William Penn-Gaskell

19161012_PennGaskell,WWilliam Penn Gaskell, belonged to a well-known Irish family, and in 1905, upon his father’s death, he inherited the Shanagarry estate, County Cork. He was a descendant of the famous Quaker, William Penn, who founded the state of Pennsylvania.

William came to the school from Rugby and was admitted in 1886 to Homeboarders’ House. He left the school in July 1889 and travelled to Chile. His maternal grandfather was from Peru so his interest in South America was not surprising. William lived in Iquique and Antofagasta, eventually becoming manager of a nitrate works in the town.

On the outbreak of war he made the decision to give up his job and return to England to serve in the Army. He was made a Captain in the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in February 1915 and proceeded to France in August 1916.

He was killed in the action at Flers on the Somme front. He went over the parapet to the attack in support of the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who were held up for a time by intense machine-gun fire. Notseeing any Officers of the Scots Fusiliers, he decided to push on, and he rallied the line when he was shot in the arm. While his servant was dressing the wound, a shell burst near and both were instantly killed.

His Colonel wrote :-

‘I admired his pluck and energy very much indeed in setting to work at his age to fit himself for the Front, and I always considered him a magnificent example to all of us and a pattern of everything an Officer and a gentleman should be. His fine example and gallant death, while he rallied his men, made the greatest impression upon all his comrades. His influence on his men was most inspiring.’

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One Response to William Penn-Gaskell

  1. Nicholas Fox says:

    William Penn-Gaskell was my great uncle, and my grandfather’s brother. As a result of his death at the Somme in 1916, my grandfather inherited the Penn Irish Estates and Shanagarry Castle. My grandfather styled himself Major Percy Penn-Gaskell of Shanagarry. He died in the 1940s divorced from my grandmother and leaving no male heir. My mother, Patricia Fox, nee Penn-Gaskell, with no connection with her father, though inheriting some important family papers, handed the Penn Estates including Shanagarry Castle back to the Irish Government when they asked her to confirm her title to her inheritance. The Irish estates were given to my ancestor Admiral Sir William Penn, father of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, by Oliver Cromwell in recognition of his services at sea, and it seemed fitting to my mother to return it back to the country who gave my family this estate.

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