The Inspiration for 'Ghost of Gallipoli': Chance Discovery or Twist of Fate?

As a writer I often find that inspiration comes from the strangest of places. But none so odd as that for my ebook, "Ghost of Gallipoli," currently advertised on The Green Pages. My story goes like this:

In 1997 I was resident in Istanbul, living as a diplomat's wife in the British Consulate General, an historic old building and home to many ghosts of the past. Much as I loved living there, Istanbul can be very frenetic, particularly in high summer, and thus my husband and I decided to escape to Gallipoli and the cooler Aegean coastline.  Back then, I knew little of the Gallipoli campaign, and, where family history was concerned, only that two unnamed great-uncles had died there. I had little interest in the latter and it was our intention to stay only one night on the Gallipoli peninsula and then sail across the Dardanelles to Troy.

Following a hot and dusty six hour drive, and having checked into our pension in Seddulbahir village, my husband and I felt the need to stretch our legs before dinner. We headed off in the direction of the beach: through the sleepy little village and past the ruined fort which guards the rugged coastline. It was then that we spotted the cemetery in the corner of the bay, and, torn between curiosity and our rumbling stomachs we decided to have a quick look. This was V Beach Cemetery the plaque at the gate informed us, one of the many Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries dotted about the peninsula. As I strolled amongst the memorial tablets, I noticed that these largely commemorated Irish soldiers, many from The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and from both the north and south of Ireland. It was then that I heard my husband gasp and went to see what he was staring at in such amazement. 

We found ourselves standing, at dusk, before the memorial headstones for Privates John (Jack) and Samuel Mallaghan,both Privates in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (see right). These informed us that Samuel, aged 21, had been killed in action on 25th April, 1915, while John, aged 19, died on 30th April. These men could be none other than my great-uncles. My mother’s maiden name is Mallaghan and her two elder brothers were named John and Samuel, obviously after these dead soldiers. Moreover, the two young men hailed from Newry, my hometown. Both had died during the first days of the Campaign, only two of the thousands of young men slaughtered at Gallipoli, a slaughter that culminated in the decimation of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers. 

This had been a ‘hair on the back of the neck’ moment and it took me some moments to grasp my discovery. To put it into context, there are dozens of Commonwealth War Graves’ cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula and many, many Turkish cemeteries. In all, there are thousands of graves in Gallipoli, but that evening I felt I had been led to John and Samuel’s. It certainly seemed more than just coincidence that we should accidentally walk into the first cemetery we came upon and find my great uncles in this way. I was the first family member ever to stand there, the first to learn how they had died, and where. 

When we eventually pulled the gate of V Beach Cemetery closed behind us, I vowed I would learn more about the Mallaghan brothers, and the Gallipoli Campaign. We did not go to Troy, but stayed on the peninsula, familiarising ourselves with its cemeteries, and its history. We were to return to Gallipoli many times. The research that I conducted in the months to come, both into the history of the Gallipoli Campaign, and into that of my family, led to the writing of a number of newspaper and magazine articles, and to Ghost of Gallipoli, my novel which is now an ebook on Amazon. I had been given an opportunity to write two largely forgotten young men back into history and I very much hope that is what I've achieved with "Ghost of Gallipoli."

The photograph on the left shows Private John (Jack) Mallaghan of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. I have never been able to locate an image of his brother, Samuel. To find out more about Jack and Sam, Ghost of Gallipoli and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (and much more), please have a look at my website at: http://margaretwhittock.weebly.com

"Ghost of Gallipoli" is very much a piece of historical fiction, but it's also a ghost story, cum love story, cum political thriller. It will take you on a journey from Ireland, to Turkey and to Australia, and will keep you guessing right to the very last page!

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Tags: Asia, Australia, Britain, History of Ireland, Literature, Military History

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on July 20, 2013 at 10:39am

Sounds great, Margaret!  Thanks for sharing this.

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