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Murder in Dublin: Bowen-Colthurst found guilty again
The Royal Commission has found that the testimony of Captain John Bowen-Colthurst and his account of the occurrences was ‘wholly untrue’ Photo: National Museum of Ireland

Murder in Dublin: Bowen-Colthurst found guilty again

Report of Royal Commission on Portobello Shootings published

Dublin, 17 October 1916 - The Royal Commission on the Portobello Shootings has said that the shooting of three unarmed men in the Portobello barracks during the Easter Rising ‘constitutes the offence of murder, whether martial law has been proclaimed or not.’

The Royal Commission was established to investigate the events at Portobello barracks where Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Thomas Dickson and Patrick McIntyre were murdered  by a British Army officer Captain J.C. Bowen-Colthurst.

He was subsequently found ‘guilty, but insane’ by court-martial.

The Royal Commission was established following an outpouring of grief and anger from the Sheehy Skeffington family and their friends.

The family wrote to the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to complain that in the days after the murder, Captain Bowen-Colthurst had sent a search party to their home.

Further, he remained at large for two weeks after the murder and, most striking of all, he ordered a second execution team to shoot again at Francis Sheehy Skeffington as he lay on the ground, following a report that the dying man had twitched where he lay.

The Royal Commission has found that the testimony of Captain Bowen-Colthurst and his account of the occurrences was ‘wholly untrue’.

Confidential DMP account of the shootings of a number of civilians during the Rising, including Ernest Kavanagh, Maeve Cavanagh's brother. Click image to enlarge. (Image: National Archives of Ireland, CSO RP 1916 12390)

The Irish Citizen
Following their special memorial edition for Sheehy Skeffington in July, the Irish Citizen has published in its most recent issue a poem by Maeve Cavanagh in honour of its former editor. Cavanagh also lost a relative in the Rising; her brother Ernest Kavanagh, cartoonist for the socialist newspaper The Irish Worker, was shot by British soldiers outside Liberty Hall. Her poem is entitled 'Francis Sheehy Skeffington, To His Wife':

‘Think not of him as dead, that thought
Would deeply wrong his victor soul
Or that his last great fight was fought,
When he strode to Death’s fiery goal.
Ah; far beyond, new beacons flared,
New battles waited where he fared.

Another stage, it may be, too,
A higher in the soul’s long climb,
When he our struggles still may view;
And we touch hands with him some time,
Whence his unconquerable will
Shall find some means to help us still.

For we who knew his dreams, his worth,
Could never picture him at rest,
Oblivious to the woes of Earth,
Forgetful of his former zest,
Ah, no! Each cause he served shall know
Rich fruits of his life’s afterglow.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.