100 years ago the small fishing village of Carrigaholt was stunned by the drownings of four British Soldiers during the Summer of 1920.
Pauline Murphy is a history write from Cork and tells the story.
This tragic tale begins on what was a fine Summers day in West Clare – Wednesday July 14th. Four young soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry had some time off on that day and they decided to take to the waters of the River Shannon. It would be several weeks before their bodies would be recovered.
Private Richard McClintock of the 2nd Battalion Highland Light Infantry was 20 years old and from Greenock, Scotland. Along with Private John Brown, Private Henry McIlroy and Private John Stokes, all from Glasgow and all not yet 21 years of age, thought it was a good idea to take advantage of the warm summer’s day and go on a fishing trip but, their plans proved foolishly fatal.
The four young Scottish soldiers who had a day off from implementing imperial rule in West Clare took it upon themselves to take without permission a small row boat belonging to the Brennan family. The Brennans were well known in the area with their long tradition of piloting ships along the dangerous parts of the Shannon estuary.
The four young soldiers were in jovial mood and along with the reckless attitude all too often displayed in youth, they rowed out onto the water disregarding the danger and they got caught in a treacherous current off Kilcredaun Point. Panic set in and as they frantically tried to signal to a nearby ship they toppled the small boat and all four of the young Scotsmen went into the water and drowned.
It would be weeks until their bodies were recovered. In the middle of August 1920 three of the four bodies were recovered – Privates McClintock, McIlroy and Brown. They were buried in Kilrush Shanakyle Cemetery.
The body of Private Stokes washed up on the north Kerry coast some time afterwards and he was buried in the Tralee military cemetery.
The Highland Light Infantry had arrived in the quite village of Carrigaholt a month before the tragic accident in July 1920. They took over the O’Curry Irish college and because of this the students due to spend their Summer there had to move to Kilkee, Miltown Malbay and Lahinch.
Unlike other British regiments in Ireland during the War of Independence, the Highland Light infantry had a somewhat low mortality rate. The four soldiers who drowned at Carrigaholt was their single biggest loss in Ireland during that time. Other deaths included a soldier who died from pneumonia in Limerick, a soldier who died from tuberculosis in Cork and another solider who drowned in the River Shannon in Limerick and another solider who took his own life in the treaty city.
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