3 – ‘Irreparable Loss’: The Cawley Headstone

Cawley Headstone

This headstone stands in a vault at Néry Communal Cemetery in France.  It belongs to three British soldiers who fell during the First World War, including brothers Major John Cawley and Captain Oswald Cawley from Manchester.  John Cawley was killed during a skirmish at Néry on 1 September, 1914 and Oswald Cawley died in action near Merville on 22 August, 1918.  A third Cawley brother, Harold, lost his life during the Battle of Gallipoli on 23 September, 1915 and was buried in Turkey.

The brothers were sons of Frederick Cawley, 1st Baron Cawley (1850-1937) and Elizabeth Smith.  Lord Cawley had a prosperous textile business and was President of Ancoats Hospital during the war years.  Like his father, Oswald Cawley had ties to the institution; he was a trustee of the hospital before his premature death.  When the governors of Ancoats Hospital learned of Oswald’s fate, they praised his ‘helpful services to the Institution, and offer[ed] their heartfelt sympathy to their President in the irreparable loss he has sustained1‘.

Lord Cawley, President of Ancoats Hospital, who lost three sons during the Great War (image courtesy of Manchester Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives)
Lord Cawley, President of Ancoats Hospital, who lost three sons during the Great War (image courtesy of Manchester Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives)

In memory of his sons, Lord Cawley donated £10 000 to endow a ward at Ancoats Hospital.  The Cawley Ward, as it was known, was used for male medical cases.  Lord Cawley offered to build a new nurses’ home as a second commemorative act.  Thus, one man’s private grief paved the way for the hospital’s growth.

1.  Ninetieth Report of the Ancoats Hospital and Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary (1919), 9.


Do you think this heritage is worth preserving?  If so, contribute to the campaign to save Ancoats Dispensary:www.spacehive.com/thebeatingheartofancoats.

Have you got a photograph, news clipping, document, item of memorabilia, or memory about Ancoats Dispensary?  If so, we would love to feature it on the blog.  Please send images and descriptions to ancoatsdispensary100@gmail.com.  Contributors of material will be acknowledged.

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