1920-1939 | Ireland | Torture

The mutilated corpses of two Irish nationalists found dumped in a pond

Drumharsna Castle where the two brothers were probably burned alive.
Castle photo by Mike Searle – 2018 – via Geograph

5 December 1920

On 5 December 1920, three boys discovered the mutilated bodies of two brothers, Pat and Harry Loughnane, 29 and 22 years old.  They had been tortured and killed by British auxiliary forces known as the Black and Tans, who had been deployed to crush a widespread Irish rebellion against British rule.  The brothers’ naked corpses had been dumped in a small muddy pond in a field, on which oil had been poured to disguise them.

According to a witness statement, Harry’s body was ‘a mass of unsightly scars and gashes; two of his fingers were lopped off; his right arm was broken at the shoulder, being almost completely severed from the body.. (and) nothing remained (of his face) save the chin and lips.’  Pat’s body was also difficult to recognise. His face looked as if had been blown apart, while his wrists and legs had been broken.1

Prior to his arrest, Pat had been an occasionally active member of the Irish Republican Army while Harry, who loved books and wanted to be a teacher, had due to ill health, accepted a post as a secretary for the local Sinn Fein club. They had been detained at 4 pm on 26 November, while working on their farm at Shanaglish in County Galway. According to the testimony of a young police officer who knew the men, they were taken to a police barracks where, even though blood covered their faces, officers continued to beat them for an hour.

After their beating, they were tied to the end of a vehicle and dragged along the road to a local police base at Drumharsna Castle. It’s not certain if by then the two men might have already succumbed to their horrific injuries, but the evidence suggests that shortly after their arrival they were burned while still alive. The authorities dismissed such allegations, insisting that the two men had escaped from police custody. Although a British military court of inquiry was convened, its findings were never made known. Hundreds of men and women turned out to the brothers’ funeral at which six Republican volunteers fired three volleys over their graves and in 1927 a large Celtic Cross was erected as a memorial in Shanaglish cemetery.2


  1. Bureau of Military History Witness Statements 1517 ( Padraig O Fathaig ) and 1652 (Henry O’Mara) and Eoin Mac Cormaic, ‘Remembering the Past: Horrific Death of Brothers at Hands of Black and Tans,’ 7 December 2000 accessed online at http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/7011
  2. Eamon Healy, ‘Murder of the Loughnane brothers of Shanaglish,’ 13 June 2007, accessed online at http://beaghrootsgalway.weebly.com/blog/26-november-1920-murder-of-the-loughnane-brothers-of-shanaglish

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