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Assassination of Sergeant Thomas Craddock RIC

Gunned down in Athlone
 Damian Mac Con Uladh

[Summary: Sergeant Thomas Craddock was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) whose mother lived in Ballinasloe, in the gate lodge at the bottom of what is now Duneda. In August 1920, he was assassinated in Athlone, where he was stationed, by the IRA and was later buried in Kilclooney with full (British) military honours. Below are two reports from local newspapers: the first from the Unionist "Western News" and the second from the Nationalist "East Galway Democrat". Further on is a summary from a recent book which sheds more light on the reasons behind Craddock's shooting.]


Death of Thomas Craddock

IN THE PROVIDENCE of a Great and Merciful God, Ballinasloe has its first and closest connection with Ireland's shocking crime, during the past week, A brave and gallant young man, who had offered his life for his country, when his country needed it sorely, had his murdered remains brought here to be buried. What a fearful climax to a noble young life! Thomas Craddock was the only son of his widowed mother, who lived for years at the "Big Tree" gatehouse of Garbally. As an ex-service military man, he joined the police, and met the fate by which so many have been so brutally assailed. He was interred on Wednesday, his remains being attended to Creagh graveyard by a body of police, and military, with their band. The cortege, which included Mrs Craddock, and the deceasedís sister, was as large as any seen in Ballinasloe for a long time. Father Heenan officiated at the graveside, and his sympathy with his family, was worthy of Father Heenanís learning and great eloquence, and the tender heart that moves both to the dignity of profound pathos. With the mother and other relatives of the murdered hero, we deeply sympathise.ĖR.I.P.  

Source: Western News, Saturday August 28, 1920


The remains of the late Sergt Craddock, RIC, was interred in the family burial ground Kilclooney, on Monday evening. There was a large attendance of the public, and a military funeral was given to the [illegible]. Two pathetic figures at it were his mother and sister. They looked worn and brokenhearted as a result of the terrible tragedy. May God have mercy on his soul.

Shot dead at Midnight

Sergeant Thos Craddock, RIC, was fired upon at 12.30 am, on Sunday night when leaving the Comrades of the Great War club, Athlone, and died within half an hour.

Deceased, who was accompanied by Const McMahon, was fired at immediately that he stepped out into King Street. Opposite the club is a narrow street, one of the sidewalks of the military barracks, where there is a recess, usually containing a few cars or barrels. These may have afforded cover to the attackers, who numbered about seven. Several shots were heard in the vicinity, and six took effect, the one which proved fatal causing internal bleeding.
Military and police at once turned out, and a thorough search of the district was made. There was a dance preceeding at the INF [Irish National Forresters] Hall in aid of the railway workers strike fund, and inquiries were made by the authorities there, but the gathering was not interrupted.

Deceased, who was unmarried and had about 25 yearsí service, served in the South African War. He lived with his mother and sister. It is said he had lately been employed in the Crimes special headquarters, and that he had received threatening letters. At St Peterís Catholic Church, Rev T P Gallagher asked for prayers for deceased soul.

On Tuesday, the remains of Sergeant Craddock were removed from St Peter's Catholic Church, Athlone, for interment at Ballinasloe. The envelope with the crepe on the door of deceasedís residence bore the words "Shot by cowards". The remains were accorded full military honours, the band of the Leicestershire Regt. headed the cortege. Police and military marched behind the gun carriage conveying the remains. The military guard on Athlone bridge was withdrawn on Monday night, but three curfew arrests were made by patrols.

Source: East Galway Democrat, Saturday, August 29, 1920.

Sergeant killed in Athlone

In her recent book, They Put the Flag a-Flyin'. The Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923, Kathleen Hegarty Thorne quotes from the tesimony of IRA members which suggests that Craddock was far from the innocent policeman presented in the news reports above. For example, in early summer 1920, Craddock lead a group of men on a raid on IRA man, who they almost beat to death. He was also reportedly fond of holding revolvers to young suspect's heads and treatening to shoot them. Reports on his activity were forwarded to IRA leadership in Dublin and Michael Collins gave the go-ahead for Craddock to be shot.

Source: Kathleen Hegarty Thorne, They Put the Flag a-Flyin'. The Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923, Eugene, Oregon: 2005, p. 43.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Noel McCullagh who transcribed the original newspaper cuttings from microfilm.

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