The six medals awarded to Patrick Donohue will be auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb on January 26.

Nenagh war hero’s medals for auction

Six medals - including a Victoria Cross - awarded to Nenagh native Patrick Donohue during military service in India are to be auctioned in London next week.

Estimated to fetch £140,000-£180,000 (€167,440-€215,280), the Donohue medal collection is likely to attact major interest at the Dix Noonan Webb auction on Wednesday. The interest is in large part due to the theory that Patrick was the older brother of Timothy Donohue, who won a Medal of Honor in the American Civil War. For two brothers to receive the highest honours for bravery bestowed by both the British and US military is exceptional.

As previously reported in this newspaper, the connection between Patrick (1820 - 1876) and Timothy Donohue (1824 - 1908) was brought to light in 2006 by a retired US Army colonel, James P Tierney, whose father was also a Nenagh man. As historian of the 69th Regiment, Colonel Tierney was researching the life of Medal of Honor recipient Timothy Donohue (also spelled ‘Donoghue’ in some records) when his attention was drawn to a Victoria Cross recipient in the family. After meeting with members of the Donohue family in New York, Colonel Tierney discovered that Timothy had an older brother named Patrick.

Patrick was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in 1860 following heroism he had shown during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Colonel Tierney was excited to learn that Patrick was a brother of Timothy Donohue of Nenagh, whom he already knew as a Medal of Honor recipient following the Battle of Fredericksburg (1862).

“It is amazing that an Irish family from a small town in Tipperary has been awarded for bravery in the face of the enemy by both England and the United States,” Colonel Tierney said at the time. “It is also remarkable that both brothers received the awards for carrying wounded officers from the field of battle.”

His research further suggested that Patrick Donohue became stepfather to Anna Leonowens, tutor of the wives and children of the King of Siam, whose experiences were fictionalised in the 1951 musical ‘The King and I’. However, records indicate that this individual was more likely another Irish soldier of the same name who arrived in India some time before the Nenagh Donohue.

Timothy Donohue is known to have emigrated to the US with his wife Esther and son - another Patrick - in 1862. His death record states ‘Timothy Donohue’ and ‘Mary Carr’ as the names of his parents.

Attempts to delve deeper into the Nenagh Donohue family background have proven unsuccessful, largely due to the absence of records from the time of their births. But the impending auction of Patrick’s medals in likely to pique renewed interest in the story and whether something should be done locally to recognise to Donohues’ achievements, if indeed these war heroes were brothers.