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'We should not forget' - remembering a grandfather murdered by the Black and Tans in the Sack of Balbriggan

Tomorrow marks the centenary of one of the most notorious atrocities of the War of Independence when the Black and Tans went on the rampage, setting fire to the town and killing two men in a reprisal attack. John Meagher on an event that resonated around the world

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'We should not forget’': Sisters Mary English, left, and Stephanie Lawless, whose grandfather Seámus (James) Lawless was one of two men who died at the hands of the Black and Tans in the Sack of Balbriggan. Photo by Steve Humphreys

'We should not forget’': Sisters Mary English, left, and Stephanie Lawless, whose grandfather Seámus (James) Lawless was one of two men who died at the hands of the Black and Tans in the Sack of Balbriggan. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Seamus Lawless

Seamus Lawless

Events: Brian Howley with a Commemorative Medal for The Sack of Balbriggan Centenary. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Events: Brian Howley with a Commemorative Medal for The Sack of Balbriggan Centenary. Photo by Steve Humphreys

Burning rubble: Derham's Public House following the Sack of Balbriggan in 1920

Burning rubble: Derham's Public House following the Sack of Balbriggan in 1920

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'We should not forget’': Sisters Mary English, left, and Stephanie Lawless, whose grandfather Seámus (James) Lawless was one of two men who died at the hands of the Black and Tans in the Sack of Balbriggan. Photo by Steve Humphreys

When Mary English thinks of his gruesome death, she feels sadness, not rancour. On the night of September 20, 1920, her paternal grandfather, James Lawless, was murdered by the Black and Tans in one of the most notorious episodes of the War of Independence.

The 40-year-old IRA lieutenant, who was a barber in the north Co Dublin town of Balbriggan, was hauled from his home late at night and subjected to the most horrific death. It was a fate that also fell on another local man, John Gibbons, who had been suspected of being a Republican rebel.


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