County Galway saw its share of controversial incidents during the War of Independence. Most of these incidents were carried out by Crown Forces, specifically the RIC and a new force, the Auxiliaries, created in order to help the RIC in dealing with militant republicanism.
Patrick Loughnane (aged 29) was a local IRA leader and Sinn Féin secretary, he was also active in the local GAA. Harry (aged 22), his younger brother, was president of the local Sinn Féin club and a goalkeeper with Beagh Hurling Club.
While working on the family farm in Shanaglish, Co Galway, the two brothers were arrested by the Auxiliaries. Not a word was heard from the boys until a week after their arrest when a group of Auxiliaries called into Mrs Loughnane to inform her that her sons had escaped capture. This raised fear and suspicion among the brothers’ family and friends and a search was organised. Ten days after they had been arrested, their bodies were found in a muddy pond near Ardrahan.
Exactly what happened to the two brothers will never be known, however, witnesses, including others arrested at the same time told a tale of merciless brutality. After being arrested the brothers were beaten for hours in Gort Bridewell, and then tied to the tailgate of a lorry, bound to each other, and dragged along the roads to Drumharsna Castle, the headquarters of the Black and Tans where they were beaten again. At 11pm that night they were taken from Drumharsna Castle to Moy O’Hynes wood where they were shot. Witnesses recounted on Saturday morning, Harry was still alive and was heard moaning. On Sunday morning, the Auxiliaries took the bodies to Umbriste near Ardrahan where they were set alight. After failing to bury the bodies because of the rocky ground they threw them into a muddy pond and to make their discovery more difficult threw dirty oil into the water.
After the bodies were discovered and examined by a local doctor, the letters ‘IV’ were carved into the charred flesh in several places, two of Harry’s fingers were missing, his right arm was broken and hung over his the shoulder. Both of Pat’s legs and wrists were broken. The doctor thought it possible that hand grenades had been put into their mouths and exploded.
A memorial to the two brothers was later built on the spot where they died.
Image | Mutilated remains of Harry Loughnane