On entering the Royal College of Music the visitor sees a list of those students who died during the First World War. One of the names is J. Ireland – similar to age to, though not a relative of the composer.
Joseph Knowles Ireland was born in 1885, son of a railway clerk in Leeds. At the age of 16 he was already in work as an insurance clerk, but had a dramatic change of career. In part this was because of family connections. His Uncle Charles Knowles, a member of the ISM Masonic Lodge from 1902, was a bass-baritone of some renown, known as ‘The Elijah of the North’. In 1911 Joseph Knowles Ireland is listed as living in St John’s Wood, his occupation now being that of ‘baritone’ following studies in the vocal department of the RCM, from which he graduated in 1912.
Tragically, this J.Ireland then went on to serve as a Captain in the Royal Fusiliers in France, and was reported missing on 7 October 1916, leaving behind a widow and a son of four months. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.