Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Athenry and the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921 Part 1: On the way to the fair 1920 by Ronan Killeen

After the execution of the leaders of 1916 this changed public opionion for sympathy of the rebels. In the post-war general election of 1918, Sinn Féin won a large majority across the country, with the exception of north-east, where unionists, opposed to any diminution of the union with Britain, held sway.
    Dáil Eireann was established in Dublin 1919 and declared Irish Independence to the world but international recognition  for the Irish Republic fell on deaf ears, and the British government refused t countenance the concept of Irish democrarcy or the Irish right to self determinition. The Republic went underground and the Irish Volunteers became the IRA.

IRA Volunteers mainly of the ages 18yrs-30yrs. IRA Volunteers occupations were mainly shop assistants, farmer's sons, rural labourers, factory and transport workers.

 For Athenry the Irish War of Independence seems to begin on the 15th December 1919, when a farmer named Michael Keane from Carramore, Loughrea was fired at by an unknown party while cycling to  the Athenry Fair was wounded in the legs and immediately had to brought to Dublin hospital.
   Mr.Keane had purchased some grazing land of a Mr.Johnstone, Fehenagh, for which the people in the locality had been agitating for sometime.Mr. Keane was not the only person shot by an unknown party but there was the most famous assaination of them all and remains a cold case to this very day and that is the assaination of Mr.Frank ShaweTaylor at Moorepark, Athenry.

On the 03 March 1920, Shawe-Taylor and his chauffer Mr.James Barrett, had to go to the Galway Fair. The reason for this was that  Shawe-Taylor had been a large stock-holder which meant it was custom for him to go to any principal fair.
   The day started to clear and Shawe-Taylor was driving at a moderate pace. The district only had a few houses. When Shawe-Taylor reached Coshla, ahead on the right was Egan's publichouse about twenty yards off the road. Shawe-Taylor and Barret noticed a barriacade across the roadway ten yards from them. Shawe-Taylor exlaimed to his chauffer Barret 'What is this for?!'
   The obstruction was composed off a donkey cart, one of the wheels of which had been taken off and placed on one side of the road and a wooden gate standing at the other side of the road and a wooden gate standing at the other side of the cart. Both had been property of a farmer who had a cottage on right opposite, on the left hand side of the road. The cart had been taken out of the yard, and the gate and gateposts (which was only of frail structure) had been pulled out of their position across the laneway leading to the house.

At 6:00 a.m  Shawe-Taylor stopped his motor, leaving the engine running, and directed Barrett to remove the obstacle. Barrett got out of the car, and the disconnected wheel was the first he went to take away. He ws just proceeding to lift it when a volley of shots rang out of his hands.
   Barrett was unable to give any connected account of what happened as the shock and suddeness of the occurrence almost stunned him but it he believed that the first volley came from inside the stone wall on the left hand side. The wall on that sid was higher than that on the opposite side, and there was two scraggy bushes  just inside it opposite the small cottage. There are no bushes on the far side.
   Barret rushed back to his employer who was now covered in blood and asked him if he was wounded. Shawe-Taylor's last words were "Oh, ye-". Shawe-Taylor leaned over on his side and Barrett went around to the front of  to lift him up. As Barrett was passing by the engine he recieved five pellets in the left jaw from a shot that must, apparently, have been fired from the back of the car. He realised then his life was in danger and he stooped under the front of the mudgaurd.
   Another volley then rung out, and all was silent except for the noise of the hurrying footsteps. The corpse of Shawe-Taylor was put in the front seat of the car. Next, Barrett crept out from under the mudgaurd and staggered to the sidewall where he fell on the grass on the side of the road.
   An unknown person came behind Barrett and assisted him to his feet. The unknown person warned him not to look back, and Barrett, seemingly, had to comply with the order. The man asked him if he was much hurt, and he replied that he thought he was. Again he warned him not to look back, but to walk straight on. Barrett did so and made his way to the house of the herd, Broderick, where he was admitted, and told the inmates of his dreadful experience.
A messenger from the house was immediately despatched to acquaint the dead landlord's widow of the frightful news. Mrs. Shawe-Taylor was in bed and did not know at first the cause of her being woken so early when the servant called her. The dread news came as an immense shock, but she bore it very bravely, and immediatierly set about giving direction to have her husbabn's body taken home.
   It was alleged that some employees whom she asked to go to take back her dead husband refused, their answer was 'where was the use than being dead'. Mrs. Shawe-Taylor did not wish to discuss but ordered that her ponay and trap be got ready, and she herself drove up to the scene, where she found her husband lying dead in the car and not a soul in sight.
   The shots that had killed Mr.ShaweTaylor must have been fired at a range of scarcely a yard, for part of his face was burned black, and a gun and was found embedded in his head. About eight men took part in the attack apparently because fifteen gun cartridges were found at the place, which a total of two volleys fired. The attackers wore mask's. The deceased evidently recieved the brunt of the charge.
Shawe-Taylor's head, face and left shoulder were riddled with pellets, while only one pellet struck the widescreen of the motor. There had been many dents on the left side of the car aswell. A shot from the back of the car must have been fired with the muzzle of a gun placed under the motor. There is only one large hole through the canvas, at the back and the shot, and the shot tore through the top of the cushioned partition between the two compartments of the car, and lodged in Mr. Shawe-Taylor's head.
   The front seat of the car contained a pool of blood, and one of the dead man's teeth had been blown out. The residents of the little cottage at the scene of the shooting say they heard the shots, but the people in Egan's pub state they did not hear anything. Frank Shawe-Taylor's would have been known all over the county of Galway and of course Ireland. He was the brother of the late Captain John Shawe-Taylor influential in getting the Land Act Conference of 1903. Captain Shawe Taylor had been through the South African War, was a young Irish landlord aswell, but held views that were very much in advance to the majority of his class at the time.

This meeting of the 1903 Land Act Conference took place in Kinvara, and later Captain Shawe-Taylor got into close touch with then prime-minister of England Geroge Wyndham. Captain Shawe-Taylor had contested Galway city against Mr.Stephen Gwynn as Independent, leaning to the Devoultion scheme in politics and was only beaten by a narrow majority. His deafeat was pointed  to the fact that he had refused to make a definite declaration Home Rule.
   Subsequently, in 1907, he organised almost unassisted (except by voluntary local workers) the great Exhibition and Industrial Conference at Galway, to which delegates flocked from all parts of the world, and which was one of the most important era for Industrial conferences ever held in Ireland. He died a few years later.
The late Mr. Frank Shawe-Taylor was never under the public eye like his distinguished brother, but it is known that he was immensely proud of the captain's work, althought he might not have agreed with his policy. He was, too, a Unionist in politics, while Captain Shawe-Taylor, as has been stated, was in favour of Devoultion scheme for the settlement of the Irish self-government question during this period.
  Mr. Frank Shawe-Taylor had 1,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Athenry. It was assured that he recieved several threating letters following his refusal to surrender portion of this land for distribution.
amongst the surrounding tenants.

According to the Connaught Tribune on the 6 March 1920 Frank Shawe-Taylor was painted in a positive light:

In private life he was an extremly condescending and affable gentleman. He was a freee and agreeable talker and companion, and was held in great respect and regard throughout the county. But as far as the distribution of his lands was concerned, it is stated that he was of an obstinate and unyielding character, and on one occasion it is alleged that he made the statement that if he had to surrender his land, he would give it to ex-soldieres.
  On the other hand, it is said that he intended shortly to give 200 acres of it for distribution among adjoining tenants. But he refused the demand to do so which was recently made by a deputation which waited upon him. He was a man of unflinching spirits and refused to be turned aside by the threats he recieved through the post. His murder, it is stated, was forecasted in some of these letters, but still he was not afraid to travel abroad and even a night witout company.[sic]

He always carried his double-chambered revolver but on the day of his assaination, it was peculair that he didn't take it with him. If he had done so, he would have had no time to do so. Shawe-Taylor had been shot at some years ago, when driving home in a trap with his wife but he luckily escaped death.

The Connaught Tribune wrote that; With all those warnings and threats, it is a curious fact, which goes to show his indomitable courage-when he saw the barricade on the road when he drove to his death that he did not turn back and foil the trap laid for him. Wheather any thought crossed his mind fo what was in store for him is not known; his chauffer never for an instant throught they would be attacked at the spot, even when he got out to remove the obstruction.
   One sister of the Shawe-Taylor's-Mrs.Trench, of Limerick, was the last in the family that was still alive after her brothers assaination. Mr. Frank Shawe-Taylor had was married to a sister of Mr. Harry Usher, Loughrea, the well known racehorse owner and trainer. They had three children-two sons and a daughter. The daughter was killed in a riding accident in 1911. The elder boy is thirteen years, and is at school in England.The widow has recieved many messages of condolence.

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