Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)
Pat Purcell Papers
Owen Rice ~ Carlow May 1921.
By kind permission of Mr Michael Purcell
Owen Rice 1921.
Curfew Time during the War of Independence.
Nationalist, 7th May 1921.
Week-end Tragedy in Carlow. - Young Man Shot Dead.
On Saturday evening, shortly after nine o'clock (curfew hour), a terrible tragedy was enacted in Staplestown Road, Carlow, in which a young man named Owen Rice lost his life under circumstances that must be considered appalling.
The general facts of the case was given at the military inquiry held in lieu of an inquest.
The simple outstanding fact is that Owen Rice, whilst on his way home a little after nine o'clock was shot dead [by soldiers] about twenty or thirty yards from his own door.
The deceased was about 24 or 25 years old, and as an employee of the Carlow Boot Factory was practically the only support of his mother.
On the same evening and under similar circumstance a man named Thomas O'Neill, Pollerton Road, was wounded by a shot in the knee.
The people of Carlow, not used to incidents of this nature, were horrified when news of the tragedy became known. On that evening a large number of young men were as usual engaged in a game of pitch and toss in a place known as the Sandpit, in a rather populous district.
Naturally when the shooting began the crowds ran in all directions and the wonder is more tragedies did not happen.
When Father Killian--called by the military ---arrived at the scene the poor man had passed to his eternal reward.
The body was conveyed to the military barracks that night, and on Monday evening the remains were removed to the Cathedral.
On Tuesday morning at 8.30 Requiem Mass was celebrated by the Rev. P.Donnelly C.C. All business establishments and factories in the town were shut down and remained closed till 4pm.
Included in the thousands that marched in the procession were more than twelve hundred members of the Carlow Sacred Heart Sodality of which Owen was an exemplary and devoted member.
The Banners of the Sodality formed an imposing feature of the cortege, and many people in the procession could not conceal their emotion as the coffin was borne past his mother's lonely door.
[Note added by Michael Purcell in 2010. On the Monday following this incident a Military Inquiry was held. I will transcribe some of that at a later stage. During the Inquiry many witnesses were called --- here are some extracts.]
On Monday a military court of inquiry was held in the military barracks. The first part of the inquiry was held in camera.
The first witness sworn was the officer in charge of the military party that evening. In consequence of a report that there was a collection of armed men in the town, witness stated that he proceeded in a Crossley accompanied by an N.C.O., and four soldiers, and the District Inspector of the R.I.C.
They went in the direction of Pollerton Road. He placed his men in position , and while he was searching a house he heard some shots.
He immediately ran out and ordered the firing to stop. The soldiers told him they had been fired on from the corner of Accommodation Road and Pollerton Road. He went back to the Crossley and they proceeded to the left, and the civilians ran to the right. There were dozens of civilians, and witness fired two shots from his automatic pistol. He halted the Crossley at the bridge, and went through a ruined house, which he intended to search.
He then went back to the road and then heard shots fired from his right, which he judged to come from Staplestown Road. He immediately ran in that direction and shouted "stop firing". When he proceeded about 120 yards he saw a civilian lying in the pathway on the right of the road. Witness immediately collected his men, and they called on all civilians to halt.
Some were searched , but nothing was found on anyone or any where. Several civilians asked permission to go and see the body of the deceased.
Witness refused, because if a crowd gathered, more military might fire on them and make matters worse.
He then sent for Father Killian to have the body identified and let the family know. No more shot were fired after the man was killed.
An R.I.C. Sergeant in evidence stated that; at about 9.30 he went in charge of a party of police to the railway station, where a fire had been reported. He knew the deceased for many years and he was a quite inoffensive boy. He afterwards searched the body and found a pocket book, and a letter, and two packets of Woodbine cigarettes. There was no money. So far as he knew, Rice did not belong to any political organisation and was always well conducted.
Joseph Kavangh, Staplestown Road, deposed that he saw a soldier fire in the direction of Rice at the time he fell. Of course he could not say if that particular shot killed him. The soldier was wearing a cap and he had recognised him in the Barrack Square.
Michael Byrne, ex-soldier, who said he had fought in France, Salouika, Macedonia, Palestine, Sudan, etc., deposed that he was a relation of the deceased. He came home on the night in question about 20 minutes to ten, as he had been at the Comrades of the Great War Club. He asked the officer to let him do something for Rice who was lying on the ground. The officer refused.
I rode my bicycle past your window last night ~~~~
Nationalist, May 1921.
New Military Order.
Early in the week a notice was posted in the Carlow Post Office window to the effect that on and after May 28th, (Thursday) push / pedal bicycles are not to be used in the County Carlow between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Train Held Up.
On Wednesday evening last the military held up the 8.15 train at Carlow and searched all passengers.
The above is a true and accurate transcript of the original document.
Transcribed by Jean Casey, 2010