Killaloe Bridge Murders - 17 Nov 1920

1920 Nov 17 . A 13 Arch Bridge connects Killaloe, Co. Clare and Ballina, Co. Tipperary.

Sean Gaynor's memoirs indicate that there was an Auxiliary post with 20 men in Ballina, North Tipp (that may not be true, the Lakeside Hotel was on Ballina side of the river). As well as connecting the two villages, the bridge also connects the two counties of Clare and Tipperary.  In the centre of the bridge is a plaque commemorating four men that were shot here in November 1920 by the RIC and not the ADRIC

Memorial on Killaloe Bridge, with Lakeside hotel in the background

After an attack on Scariff R.I.C. Barracks, the Auxiliaries searched the countryside for suspects. The IRA had a series of safe houses where they could rest and had developed a system of early warnings of possible raids by the authorities. One of the safe houses used was the caretaker’s quarters attached to Williamstown House on the shores of Lough Derg near Whitegate. The IRA Witness Statements indicate that the men there were not well versed in lookout and concealment

On November 16, the Board of Works streamer, The Shannon, sailed into Williamstown Harbour. No particular notice was taken of it, as the harbour was due for dredging. However, there was a force of Auxiliaries hidden below deck and they came ashore and surrounded Williamstown House. The raid on Williamstown House was on 16th Nov 1920 under JAM Farady of G Coy ADRIC.

They found three men in hiding in Williamstown House. They were Alfie Rogers and Brud McMahon from Scariff and Martin Gildea from Galway. Micheal Egan from Whitegate was caretaker at Williamstown House and he was also captured. Two others, John and Michael Conway were captured en route and all six were taken by boat to Killaloe. The boat landed at the jetty of the Lakeside Hotel. After questioning in the hotel the Conway brothers were released.

The remaining 4 prisoners were handed over to the RIC - DI3 VS Gynne and 6 RIC Constables. At around midnight, the 4 prisoners were to be marched over Killaloe Bridge to the RIC Station in Killaloe. All four were were shot on the bridge, supposedly for trying to escape and not halting when called upon to halt.. The shooting was not in fact by the ADRIC, but by the RIC men escorting the prisoners from Lakeside Hotel to the RIC Barracks at Killaloe There is a memorial to them on the bridge today

An RIC DI3, V S Gwynne, from Killaloe, was called to the Lakeside Hotel, to take possession of 4 prisoners. He had 6 RIC constables with him, and they took the 4 prisoners on foot across the bridge to Killaloe. He took the prisoners at 11.45 pm on a dark night. On the bridge, Gwynne says that the prisoners made a concerted effort to escape, that they were called on to halt, and when they did not halt, his men opened fire. Gwynne says about 10 shots in total were fired (of which he fired 2, Hall fired 3 or 4, and McRae fired 2) . All 4 prisoners died immediately

There was no medical report at the Military Inquest, but Constable McRae had been an RAMC Sergeant and his report seems to have been accepted by the military inquiry. He said that he found wounds as follows. Total is 6 shots on the prisoners out of 10 fired, and it was in DI Gwynee's words at the inquest, a "dark night". What it boils down to is "Could the police have killed 4 running men on the bridge on a dark night with only 10 shots ? ". I believe that it is reasonable to conclude that the 4 prisoners were deliberately executed on the bridge. They were believed to have been implicated in the killing of at least 2 RIC men - see DI Gwynne's evidence below

Of the 6 RIC constables on the patrol, only 3 are named in the Inquiry. They were not all Black and Tans. Brennan, a long serving RIC constable, got a commendation and promotion to Sergeant for his actions that night.


1923 Feb 17. A postscript in Nenagh Guardian’s “Killaloe Notes” I can find no evidence of such a prosecution. “During Colonel Andrew’s stay in Killaloe he was known for his barbarity and uncouthness. It will be remembered that is was this officer who captured the four Scarriff boys, who were afterwards done to death on the bridge in Killaloe. There are many in the district who believe that the law officer, in conjunction with DI Gwynne, the Black and Tan stationed in Killaloe, planned the destruction of the four boys. There is evidence of a case in the district where a raid was carried out at the instance of the Colonel and where nothing was found of an incriminating nature. A few days later the son of the house was arrested, and the Colonel in charging him before a military tribunal in Limerick produced soft nose bullets, and stated they were found in the raid on his home. The charge against the prisoner was, however, dismissed.”