The Torture and Killing of the Loughnane Brothers

Setting the scene – War of Independence in Galway

In the December 1918 election, the four Galway constituencies returned the four Sinn Féin candidates.  One constituency, Galway East, returned the Sinn Féin candidate unopposed and in the other three constituencies the Sinn Féin candidates were returned with very substantial majorities (Walker (1992), pg 7).

The Galway IRA were relatively late ‘into the field’.  They carried out attacks on four RIC barracks in the first months of 1920 (Castlehacket RIC barracks on January 12th – see Jan-12-20/1; Castlegrove RIC barracks on March 26th - Mar-26-20/3; Loughgeorge RIC barracks on May 25th – see May-25-20/1 and Brookeen RIC barracks on July 4th – see Jul-04-20/3).  However, these attacks did not lead to any casualties or the capture of any of the barracks (and, crucially from the point of view of the IRA, they did not lead to the capture of any arms or ammunition).   According to McNamara, “The failure of these early attacks precipitated a fundamental change in republican tactics” and the Galway IRA started to focus its attacks on RIC patrols where they were “more vulnerable than in their heavily fortified barracks” (McNamara (2018), pg 122). 

The first of these ambushes resulted in the first Crown Forces casualties in County Galway.  Two RIC constables (James Burke and Patrick Carey) were killed in an ambush at Gallagh Hill near Tuam on July 19th 1920 – see Jul-19-20/2. This ambush resulted in a furious reprisal from the RIC and British Army on the town of Tuam with many homes and businesses destroyed, including the Town Hall. The next ambush took place at Red Bridge near Oranmore on August 21st in which one RIC man (Constable Martin Foley) was killed - see Aug-21-20/3.  Again, there were reprisals in the village of Oranmore. 

The third ambush, which is highly relevant to the fate of the Loughnane brothers, took place at Castledaly located between villages of Kilchreest and Peterswell in south County Galway on October 30th, 1920.  One RIC man was killed (Constable Timothy Horan) and the IRA captured a number of rifles – see Oct-30-20/2.  As had become the norm, there were reprisals in the wake of the Castledaly ambush with a number of houses in the vicinity burnt down by the RIC.  Castledaly was the first major engagement conducted by the South Galway IRA – the barrack attacks and ambushes mentioned above were the work of the North Mid and East Galway IRA.  Due to the relevance of the Castledaly ambush to the Loughnane brothers, it will be returned to below. (All four RIC constables killed in the three ambushes mentioned were Irish born members of the RIC with an average of 12 years of service in the RIC (See Abbott (2000), pgs 103-104, 112 & 139)). 

Even before the Castledaly ambush, the pendulum was beginning to swing away from the IRA.  As McNamara has stated “The first six months of 1920 gave rise to a false confidence within the Galway Volunteers that the arrival of the Black and Tans fundamentally shattered” (McNamara (2018), pg 158).  From the summer of 1920 onwards, RIC barracks in County Galway began to receive the newly recruited ‘Black and Tans’ (i.e. British-born recruits to the RIC).  More importantly for the Loughnane brothers, County Galway received its first company of Auxiliaries, ‘D’ Company, in September 1920.  The main group of Auxiliaries was based in Lenaboy Castle, in Taylor’s Hill in Galway City.  Some were stationed in the Retreat in Salthill while others were stationed in Drumharsna Castle near Ardrahan in south Co. Galway.  The first commander of ‘D’ Company was Major Arthur Patrick Nicol.  In an article in the Connaught Tribune on October 2nd, Nicol writes “we are the auxiliary force, and act independently. All our men are ex-officers and I hope gentlemen. I wish it to be distinctly understood that we are not here to shoot people, but to restore order. We are obliged to take certain steps to do this. The police were practically confined to their barracks … until we came. Peaceable, law abiding citizens have nothing to fear from us.” (Lesson (2012), pgs 46-47). Nicol was later dismissed for drunkenness on November 22nd (see Nov-22-20/8) and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel F. H. W. Guard.  The section of Auxiliary ‘D’ Company in Drumharsna Castle was commanded by Section Leader C. W. Owen  (See

Assisted by members of the ‘old RIC’ (i.e. members of the RIC who had joined pre-1920 – the vast majority of whom were Irish born), these new forces soon start extensive raiding of homes and making many arrests.  The people of Galway City were to experience their methods first hand after an altercation in the city’s railway station on September 8th 1920 – see Sep-08-20/2.  There are a number of accounts of what happened in city’s railway station on this day (see Henry (2012), pgs 88-92) but what is clear is that it resulted in the deaths of IRA Volunteer Sean Mulvoy and RIC man Edward Krumm.  Following this incident, the RIC go on a rampage throughout the city assaulting civilians, looting and smashing homes and shops.  An IRA Volunteer (Seamus Quirke) is dragged from his lodgings and shot dead.  Two other IRA Volunteers (Sean Broderick and Joe Cummins) are also dragged from their beds and shot. They survive by feigning death.  The Crown Forces impose a curfew and the arson of homes and businesses continues for the next two weeks (McNamara (2018), pp. 144-145; Henry (2012), pgs 88-109; Leeson (2012), pgs 45-46 & 163 & 195). 

In addition to these two IRA men killed in Galway City, over the next eleven weeks (until the arrest of the Loughnane brothers on November 26th), Crown Forces were to kill seven more people in Galway – all in non-combat situations.  These deaths include one IRA man (Michael Moran – see Nov-24-20/6); one was a RC priest (Fr. Michael Griffin – see Nov-14-20/1); four were male civilians (Joseph Athy –see Sep-16-20/1; John O’Hanlon – see Oct-02-20/1; Michael Walsh – see Oct-19-20/5 and Thomas Egan – see Oct-24-20/2) and one was a female civilian (Ellen Quinn – see Nov-01-20/5).  The Auxiliaries have been implicated in all but one of these seven killings.  While only one IRA had been killed by Crown Forces, three of the male civilians (Athy, O’Hanlon and Walsh) prominent republicans.  This would indicate that the Crown Forces (at this stage did not know – or could not capture – active IRA men.  Their intelligence in this area was lacking.

As noted above, in the period up until November 26th, the IRA in Galway had killed five members of the RIC.  They also executed one civilian as a suspected informer (Patrick Joyce - see Oct-15-20/3). 

Along with these killings outlined above, the RIC, and in particular the Auxiliaries, were carrying out many raids, beatings and floggings.  For example, on October 9th, three brothers from Maree, near Oranmore - Thomas, Stephen and Patrick Deveney – are taken from their beds and dragged out into the road.  All three are beaten and shot but survive.  Another man living nearby – Albert Cloonan – is also dragged from his bed and shot.  On October 16th, Auxiliaries enter the Feeney home in Corofin, Co. Galway.  The four sons in the house were taken outside, two are stripped and flogged.  Another is hit on the head with a gun butt and beaten – all three are then kicked while on the ground.  Later this night, a Corofin publican, John Raftery, is also attacked.  On October 21st, Crown Forces arrive at the house of Roger Furey in Gurran, Oranmore, Co. Galway.  They take his two sons outside for questioning – during which one of the sons, Michael, is shot in the leg.  Next they raid the house of Roger Furey’s brother, Thomas Furey, where his three sons are questioned and beaten.  Next they raid the home of Martin King where they smash all the windows and beat up his two sons.

This is background on what was happening in Galway in the lead up to the arrest of the two Loughnane brothers on November 26th.   It is also worth noting that, on the national stage, the conflict was accelerating at this time.  November 21st was ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Dublin and the following Sunday (November 28th) the Kilmichael ambush took place in Cork.

 In the next section, details will be given on what happened to the two brothers.


The Loughnane Brothers

On Friday November 26th 1920, the Auxiliaries were raiding homes in south Galway looking for wanted men.  They called to the home of Patrick and Harry Loughnane from Shanaglish near Gort and arrested them.  Patrick was a member of the local IRA and Harry was the secretary of the local Sinn Féin club. The Auxiliary company responsible for the arrest of the Loughnane brothers were members of ‘D’ Company of the Auxiliaries stationed at Drumharsna Castle near Ardrahan. The leader of the raiding party was Temporary Cadet C W Owen who, as noted above, was Section Leader in charge of the Auxiliaries stationed at Drumharsna Castle.

Nine days later (on December 5th), the bodies of two men were discovered in a shallow pool at Owenbristy, about two miles from Ardrahan.  The two bodies were badly disfigured and partially burnt.

In the next sub-section, the official British side of what happened will be given in the form of a report on the Military Court of Inquiry into the deaths of the Loughnane brothers.  In the following sub-section, using a variety of sources, an attempt will be made to give a fuller account of the arrest, detention and killing of the Loughnane brothers.  One of the key sources that will be used are statements made to the Bureau of Military History (BMH).  The BMH was formed in 1947 and over the next ten years, (among other activities) it collected 1773 witness statements from individuals who had been active in the period 1913 - 1921. These statements were kept unavailable for a considerable period but were released to the public in March 2003.   All the BMH statements are available at the In the third sub-section, the significance of the killing of the two brothers will be reviewed. 

Military Court of Inquiry

Since early October 1920, under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, Military Courts of Inquiry had replaced the civilian Coroners Courts.   A Military Court of Inquiry was held on December 8th in Gort RIC barracks with the purpose “of enquiring into the identity and cause of death of two bodies found near ARDRAHAN said to be the bodies of Patrick and Harry Loughnane”.  (A transcript of the Court of Inquiry is available at this website:

The Court of Inquiry heard from two doctors who had examined the bodies. The first doctor (Dr Thomas Connolly) said that he examined the bodies in Kinvara on December 5th and reported that both bodies were charred.  He said both skulls were extensively fractured with laceration of the brain and said that one was completely unrecognisable while the other might be identifiable.   He also said that a sister of the two brothers (Nora Loughnane) was present when he was examining the bodies and that she identified one of the bodies as her brother Harry.  The second doctor (Dr J Sandys) said that he had examined the bodies in Shanaglish Church on December 7th and also reported that both bodies were charred. He said that the skull of the first body (said to be Patrick Loughnane) was extensively fractured and part of the skull was missing.  The skull of the second body (said to be Harry Loughnane) was also extensively fractured but not as bad as the other – a portion of the face was left.  He also said that “The bodies were so charred that all marks of identification were obliterated”.  Both doctors were of the opinion that the deceased were dead at least a week.

Nora Loughnane (who was the sister of Patrick and Harry) also gave evidence.  She said that after her brothers were arrested, she had inquired about them in a number of locations such as Eglington RIC barracks and the city gaol.  On December 4th, she said that she had gone to Lenaboy Castle and interviewed the Commander of the Auxiliary Division.  He told her that her brothers had escaped on the night of November 26th and were “supposed to be running South”.  She said that she went to a barn in Kinvara to view the two bodies on December 5th.  She said both faces were black and burnt but she recognised Harry as he still had his face from his mouth up (but that the back of his skull was missing).  The skull of the other body was missing and she was only able to identify him as her brother Patrick from the breadth of his shoulders and his stature. 

Next to give evidence was Temporary Cadet C. W. Owen.  He said that he was in charge of the Auxiliary party who arrested the two brothers on November 26th.  They were taken to Drumharsna Castle (stopping at Gort RIC barracks for “a few minutes” on the way) and they were placed in detention under an armed guard. At 11.00pm that evening, Owen said that the sentry on duty informed him that the two prisoners had escaped.  He said that he launched a search for the two escapees but could not find them.  He went on to say that he informed his Commanding Officer in Galway (Lieutenant Colonel F. H. W. Guard) the next day who ordered him to continue the search.

The Inquiry then heard from Temporary Cadet V. Laurensen (or Lawrensen).  He said that he was the sentry guarding over the two Loughnane prisoners on the night of November 26th. About 11.00pm, one of them asked to go out for the purpose of nature.  He said that he was distracted by a noise in a nearby barn and went to investigate.  On his return, both prisoners had escaped.  “I immediately reported the matter to Section Leader Owen who organised a search party”

Lieutenant Colonel F. H. W. Guard told the inquiry that he was informed by Temporary Cadet Owen on November 28th that the two brothers had escaped and he ordered the detachment to return to the district to try to recapture them.

Finally, there was also a short deposition from Michael Loughnane (a young cousin of the Loughnane brothers) stating that he found the bodies of two men in a pond about two miles north of Ardrahan on Sunday December 4th and he went and reported it to Nora Loughnane.  (In his deposition, Michael Loughnane stated Sunday December 4th but the December 4th was a Saturday.  The date the two bodies were found was December 5th.)

The Court concluded that the two bodies were those of Patrick and Harry Loughnane and that the cause of death was extensive fracturing of the skull with lacerations to the brain caused by means and persons unknown.

Arrest, Torture & Murder

In Henry O’Mara’s BMH statement, he gives a detailed account of what happened to the Loughnane brothers.  O’Mara had been active in the East Clare Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence but, by the time he gave his statement to the BMH in 1954, he was a Chief Superintendent in the Garda Síochána. O’Mara full BMH statement refers only to what happened to the Loughnane brothers – this is unusual as in most BMH witness statements the witnesses recounts their own involvement in the struggle for independence.   (Henry O’Mara’s BMH statement is available here: .) 

O’Mara pieces together what happened to the Loughnane brothers from interviews he conducted with a number of people.  His first interviewee was Robert Glynn who talks about the arrest of the two brothers. Glynn tells him that he was working with the Loughnane brothers on their farm in Shanaglish (along with his own brother and about fourteen neighbours) when a lorry load of Auxiliaries arrived at around 3.00pm in the afternoon of November 26th.  Glynn says that, when he saw them coming, he made a run for it and tried to escape. The Auxiliaries opened fire on him but he got away uninjured.  He says he went back later that night to the Loughnanes’ farm and met his brother (Pete Glynn) who told him that, after he made his run for it, the Auxiliaries had lined them all up against a wall and that a policeman who had been stationed in Tubber identified the two Loughnane brothers and they were put in the lorry and taken away. (Tubber is about three kilometers from Shanaglish.) Robert Glynn also said that his brother told him that, as the Loughnane brothers were being taken away, one of the Auxiliaries said to Patrick Loughnane “Bring with you the rifle you had at Castledaly”.  This was a reference to the ambush which took place at Castledaly on October 30th – see Oct-30-20/2.  From what Patrick Glynn said, it would seem that the Auxiliaries were looking for the Loughnane brothers and that they, at least, suspected them of having taken part in the Castledaly ambush.

For the next part of his statement, O’Mara interviewed Michael Carroll.  Carroll said that he was arrested and taken away on November 26th by the Auxiliaries from his home in Tubber between 4.00pm and 5.00pm.  He says that the Loughnane brothers were already under arrest in the truck.  Carroll says that both he and the brothers were repeatedly beaten and badly treated as they were brought to the RIC barracks in Gort. Carroll says that both he and the Loughnane brothers were interrogated and badly beaten in Gort RIC barracks. According to O’Mara “Fourteen stalwarts [RIC men] stripped to singlets, trousers and rubber shoes beat the Loughnanes for over an hour. A young R.I.C. constable named Doherty, who knew them, interceded for them but without effect. He told Pat and Harry that they would be murdered. Pat thanked him and turning to Harry, said, "We'll say our rosary. Let them."” (Pg 7 in O’Mara’s BMH statement).  After their beating, the Loughnane brothers were handed back to Auxiliaries who took them to Drumharsna Castle.  (Carroll says he did not see the Loughnanes again.  He himself was taken to Galway the next Monday and ended up being interned in Ballykinlar camp for thirteen months.) 

The next person to give information to O’Mara was Pat Linnane who said that, he was going home with this mother on the evening of November 26th, when he saw two men being made run by the Auxiliaries in front of their lorry until they were exhausted.  The Auxiliaries then tied the two prisoners to the back of their lorry with rope and dragged them along the road.  Linnane said that the two men were covered in blood but still alive. 

O’Mara says that on the night of November 26th, the two brothers were brought from Drumharsna Castle to the (nearby) Moy O’Hynes Wood and that four shots were fired there.  He said that the following morning that the two bodies were still in Moy O’Hynes Wood but, the following night, the Auxiliaries came back and took the bodies to Owenbristy (about two kilometres away) where they tried to burn and bury the bodies.  They could not bury them due to the shallowness of the soil so they threw them in a nearby muddy pond.  Unfortunately, O’Mara does not say who was his source of this information.

Drumharsna Castle (Photo taken in 2109.  According to Grant, a large house stood next to the castle until it was demolished in the 1920s.)


O’Mara goes on to say that on the night of November 29th, a party of Auxiliaries called to the home of the Loughnane brothers and told their mother that her two sons had escaped.  This news was received with a lot of foreboding.  The brothers’ sister, Nora Loughnane (mentioned above as having given evidence before the Court of Inquiry) came home and started looking for her brothers.  She went to the British military, the RIC and even went to talk to the commanding officer of ‘D’ company of the Auxiliaries, Lieutenant Colonel Guard, at Lenaboy Castle in Galway City but all to avail.

The next part of O’Mara’s statement is somewhat strange but it has entered the local folklore on the killing of the Loughnane brothers.  His informant for this element of his statement was Michael Hynes.  He and his brother, Willie Hynes, were IRA Volunteers, originally from Kinvara but, at this point, they were on the run and living in a tent at Boherbue.  Michael Hynes says that Michael ‘Tally’ Loughnane (the young cousin of the Loughnanes who was to make the brief deposition to the BA’s Military Court of Inquiry – see above) came to them after mass on Sunday and told them that he had a dream that he saw the bodies of his two cousins in a pond at Owenbristy.  Michael Hynes said “I thought Tally was daft but I told him to go have a look in the pond and then come back to us”.  Michael Loughnane came back to the Hynes brothers “in quick time” to tell them that there were somethings that looked like burnt bodies in the pond.  The two Hynes brothers returned to Owenbristy with Michael Loughnane and confirmed that there were two bodies in the pond. (Strangely, in his own BMH statement, Michael Hynes does not mention anything about Michael Loughnane.  He simply states that the brothers’ “naked bodies were found in a pond near Drinthasna Castle”  - see Page 8 in Michael Hynes’s BMH statement available at However, in is probably worth noting that Hynes’s account of the killing of the Loughnane is quite brief.)

A horse van was brought to the pond and the two bodies were brought to a barn owned by the Hynes family near Kinvara.  (They could not bring the bodies to their home as their home had been burnt down by the RIC, including Auxiliaries, the previous Monday – see page 7 of Michael Hynes’s BMH statement.  A few nights after the funeral, the barn to which the brothers’ bodies had been brought, was also burnt by the RIC – see page 9 of Michael Hynes’s BMH statement.)

The next part of O’Mara statement, as related to him by Michael Hynes, is: "Dr. Connolly examined the remains carefully. They were badly burnt and what appears to be the letters 'I.V.' were cut in the charred flesh in several places. Two of Harry's fingers were missing and his right arm, broken completely across at the shoulder, was hanging off. Both Pat's wrists and legs were broken. The doctor said that it looked to him that hand grenades had been put into their mouths and exploded. I couldn't recognise either of them.”  Hynes also said that Nora Loughnane was present and identified the bodies. 

The bodies were put in coffins and the widely publicised photographs of the corpses of the two Loughnane brothers in their coffins were taken at Hynes’ barn. (The photographs accompany Eamon Healy’s article on the killing of the Loughnane Brothers on the Beagh Roots Galway website.  The article is available here:  The photographs were taken by Tomás Ó h-Eidhin.)  The two coffins were brought to Kinvara Church and the next day they were brought to the church in Shanaglish.  At their funeral mass on December 7th, Father John Nagle, parish priest for Shanaglish, “told how these two young men who, ten days before, had been, in mind and body, models of what he would wish all young men to be, had been beaten, tortured, murdered and how, when dead, their bodies had been burned and then thrown into a stagnant pool”.  After mass but before burial, four RIC men, two military officers and a doctor arrived.  The doctor carried out an examination of the bodies.  (This was obviously Dr. Sandys who was to give evidence to the Military Court of Inquiry the next day. At the Military Court of Inquiry, Dr Sandys said that he went to Shanaglish in the company of only one officer, Lieutenant McCreery of the 17th Lancers.  Lieutenant McCreery was to later to be killed by the IRA at the Ballyturin ambush – see May-15-21/6.)  At 3.00pm, the two brothers were buried side-by-side.   O’Mara says that after the burial, a volley of shots was fired over the graves of the two brothers by six local IRA Volunteers.

O’Mara next recounts what happened at the Military Court of Inquiry which was carried out in Gort the following day – see above.  He finishes his statement with the following: “It was those sufferings that made our country's history. The details of the events of this century should, therefore, be recorded while eye and ear witnesses still live. It’s for the purpose "of the record" then that this article has been written. God forbid that our intention in writing such should be to foster hatred or stir up strife. For, whilst asserting boldly that the past is for remembrance and pride, and whilst we know only too well that no small nation has suffered more at the hands of a brutal tyrant than has Ireland, we gladly grant that we always had good friends even amongst non-Catholic English statesmen; such as Drummond, Wyndham, Kenworthy”.  

Other BMH statements add some more detail to O’Mara statement. For example, Daniel Ryan in his BMH statement says that he was one of the party who fired the volley of shots over the graves of the Loughnane brothers along with Joseph Stanford, Patrick Glynn and John Coen (Page 11 of Daniel Ryan’s BMH statement available at: ) He names only four in the firing party rather than the six mentioned by O’Mara.  Patrick Glynn gives the same four names as the members of the firing party (Page 12 of Patrick Glynn’s BMH statement  available at: )

Interestingly, both Ryan and Glynn give a list of the participants in the Castledaly ambush.  Both include Patrick Loughnane as a participant but neither mention Harry Loughnane as being there.  Michael Reilly in his BMH also mentioned that Patrick Loughnane took part in the Castledaly ambush but, again, Harry Loughnane was not mentioned (Page 10 of Michael Reilly’s  BMH statement available at: ).  While some sources have claimed that both brothers took part in the Castledaly ambush (for example, see McNamara (2018), p. 152 and O’Halpin and Ó Corráin (2020), pg 238) on the basis of the BMH statements, it can be stated with a high degree of certainty that Patrick took part in the Castledaly ambush but Harry did not. In fact, it is not certain that Harry was even a member of the IRA.  In the family memoir kept by Nora Loughnane, it is stated that “Pat[rick Loughnane] was President of the local Sinn Féin club, in the IRA also”.  However, with regards to Harry, she says that he was “Gentle and retiring he was to have been a teacher but his health broke down and he farmed” (O’Malley and Ó Comhraí (2013), pg 286).  In other words, Nora does not mention Harry being in the IRA but she does say that Pat was a member.

(It should also be noted that, in the report of the activities of the South West Galway Brigade of the IRA prepared for the Military Services Pension Board in the 1930s, the names of forty-eight IRA men who were present at the Castledaly ambush are given.  However, the names of neither Patrick or Harry Loughnane are on this list – see Page 10a of the report of South West Galway Brigade available at .) 

Joseph Stanford in his BMH statement says that it was an IRA search party that found the bodies of the Loughnane brothers rather than young Michael ‘Taffy’ Loughnane  (Page 31 of Joseph Stanford’s BMH statement available at: .)  

Another BMH statement devoted exclusively to the Loughnane brothers was written by Pádraig Ó Fathaigh from Ardrahan. (Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s BMH statement is available at: ) Like O’Mara, Ó Fathaigh was active in the IRA during this period but, also like O’Mara, in his BMH statement  he wrote exclusively about the Loughnane brothers.  (That two active members of the IRA dedicated their BMH statements to the details of what happened to the Loughnane brothers gives some indication of the effect that their killing had on their comrades.)  Unfortunately, unlike O’Mara, Ó Fathaigh does not say where he got his information or who he interviewed.  However, fortunately, Ó Fathaigh’s statement only differs in small, and not significant, ways from that of O’Mara’s.  He does, however, give some more detail on the injuries suffered by the brothers.  Describing Harry’s body, he says “His once graceful figure was a mass of unsightly scars and gashes; two of his fingers were lopped off; his right arm was broken at the shoulder, being almost completely severed from the body; whilst of the face nothing remained save the chin and lips, and the skull was entirely blown away. The remains were badly charred”.  Turning to Patrick, he says that his “body was not charred to the same extent as his brother's. His back and shoulders remained intact. The limbs of both were charred to such an extent that the bones were exposed, the flesh and sinews being completely burned away. Mock decorations in form of diamonds were cut along Pat's ribs and chest, both his wrists were broken and also his right arm above the elbow. Patrick's face was completely lashed away, so as to be unrecognisable, and his skull was very much fractured” (Page 4 of Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s BMH statement).  Ó Fathaigh does say that in the raid on the Loughnane farm, the Auxiliaries were led by a Scotchman called John Francis Ulic Burke.  However, David Grant believes that Burke was in Galway jail at the time of the Loughnane murders  -  see  

Along with his BMH statement, Ó Fathaigh also wrote a memoir (Ó Fathaigh (2000)).  In his memoir, he gives only a short account of the killing of the Loughnane brothers - again with only minor differences from O’Mara’s and his own BMH statements.  However, in his memoir, he does mention an incident preceding the arrest of the brothers which will be returned to below.

Finally, Ernie O’Malley has an account of the killing of the Loughnane brothers based on information held in a family notebook, kept by Nora Loughnane, which he transcribed in a visit to the home of the Loughnane brothers around 1950 – see O’Malley and Ó Comhraí (2013), pgs 285-293.  The detail of the account is largely in line with O’Mara’s account but, as would be expected in a family account, it has a lot more pathos.


Significance of the Loughnane Killings

Why did the killings of the two Loughnane brothers gain such significance beyond Galway?  It is not the fact that two young republicans were arrested and killed.  Indeed, a lot of other young Irish republicans were arrested and killed around this time (see above for some examples in Galway and see chronology for many more). What is significant is the wide-spread publicity which the killing of the two brothers received.  The amount of publicity can undoubtedly be put down, in large part, to the gruesome photographs taken outside Hynes’ barn of the corpses of the two young men. 

These photos indicate that the brothers were possibly subjected to brutal torture during their captivity.  Care has to be exercised due to the much more restrained account of the injuries on the two bodies given by the two doctors at the Military Court of Inquiry compared to much lengthier and gruesome account of the injuries on the recovered bodies given in the O’Mara and Ó Fathaigh accounts.  Also, there was obviously attempts to burn the bodies and some of the injuries could have happened at that time.    However, there is evidence of the brothers being tortured and injured while still alive, especially the evidence of Michael Carroll and Pat Linnane (given in O’Mara’s BMH statement above).  Carroll’s evidence suggests that the brothers were badly beaten in the RIC barracks in Gort (in revenge for the killing of Constable Horan at Castledaly less than four weeks earlier?).   Linnane’s evidence indicates that the two brothers were dragged behind a lorry which could have caused quite a number of the injuries described by O’Mara and Ó Fathaigh (specifically, Harry’s “right arm was broken at the shoulder, being almost completely severed from the body” and with regard to Patrick “both his wrists were broken and also his right arm above the elbow”).  Examination of the photographs produces evidence consistent with the type of injuries described.  These injuries could have been inflicted after the brothers were already dead – especially when attempts were being made to burn the bodies.  However, what is not in doubt is that it was generally believed locally that the brothers were brutally beaten and tortured by the RIC, especially the Auxiliaries, before they were killed.

There is another reason for the killing of the Loughnane brothers receiving so much publicity.  In most of the other killings in which the Auxiliaries were implicated, they had either ‘plausible deniability’ or an excuse.  For example, Joseph Athy was killed by a volley of shots fired from behind bushes.  Witnesses saw gunmen in army fatigues fleeing the scene but the Crown Forces could plausibly claim that it was not them.  (Henry (2012), pgs 114-115; McNamara (2018), pgs 148-149).  In the case of Michael Moran, the Auxiliaries admitted killing him but told the Military Court of Inquiry that he was shot ‘trying to escape’ (Lesson (2012), pgs 52-53, McNamara (2018), pg 152).  In the case of Ellen Quinn, who was shot dead by Auxiliaries as she sat on the front wall of the garden of her home cradling her baby, the Military Court of Inquiry returned a verdict of death by misadventure i.e. an accident (McNamara (2018),pg 147, Henry (2012), pgs 126-127 – See also

In the equally notorious case of Fr Michael Griffin, he was called out on a bogus sick call so was not seen to be arrested by the Auxiliaries (See McNamara (2018), pg 146, Leeson (2012), pg 52 – See also  So, in this case, the Auxiliaries could claim that ‘it was nothing to do with us’.  However, not long after he resigned, the Auxiliaries’ commanding officer, Brigadier General Crozier, in a press interview, said he believed the Auxiliaries killed Fr Griffin (See Daily News, 24th May 1921, pg 1). 

The case of Michael Walsh was an exception.  He was arrested by the RIC in his pub and grocery (The Old Malt House on High St in Galway City).  A young assistant was present and saw him being taken away.  Walsh was taken to the Long Walk (near Spanish Arch), shot in the head and his body was thrown over the quay wall into Galway Bay.   As McNamara has noted “the public nature of [Walsh’s] execution was particularly shocking” (McNamara (2018), pg 149). 

Because there were numerous witnesses to the Auxiliaries arresting the Loughnane brothers, the Auxiliaries could not say that the brothers had not been in their custody.  Their evidence to the Military Court of Inquiry that the two brothers had escaped is highly suspect, especially, as not even the Auxiliaries put forward any plausible explanation of who could have killed them in so gruesome a manner after they had ‘escaped’.  What made the Auxiliaries’ story about the two brothers escaping particularly unbelievable was that both doctors, at the Military Court of Inquiry, said that the brothers were dead about a week when they carried out their examinations, that is, they would have died by November 30th at the latest which would have been within a few days of their ‘escape’.  So, according to the Auxiliaries, they not only escaped but, within a few days, had fallen into the hands of some mysterious ‘others’ who brutally put them to death.   (It is not known why the Auxiliaries did not employ their standard ‘shot trying to escape’ excuse in the case of the Loughnane brothers – perhaps because they were already badly mutilated by the time they got to Drumharsna Castle and their injuries would have to been explained at an inquest?)  In summary, the Auxiliaries evidence that the brothers had escaped and, by their own logic, were subsequently brutally murdered soon after by some mysterious ‘others’ is simply not plausible. 

Memorial to the Loughnane Brothers at Moy O Hynes Wood on the road between Kinvara to Ardrahan


Why were the Loughnane Brothers So Badly Treated?

After the killing of the two brothers, three explanations emerged which attempted to explain why the Loughnane brothers were so badly treated.  In this section, the reasons put forward for the targeting of the Loughnane brothers will be reviewed.  In his online essay (See , Eamon Healy puts forward these three possible reasons:

-       The Castledaly Ambush

-       Hostage Dempsey and

-       John and William Carr

The Castledaly Ambush

As noted above, it can be stated with a high degree of certainty that Patrick Loughnane took part in Castledaly ambush.  So the killings of the Loughnane brothers could have been ‘score settling’ by the Crown Forces.  Also, as noted, above, O’Mara reported, when he was being arrested, one of the Auxiliaries said to Patrick Loughnane “Bring with you the rifle you had at Castledaly”.

It is also clear from BMH statements of a number of participants in the Castledaly ambush went ‘on the run’ after the ambush, i.e. they no longer stayed at home.  Obviously, Patrick Loughnane had not gone ‘on the run’.  How would the Crown Forces have found out that Patrick Loughnane had taken part in the Castledaly ambush?  One possible source is given in Michael Reilly’s BMH statement.  He said the following: “One of the brothers - Patrick - was a Lieutenant in Beagh Company and had taken part in the attack on the R.I.C. at Castledaly. I remember that instead of waiting for darkness he went straight home to Beagh Company area in broad daylight. Many people thought he was seen going home from the ambush and that the R.I.C. got to hear of it. This is one explanation of why he and his brother were so brutally murdered. If it is correct that the R.I.C. learned that he took part in the attack on them at Castledaly it is very likely that he and his brother were tortured by the R.I.C. in an endeavour to get from them the names of the other officers and Volunteers who took part.” Pgs 10-11 of Michael Reilly’s BMH statement available at .) This quote from Reilly gives both how the RIC could have found out that Patrick Loughnane had taken part in the Castledaly ambush and also gives a reason for his torture. 

However, this explanation has two slight drawbacks.  First, if the Crown Forces had got information linking Patrick Loughnane to the Castledaly ambush (especially through, as Reilly implies, by Patrick being seen walking away from the ambush site ‘in broad daylight’), why did they also arrest Harry Loughnane?   Second, there is a problem from an Auxiliary perspective from torturing and killing prisoners while in their custody.  Naturally, there will be follow-up questions as to what happened to those arrested and they have to come up with a plausible story.  (They did not give themselves this problem with Athy and Moran.  As has been seen above, Athy was shot dead by unknown gunmen while Moran was shot ‘while trying to escape’.)  So, from an Auxiliary point of view (even allowing that they were fairly ‘new to the job’), arresting and detaining two suspects with many witnesses to the arrests, torturing them, killing them and then making a mess of disposing of the bodies demonstrates, at a minimum, rank amateurism. Alternatively, perhaps the culture within which they were working gave them a sense of total impunity. This issue will be returned to under Conclusions below.

Despite these two caveats, Reilly’s BMH statement does give a plausible explanation for the arrest, torture and killing of Patrick Loughnane.

Prisoner Dempsey

This explanation arises from part of Patrick Glynn’s BMH statement in which he says: “In November, 1920, Derrybrien Company officers Jolt Burke, Patrick Walsh and Michael Slattery handed over a prisoner to our Company. … The Derrybrien Company Officers when handing over the prisoner told me he was an R.I.C. man named Dempsey who was home on holidays in his native village of Aughrim, a few miles from Ballinasloe. … We handed him over to Lieutenant Daniel Ryan and Volunteer Michael Reilly.  They conveyed him to Ashfield House, Shanaglish, in Beagh Company area. Volunteers Patrick Loughnan and Lawrence Mannion (both deceased) took charge of the prisoner there. I do not know how long he was a prisoner under escort by Volunteers Loughnan and Mannion, but while under their charge orders came for his release. After his release he went into the town of Gort. It is significant that shortly after the prisoner's release, R.I.C. and Auxiliaries surrounded the home of Volunteer Loughnan and arrested him and his brother Henry (sic). It seems to me that it is possible and maybe probable that the released R.I.C. man, Dempsey, gave a description of Lieutenant Patrick Loughnan that led to the arrest and later to the brutal murder of the two brothers by the R.I.C.” (Pages 11-12 of Patrick Glynn’s BMH statement available at: .)  Like Reilly, Glynn gives a reason why Loughnane could have been pinpointed by the RIC.  Not mentioned by Glynn but there may, in his words, be a reason why Harry was arrested.  It is possible that the RIC thought that Patrick Loughnane’s companion (Lawrence Mannion) in the holding of Dempsey could have been Harry Loughnane.

However, while Glynn gives an explanation for the Loughnane brothers being arrested, he does not give a reason for their ill-treatment.  There is no mention in Glynn’s statement of Dempsey being ill-treated so revenge is not an obvious motive.  Also, Michael Carroll, who was arrested along with the Loughnane brothers (see above), makes no mention of Dempsey being in the RIC barracks in Gort. 

John and William Carr

This is the theory which has got most widespread coverage.  Thomas McInerny was a leader of the IRA in the Gort area at the time of the arrest of the Loughnane Brothers.  (He led the Castledaly ambush.)  In his BMH statement, he said the following “Patrick Loughnan belonged to Beagh Company. …  He was one of the men I selected in the Beagh Company area and swore into the I.R.B. Under my orders he raided the house of John Carr, Tierneevan, Gort, for an automatic pistol which I knew Carr had in his possession. Carr was an ex-R.I.C. man. Patrick Loughnan had a surprisingly weak voice for so big a man. He was masked when raiding for the gun but the Carr family took note of his voice. John Carr's son William joined the Black and Tans shortly after the raid and when Patrick Loughnan and his brother Henry were arrested by the Black and Tans, William Carr was with them. I am of opinion that William Carr was in the house when it was raided for the automatic and that when the brothers were arrested he recognised Patrick's voice. Patrick Loughnan and his brother Henry were brutally murdered by the Tans and the whole area was shocked by the news” (Thomas McInerney BMH statement, pgs. 8-9 available at: .).   Could this be the reason why the Loughnane brothers were subjected to such brutal treatment?  Was a son revenging what he took as an insult to his father and family? 

The answer is possibly but unlikely.  There are two reasons for giving this answer.  First, John Carr died on July 11th 1919.  (He had been involved in an altercation with a young neighbour outside Tierneevan church on June 29th in which he received a blow to the head from a hurley.  The wound became sceptic and he died from “pneumonia following erysipelas caused by a scalp wound” (This was the verdict of the inquest according to the death certificate - See and Connaught Tribune July 19th, 1919, page 2).  The altercation arose from an inter-family matter and was not related to politics (See Connaught Tribune July 26th, 1919, page 5).  Therefore, if an arms raid as described by McInerney took place then it would have to have taken place before July 1919.  However, in none of the BMH statements mentioned above are there any mentions of raids for arms in this early period.  Even in ‘active’ areas like Cork and Tipperary, raids for arms would have been fairly rare in the early months of 1919.  The raid could have taken place as an early “one-off” but this is unlikely.  Second, John Carr’s son (William Carr) did join the Auxiliaries but he did not join ‘shortly after the raid’.  He joined some fourteen months after his father died (See - This is the entry for William Carr from David Grant’s website on the Auxiliaries.  According to this website, 9.6% of the Auxiliaries were Irish born.  At the time of his father’s death, William Carr was a junior officer in the British Army.)


However, could William Carr still have been involved in the murder of the Loughnane brothers even if not for the reasons given by McInerney?  In his memoir, Pádraig Ó Fathaigh says the following: “In hand to hand struggle with the local IRA captain outside Tirneevin church, an ex-RIC sergeant was killed.  The ex-sergeant’s son an auxiliary captain came home & went round with a hurley in his hand with the intention of killing the IRA captain as his father had been killed.  Hearing about this, Pat Loughnane the Beaghe capt. asked his lieutenant Palkey Neilan to accompany him to meet the Auxiliary capt.  As the Black & Tan came along on his usual stroll Palkey Neilan jumped on him & held his hands whilst Pat Loughnane took his revolver.  They then marched him back to his house and ordered him to yield up all the arms and ammunition that he held.” (Ó Fathaigh (2000), pp. 63-64).

Leaving aside that Ó Fathaigh was not correct about the ex-RIC sergeant being killed in a “hand to hand struggle with the local IRA captain outside Tirneevin church”, could he be correct that Patrick Loughnane and his companion disarmed William Carr, possibly in the period before Carr joined the Auxiliaries in late August 1920? (As an ex-officer in the British Army, it is likely that Carr would have brought personal arms back home with him.)  This could well have given William Carr a motive for personal revenge on Patrick Loughnane.  Also, it is known that not only did William Carr join the Auxiliaries in August 1920 but also that he was a member of ‘D’ Company.  

Despite this possibility, a number of questions remain unanswered.  One, while it is known that William Carr was an Auxiliary in ‘D’ Company, there does not seem to be any evidence from the various witnesses to link him to the Auxiliary raiding party which arrested the Loughnane brothers or even that he was stationed at Drumharsna castle.  This is odd given that his family was living in the area and therefore, one would have thought, that he would have been recognised by local people.  (Tierneevan and Drumharsna are about eight or nine kilometres apart.)   Two, other than these two references in the McInerney BMH statement and in Ó Fathaigh’s memoirs, there does not seem to be any contemporaneous references to link William Carr and the killing of the Loughnane brothers.  (Both McInerney’s BMH statement and the Ó Fathaigh’s memoir would have been written many years after the event.)  Three, as William Carr would have known the area well, it is likely that he could have identified Patrick Loughnane as his assailant.  But why was he not able to use his local knowledge to identify Palkey Neilan and why was Harry Loughnane wrongly identified?  Finally, the Loughnanes fellow IRA men were, in the coming months, to prove their mettle in combat.  For example, all four IRA men who fired the three volleys of shots over the graves of the Loughnane brothers were centrally involved in the Ballyturin ambush outside Gort in May 1921.  In this ambush, two British Army officers, a District Inspector of the RIC and the wife of the District Inspector were killed by the IRA (See May-15-21/6).  It would seem likely that, if a local man was involved in the torture and death of the two brothers, this would have become known in the district and that further action would have been taken by his comrades.  Therefore, without further information, it is not possible to say if William Carr was involved in the killing of the Loughnane brothers.  However, on the evidence available to date, it would seem that it was a connection made at a later time. 

To summarise this section, while the Dempsey and Carr theories cannot be discounted, with current evidence, it would seem that the most likely explanation for the arrest of the Loughnane brothers was that given by Martin Reilly.  Patrick Loughnane could have been seen coming from the Castledaly ambush and this information was passed to the RIC.  (As noted above, in O’Mara’s BMH statement, it says “a policeman who had been stationed in Tubber identified the two Loughnane brothers” just before their arrest.)  



Martin Reilly’s statement gives a good explanation for the arrest of the brothers or, at least, the arrest of Patrick Loughnane. Reilly may also be correct that the Loughnane brothers were “tortured by the R.I.C. in an endeavour to get from them the names of the other officers and Volunteers who took part [in the Castledaly ambush]”.   The Auxiliaries (and local RIC) may not have had a lot of information on who took part in the Castledaly ambush. (As noted above, their intelligence on active IRA men would not seem to have been well developed.) Patrick Loughnane may have been seen as their best ‘lead’ and they could have been determined to get as much information from him as possible.  However, as noted, the Auxiliaries behaved in a very ‘amateurish’ fashion in that they did not give themselves much by way of a ‘plausible explanation’ for when the bodies of the brothers were found.  The explanation as to why they were so unconcerned at being ‘found out’ may come from looking at the killing of the two brothers in a slightly wider context.

Making a general comment on the Auxiliaries, Townshend said “the quality of A. D. R. I. C [Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary] companies depended on the character of their officers.  Some became first-class fighting (if not police) units, but many succumbed to drunkenness and gained a reputation as perpetrators of the most calculated and destructive reprisals (Townshend (1975), pgs 111-112). 

As noted, the first commander of D Company of the Auxiliaries was Major Arthur Patrick Nicol.  As outlined above, under his command, D Company engaged in shootings, killings, floggings, burnings, etc.  However, as also noted above, he was dismissed by the Commander of the Auxiliaries, Brigadier General Crozier, for drunkenness and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel F. H. W. Guard who took over D Company on November 30th  1920 – see .  The date is significant – it occurred just four days after the Loughnane brothers were arrested.    According to Leeson, after his appointment “Guard seems to have put a stop to his men’s worst excesses: at the very least, there were far fewer reports of people being whipped, wounded with shotguns, and forced to crawl after Guard took command” (Leeson (2012), pg 52). 

Leeson’s statement is nuanced.  All he is claiming is that Guard stopped the “worst excesses” of his men.  During Guard’s command of D Company from late November 1920 until late February 1921 (when he was promoted to second-in-command of the Auxiliaries), Crown Forces were responsible for the killing of, at least, six men in Galway (see Dec-20-20/3; Jan-18 to 22-21/1 and Feb-20-21/4). Nearly all were killed ‘trying to escape’.  Along with the killings, other forms of RIC (and, in particular, Auxiliary) harassment continued in Galway. For example, on February 13th 1921, Auxiliaries entered Bridget Quinn’s home near Kinvara.  They took seven men outside, stripped them and flogged them. They then burnt the Quinn’s home – see Feb-13-21/2. (The IRA were responsible for no killings during this period.  However, the killings were to increase markedly from both sides in the final months of the conflict from early March up until the Truce on July 11th 1921.)  

In other words, what Guard did was to curb the “worst excesses” of the men of D Company.  Under his watch, there were no more ‘high profile’ killings like those of Michael Walsh, Father Michael Griffin, Ellen Quinn and the Loughnane brothers.  When people were killed in his time, there were excuses (mainly ‘shot trying to escape’) or plausible deniability (‘it wasn’t us’).   What emerges is a picture that, under Nicol, members of D Company felt they operated under near complete impunity. 

It would seem that, under Nicol, the men of D Company felt that they could get away with anything – including ‘cold blooded murder’.  Their actions after they tortured and killed the Loughnanes demonstrate their complete lack of concern with getting caught. They would have seemed to be impervious to any negative consequences from their actions. (They did not even take the bodies a reasonable distance from Drumharsna like the Auxiliaries who killed Father Griffin.  His body was buried in a bog at Cloughscoilta near Barna village about eight kilometres from their base in Lenaboy Castle where, reportedly, he was shot.)    If the brothers were arrested after Guard took control, it is likely that they would have been shot ‘trying to escape’ like many other detainees in this period or, if they were tortured in an attempt to get them to divulge information, then it is likely that they would have been subsequently detained rather than killed (like, for example, Tom Hales and Pat Harte – see Jul-27-20/4).  In conclusion, it would seem that it was the extreme bad luck of the Loughnane brothers that they were arrested before Guard could curb the ‘worst excesses’ of his men. In particular, before he could curb their sense of impunity. However, even after Guard took over D Company, the killing by members of this company of Auxiliaries continued.

Inscription on the Memorial to the Loughnane Brothers

(Note:  It would appear that Harry Loughnane was baptised as Henry (Enri in Irish) but always called Harry.)








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