rev. F. G. Scott (hon. captains)….
The Evening Telegram, St. John’s NFL, Jan. 15, 1901. — Rev. Father O’Leary. — A Sketch of the Popular Roman Catholic Chaplain with Colonel Otter’s Force. — THE Revd. P.M. O’Leary, now better known to an appreciative world as Father O’Leary, the heroic and devoted Roman Catholic chaplain of the Royal Canadian Regiment in South Africa, is a product of the Ancient Capital. Needless to say, he is of Irish descent. From both the paternal and material sides the purest Celtic blood flows in his veins. He is one of the three surviving sons of one of Quebec’s most respected former citizens, the late Mr. Maurice O’Leary, in his lifetime one of the City assessors, and one of the founders of St. Patrick’s Church, Quebec, of which he was also for many years treasurer, as well as one of the trustees of St. Bridget’s brothers, Mr J.M. O’Leary reside in Ottawa, where he holds an important position in the General Post Office Department. The other, Mr. Thomas O’Leary, is the well known custodian of the Chateau de Ramezay, Montreal.
Father O’Leary was born in Quebec, June 28th, 1850, so that he is now in the fifty-first year of his age. He was educated at Laval Model School, the College of St. Ann le Pocatiere and at the Quebec Seminary, where on the completion of his college course he studied theology, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1879 by the then Archbishop of Quebec, the late Cardinal Taschereau,. Shortly afterwards he was named as vicar or assistant to the late Father Drolet, parish priest at Sillero, and made himself exceedingly popular among the mixed population of that parish, by his thorough identification with all their needs, spiritual and temporal, so that when he left them to take charge of a parish of his own in Laval, in the county of Montmorency, his departure was viewed with the deepest regret by all, and made the occasion of a very remarkable demonstration in his honor, in which every element, Protestant and Catholic, Irish and French took part.
After some years service at Laval, as parish priest, he was promoted, in the same capacity, to the more important parish of St. Catherine, in the county of Portneuf, where he did a great deal to promote the cause of education, and where the hospitable doors of his presbytery were always open to the needy wayfarer. From St. Catherine he was finally called by his ecclesiastical superiors to set as chaplain of the Belmont Asylum, at St. Foy, near Quebec, and also to assume an important position in connection with the teaching staffs of the Quebec Seminary and Laval University, and it was while filling the duties of these positions that the Boer war broke out, and he was called to the post of Roman Catholic chaplain to the First Canadian Contingent, which left Quebec last autumn for South Africa. With the subsequent history of the reverend gentlemen, the whole world is conversant. It may be added that Fr. O’Leary is one of the most scholarly members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the province, a perfect master of both languages, English and French; a recognized authority on Canadian history, and the happy possessor of an almost inexhaustible fund of Irish wit, humor and good nature.
Though poor in world’s goods, his big Irish heart beats responsive to every appeal of human want or suffering, while his jovial, sympathetic nature renders him one of the most delightful of friends and companions. With his broad, tolerant, Christian spirit, the whole world is acquainted. — Ottawa Free Press.
Father O’Leary’s Endeavours in Perseverance Received High Praise From All!… —
Private Charles Harrison, of 2nd Regiment Canadian Artillery, with F Company wounded in the wrist at Paardeberg, just before Cronje surrendered. — I was near poor Lester when he was killed and helped to bury him and Corporal Goodfellow who was killed at his side. We had crept up near the Boer laager, supported by the Gordons, and got right near the enemy’s laager when we were discovered. Three distinct sheets of fire broke forth and we threw ourselves face downward, but one bullet reached my wrist.
I was sent to the New South Wales Hospital, where I received excellent treatment. Later I went to Kimberley, and was well attended. Lord Methuen visited the hospital and I had a handshake from him. He sent us pipes and tobacco and other luxuries. Private Angus Sutherland, of the Duke of York’s Canadian Hussars, was wounded at the capture of Cronje. He belonged to F Company, and while charging for the trenches during the night was struck by a bullet which first struck his helmet and afterward ploughed along his spine. He is as well as ever again, however. We were in the most dangerous position, said Private Sutherland, and had crept up within from thirty to fifty yards of the Boers’ laager, when all of a sudden some one struck a meat can, and ail at once three sheets of fire broke forth a few yards in front of us and we dropped right down on our faces.
After I was wounded I was taken first to the field hospital, then transported in an ox cart to Modder River, where we entrained for Wynberg. I spent nine weeks in hospital there and then went to Green Point, and after passing a couple of medical examinations was sent to England. I can say nothing but good of the medical attendance at the hospitals and the nurses were most kind. The orderlies were, however, hardly what should have been expected, and made off with a great deal of the property of the wounded men and the curios they had collected.
My stay in England was exceedingly pleasant. Since June 6th I was at Stockwell and was overwhelmed with kindness by everybody with whom I came in contact. Private Percy Thomas, of Montréal Hussars, who is looking hale and hearty, was wounded at the first Paardeberg engagement on the memorable Sunday, February l8th, 1900, when the first Canadian blood was shed for the defence of the grand old flag in Africa. He was wounded early in the engagement, the mauzer bullet entering his right breast and going diagonally right through his lungs. He said to the Star: ‘I felt no pain and did not know just what happened to me. A slight stinging as the bullet ploughed its way through my flesh was the only sensation I experienced at the moment, but I immediately grew weak and fell to the ground. I remained conscious for half an hour and then knew no more until about ten o’clock that night when an officer of the Cornwalls shook me, and as I became partially conscious he told me to wait a few minutes until he called men with a stretcher. As they removed me to the field hospital the pain was excruciating, but I soon got to the hospital and had my wound dressed. My treatment at the different hospitals was most satisfactory. The doctors were most attentive to their duties and did remarkably well, considering the number of men they had to handle during that time. The Gordon Highlanders were great friends of ours, but they used to swear when we led, because the Canadians marched altogether too fast to suit them. The other regulars did not like us so well, but still we got on fairly well with all of them.
Among our officers, those whom the men dote on and would follow anywhere are Majors Oscar Pelletier and Buchan, Dr. Fiset and Father O’Leary. Say, I am a Protestant, but I must say that Father O’Leary is one of the grandest men I ever knew. On February 27th, he marched with the rank and file 24 miles, instead of going back to the transport. His face and lips were swollen and he seemed about played out but when we suggested that he should ride in the transport waggons he just said that what was good enough for the men was good enough for him. He remained with us through the thickest of the bullets and was kind to ail alike, affording them religious consolation irrespective of creed. There is not a man in the regiment who would not do anything in his power for Father O’Leary.
We had a hard time at Paardeberg. The march there was simply terrible. Colonel Otter is a brave and a good fighter, but he need not be so hard on his men in the field. In camp he is all right, but when we got started he almost killed his men on the march and we had hardly anything to eat ail that time. Poor Lester was killed by an explosive bullet. It went into his mouth and blew the top of his head. Corporal Goodfellow was shot through the heart and before piercing his heart the deadly steel had gone through a Bible in his pocket, on the fly leaf of which was the inscription ‘To Papa, from Muriel.’ Poor Barry was some distance away. I helped to bury them all.
Letter received from Private James Herrick, a Londoner with the first contingent, written under date Bloemfontein, March 16th, says he is in good health: — They say the Canadians are devils to fight. I tell them that is what we came for, to go to the front and hold up the Maple Leaf forever, and I think we did our part. We have a chaplain with us named O’Leary. He is a Roman Catholic priest, and he is a grand old man, and every man on the field likes him. He was right in the field all day of the fight. He was better than a doctor to some of the men. He is an old man. You would pity him if you could see him at night, when we go into camp, covered with dust from head to foot. We are now at Bloemfontein. I hope this is the last of the war. We have had our share of the fighting. We lost three men from London. Smith is the only one I knew: White, of Windsor, and Donegan.
They were killed in the charge. We got 4,180 prisoners in Cronje’s outfit. I guess he found it out, for we were getting too close to him. — Well, at last we have been in it, and through it, and, though our baptism of fire was a costly one, willingly would we go through it again. Canada may well be proud of her noble boys. It is true that many a once happy home is now in mourning since the fatal l8th day of February, but the deep sorrow that has entered into the hearts of the loved ones far away will undoubtedly be tempered by the consoling assurance that ail have done their duty; ail, everyone. So say the brave Cordons, the famous Black Watch, the Argyles, the Seaforths, the sturdy Cornwalls; so say they all.
And, oh! that wild, mad charge against an invisible enemy. Never shall I forget it, nor shall I attempt to describe it, at least, for the present. Hell let loose would give but a faint idea of it. On, on we rushed through a hail of bullets, the air alive again with deadly missiles. On we rushed madly, wildly, tearing through brambles, stumbling over prostrate comrades, eager in the delirium of bloodshed and destruction which had seized on us ail to reach the enemy’s trenches. And above the din of the battle, oh! that wild, soul-stirring cheer, or rather that savage yell. Like tigers, our brave boys bounded over the open, but it was not to be. Darkness closed on us ‘ere the position was carried and the day won. Darkness settled down on that well-fought field, mercifully casting a veil over its horrors.
Rev. Father Peter M. O’Leary Feb. 18th 1900 Anecdote: — “Canada may well be proud of her noble boys. It is true that ma once happy home is now in mourning since the fatal 18th day of February, but the deep sorrow that has entered into the hearts of the loved ones far away will undoubtedly be tempered by the consoling assurance that all have done their duty—all, every one. So say the brave Gordons, the famous Black Watch, the Argylls, the Seaforths, the sturdy Cornwalls,—so say they all. And oh, that wild mad charge against an invisible enemy. Never shall I forget it, nor shall I attempt to describe it at least for the present. Hell let loose would give but a faint idea of it. On, on we rushed through a hail of bullets, the air alive again with deadly missiles. On we rushed, madly, wildly, tearing through brambles, stumbling over prostrate comrades, eager in the delirium of bloodshed and destruction which had seized on us all to reach the enemy’s trenches. And above; the din of battle, oh, that wild soul-stirring cheer, or rather that savage yell! Like tigers our brave boys bounded over the open, but it was not to be; darkness closed on us ere the position was carried and the day won.
Darkness settled down on that well-fought field, mercifully casting a veil over the horrors. Then began the search for the dead and wounded. In the total darkness, for the least light drew the enemy’s fire, we groped over the ground, everywhere our hands steeped in blood, blood, blood. From all directions faint moans, coupled with pitiful pleadings for “water, water,” reached our ears. Accidentally one would stumble over a friend. Then what pathetic scenes would take place—a message for home—”Tell mother, etc., etc.,” or perhaps: “Don’t leave me, it won’t be long.”
The moon soon rose over the weird scene and shed its peaceful rays on many an upturned face, and many of them calm and placid in death. That night myself and a few devoted fellows remained until late on the fatal field, exploring every nook and corner for the wounded, often meeting with the mangled dead, until at last our strength gave out, and reaching our line we threw ourselves on the hard ground seeking rest and forgetfulness in sleep. So did most of the survivors. Hardly a word was exchanged, for all were exhausted, what with a forced march of twenty miles the preceding night and the trying ordeal of that long, long day. Monday morning we gathered our dead together, and buried them. They had marched and fought shoulder to shoulder, blade beside blade, nor were their ranks broken in death, side by side they were tenderly, lovingly laid to sleep, eighteen in all, in one broad grave, whilst I performed the last sad but consoling duty of committing them to the care of God’s angels when we would be far away from this fateful land. May they rest in peace; noble, brave boys! I must draw this letter to a close. I feel sick at heart when I recall to mind the scenes of blood I have witnessed, and the stirring events I have gone through.
Ottawa, April 20th, 1900. — Chaplain O’Leary, of the first contingent, writes his brother, James L. O’Leary, of the Post Office Department, from Bloemfontein: — One particular incident may interest you. In Sunday’s battle (Paardeberg), when the enemy’s fire was most furious, we had taken shelter in open as best we could, until a lull in firing would allow us to rush forward. Behind an ant hill, I lay prone, sharing the tiny shelter with one of the Black Watch. Finding that there was not room for two, I decided on making a dash for a little mound some fifty yards forward. As I raised myself on my hands and knees, preparatory to a dash, I remember him calling out, ‘My God, sir, take care. God speed you.’ Just then a volley was directed at us, too late for me, but alas for him. Next morning at early dawn I found him behind our friendly ant hill just as I had left him, but pierced through heart and body with bullets that perhaps had been intended for me. Do you know that a feeling of guilt came over me as I gazed on my poor companion an hour, but still, had I remained a minute longer this letter would never have been written.
Another trying moment was when in the early hours we were laying almost within touch of a laager. Oh, how that hell-fire mowed down everything around us, but we held our ground and when day broke, the Boers hoisted the white flag and surrendered, the best tribute ever given to Canadian worth and Canadian bravery. While every one of the other regiments is loud in our praise, we can well afford to be proud of our brave boys. They are indeed worthy of it. For the gratification of ail those who kindly and generously donated gifts in the way of religious articles for the wounded and sick ‘Tommies’ in South Africa, we are pleased to publish the following letter from Rev. Father O’Leary, chaplain 2nd. Battalion, Royal Canadians: —
Wyneberg, July 2nd, 1900. — My dear Miss Van Felson…Your welcome letter and ever so welcome parcel only reached me a few days ago, no one is to blame for delay, The mail service is quite demoralized of late. Needless to say how overjoyed the dear boys in hospital here were to receive the precious gifts you procured for them, and they have ail commissioned me to thank you in their name. The Almighty will certainly reward your zealous endeavour. I hope to be going up country again, some of these days after recovering from an attack of deadly enteric; and I shall distribute the balance of devotional articles along the line in the many hospitals.
I most decidedly object to your exaggerated appreciations of my humble efforts to better the lot of our poor fellows. Any other in my position would have done as much and probably more. My only regret is that my illness has so long forcibly kept me separated from them. I love them so much, and they were so thankful for whatever little attention one might bestow upon them. We are ail heartily glad that the war is drawing to an end, for that means our return to our dear land in the near future. You ask, ‘do our dear boys know that they are ever in our thoughts? ‘Oh I yes, and should they be tempted to forget it I take many an opportunity of reminding them of those at home. We have ail been more or less separated, but I shall probably meet them ail in Pretoria. Once more thanking you for your great kindness.
- I remain, yours faithfully,
- P. M. O’LEARY.
The articles were shipped by Elder-Dempster SS. Company, through the generous kindness of Messrs. R. M. Stocking & Co., representative of the Elder-Dempster SS. Co., and graciously forwarded onward after reaching Cape-Town by His Excellency Sir Alfred Milner, Governor.
Rev. Father O’Leary Kind Letter From The Countess of Dudley. — Ottawa, September 17th, 1900. — A very kind letter has been addressed by the Countess of Dudley to Father O’Leary, chaplain to the first Canadian Contingent, in which she says: — “I hear that you have been invalided home from South Africa and I venture to write and ask whether you would allow me to have the great pleasure of being of any use to you and of offering for your acceptance the loan of one of the houses mentioned on the list enclosed, or of apartments at any of the hotels in England or abroad, whilst recruiting your health. I am enabled to make this offer through the kindness of many persons who wish to help those who have fought and suffered in the war, and who have lent their houses so that we may have the great pleasure and privilege of offering them privately for the acceptance of those officers to whom, with their wives or other relations, a few weeks’ rest and change at small expense might be acceptable after ail they have undergone.”
FOR THE FLAG or Lays and Incidents Of The South African War By Mrs. MaCleod, 1901, p. 92-93. — Daylight began to come, and we could see that we had them; but still we continued our fire. Then the word flew along our line that the enemy was flying a white flag. Knowing of their treachery on other occasions we did not at once stop firing. Then we saw several white flags waving in their line, and we got the order to “cease.”
We remained under cover while a small party advanced to meet their white flag party, and we then learned that Cronje and all his force were willing to surrender unconditionally. So was accomplished one of the greatest British victories in South Africa up to that date. We were not long in marching to the main Boer laager and relieving our enemies of their arms. We had the honour of taking the largest number of prisoners since the war commenced—somewhere between four and five thousand, including wounded.
The most sorrowful part of this “fire-eating” business came when the thing was all over, and we gathered together to bury our dead comrades. We dug a long trench and laid them down side by side while Father O’Leary said a short service over all creeds. Tears filled many of our eyes, tears of grief for our lost brothers-in-arms, and of thankfulness because we had escaped a like fate.
- After the Battle of Paardeberg, Chaplain O’Leary’s Prayer Too the Dead: —
- “We gathered from the gory field
- Those who had earned their crown;
- And tenderly we wrapped them round,
- Each in his shroud of brown.
- “Among the thorn trees in the glade
- Our heroes gently sleep;
- And though nor maid nor mother dear
- By that lone grave may weep.
- “Beneath the spreading hawthorn wild
- As peacefully they’ll rest
- As if the flowers of Canada
- Bloomed sweetly o’er each breast.
- “Rough stones from off the dismal veldt
- Shield well their lowly bed;
- We piled them high and set a cross
- As guardian at the head.
- “And scribed thereon our comrades’ names
- That all who mark that mound
- May learn that every patriot heart
- Doth sleep in hallowed ground.
- “Then, crushing back the rising sob-
- Deep feeling unexpressed;
- We took one last, sad, lingering look
- And left them to their rest. “
Although great the sacrifice of precious life in the bloody battles at Paardeberg, great and satisfactory were the results. General Cronje, who, aside of Joubert, had been considered the most formidable leader amongst the Boers was at last brought to bay; and to the prowess of the youthful warriors of Canada was accorded the honor of hastening his surrender. Lord Roberts telegraphed the following to Lord Minto: —
Paardeberg, Feb. 22. — “The Canadian Regiment has done admirable service since its arrival in South Africa. I deeply regret the heavy loss it suffered during the fighting on the 18th and beg j’ou will assure the people how much we all admire the conspicuous gallantry displayed by our Canadian comrades.”
P. 121-122, — CHAPLAIN O’LEARY. — “Chaplain O’Leary has been specially mentioned in despatches, and will probably be awarded the Victoria Cross.”
- “We lay for fourteen hours on our faces and hands with bullets flying over our heads. But nobody flinched when we saw Father O’Leary, 68 years of age, walking about, smiling and talking to the men. He helped all night looking for the wounded and performed, next morning, the last rites at the graves of our heroes who died.”
“Father O’Leary has been seriously ill with enteric fever. Should he recover he will be invalided to England.”
- Fair Soul of Music! wake for those
- Who fear no touch of earthly ill;
- Who breathe upon the storms of life
- And lo! the surging waves are still .
- Oh ! that wearisome march of a hundred miles.
- Over kopje, and river and glen;
- Yet he faltered not, fell not away from the ranks.
- But trod with the youngest of men.
- Through the rain-swollen wave in the Modder’s bed.
- With the watery flood shoulder high :
- On, on through the sand-drift, and blistering heat
- Of the sun of an African sky.
- On, on through the desert, where hunger and thirst
- O’er the region of silence held sway:
- Where alike beast of burden and owner of soul.
- The weak from the strong fell away.
- In the dense hail of bullets on Paardeberg heights,
- On the open—he sought for no shield;
- But smilingly walked in the dread firing line
- Some help or some comfort to yield.
- Through the long night of horror, when battle had ceased.
- With fingers oft damp, dripping red.
- He searched, ‘mid the darkness, that crimson-dyed field
- For the wounded who mixed with the dead.
- And when the bright sun of the morning looked down.
- And smiled o’er the streamlets of gore.
- That silvered head bent by those motionless forms
- Which would start at reveille no more.
- Though prized be those badges which laurel the brave,
- And precious the honors they bring ;
- Oh ! what are earth’s plaudits, or riches, or rank
- To a son of the Heavenly King.
- Sweet Spirit of mercy, and comfort and hope!
- When from strivings of earth passed away,
- Thou shalt bloom ‘neath the glow of a kindlier sphere
- And the light of a holier day.
- Why then should we weep that thy eventide sleep,
- Draweth nigh, since, the burden laid down,
- Thou shalt pass to thy rest, high in home of the blest:
- Rich-crowned of the conqueror’s crown.
Chaplain O’Leary, the only clergyman allowed to go forward at first, marched with the troops, attended in the firing line at Paardeberg, ministered to the dying, and helped all night to fetch in the wounded and to bury the dead. He was idolized by the soldiers of all creeds.
- Father O’Leary speaks in the highest terms of Rev. Mr. Almond and Rev. Mr. Fullerton, the two other chaplains, remarking that they were splendid companions.
The Evening Citizen, Ottawa, Nov. 5th 1900. — Father O’Leary. — The Gallant Chaplain Given a Grand Reception at Quebec Yesterday. — Quebec, Nov. 4—The reception tended today to Rev. Father O’Leary catholic captain of the first Canadian contingent, was the most enthusiast of all the polite demonstrations in the same nature. The heroic chaplain arrived with a dozen invalided soldiers by the steamer Cambroman from Liverpool this morning and landed from the government steamer Druid which they had been transferred the Queen’s wharf about 2 o’clock this afternoon. Detachments of the RCA and of the RRCI were there transport him to the skating rink where he addressed of welcome and praise of …in gold were presented to him. The surroundings of the Queen’s wharf and cities streets on the line of march were …..sely thronged. All the Quebec boys of the Canadian contingent were present in khaki uniforms. Father O’Leary entered a carriage in company of Lt.-Col. Pelletier, his brother, Mr. O’Leary of Ottawa, and the pro-mayor, George Tanguay. He was presented with a bouquet and a handsome crown of flowers. Conspicuous in the carriage was an Irish banner, the flag of the Irish societies of the city. The signs in khaki took charge of the carriage took, the horses were taken from the vehicle and it was drawn by them at the skating ring amiss the acclamations of thousands of spectators.
The Quebec Chronicle. — Quebec, Monday, November, 5th 1900. — Nobel Chaplain Of The Canadians. — Returns to the City of His Birth. — An Outburst of Enthusiasm. — A Triumphal March From The Wharf to The Skating Rink — Twenty Thousand People In The Streets. — The Heroes Removed From Father O’Leary’s Carriage — Willing Hands Drag It Through The Streets — Enthusiastic Cheering At All Points. — Yesterday’s demonstration in honor of Rev. Father O’Leary, Roman Catholic chaplain to the first contingent to South Africa, was undoubtedly one of the most popular and enthusiastic ever witnessed in this city. The acts of heroism displayed by the brave chaplain on the field of battle had been frequently referred to by the men who had returned from the war and the citizens of Quebec had fully resolved to tender him a reception to which he was justly entitled.
The s.s. Cambroman, on which Rev. Father O’Leary had taken passage, was expected in port between eight and nine o’clock yesterday morning, but owing to fog only arrived at 10.15, and moored at the G.T.R. wharf, Levis. The Government cruiser Druid, having on board Messrs. W. Lee, J.U. Gregory, Mayor Fages G. Gale and P. Lewis, members of the Reception Committee, west down the river a short distance to meet the returning hero and moored alongside of the Cambroman at Levis. When the steamer was made fast Rev. Father O’Leary was seen on the upper deck and was given a cheer by those on the wharf, which was immediately taken up by the passengers. One of the first to greet the returning chaplain was his brother, Mr. Thomas O’Leary, of the Chateau Ramzy, Montreal, and the meeting between the two brothers was a most affectionate scene. The Members of the Committee having boarded the Cambroman waited upon Father O’Leary in his stateroom, and invited him, as well as the nine returning invalids, to go on board the Druid, which immediately proceeded up the river, the passengers given another hearty cheer as the cruiser left the steamer.
As Rev. Father O’Leary been vicar at Sillery in 1884, the Committee decided to land him at that place for a short while, so as to allow him sufficient time to see Rev. Father Maguire and Rev. Mr. Audet, chaplain of the convent. Although his arrival was far from being expected, a number of his former parishioners were on the wharf and received him with great enthusiasm, which was renewed again by a very large number when he took his departure. The scene between the chaplain and a number of his old parishioners on his return to the wharf was very touching one and can never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. The Druid then put about and turned to the Queen’s wharf, where a very large and enthusiastic crowed of citizens had been waiting the arrival of the distinguished priest. When the latter was noticed a prolonged cheer went up from thousands of throats, which was immediately taken up by the thousands on the streets.
Rev. Father O’Leary on leaving the cruiser was received by Pro-Mayor Tanguay, Hon. R.R. Dobell, Lt.-Col. Pelletier and the members of the Committee and escorted to a carriage driven by four horses. On entering the carriage he was presented, on behalf of his former parishioners of Sillery, with a magnificent basket of flowers, he also being the recipient of several other bouquets on behalf of some of the citizens. The Triumphal procession then started, Capt. Fennee acting as marshal, being fallowed by a detachment of police and the St. Patrick’s band, the latter being fallowed by a carriage drawn by four horses and containing Rev, Father O’Leary, Pro-Mayor Tanguay, Lt.-Col. Pelletier and Mr. Thomas O’Leary. The returned South African Quebecers formed a guard of honor to their former chaplain, white hundreds of citizens fallowed the carriage on foot and carriages, R.C.A. band, R.C.A., R.R.C.I., and members of the volunteer corps brining up the rear. Among those occupying seats in carriages were Hon. R.R. Dobeil, Very Rev. Dean Williams, Rev. Messrs. Faguy, Cure of Quebec: O.E. Mathiue Rector of Laval University: E. Paradis, of the Quebec Seminary, and Rev. F.G. Scott, Major Imiah, Messrs. T. Davidson, Major Fages, Mayor Lee, Dr. Howe, J.C. More, Dr. Wells.
It was at first intended to present the address and testimonial at the City Hall, but owing to the immense crowed it was deemed advisable to go to the Skating Rink, where thousands had already assembled. From the Queen’s wharf to the Skating Rink it is estimated that at least 20,000 citizens viewed the procession, and all along the route the cheering was continuous and enthusiastic. When the carriage containing Father O’Leary had reached the Place d’Armes, opposite the Terrace, the four horses were unhitched and ropes attached to the carriage, which was drawn up to the Skating Rink by hundreds of citizens. Upon arrival at the Rink the crowd cheered and cheered, and it was sometime before Pro-Mayor Tanguay could read the fallowing address: — To the Reverend Father Peter O’Leary, Roman Catholic Chaplain of the First Contingent in South Africa. Reverend Sir: — Your fellow citizens of old Quebec, of all elements and creeds, are proud to be the first to welcome you back to your native soil. You were born and reared among us; you are one of ourselves, and we feel that by right this great honor, as well as pleasure, legitimately belongs to us more than to any other community in this wide Dominion. We, therefore, eagerly seize this glad occasion not only to manifest our joy at your safe return to our shores, but to publicly pay to you the tribute of our heartiest admiration and to gratefully acknowledge our deep indebtedness to you for the world-wide lustre which your heroic and truly Christian conduct during the war in South Africa has shed upon the name of Quebec and Canada. We are aware that your well known modest, as well as your priestly character, will lead you to deprecate the attaching of anything like exaggerated importance to what you conceive to be merely the performance of your sacred duty, for which you expect no special thanks. But peace has its triumphs as well as war, and your fellow-citizens of Quebec, as well as your fellow-countrymen of the Dominion at large, must be excused if they except the universal verdict that seldom ever before was the holy and peaceful mission of a Minister of Christ, in the midst of a hell of war, more devotedly, more heroically and more triumphantly carried out than it was by you, sir, in your quality of Roman Catholic chaplain of the first Contingent in South Africa.
The praises of the good, the brave Father O’Leary have been so incessantly sung by all, that we would be singularly devoid of emotion if they did not find an echo in our hearts, and thrill us with pride and gratitude for the precious services which you so modestly depreciate, but which reflect so much honor upon yourself, your native city and Canadians in general. We have the unanimous testimony of our own brave boys, who have so freely watered the South African veldt with their blood in defence of the Empire, that you were none more than a spiritual father and guide to them, that in darkest hours of the terrible ordeal through which they have passed you were always there to comfort and cheer them, and that wherever the deadly hail of battle and the dying were thickest you were ever in the firing line to your sacred calling, true to the proverbial valour of your race, helping the wounded and ministering to the departing souls with the most complete disregard of your own personal safety. And when the grim spectre of deadly disease stalked through the camps and decimated the ranks, when the fever wards of the army hospitals were filled with sufferers, many of whom, alas, will return to us no more, who could be more kindly and loyal to the sacred duty than you, until you yourself were stricken down by the terrible malady, from the effects of which we regret to perceive you have not yet fully recovered, but which we earnestly hope to soon see thoroughly removed by the bracing air of Canada.
How may loving and anxious Canadian fathers and mothers have been solaced by the thought that you were near their brave boys in the hour of danger; how many mourning hearts in Canada have been relieved by the reflection that you were by the side of their loved ones comforting and solacing them with the holy offices of religion as they breathed their last. And although we do not all bend the knee at the same altars, how can we ignore, how can we forget the noble the splendid example of Christian broadmindedness and tolerance which you set to an admiring world, and which endears you more than all to many of us of different faith from your own, in refusing to recognize any creed distinctions among our brave boys, and in giving to them the supreme consolation of the prayers of their own church as well as in their last moments as over the great grave in which our heroes ere buried. It has been said that “one touch of nature makes the whole world akin.” It needed but a touch of your genial, lovable and charitable nature to capture all hearts and to crown your splendid work throughout the campaign. We thank you for it, and we do not exaggerate when we say that Canada and Quebec are proud of their noble, and happy to welcome him back to-day to their midst.
We wish to prove to you also that our appreciation of your splendid services is not confined to verbal admiration. We know that such service are beyond price, but as a slight token of value we set upon them, ask you to accept the accompanying small purse of gold as an earnest of our pride and gratitude, as well as the larger subscription which your admirers in Quebec and other parts of Canada are actually providing to help to cheer and comfort your declining years. With the sincerest wishes for your early restoration to complete health, for your happiness and long life, we beg to remain, on behalf of the Committee of the Father O’Leary Testimonial Fund, Yours very respectfully, Geo. Tanguay, Chairman…..
L.A. Cannon Geo. Gale, Joint Secretaries. — At the conclusion of this address an envelope containing a cheque for $500.00, was handed to Rev. Father O’Leary on behalf of the citizens. Upon listing to the respond the hero of the day was received with loud and prolonged cheering, which lasted for several minutes. He began by thanking the citizens of Quebec for the reception they had tendered him, remarking that he never would forget the kindness shown him by his fellow-citizens. He did not consider that he had deserved any more praise than other officers and men who had volunteered to serve in South Africa, and he had heard nothing but praise on all sides for the bravery and conduct displayed by “our boys.” The regiment which left here one year ago was now pretty much disbanded and the majority of the men who had now returned and gone to their homes, perhaps never more to meet again. Hey would not say “never to meet again,” as some day, when the last trumpet is sounded, the Canadian heroes who had dropped at Paadeberg, at Modder-River and else where would again muster with their former comrades-in-arms to answer the roll call.
Rev. Father O’Leary also spoke in French, and was fallowed by Hon. E.R. Dobell, Sir C.A.P. Pelletier, Hon. Charles Fitzpatrick and Lt.-Col. Pelletier. Rev. Father O’Leary was then escorted to the presbytery in Buade street, the men again drawn the carriage down with ropes. While in this city the hero of Paardeberg will be the guest of Rev. Mr. Faguy at the Notre Dame Presbytery. This morning he will celebrate Mass at the Quebec Seminary and will lunch there to-day. He is ill at the capital. Father O’Leary yesterday was dressed in uniform of the staff, blue frock coat with gold letters R.C.R. and two stars on the shoulder straps, ranking as a Captain. He also wore the khaki helmet and looked altogether a typical soldier.
In conversation with a representative of the Chronicle, Rev. Father O’Leary said that his health had considerably improved of late and all signs of fever had apparently disappeared. He was laid up with enteric fever at Deelfontein, and subsequently was attacked with dysentery at Wynberg. He spoke in the highest manner of the conduct and bravery of the Canadian boys on the Battlefield, and remarked that they had opened the eyes of the imperial troops. On the day of the last battle at Paardeberg six companies of the Canadian advanced at 2 a.m., when it was pitch dark. The orders were “to advance until fired on,” and the boys did march forward in great style, with the Gordons in rear and the Shropshires on the left. The men got to within 50 yards of the enemy when the first shot was fired. When Cronje surrendered he counted 16 white flags in the laager. Dr. Fiset had his hands full that day in particular, but did grand work… The Boers had no respect for the white flag and moreover had frequently fired on stretcher-bearers and ambulances. He speaks in the highest terms of Rev. Mr. Almond and Rev. Mr. Fullerton, they two other chaplains, and remarked that they were splendid companions. They were both greatly disappointed at not being able to accompany the regiment in the engagement at Paardeberg: but strict orders from General Kitchener that no chaplain nor correspondents were to accompany the column. Father O’Leary personally protested, with the result that subsequent orders were received that “Chaplain O’Leary only was to accompany the Column.”
The Sunday following the battle of Paardeberg, accompanied by the detachment of troops, he went down to the battlefield and arranged the graves of their dead comrades, placing a cross on each with the name of deceased and his number. He had all the Canadians buried separately from the other victims, so that if any measures are ever taken to bring the bodies back to Canada there would be no difficulty in doing so. As to the Boers, they treated him well enough when he went into their homes, but they were as a rule ignorant and uneducated. In hospital Boers and English Tommies playing cards together. Father O’Leary could not speak too highly of the men as to their conduct and their pluck on the battlefield.
NOTES. — Fags were displayed on all public buildings yesterday, as well as Laval University. The Archbishop’s Palace, Presbytery and a number of private residences. Father O’Leary received a telegraph message yesterday from Mgr. Begin, who was at Rever a Pren. Congratulating him on the bravery he displayed in South Africa and on his safe return to the country and hoping that his health was completely restored. The members of the Committee and nine invalids who arrived yesterday were entrained to a sumptuous luncheon on board the Druid yesterday.
Ottawa Citizen Nov. 7th 1900. — Rev. O’Leary In Ottawa. — The Renowned Chaplain of the First Contingent Welcome Today. — A distinguishing visitor arrived in the city on the 12.25 Canadian Pacific express today in the person of the Rev. Father O’Leary, the gallant priest who won high distinction in South Africa. He will spend a few days visiting his brother, Mr. J.M. O’Leary, Lisgar street. He was met at the station by his brother and Mr. E.P. Stanton, Mr. Morris Bennet, Mr. M.F. Waish and Mr. J.P. Clarke. Mr. Fred Cook, secretary to the soldier’s reception committee was also present and welcomed the distinguished clergyman in behalf of the committee.
Father O’Leary was presented with a magnificent bouquet by Mr. Morris Bennett and with an Irish black thorn cane brought from Ireland by Mr. John Heney and Hon. John Cosfigan. The reverend gentlemen greatly appreciated the hearty welcome awarded him and looks forward to a pleasant visit. In his khaki helmet, and clerical coat with the cross of the chaplain and the maple-leaf of the Canadians upon his collar, and the two stars of his rank upon his shoulder straps. Father O’Leary looks remarkably well. He wears two medal ribbons, one official ribbon of the Imperial medal to be issued to all who took part in the war, the other the ribbon of a special medal, presented to him and a few others as a particular recognition of his services by the authorities at Cape Town.
Jeffrey Hoare Auctions Inc. Numismatic & Military Sale No. 115 September 20th & 21st, 2014.— It’s to be noted; medals with an estimated value of $600.00, sold for $3800.00, + acution fees and tax, ca $5,000…During the SSAW Father Rev. P.M. O’Leary, certainly worked in mysterious ways, his heroic gallantry was undeniably highly commendable.
LAC…: South African War, 1899-1902 – Service Files, Medals and Land Applications…Peter Meachal O’Leary… http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/south-african-war-1899-1902/Pages/list.aspx?Surname=o%27leary&