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William Russell, Lilyvale, Whitestown

William Howard Russell, originally from Jobstown was the first and greatest war correspondent.  He was born in Lily Vale in 1820 (Lilyvale, long demolished, was situated at the back of what is now Whitestown Industrial Estate). 

Little is known of his early life however we do know he studied at Trinity College and got his first break in journalism in 1841 when he was asked to cover the Irish elections for The Times of London.  He reported on Daniel O’Connell’s repeal campaign and on the famine.

He was sent by his employer The Times newspaper to cover the Crimean War. The Crimean War was the first war to be covered by war correspondents and Russell became the most famous of them. The Times reports also contributed to the appointment of Florence Nightingale (founder of the nursing profession) to lead a team of nurses to care for stricken British troops in Scutari (near modern day Istanbul).

William Russell

Russell developed a reputation as Britain’s finest military reporter with accounts of the Indian Mutiny (1858), the American Civil War (1861-65), the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), and finally the Zulu War (1879).

He continued his lifelong interest in Irish affairs and looking back on his career he wrote that in all his years ‘supping full of horrors in the tide of war, I never beheld sights so shocking as those which met my eyes in that Famine tour of mine in the West [of Ireland]’.

William received many decorations from all over the world and was eventually knighted and became Honorary Secretary to Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. He was a great friend of Dickens, Thackeray and Dion Boucicault of the Irish Theatre. He died in 1907 and there is a bust of him in St. Pauls Cathedral, London