THE Kilrush and District Historical Society January lecture will feature a presentation from Oliver Hawes on his grandfather, Joe Hawes.
The talk, which will be held on Tuesday, January 29 in Teach Ceoil, Kilrush at 7.30pm, will concentrate on his role in The Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India in 1920.
Joe is believed to be originally from Corofin but lived in Moore Street, Kilrush for many years and is buried in Shanakyle Cemetery.
To his family, Joe Hawes was a legend and something of a hero. When his grandson, Oliver, was growing up in Cobh, there was a picture of Joe on the wall with a framed newspaper article. It told the story of a man who had been one of the leaders of a mutiny of Irish soldiers in the British army in India in 1920.
The mutiny took place in the Punjab in the north of the country at a garrison town called Jullundur and the soldiers involved were serving in the Connaught Rangers. Many of them had been in the British Army in the Great War and were distraught at stories reaching them from home of Black and Tan outrages in the Irish countryside. They decided to lay down their arms in passive opposition to what they saw as British oppression of both the Irish and the Indian peoples. Oliver is proud to assert that it was “the only stand made for Irish freedom outside the Island of Ireland”.
Unfortunately, the passive protest turned into a more serious uprising in which shots were exchanged and two soldiers died. Joe and his comrades were arrested and several, including Joe, were sentenced to death. That sentence was later remitted to life imprisonment and Joe returned to Britain in chains to serve his sentence.
He died, an old man, in Kilrush in 1971 and at his funeral, Oliver, now in his teens, was in for a shock. As the crowd of mourners entered the graveyard, a group of men in balaclavas took charge of the coffin, firing a volley of shots as it was lowered into the ground. Oliver left the scene alarmed and outraged.
The talk will address questions such as, was Joe Hawes a heroic figure with an honest desire for Irish freedom or was he the puppet of more sinister political forces and should he be remembered as a Hawes family hero or was he in fact their very own black sheep?
Oliver is the son of Paddy Hawes from Moore Street, Kilrush and is a retired banker and former president of Cobh and Harbour Chamber of Commerce.
He received a civic reception in 2003 from Cobh Town Council and various tourism awards for his work in developing the cruise liner industry.