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Mooney, Ambrose James (Jim) (1886–1919)

Just as Christmas once again draws near — that period of goodwill when the spirit of Christendom should be abroad in the land— there has to be recorded yet another of those tragic happenings which only too often mar this season of the year. The Southwark tragedy is made the sadder and more regrettable by reason of the unfortunate victim having been a brave and fearless soldier, who nobly served his country throughout the whole perod of the war.

Indeed, there was no prouder soldier in the King's Army than when on the breast of Ambrose James Mooney — ''Jim,' as he was fondly known among his fighting comrades — His Excellency the Governor, down at Keswick a few short months ago, pinned the coveted Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the field.

Mooney did not wait to hear his country's call. Every one remembers the tragic month of 1914. It was on August 4 of that year— incidentally the twenty eighth anniversary of his birth — that war was declared, and the very next day Mooney was in camp at Morphettville.

Hard years have since intervened, years during which Mooney passed through the horrors and vagaries of a terrible carnage, to be safely delivered by a merciful Providence to his home early this year, only now to find a grave at West Terrace in tragically pathetic circumstances.

All the Mooney boys were true soldier sons of a loyal and devoted father — Mr. James William Mooney, who until recently was a farmer on the west coast.

The Mail man discovered this as he chatted with the 62-year-old aggrieved father at his residence in Wayville this week. There were khaki photographs on many of the walls, but the one he valued most was a magnificent group of his fighting boys. The eldest was "Jim," aged 33. Then in order of years came Arthur William, Percival Martin, and Harold John, who was scarcely 18 when he joined up from faraway Uno Station, near Iron Knob.

"They were all keen on going," Mr. Mooney remarked, "and so was I, but the authorities told me that it was my place in the circumstances to stay behind and 'keep the home fires burning.' All my boys have returned, but poor Jim, who had a quiet and lovable disposition, is now gone."

"He enlisted right at the beginning?"

"Yes," said Mr. Mooney. "At the out-break of the war the authorities first called for a thousand men. By the time Jim got down to camp, however, the list was full. He thereupon enquired whether there was some job they could give him, and the officer remarked, 'The only thing we can offer is a cook's mate.' My [son] replied, 'I'll take that.'

"He was at that for about three days, when Lieut. Trevor Owen Smyth (the late son of Mr. C. E. Owen Smyth, I.S.O.), seeing him cooking over the fire, enquired, 'Mooney, what are you doing here?' Jim replied, 'I'm cook's mate. I can't get anything else to do.' Lieut. Smyth assured him that he would have him shortly, and in a couple of days the officer got my son a transfer into the transport division of the 10th Battalion, and he left in the first ship that sailed from Adelaide.

"He was at the landing with the horses," Mr. Mooney continued, "and offered to join the infantry, but being refused permission he was sent back to Egypt with the horses. From there he went to the Suez Canal when the threatened attack upon it by the Turks was reported. Later he again returned to Cairo, next proceeding to France, where he gained his sergeant stripes."

"Where did he earn his M.M.?''

"I think it was at Pozieres, in June, 1918. He was with a bombing party, all the members of which except my son and an Adelaide lad named Dyson were killed. They ran short of bombs, and just after young Dyson returned with some he was mortally shot down, too, exclaiming as he fell, 'I am done, serg.; tell mother I died brave.' Left alone, my son threw what bombs he then had, finally silencing the enemy's fire, but not until he was wounded by a piece of shrapnel in the left leg."

The house in Smith Street, Southwark, the scene of the tragedy, is situated just off the Port Road. It is a plain, unpretentious semi-detached dwelling abutting on to the footpath. The quarrel between the two men began on the front verandah, and working their way over a low picket fence they reached the side entrance to the property on the western side, the dispute finally ending in the back yard. The noise of the disputants attracted the attention of a number of people, despite the fact that the concluding stages of the quarrel were settled at the rear of the house.

Frederick Walter Hooper, who has been committed to stand his trial at the Criminal Sittings in January on a charge of murder, is, like the victim of the tragedy, a returned soldier.

"My son,'' said Mrs. McConnochie, who was wearing the A.I.F. badge issued to the women of Australia "for duty done," "was a trooper in the 9th Light Horse. He served about 12 months in Egypt, and contracted enteric ferer, and I think he has been home about two years."

"He was living with his mother,'' interposed Mr. McConnochie, Hooper's step-father, "since October, 1917, during all the time that I was away at the front, from which I returned only a few weeks ago." "My son," Mrs. McConnochie added, "knew Mrs. Mooney when she was living over in Walsh Street, Southwark, and she used to come to my house. He is a quiet, steady boy, and I know he did not want to fight."

It is about half a mile from this part of Southwark to the house at Brompton of the late Mr. Mooney. The cottage is peculiarly situated, nestling as it does in a little right-of-way known as Boulton Place, immediately opposite the Salvation Army Hall in Chief Street.

The little daughter of Mrs. Mooney answered the pressman's knock at the door, in the passage leading from which was hanging the soldier's hat of her father bearing the familiar letter 'R.'

Although naturally distressed at her terrible loss, the widow appeared to be facing her ordeal with womanly bravery, surrounded as she was by a family of five young children, who, whatever the circumstances of the case, will have to be cared for and reared.

Mrs. Mooney is an attractive, sturdily built woman, a little more than 5 ft. high. She has a broad, pallid face, brown hair, and light brown eyes. She is a native of Kadina, where she was born 29 years ago. It was there, too, while he was working on the mines in the district, that she met her late husband, to whom she was married about 12 or 13 years ago, when quite a girl.

"I have five children," she remarked, "and the youngest (Douglas) was born only five weeks ago, on October 25."

"How long was your husband on active service?"

"Four years and 222 days," Mrs. Mooney replied, as she examined his military papers. "He arrived home on January 29 of this year, and was discharged on March 22."

Mr. Mooney, sen., who is a Justice of the Peace well known in South Australia, has received many messages of condolence in his terrible bereavement. Among these is a letter from the secretary of the Australian Tramways Employe[e]s' Association (Mr. Hill, M.P.), which reads:— 'The members of my association direct me to convey to you and your family their deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement through the untimely death of your son. He was a highly respected member of the association, and was very popular among his fellow employees."

From the same organisation a beautiful wreath was sent, and one was also received from the members of the Sturt B Football Club, with which the deceased had been prominently connected as a trainer for many years before the war.

From Col. Price Weir the widow has received the following sterling tribute: — "I was very sorry to hear that your late husband, Sgt. Mooney, has passed away, and I wish to assure you of my sincere sympathy with you in your sad bereavement. Your husband served under me in the 10th Battalion, and for bravery in the field was awarded the Military Medal. I always admired him as a soldier and a man, and I realise the sad loss you have sustained."

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'Mooney, Ambrose James (Jim) (1886–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mooney-ambrose-james-jim-16754/text28650, accessed 21 November 2017.

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