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SHOOTING TRAGEDY AT THE CURRAGH

 
Leinster Leader 15/2/1919
 
Shooting Tragedy At The Curragh
 
 
The particulars of a sad tragedy were unfolded at an inquest held on Tuesday evening at Kildare. When an inquest was held touching the death of Patrick Gavin a respectable and popular workman aged about 45., who was shot dead near the Tully Springs in the early morning by, it was alleged, a sentry who was on guard there. It appeared Patrick Gavin, who had been in the employment of Mr. Moore at Tully for the past 15 years, left there in the early morning to drive a bullock to the Newbridge fair and was afterwards found dead by the roadside.
Dr. Jeremiah O’Neill Deputy Coroner for South Kildare, held an inquest on Tuesday evening at Michael Nolan’s public house Kildare , into the circumstances of the death of Patrick Gavin, - a workman in the employment of Mr. Moore, Tully, who was found at Tully pumping station near Kildare in the early morning. It was stated the poor man was engaged in driving a bullock, the property of Mr. Moore, from his master’s farm at Tully and was on his way to the fair of Newbridge when he was killed. The deceased was a hardworking, respectable man aged about 45 years and was in the employment of Mr. Moore for the last 15 years. He is spoken of as a decent man who was very popular in the neighbourhood and much regret is expressed by his employer and the people of the neighbourhood at his untimely death.
The following jury was sworn – Messrs. Jas. Bergin (foreman), Patrick McLoughlin, Chras. Heffernan, George Grahan, Edmund Burke, Laurence Ryan, Thomas O’Grady, Wm. Hayden, Jos. Fleming Thomas Fitzpatrick, P.J. Connolly, Denis Carberry and Hugh Mearns. D.I. Madden represented the R.I.C.
Mr Joseph Moore deposed in reply to D.I. Madden he lived at Tully East. The deceased was a workman of theirs. He was about 45 years and unmarried. He came to him that morning to take a cow to the fair at Newbridge. He saw him at twenty past four, and at a quarter to five he left his yard with a black bullock. He next saw his dead body that afternoon. There was no one with him driving the cow. He met the cow about 7.30 on the French Furze road about half a mile from the house. This would be a mile and a half from the pumping station.
Sergeant Arthur Jones stated he was of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. He was a sergeant of the guard the previous night at the pumping station and “mounted” at Rath Camp. The other members of the guard were Privates Gay, J. Snowden and Priest. He mounted Private Gay as sentry at four a.m. All went quiet until a quarter to six. After that he heard the sentry shout guard turn out, and on immediately turning out and on getting the guard to the door, heard the sound of rifle fire.
D.I : Was it one shot your heard?
Witness: One shot, sir.
 Was that close at hand?
 Close at hand, sir and I at once questioned the sentry.
D.I.: What did you find?
Witness: In consequence of what he told me I found the body of the deceased man on the other side of the road about 8 yards away.
How was he placed? His face was sideways, and he was crumpled up, lying on the side of the road.
D.I.: You had him removed?
Witness: I had him removed to the Guardroom.
D.I.: We will come back to that. What did the sentry say to you?
Witness: He said this man attacked him.
D.I.: How did he say he attacked him?
Witness: With his stick. He said he had his stick raised as if to strike him.
D.I. : And that he did not answer the challenge?
Witness: He said he took no notice of his challenge and on the third time he shot him.
Mr. Bergin (Foreman): Would you not consider it was a very drastic thing when there were three of you?
Coroner to witness: The question is do you consider the action drastic?
Witness: That would depend on how you look at it. If the man was going to attack the sentry.
Coroner: The Foreman asks do you not think it a very drastic action?
Witness: If the man were going to attack it would not be.
To the D.I. : I found it hard to see him.
Mr. Bergin (Foreman): At a quarter past six or quarter to seven there was no haze.
Witness: Down there, there are hedges on each side and that makes it very dark.
A Juror: Was the man dead when you found him?
Witness: Yes
To Mr. Burke: It was not bright at the time.
To Mr Graham: I was quite close
To Mr. O’ Grady: I was quite close. I went to the door, and before I could say “Jack Robinson” I heard the fire of the rifle.
To Mr. Graham: The sentry called the guard out.
D.I.: Before he fired?
Witness: Yes sir.
D.I: Tell me sergeant, when Pte. Gay was unloading his rifle what happened?
Witness: Another round went off. He accidentally fired another shot.
To Mr. Heffernan: That was afterwards but it would not be an hour.
Mr. Fleming: When a man would be going along the road and until he would pass, would he see a soldier? Is there anything to indicate to the public that a military guard is placed on the pumping station, or was there one there one there at the time?
Coroner: That is important.
Witness: No. only by the appearance of the guard or by the sentry.
To Mr. Carberry: It is on the side of the road?
Mr. Carberry: The road is very narrow there.
To D.I. Madden: It is between the fence and the public road.
In reply to Mr. Fleming he said the sentry would call out for the third time.
Mr Fleming: They don’t challenge until you leave the road.
D.I.: Oh yes, I have been challenged.
Mr. Burke: I was challenged several times and I never went near the wells
 Several other Jurors also spoke of being challenged.
Mr. Burke: Is it usual if a man is walking along the road to challenge?
Witness:
If he approaches the gate or going into the well he is challenged, or if he tries to attack the sentry.
To Mr. O’Grady: My instructions are not to challenge any ordinary passers by.
Coroner: Is that correct?
Witness: That is correct, sir.
Mr. Burke: Did the deceased leave the high road?
Witness: I could not say, sir. He was on the opposite side of the road when found. My opinion is he [ruffled] to there after being shot.
To Mr. Connolly: If a man was shot he would naturally buzz round. He would jump and would not fall exactly where he had been shot.
To Mr. Grahan: In my opinion he called out from where he fired. He must have turned round towards the guard room after firing and shouted “guard turn out”. I was not asleep at the time. There is no sleep there. There is too much smoke there to sleep.
Mr Grahan; It suggests to me as extraordinary that the sentry was not heard. It was a very calm morning.
The Coroner said that was explained by saying that the man may have turned round: He is giving you the possible explanation.
D.I. Madden; He is giving the best he can.
Coroner: He is giving the explanation as far as he can make it out.
To the Foreman: There was one on his beat two in the guardroom and myself. Directly they got to the door they heard the shot.
Coroner: Don’t you think that with three of you there you might be able to defend yourselves – three to one?
Witness: You do not know what a man may have in his mind or in his pocket.
Mr. Burke: And the man knew that there were three more of you.
Witness: He might have a dozen of loaded men behind the hedge. We do not know.
Mr. O’Grady: What do the King’s regulations say?
Witness: If a sentry is attacked he must use his weapons to the best of his ability.
Mr. O’Grady: And if the person came on what would you do then?
Witness: Shoot Sir.
Mr. O’Grady: Have you to challenge more than once?
Yes, if you challenge more than once, you must give a man a chance.
Mr. O’Grady: If he does not answer the challenge?
Witness: It just depends. You turn the guard out and the man keeps at the [?] the guard is turned out. The King’s Regulations say a man must use his weapon to the best of his knowledge and if a sentry is challenged the guard must turn out.
Private Charles Snowden, Duke of Willington Regt., Curragh Camp, in reply to D.I. Madden, said he was a member of the guard at the Tully pumping station. At about a quarter to six he was in the guardroom with Sergt., Jones and Private Preston, I heard a sentry on beat shout “guard turn out”. We all rushed for our rifles. We went to the door. I got my rifle and the sergeant was at the door. I heard a sound of a rifle shot close at hand.
D.I.: When you went out where was Pte. Gay?
Witness: He was standing in front with his back to the sentry box, facing his front.
What else did you notice?
I saw the deceased man huddled up on the opposite side of the road. His head was close to the bank. The body was on the off side of the road.
What was the light like?
It was the darkest part of the night.
Was there a moon?
No
Was it windy or calm?
It was calm at the time.
To the Coroner: I heard a second shot when I was going towards battalion headquarters.
D.I.: That was after the man had been seen by you?
Witness: Yes Sir
To the Foreman: If people were lurching about I would challenge them.
Pte. John Robert Brest, Duke of Willington Regt., said he was stationed at the Rath Camp, Curragh. I was one of the guards at the pumping station last night under the command of Sergeant Jones. Privates Snowden and Gay were also there. At a quarter to six I heard the sentry shout “guard turn out” and the sergeant and ourselves all rushed for our rifles. As we got to the guard-room door I heard a shot fired. When we got outside the sentry was standing with his back to the sentry box, and at the opposite side of the road, about eight yards away a man was lying huddled up. As I was coming out of the guardroom door I heard one groan. It was dark at the time. I saw a dark object lying on the road but could not say clearly what lay there, only a dark object.
D.I.: Did you hear the second shot was fired?
Witness: Yes, the sentry Pte. Gay, was instructing them how the shot was fired.
Coroner: Did you see any sign of a cow?
Witness: Not until about seven o’clock when a black cow came from the back of the guardroom.
D.I. Madden: Was it in the field or on the road?
Witness: In the field sir.
To Mr. O’Grady: It was a black cow. I did not hear any challenge by the sentry before the shot was fired.
To Mr Graham: The cow went on towards French Furze.
To Mr. Bergin: I did not hear the sentry challenge him. He stood with his rifle as usual at the box.
Lient. Cecil Bancroft, Duke of Wellington Regt. Deposed in reply to D.I. Madden:
I got a message this morning in consequence of which I went to the pumping station at Tully. I reached the guardroom at Tully well at five minutes past seven. I saw the deceased man lying there. I saw the sentry Gay who had been relieved at six. I examined his rifle and in the magazine I found three live rounds which I extracted and the bayonet on the rifle.
D.I.: How many rounds are the usual?
Witness: It is usual to have five live rounds to a clip. I did not see any cow on the road.
To the Foreman: The sergeant of the guard explained to me that the sentry expended one round when emptying his breech.
Mr. Carberry: That was when taking out the empty cartridge?
Witness: Yes
Mr. Connolly: Did the bayonet look as if it was used?
`Witness: No: perfectly clean.
Mr. Grahan: Did you inquire what happened the other round?
Witness: I was informed he was shot with the one round.
To the Foreman: The body was in the guardroom when I went there.
To Mr. Burke: The sentries duties are to guard all Government properties within sight.
Mr. Bergin: Is it difficult to aim at a close object?
Witness: It all depends; night firing is very difficult to take accurate fire.
Mr. Bergin: Take the other round that went off, would it not be very dangerous if that went off while on the road?
Witness: No, because all soldiers are taught to hold the rifle at an angle when extracting cartridges.
Mr. O’Grady: Is it sufficient for a military sentry to suspect a man having a deadly weapon – the mere suspicion or a chance of his attacking? Is it sufficient to justify the sentry to shoot?
Witness: We are taught by the military that he is justified if the challenge is not answered.
To the Coroner: He is justified in shooting an officer if he does not answer the challenge.
Sergt. Hugh Muldoon, R.I.C. Kildare in reply to the D.L. said that a report was made by Sergt. Jones, Duke of Wellington Regt., at about a quarter past six this morning, and in consequence of that report I went down to Dr. Rowan and asked him to go to the pumping station at Tully, and I also sent a constable for a clergyman. I reached the pumping station at ten minutes to seven and the deceased whom I knew, Patrick Gavin, I found on the floor of the pumping station. He was dead and the body was warm. I saw a wound on the left side of the chest. There was a quantity of blood about the wound and on his clothes. The stick, which I produce, I got in the guardroom from Sergt. Jones, as having belonged to the deceased. I saw Sergeant Jones pick up the cartridge produced from the sentry box and handed to Head Constable Dufficey. There was fresh blood on the road like a pool of blood. There were drops of blood also on the road towards the sentry box and about five yards from it. I saw a black cow afterwards. I passed out by the guardroom and on to the road. It went in the direction of French Furze. It was a black polly cow apparently in calf.
To Mr. Burke: A cow could stray in off the road at the spot.
In reply to Mr. Carberry, Mr. Moore said the stick (produced) was not like any of the sticks belonging to the deceased.
D.I.: Did he not have a stick of some kind?
Mr. Moore: Yes but if I saw him going to the fair with that stick I would not let him go with a springing cow while having it.
In answer to the Coroner, Sergeant Muldoon said – I inferred from the blood on the road and near the sentry box that the man had been struck nearer the sentry box than where the pool of blood was on the road.
Dr. L.F. Rowan deposed that assisted by Doctors Coady and Kelly he mad a post-mortem examination and on the right upper arm and about two inches from the top of the shoulder he found three small wounds close together. The aorta and main artery and heart were severed. There was a wound two inches long in the chest. The cause of death was haemorrhage and shock resulting from two pieces of metal entering close inside the right arm.
Coroner: How do you make out these wounds from the tip of the shoulder? Three small ones.
Dr. Rowan: In my opinion death was due to haemorrhage [sic] One of the wounds was circular and one oval. They found a wound in the chest wall about the size of a four shilling piece. On the left side the ribs were fractured.
After further evidence;
Coroner: What do you think the wounds were caused by?
Dr. Rowan: I have not heard the evidence Mr. Coroner.
Mr O’Grady junior: Could you say that it was possible that the two main wounds could be caused by the same bullet? Yes.
Dr. E. Coady said he assisted Dr. Rowan at the post-mortem. He corroborated his evidence.
On completion of the evidence which was gone into at length, The Coroner pointed out to the jury the more important portions of the evidence which had been given and after a very long consideration the following verdict was found;-
“That Patrick Gavin died of haemorrhage caused by a bullet which severed the main artery of the heart, fired by Private Gay and all of us are of opinion that Private Gay did not exercise sufficient discretion on this occasion and that before firing he should have consulted an older head in the person of the sergeant of the guard and we are of opinion that for the safety of the public in such places more experienced men should be placed on sentry duty.  Some light should be shown at night time as a warning to the public of the presence of a military guard.
Considering the circumstances of Patrick Gavin’s death we will draw the attention of the military authorities to the relatives of the deceased.
 
After the inquest the Very Rev. Father Campion, P.P. and Very Rev. Father O’Reilly attended and when the remains were removed there was a very large gathering of sympathisers from the town and district where the deceased was well known as a hard working and decent man. The utmost sympathy is expressed.
 
  
 
  
 
 

The Leinster Leader of February 15th 1919 reports the particulars of a sad tragedy which were unfolded at an inquest at Kildare.


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