Rev. Fr. Philip O 'Flaherty

Baronies of Mayo 1900 by Patrick Weston
Crimea War Map
Map of Uganda
Map Flag Turkey
Buganda Flag
Ottoman Istanbul Map
Ballaghadallagh, Co. Mayo

Soldier / Teacher / Missionary

While a soldier in the British Army O’ Flaherty penned letters from his campaigns.  He led a very interesting life on the African Missions.

Philip O’ Flaherty was born in Ballaghadallagh in Co. Mayo about 1835.  Following national school in Ireland he studied at St. Aiden’s Alumnus, Birkenhead, England.  While there he acted as Co-Editor of the College Magazine.

He was born an Irish-speaking Roman Catholic but died an ordained Missionary with the CMS, after having adhered to Presbyterianism from his teenage years until his early thirties. He married into a family like himself of Catholic turned Protestant faith.  He supported both his father and brother in Ireland but when he moved to England as a Teacher, they followed him, as he was unable to support all he enlisted in the British Military.  As a Teacher he kept a folded-up map of the world in his pocket: at geography classes he requested four boys to hold it aloft in which he proceeded to point out capital cities, principle mountains, rivers also country borders.  He worked in England from 1865 to 1880 with the CMS.  [i]


O ‘Flaherty spent years as a priest of a chapter of Prominent Anglo – Irish Protestant Clergy in the Merseyside area.  He was employed as a Salesman Missionary in Ottoman Istanbul at one stage of his colourful life.  From March 1881 he travelled as an assistant to Mackay in Africa. Many of O’ Flaherty’s exploits as a Missionary are contained in Mackay’s notes. [ii]


O ‘Flaherty, one of the first CMS missionaries in the kingdom of Buganda, translated the Gospels into Luganda.  “I have translated from Kiswahili Steere’s Scripture History with other additional History of some Scriptural character from New and Old Testament.  I have translated most of St. Math’s Gospel and part of St. Marks & the Order of Morning and Evening Service from the Prayer Book from Kiswahili whose idioms are nearer Ruganda than English,” O’Flaherty reported in one of his letters.  [iii]

He published a book detailing his experiences during 1851 as a soldier in Crimea; titled the ‘The Young Soldier’ in which the first part of the collection of letters written while he was a Private later Corporal in the 7th Royal Fusiliers covered the first months of the invasion, the battle of the Alma also the early stages of the Sevastopol. Pages 24 – 28.  The second series of letters, titled ‘Sketches of the War’ was a Collection from 6th November 1854 to 28th April 1855 that documented his Regiments action in the Battle of Inkerman on 5th November 1894, the hurricane of 14th November 1854, camp privations during the winter, proselytising conversations with Turkish troops, his distribution of religious material amongst both the British and Turkish soldiers plus his work as an Interpreter between British engineers and Turkish troops.  The last letter described a visit to the camp of the French zouaves.  [iv]

These letters are contained within this publication; ‘Philip O ‘Flaherty The Young Soldier Letters from Turkey & Crimea’ by O ‘Flaherty Philip Corporal 1954: These may be read at N L I  (call no Ir 200 p 14)  [v]

‘Writing in December 1881 the C.M.S. missionary O ’Flaherty commented, “Mutesa is as far from Christianity as ever…there is little chance of doing good here”. [vi]

‘It must be remembered that, for days, long & earnest councils were held by the Kings & Chiefs as the question as to whether Mackay, O ‘Flaherty & myself should or should not be put to death.’  A. M. Mackay; ‘Pioneering Missionary of the Church Missionary Society Uganda’ by Mackay J. W. H.  1970 Routledge  [vii]

‘The baptisms took place in March 1882 when five boys who had been Mackay’s pupils were baptised by Rev Philip O ‘Flaherty.  Their names deserve mention as the first Christians in Uganda: Sembera Kamumbo, who took the name Mackay; Mukasa who was baptised Edward; another Mukasa named Firipo; Buzabaliwo named Henry Wright; and Takirambudde who was baptised Yakobo.’  ‘The Church’s mission and ministry in this milieu, at both the leadership and grassroots levels. ….. The books of the Old Testament point to it. …… and interaction Kabaka Mutesa, and the now legendary letter in the Daily Telegraph, ….. baptised by Rev Philip OFlaherty. …… The name of the rebel commander was Patrick Akum.’   [viii]

Philip O ‘Flaherty for instance, Letter from Scutari Camp during the Crimea Campaign wherin he observed that the soldiers burden’ (was) heavy, for beside our ordinary kit, each man has to carry a camp kettle, a tin pot & a bill – hook.’  ‘The British Soldier & his Libraries’ c 1822 – 1901 Murphy Sharron 2016 Springer page 83. [ix]

Philip O ‘Flaherty’s demise occurred while on a voyage home from Uganda to Edinburgh: he was buried in the Red Sea. [x]


O ‘Flaherty is mentioned in the following bulletin: [xi] Plus in these Publications:

M. Mackay; ‘Pioneering Missionary of the Church Missionary Society Uganda’ by Mackay J. W. H. 1970 Routledge. [xii]

‘From Mayo to Uganda’ 2016 Langham Monographs Simpson Thomas Rev. A Biography that encompassed O’Flaherty’s life published in the Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland’s Bulletin.  [xiii]

The Crimean Wars & Irish Society’ Ruddle Paul 2016 Oxford University Press.  [xiv]

‘The Church in the World; A Historical – Ecclesiological Study of the Church of Uganda with particular reference to Post & Independence – Uganda 1962 -1992.’  Page 35 of Niringiye’s David Zac thesis –   PDF   [xv]

‘The British Soldier & his Libraries 1822 – 1901’ 2016 Murphy Sharon, Springer. [xvi]

These may be of interest;

‘Philip O ‘Flaherty The Young Soldier Letters from Turkey & Crimea by O ‘Flaherty Philip Corporal 1854’ may be read at N L I (call no Ir 200 p 14)  [xvii]

 ‘Matesa; The Missionaries & Christian Conversion in Buganda’; Breierley Jean & Spear Thomas. The International Journal of African Historical Journal 1988 Vol 21; No 4; pages 601 – 618.  Public Boston Uni African studies Centre.  May be read online free at the link;  [xviii]

An interesting read on Missionary experiences; ‘The Story of the life of Mackay of Uganda.’  PDF  [xix]

‘The Story of the life of Mackay’ (1849 – 1890) may be read online.  [xx]


Kevin Myers stated during an Irish Times May 23rd, 2002 that from the Crimea we receive glimpses of an Ireland that is now perfectly vanished.  Philip O ‘Flaherty – a soldier with the 7th Foot, a fluent linguist plus a Presbyterian from Co. Mayo wrote to his mentor, Rev Michael Brannigan while he attempted to spread ‘England’s Religion’ to the Turks.  [xxi]

Unable to access information re his family in Mayo.  Perhaps readers may have the required information.


[i]  From Mayo To Uganda ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[ii] From Mayo to Uganda ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[iii]  The Role of early Missionaries to Africa ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[iv]  In the Land of the Romanovs ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[v]  Online Catalogue ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[vi]  M-Mackay-Pioneer-Missionary of the Church ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[vii] A M-Mackay-Pioneer-Missionary of the Church ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[viii]  Baptisms in  Uganda (

[Assessed 26th June 2019]

[ix] The British Soldier & His Libraries (  ) [Assessed 26th June  2019]

[x] From Mayo to Uganda ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xi] Articles in the Bulletin ( ) Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xii]  A M. – Mackay- Pioneer – Missionary of the Church ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xiii] From Mayo to Uganda ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xiv]  The Crimean War & Irish Society ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xv] The Church in the World (  [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xvi] The British Soldier & Hs Libraries ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xvii] In the Land of the Romanovs ( [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xviii]   Spear Thomas – Dept of History ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xix]The Story of the Life of Mackay (  ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xx]  The Story of the Life of Mackay told for Boys ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]

[xxi]  An Irishman’s Diary ( ) [Assessed 26th June 2019]


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