IRA Soldier Declan Horton

 

IRA Soldier Declan Horton (or Hurton/[Hurtin/Hourton) Jr of Curragh near Ardmore, Co. Waterford (Thurles, Co. Tipperary; died in North Infirmary, Cork city)

Date of incident: 9 Dec. 1921

 

Sources: CE, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 27 Dec. 1921; Belfast Newsletter, 10, 12, 19 Dec. 1921; II, 12, 16 Dec. 1921; SS, 10, 17 Dec. 1921; Nenagh News, 17 Dec. 1921; Nenagh Guardian, 17 Dec. 1921; FJ, 19, 20 Dec. 1921; Munster Express, 24 Dec. 1921; Leinster Leader, 24 Dec. 1921; Membership Rolls of D (Ardmore) Company, 11 July 1921 (MA/MSPC/RO/77), [Military Archives]; Maurice Meade’s WS 891, 43-44 (BMH); Thomas Treacy’s WS 1093, 89-90 (BMH); John Sharkey’s WS 1100, 17 (BMH); James Mansfield’s WS 1229, 1, 9 (BMH); James Leahy’s WS 1454, 66-71, 73-74; James Prendergast’s WS 1655, 3 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 51-52, 271; Ó Duibhir (2013), 237-48; William Murphy (2014), 243; http://irishvolunteers.org/the-grave-of-sean-morrissey-ira-the-grave-of-vol-declan-horton-ira/ (accessed 25 March 2018); ‘Ardmore Memory and Story—Troubled Times. 1. The War of Independence’,

http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/Display/article/373/1/Ardmore_Memory_and_Story__Troubled_Times_The_War_Of_Independence.html (accessed 26 March 2018); British Army World War I Pension Records (1914-1920) for Declan Hurtie [sic], WO/364/Piece 1847, TNA, Ancestry.com, British Army WWI Pension Records, 1914-1920 (database on-line), Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1114/miuk1914a_085000-00837?pid=470103&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?ti%3D0%26indiv%3Dtry%26db%3Dbritisharmy%26h%3D470103%26requr%3D281775630745600%26ur%3D32768&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true (accessed 29 March 2018).

 

Note: Declan Horton (also Hurton or Hurtin), formerly an internee at Ballykinlar Internment Camp, was fatally wounded by a bomb blast at Thurles on Friday evening, 9 December 1921, when a train carrying him and other released prisoners from Ballykinlar Internment Camp in County Down back to Cork and other towns was attacked at Thurles. The Nenagh News of 17 December 1921 provided a detailed report: ‘A large crowd had assembled at the railway station, and as the train drew up about 7 p.m., fog signals were exploded as a welcome to the home-coming prisoners. Availing of the noise of the explosion and the cheering of the people, bombs were hurled at the train by some concealed miscreants. A scene of great consternation naturally prevailed when splinters of the bombs blew about, broke windows in the carriages, and struck the unfortunate passengers and people. Calm was restored by some of the internees. A released internee named Declan Horten [sic], Ardmore, was so dangerously wounded that little hope of his recovery is entertained. James Coleman, another internee, received a nasty cut on the head, and a boy named George Gorman, son of a railway official, was injured. These three were removed to or detained in Thurles Hospital. [This last statement was partly incorrect.] The stationmaster (Mr Moore), his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law were also wounded by splinters. Nothing appears to have transpired that would lead to the identity of the perpetrators of the outrage.’ See Nenagh News, 17 Dec. 1921.

 

On arrival in Cork city Declan Horton was brought to the North Infirmary, where he subsequently died of his injuries at about 3 p.m. on 16 December 1921. His body was then removed from the North Infirmary to the Great Southern and Western Railway station in Cork so that it could be placed on a train for Youghal. Horton was ‘a native of Ardmore, Co. Waterford, and was a member of a family who took a prominent part in the Irish movement. Another brother [Michael Horton or Hurtin], who had been interned in Bere Island, is at present in the city [Cork] and was constantly with his brother from the beginning till his death. The body will be removed to-day [17 December] at 11 a.m., to be entrained for Youghal by the 11:59 a.m. train. Arrangements have been completed by the I.R.A. authorities to meet the cortege at Youghal and accompany the remains to Ardmore.’ See CE, 17 Dec. 1921. For an account of Ballykinlar, see Liam J. Ó Duibhir, Prisoners of War: Ballykinlar Internment Camp, 1920-1921 (Cork, 2013), esp. 237-48 (‘The IRA and British Truce—July 1921’).

 

An inquest into the circumstances of the death of Declan Horton was held by Coroner McCabe at the North Infirmary in Cork city on Saturday, 17 December 1921. ‘The R.I.C. was not represented, evidence being produced solely by the brigade officer of the Irish Republican Police. William Casey, commercial traveller, Pouladuff Road, Cork, stated that he travelled with Horton from Maryborough on his way to Cork. When the train arrived at Thurles station, Horton stood up and looked out through the window, and witness [Casey] stood looking over his shoulder. He heard an explosion which he took to be a fog signal. Immediately, Horton reeled into his arms. Witness placed him on the seat of the carriage and noticed blood on his head. Dr Fennell, house surgeon [at the North Infirmary], stated that Horton was admitted on the 10th inst[ant] suffering from a small punctured wound on the left side of the head, but the skull was not fractured; also there was a wound below the left nipple. The cause of death was meningitis arising from the injury to the head. The inquest was adjourned, [with] the jurymen expressing condolence with the relatives of Horton.’ See Leinster Leader, 24 Dec. 1921.   

 

It is likely that all or nearly all of the five sons of Declan Hurtin Sr and his wife Ellen were members of the Ardmore Company of the Third Battalion of the West Waterford Brigade (Waterford No. 2 Brigade) during the War of Independence and and the Truce period. The sons were all old enough in 1911 to have taken active parts in the events of 1919-23: Thomas (aged 27 in 1911); Michael (aged 24); John (aged 22); Declan Jr (aged 19); and Edmond or Ned (aged 18). All five were employed as general labourers in 1911. Three of the brothers were arrested by British marines based at the Ardmore Coastguard Station in late 1920 and were interned in different prisons. Volunteer Michael Hurtin was jailed in Bere Island Internment Camp and was released at the Truce; Declan, as noted earlier, was interned at Ballykinlar in South Down in Ulster; and Edward (Ned) was arrested by the Ardmore marines but apparently released soon after his arrest. The Ardmore Company of the Third Battalion of the West Waterford Brigade was formed late in 1917, with the Ardmore Company then under the command of James Mansfield of Old Parish near Dungarvan, later commandant of the Third Battalion of the West Waterford Brigade. The Old Parish IRA Company served as ‘a sort of outpost to Ardmore’; at the start there were ‘about 20 men in Ardmore, who had between them about half a dozen shotguns at that time’. See James Mansfield’s WS 1229, 1 (BMH).

 

The membership rolls of D Company (Ardmore) of the Third Battalion of the Waterford No. 2 Brigade on 11 July 1921 (the start of the Truce) listed the names of thirty-seven persons, among whom were Declan Hurtin (interned) and his older brother Michael Hurtin (also interned), along with John Hurtin as well as his youngest brother Edmund (Ned) Hurtin (arrested but released). Their oldest brother Thomas does not appear on the official company rolls at this juncture. See Membership Rolls of D (Ardmore) Company, 11 July 1921 (MA/MSPC/RO/77), [Military Archives].    

 

Declan Horton’s coffin was carried through the streets of Cork city to the train station by IRA comrades who had been interned in the same camp. See CE, 19 Dec. 1921. A photograph of the funeral procession passing through Cork city streets appeared in the Cork Examiner of 19 December 1921. See CE, 19 Dec. 1921 (page 3). Also seriously wounded in the same attack on 9 December and taken to the North Infirmary for treatment was James Coleman of Lisgoold near Midleton, another former Ballykinlar internee. See CE, 12 Dec. 1921.

 

‘James Coleman, who after Mr Horton received the most serious injuries, was looking through the carriage window at the time of the attack. He suddenly drew back his head, bleeding profusely. He said that a bullet grazed his forehead, but the general belief is that what he took to be a bullet was a bomb splinter. A County Clare man received minor injuries. Mr Gorman [son of a railway official] is reported out of danger. Some 300 men were on the train when it left Dublin, about 90 of whom were going to Cork.’ See II, 12 Dec. 1921.

 

Declan Horton ‘was a well-known member of the Ardmore Pipers’ Band and was an enthusiast in the study of Irish piano music’. See CE, 27 Dec. 1921. Horton was interred in St Declan’s Oratory Graveyard at Ardmore, Co. Waterford. For his gravestone, see http://irishvolunteers.org/the-grave-of-sean-morrissey-ira-the-grave-of-vol-declan-horton-ira/ (accessed 25 March 2018). His surname is spelled as Hurton on his gravestone.

 

A Press Association telegram stated: ‘Much activity was noticeable in Thurles on Saturday [10 December 1921] by the R.I.C. and I.R.A. authorities in connection with the outrage at the [Thurles] railway station on Friday night [9 December], when bombs were flung at the train conveying Ballykinlar internees to their homes. It is rumoured that General [Sir Henry Hugh] Tudor and General Decies have arrived, and inquiries at the police barracks elicited the information that the latter was in the town, but beyond that no further particulars were learned. Last night the Liaison Officer at Nenagh and the [RIC] County Inspector arrived in Thurles. The morning Liaison Officer Fitzpatrick of Clonmel came to the town. Rigid inquiries are being made to discover the perpetrator of the dastardly outrage. It is reported the investigation will be pursued on Monday [12 December].’ See CE, 12 Dec. 1921. See also II, 12 Dec. 1921.

 

Dublin Castle authorities issued the following statement: ‘His Majesty’s Government have learned with the greatest possible regret of the dastardly attack by bombs at Thurles in Co. Tipperary, on a train containing men returning to their homes after their release from internment. They will spare no effort to secure the arrest and punishment of those responsible for this outrage and have taken immediate steps for this purpose.’ See FJ, 12 Dec. 1921. See also CE, 12 Dec. 1921; II, 12 Dec. 1921; Nenagh Guardian, 17 Dec. 1921.

 

The Publicity Department of Dáil Éireann issued a parallel statement under the name of Commandant J. E. D’Alton, Chief Liaison Officer under the terms of the Articles of Agreement signed between the Irish and British governments: ‘I have received an assurance of regret, and also an intimation from the British authorities that they intend to take immediate disciplinary action with the perpetrators of the bombing outrage at Thurles. I believe that this sincere effort to maintain the Truce will have good results. Provocations of this nature are at no time to be regarded as justifications for actions by our people which would constitute breaches of the Truce.’ It was noted in this article that two of those wounded in this bombing incident—Declan Horton of Youghal and George Gorman (the son of a railway official)—had been sent to different hospitals for treatment of their wounds—Gorman to the Mater Hospital in Dublin and Horton to a Cork hospital (the North Infirmary). See FJ, 12 Dec. 1921. See also II, 12 Dec. 1921.

 

The Evening News of London ‘says that the British government—whose concern at the affair is all the deeper because the ratification of the Peace Treaty is being considered—will spare no pains to secure the arrest of the miscreants, and says the outrage is “the worst breach of the Truce since its signing nearly six months ago”.’ See II, 12 Dec. 1921. See also Nenagh Guardian, 17 Dec. 1921. The Thurles correspondent of the Evening News recalled what the town had experienced in 1920 and 1921: ‘The train bombing throws both England and Ireland back into the dark days of 1920, when Thurles was one of the black spots in Europe, and a life for a life was the first law of the town. For over a year, Thurles, a Sinn Fein stronghold, was the centre of a grim struggle between the R.I.C., supported by troops, and the local contingent of the I.R.A. In January last year [1920]—the night before the Labour Party’s deputation reached the town—a constable was shot, and his angry comrades promptly “shot up” the town. [RIC Constable Luke Finegan was shot and killed at about 10:15 p.m. on 20 January 1920 while making his way home to his residence in the Mall in Thurles.] The [bombing] outrage certainly shows that the war spirit is still strong in parts of Ireland, and that patience and forbearance on the part of both England and Ireland will be necessary if the peace is to become a real one.’ Quoted in II, 12 Dec. 1921. See also Nenagh Guardian, 17 Dec. 1921.  

 

The perpetrators were allegedly members of the Black and Tans, as asserted in the 1955 BMH witness statement of former Ballykinlar internee Thomas Treacy, commandant of the Kilkenny Brigade of the IRA, 1918-November 1920: ‘When on the 8th December 1921 word was received at the [Ballykinlar] camp that as a result of the signing of the Articles of Agreement in London we were to be released next day, there was that feeling of joy and anticipation which the young experience when in school or college the Master announces the Christmas holidays with an extra week thrown in. For the first time the prisoners in “Cages” No.s 1 and 2 were allowed to mix, and warm and sincere were the greetings of old comrades when they met again on that day./

 

‘The camp was humming with excitement and hustle that evening, getting ready for the going home on the morrow. This joyful excitement and anticipation was as deeply and as keenly felt by Declan Horton, prisoner No. 792, as by any other prisoner in the camp. He was a splendid type of fellow, physically and every other way, full of life and energy. After being released, he was on his way home by train; his relatives and friends were waiting to greet him, but as his train passed under a bridge before entering a station [at Thurles], a party of Black and Tans dropped a bomb from the parapet of the bridge. It struck the carriage in which he was travelling and killed Declan Horton.’ See Thomas Treacy’s WS 1093, 89-90 (BMH). Commandant Treacy had been arrested and interned in November 1920; he spent the year 1921 as an internee at Ballykinlar, where he served as commandant of ‘Cage 1’.

 

Under a headline reading, ‘Bombing Reception for Ballykinlar Men’, the Belfast Newsletter of 10 December 1921 remarked: ‘Several people who had assembled at the Thurles station were also said to have been hurt. It is stated that the bombs were thrown under cover of the explosion of fog signals which were used as greetings.’ See Belfast Newsletter, 10 Dec. 1921. Two days later, the Belfast Newsletter published another report headlined ‘Sinn Feiners Accuse Crown Forces’: ‘Much capital is being made by the Surrender Press in England and the Sinn Fein newspapers in Ireland out of the bombing affair at Thurles (Co. Tipperary) railway station on Friday [9 December 1921], when a trainload of ex-internees from Ballykinlar was passing through, and three men were injured by fragments of bombs alleged to have been thrown at the train. The Sinn Feiners have been quick to accuse crown forces of the deed, as the . . . communication from the [Irish] “chief liaison officer” [Commandant J. E. D’Alton] shows. . . .’ See Belfast Newsletter, 12 Dec. 1921.

 

The Thurles train bombing was discussed in a British cabinet memorandum entitled ‘Weekly Survey of the State of Ireland’, which ‘referred to the Thurles tragedy and suggested as ludicrous the claims that any elements of the British forces were involved’. It was suspected that the attack had been ‘a reprisal for an assault on the RIC at Thurles earlier that day’. The author of the cabinet memo sought to ignore the most obvious conclusion about the source of the attack: 

 

“‘The train outrage at the Thurles station is one of the few serious breaches of the Truce that have been charged against the crown forces. Although the facts as originally reported appeared to constitute a very strong prima facie case against the police, the latter investigations made on the spot by the chief of police in conjunction with the local Sinn Féin Liaison Officer have not resulted in the production of any substantial evidence. . . . It appears to be clear that only one bomb was thrown, but no witnesses to the act of throwing have yet come forward, and the only ground for the allegations brought against the police is the natural assumption that no members of the I.R.A. would be likely to throw bombs at a train containing internees among its passengers. . . . In view of the inconclusive nature of the joint preliminary investigation, the chief of police proposed to the Sinn Féin Liaison Officer that the matter should be referred to a military Court of Inquiry, and there is a possibility of this suggestion being adopted.”’ See CAB 24/131—IR 0065 (NLI), quoted in Ó Duibhir (2013), 274-75, 337.   

 

Of course, the bombing of the train at Thurles was investigated by the IRA. Closely involved in the investigation was John Sharkey, Intelligence Officer of the Fourth Battalion of the South Tipperary Brigade from 1919 onwards and Acting South Tipperary Brigade Intelligence Officer in 1921. Sharkey recalled: ‘Sometime about the second week in December 1921, a bomb was thrown at a passenger train just as it was about to enter the railway station at Thurles. The train was carrying a number of released political prisoners who were on their way home from various prisons and internment camps. One such released prisoner named Declan Horton was killed by the bomb. [IRA Liaison Officer] Sean Fitzpatrick and I went to Thurles to investigate the matter. Our information was that the bomb had been thrown by a Sergeant Enright of the R.I.C. and that it had been thrown from the bridge over the railway near Thurles Station. It was late when we got to Thurles and the town was in complete darkness; not a light shone in  a house. We went straight to the R.I.C. Barracks, and although we made it quite clear who we were and the business we were on, the police refused to open the door to us. The townspeople of Thurles appeared to be in a state of terror that night. Seeking accommodation for the night, we knocked at the hotels and at some likely houses, but nowhere did we get an answer to our knocking. Eventually, Sean Fitzpatrick and myself went to the railway station and got shelter for the night from a signalman in the signalman’s cabin. Next day we returned to Clonmel. The investigation of this incident probably fizzled out, as the R.I.C. were disbanded shortly afterwards. At any rate, I have an idea that Sergeant Enright was shot dead at a coursing match which he attended somewhere in North Tipperary within a few weeks of the bombing incident at Thurles Railway Station.’ See John Sharkey’s WS 1100, 17 (BMH). His statement is dated 16 February 1955.

 

According to a report in the Southern Star on Saturday, 17 December 1921, referring to events on the previous Wednesday night [14 December], Sergeant Thomas Enright was shot dead and a second RIC constable named Timoney was ‘seriously wounded’ at Kilmallock, where they had gone on the previous day ‘to attend the coursing. The sergeant and constable travelled in plain clothes together with another man who had charge of dogs. The latter returned to Thurles last night [15 December] with the dogs. The sergeant and constable proceeded to Cleary’s Hotel, where the card [which] was being called over for to-day’s event took place. After leaving the hotel shortly after 10:30 p.m. [on 14 December], they were fired at from behind by a party of eight or nine civilians near the Post Office. . . . The report of the firing created considerable alarm in the town [of Kilmallock].’ See SS, 17 Dec. 1921.

 

The Irish Independent reported that Sergeant Enright and Constable Timoney had been planning to attend a coursing match to be held on the Mount Coote demesne of the brewing magnate Sir Gilbert Greenall (later Baron Daresbury) at Kilmallock on Thursday, 15 December 1921, and that they had been attacked by seven or eight armed civilians on the previous night when the two RIC men in mufti were leaving Cleary’s Hotel at about 10:30 p.m. Enright ‘was a native of Listowel and an ex-army officer, having fought with the Canadian army in the European war. He was married and leaves one child. . . . When the news reached Thurles that Serg[eant] Enright had been shot, a note of alarm was struck, and last night [15 December 1921] a feeling of tension prevailed in the town. Two men have been arrested in Kilmallock, but the nature of the charge has not been disclosed.’ See II, 16 Dec. 1921. Of the two men arrested, one named Costelloe was detained. See CE, 16 Dec. 1921. Enright had fought in the Great War (as noted previously) and had risen to the rank of lieutenant. He later joined the R.I.C. and was promoted to the rank of Defence of Barracks Sergeant early in August 1920 before reverting to constable rank in mid-February 1921. He was married and 31 years old at the time of his death. He was interred in Listowel. See Abbott (2000), 271.

 

Sergeant Enright had been associated with intense persecution of republicans in Thurles during the height of the War of Independence. In February 1921 one of the Thurles Volunteer companies had been ‘drilling at Loughtagalla on the outskirts of the town when several lorries of police attempted to surround them. There were about 60 Volunteers on parade but they all managed to get away safely. One young Volunteer, Thomas Kelly, Mitchell St., who was running to warn his colleagues of the approach of the lorries, was fired at by the police and shot dead.’ See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 66 (BMH). Soon thereafter the local IRA ordered the execution as spies of James Maher, known as ‘Rockam’, and Patrick Meara, known as ‘Swordy’. Sometime in March 1921 Maher and Meara was executed as spies on the orders of James Leahy, commandant of the No. 2 or Mid-Tipperary Brigade. See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 66-67 (BMH).

 

‘Reprisals for these executions took place on the night of 10th March 1921. Five masked and armed policemen raided the home of Larry Hickey, publican, Main Street, Thurles, when they found the owner in bed. He was ordered out in his night attire, and when he reached the head of the stairs, he was tripped and thrown downstairs by an R.I.C. man named Jackson. In the fall Hickey’s neck was broken, and he was in great pain at the foot of the stairs when Sergeant Enright, who was in charge of the raiders, shot him dead to put an end to his misery. Hickey was a well-known republican in Thurles, and a detailed account of his shooting was given to me during the Truce period by Sergeant Enright himself.’ See James Leahy’s WS, 67-68 (BMH). Another  group of masked RIC men also shot dead in bed on the same night William Loughnane of Mitchell Street, who ‘along with his father and three brothers were [sic] active members of the local I.R.A. company’. Yet a third crime (attempted murder) was committed on the same night at Turtulla, the homestead of the Barry family, where a workman and prominent IRA figure named Denis Regan was shot and seriously wounded by police. See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 68 (BMH). After an IRA raid on the office of the petty-sessions clerk in Thurles on 29 March 1921, pursuing police and soldiers shot dead one of the raiders, James McLoughney, at Cormackstown, 4 miles from Thurles. See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 69 (BMH).

 

Sergeant Enright earned notoriety in still other ways: ‘About May 1921 the Thurles R.I.C. tried out a new deception in the hope of being able to inflict damaging losses on the I.R.A. Parties of police, attired in I.R.A. fashion and numbering about 20 men, went at night time on foot into the districts of Horse and Jockey, Littleton, and Moycarkey. These parties were always led by the notorious Sgt. Enright, a North Kerryman and an ex-Canadian soldier. His accent did not require a great deal of changing to make it rather similar to that of the Tipperary people. A favourite dodge of theirs was to knock at a house owned by people of republican sympathies and pretend to the owner or his family that it was “Leahy and the boys” who were outside and that they were looking for “wanted” I.R.A. men. These tricks never worked, as the civilian population was too wary to disclose anything they knew until they were very sure of those to whom they were speaking. After about four abortive attempts the police got wise to themselves and abandoned the idea entirely.’ See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 73 (BMH).

 

‘Sergeant Enright then figured in another form of activity. About once or twice a week, he led about a dozen policemen on patrol from Thurles into the country, varying the itinerary each time. Mick Small made an effort to engage this patrol on the Mall Road, half a mile from the town. With a force of 25 men he waited there for about five hours, but without result, as the patrol did not come out.’ See James Leahy’s WS 1454, 74 (BMH).

 

Who were the killers of Sergeant Enright? Among them was Maurice Meade, Section Commander of the East Limerick Brigade at the time of the Truce: ‘One day there was a coursing match at Mount Coote which we attended, and which was also attended by Brown and some of the R.I.C. who had come there driving the car in question. . . . I should have mentioned that this was the second day of the coursing. On the previous day there was a Black and Tan named Enright who had a dog running there. This man was a brother of Enright, the R.I.C. man who was killed at Knocklong, and he was particularly active and bitter against our men, on one occasion bombing some of our captured men. For this we decided he should pay the death penalty. No opportunity to carry this out had arisen until the Truce occurred, but when we saw him at the coursing match, even though the Truce was then in operation, we agreed to shoot him and did so that night.’ See Maurice Meade’s WS 891, 43-44 (BMH).

 

Declan Hourton’s funeral was one of the biggest and most impressive ever witnessed in West Waterford: ‘The interesting and historic seaside village of Ardmore . . . was the scene of a very imposing demonstration on Sunday evening [18 December 1921[, when the remains of Mr Declan Hourton, wounded at Thurles, were laid to rest at the foot of the famous Round Tower which tops the hill overlooking the sea and bay. Poor Hourton was the son of Mr Declan Hourton, an industrious and deservedly respected cottier, living at Curragh, on the off-side of Ardmore Bay. Aged 31, he saw active service in the Great War as an Irish Guardsman, took part in the Battle of Mons and at the Somme, and was wounded three times. He escaped the German bombs only to fall victim to one thrown by the hands of an unknown (perhaps) assassin in his native land. Over twelve months ago he and two brothers were arrested by the Ardmore marines. Ned was released, Michael sent to Bere [Island], and he to Ballykinlar. This was a great blow temporarily to his family. Now they have been deprived permanently of their chief stay—a matter for the immediate practical consideration of the Irish people. Yesterday touching references were made to the sad event at the Masses, and from early morning there was a big influx of sympathisers from all parts of Co. Waterford and East Cork, [with] the day being extremely fine and mild. Waterford sent the T. F. Meagher S[inn] F[ein] Band and a number of prominent citizens. . . . Representative men in large numbers were present from Lismore, Tallow, Cappoquin, Dungarvan, Carrick-on-Suir, Youghal, etc./

 

‘The remains arrived via Youghal on Saturday night [17 December] and were laid on a catafalque, covered with beautiful wreaths, before the High Altar. Watch was kept by relays of Volunteers, and a constant stream of people flowed in and out to have a last view and say a prayer for his repose. The scene in front of the church [at Ardmore] was a truly striking one. Volunteers mustered 500 or 600 strong, including several companies of the 3rd and 5th Battalions from all parts of the county, including Dungarvan, Lismore, Cappoquin, Tallow, Aglish, Clashmore, Piltown, Ballycrane, Old Parish, Ring, etc., and paraded inside a big ring formed by the general public. A firing party of twenty kept the gates. At 2:30 [p. m.] a procession was formed and left the church precincts. . . . The cortege wended its way up the hill by the new line, [with] the band playing the “Dead March” (German) and “Wrap the Green Flag”, the intervals filled in by the sound of the waves breaking on the beach below./

 

‘Reaching the historic old cemetery, which includes the ruins of St Deglan’s Church, with its ogham stones, his cell and grave, the procession filed in in admirable order under the direction of the Volunteers. The Benedictions having been sung and the prayers said, the coffin was reverently lowered into the grave, [with] the silence only broken by the sad cries of his mother and sister for “PaJ” (by which pet name he was known locally). When the grave was filled in, Fr O’Shea recited a decade of the Rosary in Irish, in which it was devoutly answered by the people. Finally, the Last Post was sounded and three volleys fired over the grave of the only prisoner who left jail in his health and strength for home but reached it a corpse.’ See CE, 20 Dec. 1921. See also http://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/exhibit/web/Display/article/373/1/Ardmore_Memory_and_Story__Troubled_Times_The_War_Of_Independence.html (accessed 26 March 2018). 

 

Declan Horton or Hurtin Jr was in 1911 one of the six living children (nine born) of the general labourer Declan Hurtin Sr (the census spelling) and his wife Ellen, who was six years older than her husband; he was then 48. Living with them in that year were their five sons and their only daughter Ellen (aged 8 and the youngest child). The children ranged in age from 8 to 27. Declan Hurtin Jr (then aged 19) was their fourth son. The family resided in house 35 in the townland of Curragh in Ardmore parish. At the time of the 1901 census the Hurtin family had lived with their maternal grandparents—Michael and Mary Troy—at house 15 in Curragh townland. The grandfather, his son-in-law Declan Hurtin Sr, and his eldest grandson Thomas Hurtin were all farm labourers. At that point Declan Hurtin Jr (aged 10) was still in school. Michael and Mary Troy were Irish-speakers only; the senior and junior Hurtins were all bilingual.

 

Declan Hurtin or Horton Jr (both spellings were used in his military records) enlisted in the Irish Guards Regiment (First Battalion) at Youghal in County Cork on 4 December 1915. He gave his age as 24 and his address as Curragh near Ardmore, Co. Waterford. He stated that he had been employed as a labourer. He signed up only for ‘short service’—‘for the duration of the war’. See Attestation No. 10596 of Declan Hurtin, approved on 6 January 1916. He served ‘at home’ from 4 December 1915 to 26 August 1916; he then served in France with the British Expeditionary Force from the latter date until 2 August 1917. He was removed on that date from the front lines and served ‘at home’ again until 30 March 1918. He then returned to France for his last period of service there, which ended on 25 September 1918. He served out his remaining military career ‘at home’ until he was discharged from the army on 6 March 1919. See Declan Hurtin’s Descriptive Report of Enlistment, undated, but ca. March 1919. His ‘Medical History’ record and other documents in his military files indicate that he was wounded three times and spent a total of 94 days in five different hospitals. His wounds were generally not serious: a ‘slight’ gunshot wound to the left arm and left thigh; another wound to the left arm; and a gunshot wound to the right foot, with two toes of that foot suffering severe flesh wounds. None of these wounds was assessed as a war disability. When given what was called a ‘hospital furlough’, he was arrested at his home near Ardmore by the R.I.C. in late October 1917 and was punished with ten days’ detention when he returned from the furlough. See Declan Hurtin’s Regimental Conduct Sheet, last entry dated 2 November 1917. See British Army World War I Pension Records (1914-1920) for Declan Hurtie [sic], WO/364/Piece 1847, TNA, Ancestry.com, British Army WWI Pension Records, 1914-1920 (database on-line), Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1114/miuk1914a_085000-00837?pid=470103&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?ti%3D0%26indiv%3Dtry%26db%3Dbritisharmy%26h%3D470103%26requr%3D281775630745600%26ur%3D32768&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true (accessed 29 March 2018).

 

Declan Horton was a member of the Ardmore Company of the Third Battalion of the West Waterford Brigade of the IRA. His name was especially associated with one of the more notable failures of the Ardmore Company and the Third Battalion. In February 1920 the local IRA company made a second ‘attempt to capture the R.I.C. garrison in Ardmore. [The first effort had failed.] A parcel for delivery to the barracks was to be given to [Declan or ‘Patsy’] Hurton, the local postman. Incidentally, he was an ex-British soldier, but was now one of our Ardmore Company. Hurton was to knock on the barrack door about nine o’clock one morning (the usual time for delivery of mails), and when the door was opened, Mick Mansfield of Oldparish and myself, armed with revolvers, were to rush the barracks, hold up the guard, and keep open the door for others of our lads, who were in houses in the vicinity since the previous night. I remember it was a Holy Day and the people of the village were going to Mass when Hurton approached the barracks, about 9 o’clock in the morning, to hand in the parcel. The next thing we heard was a woman shouting to warn the R.I.C. inside. She was the wife of one of the constables who had apparently spotted us and gave the alarm. As a result, the door of the barracks was not opened, and we had no option but to get out of the village, as our plan had gone hopelessly astray. Shortly after this, the building was strengthened against attack with steel shutters on the windows and barbed wire and sandbags around it.’ See James Prendergast’s WS 1655, 3 (BMH).       

 


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