This photograph features two young Irish-born émigré workers (from left: Johnny Murphy; a native of Kenmare, County Kerry, and Austin McGing; a native of Tourmakeady, County Mayo) painting a lamppost in an unknown location in London. Johnny Murphy is pictured wearing an old style of overalls, and Austin seems to be in his everyday clothes, c. 1936.
Austin was conscripted into the British Army during World War Two and consequently came back to Ireland to escape the role. In 1960 he moved to Meath under the Irish Land Commission Resettlement Scheme with his wife and young family. Unknowingly to him he lived in the same parish as Johnny Murphy and was unaware of the fact for the remainder of his life. Today they are both buried in Moynalvey cemetery, County Meath.
Conscription as a term means compulsory military service. In October 1939 the British government announced that all men aged between 18 and 41 who were not working in ‘reserved occupations’ could be called to join the armed services for World War Two if required. In total, approximately 3,600 soldiers from the south of Ireland died on active service during World War Two, and as many as 100,000 people from the island of Ireland served in the war, despite the Irish Free State’s status of neutrality.