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Murdered at the Murrough

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Constable John Fitzgerald

Constable John Fitzgerald

Constable John Fitzgerald

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On July 3, 1921, Wicklow reacted with widespread shock to the brutal ambush and murder of an RIC constable based in Wicklow Town who was only days away from his 19th birthday.

Constable John Fitzgerald was remembered at a recent commemoration ceremony held in the newly refurbished Garda barracks which was attended by his grandniece Ann O'Loughlin and her husband Paul.

Speaking at the Ceremony, Superintendent Paul Hogan paid tribute to the fallen officer.

'He was just four days short of his 19th birthday. His niece Phil Quinn lives in Banbridge and last year she presented me with a photo of Constable Fitzgerald which will have pride of place in our new building when we are fully installed.

The Wicklow People carried an account of the shocking murder in the July 9, 1921, edition headlined 'Policeman attacked - Scenes on the Murrough.'

'Consternation and surprise were expressed on Sunday evening when it became known that a Policeman had been shot on The Murrough. The seaside was occupied by large numbers who were enjoying the lovely sunshine when girls and men coming from the direction of the Upper Murrough announced the startling news and in a few moments, fearing they know not what, the people had fled from the shore homewards. 'It would appear that Constable John Fitzgerald, aged 19 years and a native of Millstreet, County Galway, and a chum from the Wicklow barracks, went walking up the Murrough. Above the chemical factory, they sat down and read papers, accompanied by three girls. They were unarmed, as they were not engaged on duty.

'Five cyclists appeared on the scene. They were armed and suddenly they approached the two constables and opened fire. One Constable jumped the railway boundary wire though fired upon, and escaped injury by falling to the ground. Constable Fitzgerald held his hands above his head. In all, about eight shots were discharged by the attackers and it would appear that the last one took effect, passing right through Fitzgerald's breast and emerging from the back. He fell to the ground.

'Meanwhile, the girls had run away screaming. One woman, who was in the vicinity reading, ran to the Constable's assistance and did what she could for him, meanwhile reciting prayers close to his face. Others near the scene also scattered, shouting the news as they went and in this manner the information was conveyed to the town and to the RIC Barracks in a remarkably short time.

'Quickly as possible Police drove to the place in their armoured car and having left some of their members there, the remainder returned to the town, fetched Dr McCormack and returned with him to the wounded man, meanwhile Dr Lyndon arrived on the scene. Rev M Cogan, CC, was also notified and he repaired to the place where he administered spiritual comfort. As soon as possible, the Constable, who was unconscious, was carried by his comrades on a stretcher to the Barrack, where he was further treated by doctors. McCormack, O'Connor and Lyndon. Two nurses from the town volunteered to attend on him throughout the night and their services were gladly availed of. Rev P Ryan, CC, also attended the dying man. At the evening devotions, Rev. M. Cogan asked the congregation to offer their prayers for his spiritual welfare and comfort.

'Military and Police searched the Murrough closely for a protracted interval. The picture house remained closed for the night. Constable Fitzgerald was the only son and elder child of Mr Fitzgerald, Millstreet, Co Galway, and would not have reached 19 years of age until 31st inst. He had only come to Wicklow Station, which was his first, a few months ago and quickly made himself popular among his comrades and many of the townspeople.'

On Tuesday evening, Constable Fitzgerald's remains were brought to St Patrick's Church and a military funeral was held.

'Headed by a strong section of the Cheshire Regiment, their band played the "Dead March" the empty hearse next following the coffin, draped in the Union Jack and bearing his cap and accoutrements, was carried all the way from the barrack to the church on the shoulders of his late comrades.

'Next in order was the RIC motor lorry, which contained over 20 beautiful floral wreaths sent by the officers and NCOs of the RIC and Cheshire Regiment, the RIC and the men of the regiment and by numerous townspeople. The remainder of the local Police, with officers augmented by representatives from Bray and Rathdrum came after this lorry and then the deceased's father in a Police lorry.

'Mr Fitzgerald's father was palpably overcome by the sad loss he had sustained in his only son under such tragic circumstances and was the centre of great sympathy. Next in order came the Coastguards and then a huge cortège of townspeople of all classes, who followed the whole way and crowded the Church.

'All the shops on the route were closed and the windows had their blinds down. A Guard of the constabulary remained around the catafalque all night in the Church and at five a.m. on Wednesday Rev Father Cogan, CC, celebrated the Requiem Mass which was attended by the Police officers and men and a large number of townspeople. At 5.45a.m. the lorry bearing the coffin left, escorted, for Dublin, en route for Millstreet.'

It was the belief of the Constabulary that the attack upon the Police was not executed by Wicklow men.

That Wednesday, at Wicklow petty court sessions, Mr E Wynne, chairman, said that a member of the RIC had been 'murdered in a brutal and cowardly manner' and the magistrates wanted to offer their 'heartfelt sympathy' to the bereaved family members of Constable Fitzgerald.

According to the Wicklow People, Mr Wynne 'hung his head in shame for his native land and for the good name of their town when he heard of the murder and he had prayed that the Lord would have mercy on the souls of the misguided men who had committed the fearful crime'.


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