THE great-granddaughter of one of the survivors of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift is urging locals to observe a historic event as his grave is rededicated this weekend.
Maria Kerr, grew up hearing that her ancestor, Private James Hagan, had fought in and survived the famous 1879 Anglo-Zulu War battle.
But when her son-in-law’s research questioned the claim, the 65-year-old took it upon herself to prove it.
“I explained to my auntie that there seemed to be no records of him being in the battle,” explained Mrs Kerr.
“But she was adamant that he was, and she showed me the original scroll that was given to each of their survivors when the battle ended.”
Puzzled by the conflicting evidence, Mrs Kerr, who lives in Ynyshir, set off on her own mission to find out the truth.
After numerous telephone calls, trips to record offices, and what seemed like endless brick walls, Mrs Kerr discovered a mix-up on her great-grandparents’ marriage certificate.
“My great-grandfather was Irish, but after he left the army married a woman from Mountain Ash, before they settled in Treforest,” she said.
“His surname was Hagan, but on his marriage certificate he’s Egan. All his records, his birth certificate, death certificate, they all had him as Egan, and that’s what had caused the confusion.
“His family still go by the name Egan.”
Once armed with the correct information, Mrs Kerr tried to find out where her grandfather – who died on May 27, 1916, aged 55 – was buried.
She visited Glyntaff Crematorium, and was given a grid-reference to her relative’s unmarked grave.
“I just thought it was so sad, he was a man who fought for Britain and who lived locally for so many years,” she said.
“I just felt that he should have a grave that commemorated him and his family, and honoured all that he had done.”
With the help of Rhondda Cynon Taf council and the Royal British Legion in Ynyshir, Mrs Kerr and other members of the family arranged for the grave to be rededicated, and respectfully marked with a proper gravestone.
The ceremony this Sunday, September 20, will see relatives travel from as far as England and Germany, from where Mrs Kerr’s own soldier son will return especially to honour his ancestor.
But the family are also keen to open up the occasion to see him honoured by people across the county borough who would like to pay tribute.
“This is something the whole community can be proud of,” said Mrs Kerr.
“The younger generation might not understand why I’m doing this, but they should come along to appreciate an important part of history.”
The rededication will take place at Glyntaff Crematorium at noon on Sunday, September 20th 2009[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]