AN OLD forge that was owned by the family of two of South Galway’s War of Independence heroes is fighting to stay open as a community venue, due to punitive running costs and the difficulty of fundraising during the pandemic.
The 200-year-old building in Shanaglish was run by the family of Patrick and Harry Loughnane, who were killed in one of the most brutal atrocities of the war. In the 1990s, the building was carefully restored by Beagh Rural Development, but today the group is struggling to cover the commercial electricity charges levelled by the ESB. Ordinarily, fund-raising events would help to raise the €600 needed annually to foot the bill, but these activities have all but come to a halt because of the pandemic.
The challenge comes at a time when the community is working to mark the deaths of the Loughnane brothers and commemorate their killings. Their story is one that still evokes an emotional response in Beagh Rural Development PRO Tony Diviney. “We restored the forge in memory of the Loughnanes,” he said. “It was never a commercial venture. Hugh Loughnane, a brother of Patrick and Harry, had been the blacksmith there and we wanted to save the building from ruin to honour the family. The two men were going about their business threshing corn on November 26, 1920 and nobody would have believed what was done to them only for photos were taken of their bodies.”
Swas the brutality of their deaths, that the Loughanane’s story made international headlines.
A witness statement given by Harry O’Mara, who had been Commandant of the Sixth Battalion of the East Clare Brigade of the IRA, and later became a Garda Superintendent, draws together a detailed account of the killings, much of it gathered from local men also arrested on November 26. The document, now in the Bureau of Military History, described Patrick as “tall, handsome and powerfully built, as fine a hurler as could be found in Galway or Clare”. Harry was said to be “gentle, quiet and retiring disposition, studious and fond of reading”.
In 1955, local man Brian Greaney compiled a written account of the arrest, torture and killings, after Pat was suspected of raiding the home of an RIC man, looking for a firearm.
“They were arrested and brought to the Gort RIC Barrack, where they were questioned and brutally and violently beaten by them,” Greaney’s account outlined. “One young RIC constable named Doherty who knew them, interceded for them but without effect. He told Pat and Harry they would be murdered. Pat thanked them and turning to Harry [and] said, ‘We’ll say our rosary, let them’.”
Eye witness reports detailed how the men were seen in a lorry, covered in blood with ropes tied to the back of it. Accounts suggest they were then taken to Moy O’Hynes wood.
O’Mara’s statement takes up the story: “Four shots were heard. The following (Saturday) morning the bodies were seen there and the information that Harry was still alive and moaning is reliable On Sunday night, the Auxiliaries came again to the wood and took the bodies to Umbriste, about two miles nearer to Ardrahan. There they set fire to them.”
Photos of the disfigured and charred remains of the two brothers were taken by
local teacher, Tomás OhEighin. The horrific images were widely circulated and, in the wake of the killing of Fr Michael Griffin in Galway City, hardened public opinion against British rule in Ireland.
Centenary commemorations for the Loughnanes have been curtailed by the pandemic, but the committee, which also includes Martina and Francis Neylon, Paddy Joe Roseingrave, and Michael Slattery have a booklet on the men ready for publication. “We are passionate enough about the issue,” said Tony.
There is plenty of commitment in evidence too to the future of the forge. Normally, it would be the venue for all kinds of gatherings and discussions and it is set to return to community use once restrictions lift, as long as the lights can be kept on.
“We could managed the commercial rate of ESB until this year,” Tony said. “We can’t fundraise now and no matter how much or how little electricity we use, we have to pay. The craziest thing of all is that the ESB have told us that if we could build on living accommodation, we’d get charged on a domestic rate, which would cut our fill in half. It’s a 200 year-old stone building. We wouldn’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of getting permission.”