The tragic story of Patrick and Harry Loughnane

Nothing remained of his face except his chin and lips and the skull was entirely blown away.” – Paul O’Brien

Patrick and Harry Loughnane were two young Galway lads from a little village called Shanaglish. Pat was twenty-nine and Harry was twenty-two. Both were members of Sinn Féin, Pat was the head of the local Sinn Féin cumann and Harry was its secretary. Both men were also volunteers in the IRA. As part of the IRA, Patrick was a company commander in the local parish of Beagh. The 26th of November in 1920 was a Friday. The two boys were farming in Shanaglish in a field close by their mother’s home. She was a widow and when the brother’s siblings left Ireland to find work in the States and Britain, Pat and Harry stayed to tend to the land. It was threshing season, so on that particular Friday the Loughnanes, as well as roughly 12 other neighbours and family members were in the field picking corn and tossing it into the steam powered threshing machine.

Patrick’s IRA Company, just a month earlier on October 30, had been involved in the Castledaly ambush near Gort, where they had killed one RIC member and taken four others prisoner. As a reprisal for this attack, the RIC murdered a twenty-three year old local woman named Ellen Quinn. She was pregnant at the time. They also burned several homes to the ground. At 3pm on Friday, November 26, the noise of the threshing machine made it impossible for the Loughnanes to hear the armoured truck of the Auxies pull up onto their farm. The truck carried at least fifteen heavily armed Auxie men. The Auxies were able to creep up on the Loghnanes and the neighbours while they were working in the field. They held the boys and their mother at gunpoint until the boys were identified. 

The head of this Auxie platoon was a man named Thomas Francis Burke and, with him in the truck, he had brought a regular officer of the RIC that was stationed in the local station of Tubber. This regular officer identified the Loughnanes as ‘Pat’ and ‘Harry’ and they were arrested. They were taken to the RIC barracks in Gort. Here fourteen RIC officers were assigned mini shifts of beating Pat and Harry. The RIC officers were asked to strip to their waste while carrying out the beatings so they could keep their shirts and jackets clean and free of blood. The fourteen officers took turns beating the Loughnanes to a pulp for hours. They were beaten so badly that they were weak and disfigured.

When they grew tired of beating Pat and Harry they lifted them outside and tied them to an armoured truck with ropes. The truck drove off and the Loughnanes were made to jog along behind it and keep pace with it for as long as they possible could. When they eventually could no longer keep up with the pace of the truck and they fell, they were dragged behind they lorry while still attached to the ropes for eleven kilometres from Gort to the paramilitary base at Drumharsna Castle. All while RIC constables laughed and jeered from inside the lorry.

Needless-to-say, by the time they arrived at Drumharsna castle, the bodies of the men were ripped apart from the road, but even then the RIC subjected them to hours more of torture. They chopped off some of their fingers and carved a diamond shape pattern, the rough outline of the RIC badge on their bodies. At 11pm, Pat and Harry were taken to a nearby wood and shot dead. Then they were taken to an isolated place called Uamhain Bhriste where they were set on fire. Afterwards, the charred bodies were thrown into a pond that was used to water cattle. To discourage the animals from uprooting the bodies of the men, the RIC poured engine oil into the pond.

The RIC then told their Mother that the men had escaped from custody. Believing the police to be lying, locals and friends set up a search party for the men and on December 5, 1920, the bodies were found. The Doctors report said that the men were unrecognisable; they had broken limbs, missing fingers, lumps of skin and flesh was missing, fingers were missing and it looked as though “…. hand grenades had been put into their mouths and exploded”. Paul O’ Brien, the author of the book ‘Havoc: The Auxiliaries in Ireland’s War of Independence’ says in his book of Harry Loughnane, “Nothing remained of his face except his chin and lips and the skull was entirely blown away”. After the bodies of Pat and Harry were found the remains were taken to Kingora. Here family and friends stood around the coffins with the bodies on display. These photos can be seen online today. No Auxiliaries were ever charged.

Shane Daly

Shane Daly is a History Graduate from University College Cork, with a BAM in History and an MA in Irish History.

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