There was a fascinating article in the Irish Times today by Donal McMahon in An Irishman’s Diary.
The photograph in the article shows a little girl sitting on her young soldier father’s knee. Her father was killed not long afterward when that little girl was just over 15 months old. It took over 80 years for that little girl, Ina, to find out the truth about his death. At the age of 10 that little girl Ina lost her mother and she grew up with cousins and was sent to boarding school. When she asked about her father, all she could find out was that he had been shot during the Troubles. She eventually married and had a family who, in turn, grew up ignorant about their grandfather. Ina knew her father had served with the British Army during the First World War but after that there was a blank. In actuality, after her death her son Donal found out that his grandfather had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Now with the resources of the Irish Times archives, Donal has found that his grandfather, Sergeant Thomas Enright, RIC, had been shot dead on December 14th, 1921. This took place at a turning point in Irish history. The Anglo-Irish Treaty had been signed eight days previously and was to be ratified by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the English parliament two days later on December 16th.
Sergeant Thomas Enright, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and a Constable friend were attending a coursing meeting at which Thomas had entered two dogs. They wore plain clothes. They visited the hotel where the draw was made for the following day’s coursing. They left the hotel (the establishment) shortly after 11 p.m., and as soon as they appeared on the street a volley of revolver shots was fired at them by a group of men who were standing near the post office. Thomas was age 31.
Donal shared his findings with his mother. He speculates that it is quite possible that reading the account of her father’s death brought some sort of closure to Ina. She passed away scarcely 2 weeks later.
Donal goes on to write that happily we now have an Ireland where it is possible at last to break the silence surrounding those who served in the police and army of pre-independence times. The men who shot Thomas, and the reporters of the time, were not to know that Thomas carried a tattoo on his right arm: “Erin go Bragh”
Reflections – 74 years ago today, December 28, 1935, was my parents’ wedding day. My father-to-be had 3 children, age 11, 9, and 8. My sisters-to-be were flower girls, and the ceremony was held in Winchester Massachusetts in the parental home of my mother-to-be. I suspect that her sisters, my aunts, were her bridesmaids. I must ask my sisters, now 83 and 82, and my 96 year old aunt for more of the details. Or maybe I can search the archives of the Boston newspapers.
I blogged a few days ago about The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Many questions were unanswered in the investigation of this case – many family secrets still remained. After reading it I thought about the probability that most families have secrets, some quite innocent but will never be uncovered, others that will be revealed in the course of time if we know the right questions to ask.