The Sheehan Brothers, Fermoy.

A remembrance ceremony for three Fermoy brothers who served in the Royal Canadian Airforce and died within months of each other during World War II has led to a hunt for living relatives in Fermoy. 

Brothers Harry, Frank and Edward Sheehan were amongst a family of eight siblings from Fermoy town who emigrated to Canada with their parents, James Joseph and Mary Ellen Sheehan, in 1926. 

The tragic tale of the brothers, who all died in combat between May 1943 and April 1944, was brought to light by author and historian Damian Shiels, and the brothers were commemorated last Saturday at a remembrance ceremony at Heverlee War Cemetery in Leuven, Belgium, where Edward Sheehan is buried. 

The ceremony drew coverage from the national press in Ireland and in Canada. 

Denis J Buckley of the International Irish in Europe Association in Belgium arranged the remembrance ceremony. 

He now says that tracing down living relatives in the Fermoy area is an important heritage project that he hopes the local community will get involved in. 

“We only have the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this story,” Mr Buckley said. “There must be living relatives in the Fermoy area and it would be wonderful to hear from them.

“Canadian newspapers have established living relatives in Canada but it would be wonderful to fill in the blanks on the Irish side of the story.”

Members of Irish in Europe Remembrance Saturday organising Committee, participants & guests including Deputy Mayor of Leuven, Dirk Vansina, Brig.General Gerard Buckley Irish MILREP, and Denis J. Buckley International President of the Irish in Europe Association at Heverlee war cemetery commemorations.

Mr Buckley said he hopes to see a documentary on the brothers’ lives, and that the story, laden with tragedy and romance, even has the potential to make a blockbuster movie. Local help in establishing details of the brothers’ early lives would be invaluable. 

It’s known that the Sheehans’ father was a baker and confectioner with a shop on Pearse Square, then known as Queen’s Square, but the precise location of the shop in the modern-day setting is unknown. 

The answers to this and other questions – such as the birthplace of the brothers, and whether or not their father, James Joseph, had siblings – can be easily unlocked by the living memory of Fermoy people.

Emigrating alongside their brothers, the other children in the Sheehan family were James Jr, Thomas, Joseph, Michael, and one girl, Maureen. 

Harry Sheehan, a gunner on a Lancaster bomber based in Lincolnshire, was the first of the three brothers to die, shot down on May 13, 1943.  

Frank Sheehan, also a gunner, was shot down over Munich on October 2, 1943, while Edward Sheehan, a bomber-aimer based in RAF Snaith in Yorkshire, was shot down and killed on April 28, 1944.

Edward’s wife Mary, was pregnant at the time of his death and she later gave birth to a son, Michael. 

The Sheehans’ mother, Mary Ellen, also died during the same year as her sons. 

People in the Fermoy area who may remember the Sheehan family or be related to them can contact Denis Buckley on if they wish to give information.