WW1 Letters and Diaries of Irish Ropes Industrialist Published by Grandson

WW1 Letters and Diaries of Irish Ropes Industrialist Published by Grandson

THE First World War diaries of a leading Co. Kildare industrialist have been published by his grandson.
Eric Rigby-Jones founded his company, Irish Ropes, in the disused British cavalry barracks in Newbridge in 1933. 

The company is credited with having revived the town's fortunes in the 1930s and would become its largest employer. 

It became famous for its iconic brands, such as Red Setter binder twine and Tintawn carpets, which were originally made from sisal and were sold around the world.

Just fifteen years earlier, he has been invalided home from the Western Front having been badly gassed and buried alive twice by shellfire.

Now the extraordinary story of the 'boy'' captain turned respected industrialist is set to be told by his grandson, John, author of Best Love To All. 

The Letter and Diaries of Captain Eric Rigby-Jones Military Cross and Bar and his Experiences as a Young Officer with the Liverpool Pals on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918.

"After my father died, I found my grandfather's letters and diaries in the old cigar box where they had always been kept,"" recalls John Rigby-Jones,

"Reading them helped me to connect with my grandfather, who died before I was born. He signed many of his letters 'best love to all'' – hence the title of the book. 

It helped me understand what he was like in his youth. I'm told he never spoke of his experiences after the war and that in later life he could often appear remote.

"One particular account of being sent on what he thought was a suicide mission in March 1918 always makes me cry. I am just amazed that he managed to survive. 

To have been through all that by the time he reached his 21 st birthday… I find it staggering."

Eric Rigby-Jones was just 16 years old when the war broke out. He later signed up to join the army and became a Second Lieutenant with the Liverpool Rifles in 1915, 

which was a month before he turned 18. He was transferred to the Liverpool Pals when he arrived in France at the beginning of 1917 and, that April, went into battle with them for the first time at Arras.

Now a captain, he was the only officer in his battalion to fight throughout the six weeks of the German Spring Offensive in 1918, before being invalided home. 

Eric was presented with the Military Cross and Bar for his bravery by the King at Buckingham Palace a week after his 21 st birthday.

John realised his grandfather’s papers were worth sharing with a wider audience, and secured a book deal with Helion and Company Ltd – one of the world's largest military history publishers. 

He has visited the battlefields where Eric Rigby-Jones fought and read battalion diaries as part of his painstaking research.

"Lord Derby’s younger brother, Brigadier Stanley, was the commanding officer of the Pals. He wrote in an appendix to his history of the Liverpool Pals that only four of those  who served with the Pals were awarded the Military Cross and Bar. I feel proud that my grandfather was one of those people; he was an exceptional man," says John,  who plans to bequeath his grandfather's medals to the Museum of Liverpool.

Oxford graduate John, who retired in 2015 and lives in Surrey, is now writing a second book that explores what happened to his grandfather after the war.

"It’s another extraordinary story that again deserves to be told,"" he says. "My grandfather was at the helm of Irish Ropes, which operated in neutral Ireland during the Second World War. 

His obituary, printed in the Leinster Leader in 1952, celebrated a man who was known in his dealings with his workers to be a 'straightforward, firm, and generous employer; one who had their welfare and security at heart, and they at all times gave to him the co-operation and service he so fully deserved''."

Best Love To All was published this week and can be purchased at www.helion.co.uk and on Amazon.

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