Orange honour for last man to die as member of Royal Flying Corps

Second Lieutenant James Alexander Donnelly died on March 31 1918, the day before the Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Air Force
Second Lieutenant James Alexander Donnelly died on March 31 1918, the day before the Royal Flying Corps became the Royal Air Force

A special centennial service has been held in Ballintoy in memory of an Orangeman who is thought to be the last member of the Royal Flying Corps to die before it became the Royal Air Force.

Royal York Loyal Orange Lodge No 145 in Belfast organised the service on Saturday in Ballintoy Parish Church, which was the home church of Second Lieutenant James Alexander Donnelly.

Mr Donnelly, the lodge said, died on March 31 1918, the day before the corps became the Royal Air Force. A new roll of honour to all other lodge members who fell was also dedicated.

Colin Cavan, lodge worshipful master, said: “It is a privilege to honour these men and remember their sacrifice to King and Country. We are also particularly pleased to be joined at the service by much of the extended Donnelly family to remember their particular sacrifice, in the loss of a father, brother and staunch and true Ulsterman, James Donnelly.”

Lord Rogan of Lower Iveagh, lodge past master, said the story of James Alexander Donnelly and his siblings John, Frank and Jane is an “incredible story” that comes into its own in Ulster.

He added: “From what we would call today a ‘mixed’ family (their father being born a Roman Catholic), they went on to be pillars of the community in Orange, business, church and the Army circles. In James’ case, to excel in the new sciences of telegraphy and aviation.”