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Joe Wade - South Africa Part I

Updated: Mar 5

There is a lack of information and records on Joe Wade from his time in Ireland and his arrival in South Africa. There are probabilities on where he was and what he was doing. In later years Joe Wade gave conflicting information on where he was in the 1880’s and the very early 1900’s. In a 1910 census he states he arrived in the U.S in 1885. In a later census he states 1901. In fact both could be true as Joe may have left Ireland in the 1880’s for America, then he may have given the information of 1901 on his return to the U.S from South Africa. In addition, with dates in historic documents you cannot take these as fact as there are commonly errors of +/- 1 or 2 years.

With Joe Wade’s arrival in South Africa being uncertain, I wanted to find evidence that he was an original member of the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Joe Wade is identified as a member of the dynamite squad or ‘Wrecking Corps’ and had the position of Sergeant in the Irish Transvaal Brigade. It was my thoughts that it was highly likely that he arrived prior to the start of the Anglo-Boer War and his skill with dynamite learnt in the mines of South Africa. Joseph Kennedy, his friend, and neighbour in Stephenstown, has been identified as a known founding member of Blake’s Commando as was John McGlew who lived a short distance away in Rowans, Balbriggan. This is documented by the historian and author Donal McCracken in his books on the Irish Brigade.


In an article in the Dublin Evening Telegraph, Jan 5th 1907, John MacBride wrote a response to James Laracy, himself a member and Captain of the Irish Brigade. Laracy had claimed MacBride had little involvement in the organising of the Irish Brigade.

John MacBride‘s response to Laracy:

‘As to the organising of the Brigade, I never claimed to have done more than one man’s part. The fact that Mr Sol Gillingham (who was in close touch with the ‘98’ and other Irish Associations) came first to me with private news of the impending war, and a hint to get the Irish Nationalists together, and that the word, therefore, went around from me, I suppose, gave my name some prominence in the work; but I should be sorry, indeed to take any of the credit due to Solomon Gillingham, Dick MacDonagh, Tom O’Byrne, Tom Connolly, Joe Tully, Joe Wade, Andy Higgins, Jim Gerraghty, Major Mitchell, and Captain P.J Oates.’

I had wanted to establish when Joe Wade joined the Irish Brigade and to my delight, John MacBride was here stating he was also involved in its organising and formation.



(John MacBride, Pepworth Hill, Ladysmith, late 1899)

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