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President’s praise for soldiers who staged mutiny from the British army

President lauds the actions of mutiny by irishmen serving in the british army in india

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Mary Henry, Secretary Tubbercurry Connaught Rangers Memorial Group, making a presentation to President Michael D. Higgins at the commemoration ceremony in Tubbercurry last Tuesday of the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India.

Mary Henry, Secretary Tubbercurry Connaught Rangers Memorial Group, making a presentation to President Michael D. Higgins at the commemoration ceremony in Tubbercurry last Tuesday of the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins unveiling the memorial to the Connaught Rangers in Tubbercurry last Tuesday.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins unveiling the memorial to the Connaught Rangers in Tubbercurry last Tuesday.

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Mary Henry, Secretary Tubbercurry Connaught Rangers Memorial Group, making a presentation to President Michael D. Higgins at the commemoration ceremony in Tubbercurry last Tuesday of the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India.

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The actions of Irishmen including four from Sligo who were involved in a mutiny while serving with the British Army in India in 1920 had been forgotten about and airbrushed from history.

That was the view of the granddaughter of one of the men involved as a poignant ceremony took place in Tubbercurry last Tuesday to commemorate the men’s actions. President Michael D. Higgins unveiled a monument which included the names of four Sligo men who were involved: James Gorman from Tubbercurry, Patrick Dyer from Ballymore, as well as Jack Scanlon and Martin Conlon from Sligo.

Mary Henry, granddaughter of Private Gorman, was primarily responsible for the memorial’s existence.

“The Connaught Rangers mutiny has been airbrushed out of history,” she said.

“When addressing Irish independence, the history books rightly mention the execution of Kevin Barry on November 1, 1920, but there’s no mention of the execution of James Daly on November 2, 1920.”

“As the decades passed the memories of their actions in India faded away, and they became Ireland’s forgotten heroes.”

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Ms. Henry said that with this memorial “the story has been reignited” and that it marked “a distinctive change in the story of the Connaught Rangers”.

On June 28, 1920, Soldiers of the Connaught Rangers based at Wellington Barracks, Jalandhar in India, protested against martial law in Ireland by refusing to obey orders. The peaceful protest against British actions in Ireland soon spread to another base at Solon after it was discovered that soldiers had been incarcerated without adequate food or water.

There were approximately 300 soldiers ultimately involved. The mutineers were the only group to take action outside of Ireland in the fight for independence, it gained international attention as it was reported in the American and Indian press, with Mahatma Gandhi recognising the mutiny as an example of passive resistance and civil disobedience that could influence India’s own struggle for independence.

On July 1, soldiers attempted to recapture their weapons and guards opened fire, killing two men, and injuring one. In total, 61 men were convicted for their role in the mutiny and 14 were sentenced to execution by firing squad.

Of those men, all but one had their sentences reduced to a variety of prison terms, and on November 2, 1920, Private James Daly, who was considered the leader of the mutiny, was killed by British soldiers.

Ms Henry told The Sligo Champion: “They are now acknowledged and included in the mainstream of Irish history and to us, the descendants, that is very important”.

Ms. Henry spoke about the difficulties many of the mutineers faced in their imprisonment, as well as returning to Ireland upon their release.

“My grandfather got ten years penal servitude, they went on hunger strike twice, and they did not get political status. When Michael Collins and his committee negotiated a treaty for amnesty eventually it did happen,” she said.

“In 1923, there were released from prison. They returned to Ireland, and it was very difficult for them. They returned to find the old government, all familiar traditions and public institutions were gone, the civil war of Irishmen fighting Irishmen was in progress.”

“The mutineers were treated as outcasts of the old system, their service pensions were forfeited, and this disconnection meant that their acceptance and integration in the new system was very slow and difficult.”

“Over a decade later they received a small pension of recognition for the part they played in Irish independence.”

Ms. Henry said she was 27 when her grandfather passed away and that “she knew him well” but “the mutineers never spoke to their families about the mutiny because the aftermath was horrific”.

“What they had suffered in prison; force feeding, solitary confinement, I could go on and on.”

It was not until the 1970s when RTÉ made a documentary to coincide with the repatriation that she learned the full story of what had happened to her grandfather.

“My grandfather was one of the few mutineers left and they made contact and did an interview,” she said.

“Before that we were totally unaware. When James Daly was executed, he was one the few that were allowed out in the yard after the execution.

“Apparently there’s normally one or two bullets in a firing squad but in this case, he was absolutely cut in half, they picked up parts of his flesh, my grandfather was traumatised for the rest of his life because James Daly was a dear friend.”

With the knowledge of all that had occurred Ms. Henry thought that approaching the centenary of the death of James Daly it would be important to do something to commemorate it.

“Very few people around Tubbercurry would have known my grandfather was involved in it, so I decided to go to the library to see if they could put up a picture and a little plague to say he was born up on the hill where the library is,” she said

“But a friend said to me, ‘would you not consider something a little bit more important’ and the kind of man my grandfather was, he wouldn’t want a monument with just his name on it and there were four Sligo men that took part in the mutiny.

“We had a launch in the library in 2019 and descendants started coming out of the woodwork from Australia, America, England, and all over Ireland.

“The story has skipped a generation, when I started researching this, I knew my grandfather’s story but at the launch I learned so much about the whole background to the mutiny and what had happened.”

Charlie Kerrigan from Glenfarne in Leitrim was one of the soldiers whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison but his son Desmond, who attended the Tubber ceremony, said he was released after the signing of The Treaty and came home to Glenfarne where he became a sheep farmer. The commemoration was held 101 years to the day of the execution of Private James Daly. Ms. Henry thanked President Higgins for attending and said that even with three postponments of the ceremony due to the pandemic he always agreed to come.

“He arrived and said, ‘well at long last’, and was so happy to be able to do this,” she said. In total, over 70 descendants from all over Ireland attended the unveiling and Ms. Henry said, “it was such an emotional experience that after 101 years the Irish state has acknowledged the part they played in the fight for independence”.

“Those men paid a very dear price. They weren’t men, they were very young boys, my grandfather was 23 years old, and James Daly was 21 when he was executed, to finally acknowledge the part they played, we are extremely grateful for that,” she said.

Ms. Henry also extended her gratitude to Donal Tinney and Michelle Brennan from the Sligo library service for their help in making the memorial possible.

“Their efforts were a showcase example of how community led commemorative work in partnership with support from County Council personnel to achieve national success and international recognition.”


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