1920 Nov 14. Father Michael Griffin was killed, most likely by Auxiliaries.
He would have been known to the Crown Forces. On the night of 8 September 1920, he was called out to attend Seamus Quirke, a First-Lieutenant in the local IRA after he was shot seven times at the docks.
He also took part in the funeral mass of Michael Walsh of the Old Malt House following his murder on the night of 22 September 1920.
About midnight on Sunday 14 November 1920, Fr Griffin was lured from the presbytery by British forces directly, or someone aiding them. He was taken to Lenaboy Castle where he was questioned. After being interrogated, he was shot through the head and his body was taken away by lorry and buried in an unmarked grave at Cloghscoltia near Barna.
1920 Nov 20. His remains were discovered by a local man, William Duffy while he was attending cattle.
1920 Nov 22. Crozier travelled to Galway, found that Father Griffin had been murdered by his men, and that a plot was afoot to murder of Dr Fogarty, Bishop of Killaloe. Crozier writes in Ireland For Ever :-
" I found out that the military inquiry into the murder of Father Griffin ( held in lieu of an inquest) was fast with a 'frame up' and that a verdict of murder against persons,or somebody 'unknown ' would result. I told the military commander this and the name of the real murderer, but was informed that a senior official of Dublin Castle had been to Galway in front of me to give instructions as to ' procedure ' in this murder investigation. At Killaloe next day I received further evidence that the hidden hand was still at work, and was told in confidence that instructions had been received to kill Dr Fogarty, R.C. Bishop of Killaloe, by drowning him in a sack from the bridge over the River Shannon, so as to run no further risk of detection by having his body found."
1920 Nov 23. About 12,000 people gathered at St Joseph’s Church on Presentation Road, for his funeral mass. .
He was arrested by RIC on Sea Road, Galway. (Breen says he was called out on a bogus call. O’Farrell says that he was arrested at his residence – 2 Montpellier Tce., Galway – and taken to Crown Forces HQ at Taylor’s Hill.). After Crozier resigned he said that he believed that Auxiliaries had murdered Griffin.
Three people were named in a book, ‘All in The Blood, A Memoir’ by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon, published in 2006. According to this book, it was a terrible night of wind and rain when a raid took place at the home of the Kennedy family in Salthill. Three armed men dressed in civilian clothes entered the house demanding to know the whereabouts of the ‘Professor’. They were looking for Thomas O Maille who was known as the Professor, but he was not there at the time. During the raid, the men called each other by their names, Barker, Smith and Ward, and mentioned that they had a ‘terrible job’ to do later on that night. After a time, the three of them left the house and made their way back in the direction of the town. A neighbour who lived across the road from Kennedy’s house watched these events unfolding and said that sometime later a military lorry passed at great speed and it contained ‘…the body of Fr Griffin and the three men, Barker, Smith and Ward, were his murders.’ This witness also said that it was a Galway RIC Constable who lured Fr Griffin out of the house that night.
Neither of the 2 Barkers in the ADRIC were posted to D Coy (nor indeed was there a Bake in ADRICr). There was a R Ward in the ADRIC in Galway who died in Galway on 14 Nov 1920, somewhat of a coincidence that the dates are the same - though is death cert states epilepsy and that he had been in hospital for 3 days prior to his death. There were 30 Smiths.
1920 Nov 27. Galway Observer
Murder of Fr. GriffinHorrible Details — Searchers Out for a Week — Body Found in Semi—darkness — Shot Through the Brain
The terrible anguish and anxiety which prevailed in Galway all last week since the disappearance of Fr Griffin, were laid to rest last Sunday morning when the announcement was made from the altar at the early Masses in all the chapels, that his dead body was found. The simple mention of the recovery of his body was a source of relief to many, even while most people were stricken with grief at the astounding intelligence, and many gave way to tears and prayers for the repose of his soul.
Later in the day particulars of the discovery were obtained. Search parties were out every day all last week, for every one came to the conclusion that he was foully done away with. It appears that on Saturday night a party came upon a piece of a clerical garment above ground in boggy land, a couple of yards from the roadside, about a mile beyond Barna at a place called Cloughacoltia, near Lough Inch. Later in the night a lantern was obtained and the soil cleared away till at length the searchers were horrified when they gazed on the dead body of Father Griffin, buried about two feet under ground. On the body being raised it was found to have a bullet mark on each temple, showing that the bullet entered the left temple and came out on the left temple the body was quire fresh when discovered, as decomposition had not set in. A few of the neighbours there remained with the body that night and next morning it was brought in to the residence of Rev Fr Davis, beside St Joseph's Church. Later in the day the body was deposited in a coffin and laid out in the church where it was exposed to view during the day. A steady stream of people attended all day on Sunday to get a view of the body.
When the body of Fr Griffin at last was found the searches were too awed by the discovery to proceed further. A message was immediately dispatched to Sea road, Galway, to report what had occurred to Rev J W O'Meehan, B.D. the senior curate of the parish, who shared his residence with Fr Griffin. The writer was discussing the mystery with Fr O'Meehan and Mr Guy Moyston of the Associated Press of America, when the messenger arrived. Fr O'Meehan, who was labouring under considerable excitement, immediately left to follow up the clue.
On Sunday morning, with tears streaming down his face, he told the tragic truth. "Little I thought when I was talking to you last night." he said, "that I should witness the dead body of my comrade thrown into a bog—hole by the road—side."
I continue the narrative in Fr O'Meehan's own words.
It was about half—past seven he said, when the messenger arrived. Up to then we had hopes that Fr Griffin was alive and safe, as no one thought anyone would be found so iniquitous as to do to death a priest who had never done conscious wrong to anyone.
Accompanied by Rev Joseph Mitchell, M.A., President St Mary's College ; Rev Andrew Sexton, a professor in the college and a class fellow of Fr Griffin, as well as the messenger I proceeded to the scene. By the light of a lantern, and with the assistance of men with spades and shovels, we scraped the earth carefully away. The boys were too awed to touch the spot till we came. We put the horse and car in a house near by so as not to attract undue attention, and proceeded with our melancholy search. It was a scene that I shall never forget. The moon lit up the landscape occasionally through scudding clouds, and out at sea the Margureita buoy moaned persistently. Presently one of the boys who was down in the mud searching carefully with his hands, speaking almost in a whisper, said, I have found a priest's collar, Father. Here is poor Father Griffin. I put my hand down and laid it on the collar of my beloved comrade. The men drew away and there was a suppressed moan, followed by a groan of indignation and horror.
"In God's name, be calm, boys" I begged. Fr Griffin is far better off than any of us, for he is in heaven. I knew him to be a saint.
Slowly, without another word being spoken, for all were too moved to speak they removed the wet and boggy soil. The body of Fr Griffin lay, with the feet facing Galway, covered with about two feet of soil. The narrow grave — if grave it would be called — ran parallel to the rubble wall. The body was clad just as it had left the house on Sunday night, but we could not find his hat. We had the body taken up on the dry soil, and one of us rubbed away the grime and mud from the face. We then recognised him beyond doubt. We had the body removed to a place of safety, cleaned and attended to. It was guarded through the night by a number of his parishioners, and taken in here at seven o'clock on Sunday morning.
Asked as to the expression on Fr Griffin's face when it was taken from the scant covering of bog, Fr O'Meehan continued:
One of his eyes were open. There was an agonised expression on the face, and an expression on the mouth as if he was framing a protest against their requests.
Fr O'Meehan added that no evidence could be discovered near the scene to show that any shots had been fired there, and the presumption is that the dead body was taken there in a car. It had been alleged that some young men who were "on the run" in the district heard a motor come along the road from Shantalla about 11 o'clock on Monday night. The lights were extinguished near the cross—roads, and after about twenty minutes the motor moved away turning down towards Barna village. There was no evidence that shots had been fired in the neighbourhood, nor were any traces of blood found near the spot where the body was discovered.
"I would like to add", continued Fr O'Meehan, speaking with emotion, "that he has been my colleague and comrade for nearly two years and I can say from my heart that I have never at home or in foreign lands met or associated with a nobler character, a truer soggarth or a kindlier friend. His death under such circumstances will have a greater effect upon the conscience of the civilised world than even the martyrdom of the late Lord Mayor of Cork. May God have mercy on the murderers of the most innocent and child—like man I have ever known."
It is a strange coincidence that whilst Fr O'Meehan has received no fewer than five threatening notices, no missive of the kind ever reached Fr Griffin, and none of his colleagues ever considered his life in the least danger. He moved about freely, and went on night calls without apprehension. Fr O'Meehan received the first threatening notice, which was similar to that delivered through the post to all members of Dail Eireann, on Ascension Thursday, May 11. Three weeks later he got a similar notice bearing the New York post—mark. On September 13, when Curfew was imposed on Galway, copies of the Order were posted on the door of the residence, Sea—road, in the form of a cross, and underneath was the inscription. "Doomed — R.I.P."
Like Fr O'Meehan, Fr Griffin's support of the Republican movement was on the civil and economic side. His principal desire was to promote the culture of Gaelic. Apropos of the Chief Secretary's reply to the question of Mr Joseph Levlin, M.P., in the Commons on Wednesday, it is pointed out that after Mr P. W. Joyce, the Barna teacher, had been kidnapped on October, 15, Fr Griffin said three Masses for his personal safety.Police Find Missing Hat
When I visited the field where the body was discovered I found a group of neighbours wistfully examining the spot. One of the group repeated the story of the motor lorry. The field belongs to Mrs Duffy, who has recently been ill.
Presently a body of Royal Irish Constabulary came on the scene followed by District Inspectors Williams and McGlynn in a private care. Shovels were procured form neighbouring farmers, and the sodden soil was dug up. It was found to be in a fur of a narrow grave, and at one end a black velour hat, such as that worn by priests was found. This was taken possession of by the police, who made enquiries in the neighbouring houses, and notified the priests during the day that a military inquiry would be held on Monday.
The dead priest was only twenty—seven years of age. His enthusiasm for the Gaelic language is revealed by the fact that he could not speak a word of Irish when he left Maynooth three years ago, and became a fluent speaker in the interval. He was extremely fond of children and distributed money freely to the little ones in Munster—lane. He always seemed happiest when he was amongst the poor.
On Sunday Most Rev Dr O'Doherty, Bishop of Clonfert, to whose diocese Father Griffin belongs, was summoned to Galway, and a message was also got through to Miss Anne Griffin, his sister, who resides at Sandymount—road, Dublin. His mother received the news of her son's death with extraordinary courage and composure.Heart Rending Scenes in the City Churches
The scenes witnessed in the Galway Churches on Sunday morning when the announcement was made of the finding of the dead body of Father Griffin are probably without parallel in the history of Ireland for over a century. A shudder of horror passed through the congregations. Women and even men sobbed allowed. Little girls and children wept as if their hearts would break. People were to be seen in tears on the street. The ordinary salutations were put aside.
After the Gospel, Very Rev Peter Davis, Adm, did not preach the sermon, that is customary at last Mass, but came forward on the alter steps, and in a firm voice began —
There is great sorrow in the parish to day, sorrow in which you and I will equally share. The body of Father Griffin with a bullet through his head was found last night.
At this point a shudder of horror passed through the congregation, followed by a moan of agony that swept through the church like a thornily of woe. Then audible sobbing was heard; and Fr Davis proceeded with a choke in his voice:
You knew Father Griffin as a zealous priest, a thorough gentleman — an overgrown boy, that is what he was. I cannot bring myself to speak to you, because I feel it too much. All I can do is to recommend him to your prayers. I am sure he has earned the martyr's crown, because in all probability he went to attend a sick call and consequently he died doing his duty. Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Master, did not grudge his life for the salvation of the world. Let us therefore, pray as He prayed. 'Father forgive them. They know not what they do.' And, brethren, I will ask you of your charity, with the shadow of the great tragedy hanging over the parish, to pray to God for the repose of his soul, and that you will not forget to pray for those who murdered him. May the Lord have mercy on his soul and forgive them.
Father Davis was unable to proceed.The Bishop's Statement
On Sunday night the following statement was issued from Mount St. Mary's by the Most Rev Dr. O'Dea :
The worst has happened. Father Griffin's body has been found shot through the brain. It is the worst in the eyes of the world — the end of all. But to us, his friends, the supreme consolation is left that, so far as human judgement can discern, his soul is safe with God. The body can be killed, as was even Christ's, the Almighty allowing this ; the should no power on earth can reach.
Catholics will be horrified everywhere at this tragedy. Yes, if there is need, I would counsel restraint. It is wise to be prudent, as well as just, in pressing even the most righteous of claims. The people of Galway are profoundly grieved. Their charity to their priests, never more conspicuous than in this instance, will obtain for him many a prayer in the coming days. May I suggest in particular that as many Masses and Communions as possible be offered on his behalf.
From my heart I sympathise with his widowed mother and family, and also with the bishop, priests, and people of Clonfert, my former diocese, for which I shall never cease to entertain the warmest affection.Thomas O'Dea "Bishop of Galway, etc"
Brigadier—General Chaplain, commanding the western division, called on his Lordship Most Rev Dr. O'Dea on Sunday, and expressed his horror and indignation on behalf of the military at the murder of Fr. Griffin. He hoped the priests and people would co—operate with the authorities in every way to bring the guilty persons to justice.
County Inspector Sydley, RIC, also called and expressed his horror and that of the men serving under him at the foul deed.
Requiem Mass took place at St. Joseph's Galway on Tuesday.Military Inquiry The full official inquiry report
At nine o'clock on Monday morning three military officers opened an inquiry into the death of Father Griffin at Eglington—st police station, Galway. They first went to St. Joseph's Church, where the remains were viewed, and, returning to the police barracks, proceeded to take evidence. Dr. W.A. Sandys, The Crescent, was first sworn. He stated that he saw the dead body of the Rev Father Griffin on the previous afternoon. On examining the body he found three scratches on the joints of three of the fingers of the left hand, and a bruise on the right hand on the front of the thumb. In the left templar region there was a circular wound and in the right templar region, higher up and more backwards than in the case, there was another wound on the skin. This wound was not circular, was a good deal larger than the other, and the bone underneath was fractured into small bits.
The President — What was the cause of death?
Dr. Sandys — The cause of death was a bullet which passed through the brain. It went in at the right and out through the left temple.
President — How long do you think he was dead?
Dr. Sandys — In order to give an opinion you would want to know in what kind of soil the body was found.
District Inspector McGlynn — It was boggy soil.
Dr. Sandys — In that case, my opinion is that death took place four or five days ago.
Dr. M. G. O'Malley swore that he examined the body of Father Griffin with Dr. Sandys on the previous afternoon. He agreed with the evidence that Dr. Sandys had given.
District Inspector McGlynn said he had sent for the other witnesses, and had no word from them yet.
Mr Wm. G. Mulvagh who lives next to the house of the late Father Griffin at Mountpelier Terrace, stated that on the night of Sunday, November 14, his attention was attracted by knocking at about 11.40pm. He was in bed at the time, and he thought the knocking was like the sound of fists on the door. Then it became more intensified as if it was done with sharper instruments, like the butt ends of revolvers.
The President — Some heavy instruments?
Witness — Yes.
Mr Sydley, C.I — You got our of bed and looked out of the window?
Witness — I could not look out of the window the whole way because the window was not opened. In addition it was very stormy, I only got a side view of the entrance to Father O'Meehan's.
And I believe you saw a light shining out from Father O'Meehan's door on to the street as if the door was open?
Did that light shew you anything?
Yes I observed two men with apparently their hats in their hands just as the door was opened. By the light I saw these two men. They were going to the steps to his door.
Did you hear one of the men say anything?
I took the words to be "Come on" to another man who was standing on the footpath or some words to that effect.
And did that man on the footpath then follow the other two? — He did; he immediately rushed up the steps.
Did you know any of the men? — No.
Could you describe them roughly?
The two men who went up the steps first to the door were something about five feet eight or nine in height, and of medium build. The two men who went to the door first wore light coats, and the other man who stayed on the footpath wore a belted coat — what is known as a trench coat. They all wore ordinary soft trilby hats.
Did you see these men go into Father Griffin's?
They went in and then I went back to bed.
I was under the impression that it was an ordinary raid.
I believe in about half—an—hour afterwards you heard a side—car passing to Salthill? — Yes, something about twenty minutes or half—an—hour.
The President — You could not say whether these men were armed?
No. I saw no arms.
Had they sticks?
No, all I saw was two hats in their hands as they went to the door. District—Inspector McGlynn said they had sent repeatedly for the servant, Barbara King, and could not get her. There was no one in the house, which was locked up.
The President — She is a very material witness, because she may have answered the door for all we know.
Mr Sydley said she actually gave a statement to the Constabulary.
The President having read the statement, said that apparently she did not see anybody.