A sad story from 1920 unearthed in a Galway bog


`All the family with the exception of Joseph were in bed. I heard heavy footsteps in the avenue and soon there were imperative knocks on the doors. Taking a little light with him, Joseph went to the door, where admission was demanded in the name of the military. When he opened the door, he was held up by masked men and a sack was thrown over his head . . . "The raiders wore hobnailed boots and rough tweed suits. All of them wore masks made from sacking . . . One man carried a single-barrelled shotgun. As my husband was taken downstairs, my little girl Rita jumped from her bed and ran to say good-bye to her daddy. The raiders, who were all the time very courteous, told her not to be frightened. Her daddy was in good hands . . . The raiders then turned to me and asked me to face the wall as my husband left the house. They assured me there was no reason to be frightened . . . "

This was the testimony of Mrs Padraig Joyce, wife of the Barna national school principal (Joseph was their son), who was abducted at midnight on October 15th, 1920, and whose remains were found in a shallow grave in bogland 10 days ago. Joyce, who was believed to have been an informer, was a "smart, dapper man", according to one colleague, and a member of the INTO. He was highly respected, and his disappearance was to lead to mayhem in the Barna district. "Lorryloads" of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries swooped on the area and "terrorised" the people, according to local historian Father Padraig O Laoi. Some days later, the popular Rahoon curate, Father Patrick Griffin, vanished, and was found dead in a bog. It is believed that he was executed by Crown forces, and his death has long been linked to that of Padraig Joyce.

The tragic events are outlined in Father O Laoi's history of Father Griffin, which was published by the Connacht Tribune in 1994, and copies of which are now flying out the door of Kenny's bookshop in Galway. While chalk, de Valera-type spectacles and an engraved watch were found in the coffin, there is no sign of missing letters which were believed to have been nearby. These letters, said to have been signed by Joyce, had given information on the movements of Volunteers in the region during the War of Independence.