Martyrs Remembered in Athlone [RSF Westmeath]

12193629_438203053044571_1259225895707775624_nMembers of the Sean Costello/Martin Hurson Cumman, Republican Sinn Féin Athlone laid a wreath at the grave of Thomas Hughes on the 20th of January in Cornamagh Cemetery in Athlone . Thomas Hughes was shot by firing squad by the Free State in the Athlone barracks, January 20th 1923.

On the same day members of the Sean Costello/Martin Hurson Cumann and the James Daly Cumann both of RSF Westmeath erected railings on the surrounds of Christopher ‘Kit’ Mckeons grave at Cornamagh cemetery as part of the restoration project of Republicans graves in Westmeath and Offaly.  The headstone was erected last year by the Cumann and much work has yet to be done.

We add below for the interest of readers some information relating to the executions of the Athlone Martyrs from the publications ‘Civil War in Connacht’ and ‘Seventy Seven of mine said Ireland’.

Thomas Hughes, Michael Walsh, Hubert Collins, Stephen Joyce, and Martin Burke.

12523023_438204876377722_4532058497191481945_nThere were five executions on the 20th of January 1923 in Athlone, where the Western Command of the army was being entangled in the web. They are of particular interest to us because all five had Galway or Western connections, as had the sixth person, General Tom Maguire, TD who was also sentenced to death, but possibly because of his status as TD the death sentence was not carried out in his case. On Saturday January 20th, 1923 those five men were taken out in Custume Barracks, Athlone, lined by a wall and, on the orders of Highest Command in the Free State Forces, executed.

Their relatives were not informed until at the earliest, 6p.m., in the case of Captain Hughes’s family which lived nearby, some ten hours later. The Connacht Tribune of the following Saturday, April 14th describes the event.

“The condemned men went to their doom firmly and with brave hearts. They had been attended during the night by two priests and in the morning heard Mass, at which two of them served. The priests were with them to the last.”

The news of the executions cast a gloom over the people who could hardly realise what awful happening had taken place in their midst that morning. About 8 a.m. two volleys were fired and it is stated that the condemned men were taken out in parties of three each and blind folded and their hands joined in prayer. They had prayed fervently during the night before and in the morning and were fully consoled, prepared to meet their Creator. The six bodies enclosed in six coffins were interned in the ground with-in the Barracks and it is stated that the ground was consecrated.

On October 28th 1924, the Free State released the bodies of the executed soldiers of the Republic. Some 20 bodies, those executed in Tuam, Athlone, Drumboe, Tullamore, Birr and Tralee were released through the back gate of Custume Barracks, Athlone at ten minute intervals.


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