Tragic Death of a Young Blarney Man

by

Brian Gabriel 

1942. Europe and the world were in turmoil at the height of World War 2, with almost all nations involved with the exception of a small number which remained neutral. Ireland was one of the neutral ones and the period was declared ‘The Emergency’. Military conscription was never applied in Ireland but the Government began a recruiting campaign resulting in a peak of 41,000 regular and 106,000 reservist soldiers by 1943. This new reserve force was initially created in May 1940 and named the Local Security Force as an adjunct to the Gardai. It was divided into 2 Groups, Group A as an auxiliary to the Army and Group B, which retained its original name L.S.F., as an auxiliary to the Gardai, its activities to be devoted to auxiliary police and internal security work. The Group A reservists were given the new title of “The Local Defence Force/L.D.F.” (An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil/FCA) and were taken under Army command and control in January 1941 as a part-time force to support the Permanent Defence Force and lasted until 1946 when all the reserves were stood down and a new Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil or F.C.A. was established. In 1942 the LDF strength was 98,429. The main LDF weapons consisted of a limited quantity of Springfield .300 rifles, for which ammunition was in short supply, bayonets, grenades and a number of handguns which were all supplied by the British War Office. The shortfall of rifles was augmented by the use of .22 Miniature rifles. While many men answered the recruiting call for the Army, a huge number of younger men joined the Reserves.

John Joseph Ryan, generally known as Jack, was born at Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork in December 1921 to Dr. Thomas and Eileen Ryan, one of three sons and one daughter. His brothers were named Diarmuid and Theo, his sister, Mollie. His father Thomas served in 1914/18 War where he was initially listed as ‘missing in action’ before becoming a P.O.W. and finally returning home when hostilities ended. He became the local G.P. in Ringaskiddy where Jack’s early life was spent until the family moved to the doctor’s residence, ‘Whispering Pines’, on Station Road, Blarney when a position there became available. Here, Thomas, built up a thriving, popular private practice as well as being appointed local dispensary doctor.

All of the Ryan children’s early education was in Blarney Boys and Girls National Schools. Diarmuid ultimately became an E.N.T. Surgeon, Theo, a career Army Officer and Mollie a Pharmacy Assistant and B&B owner.

Jack’s early education was in Blarney Boys National School followed by Presentation Brothers College where he was a formidable rugby player and played on a Munster Schools Rugby Senior Cup team in the 1930s. He became interested in all sports but especially athletics where he was to show great promise, not only locally but also nationwide. In particular he was a splendid performer over the 120 yards hurdles and was regarded as a runner of outstanding ability. Well-liked and popular in the area, he joined Blarney Hurling Club and became a proficient hurler. He grew to be a tall, good-looking, well-built, reddish haired young man. Shortly after finishing his senior education he moved to Limerick to take up employment in the William Street Branch of The Munster & Leinster Bank where he soon became a very popular member of the banking and sporting community. Like many other young men, he answered the call to join the L.D.F. Reservists during The Emergency. His unit was the Regiment of Thomond which covered the Counties of Limerick and Clare.

While on manoeuvres with the L.D.F. and the Army at Glenstal on Sunday 28th June 1942, Jack was involved in a tragic accident when he was accidentally shot in the chest. The L.D.F. Company were defending an attack by the Army whose objective was to capture the L.D.F. camp. Live ammunition had been replaced by blanks but unfortunately some live .22 rounds were missed and it appears it was one of these which hit Jack resulting in his death within a short time. On the threshold of a professional career in banking, an athlete of great national promise, well-liked by those who knew him and with excellent prospects for his future, it was all taken from him. He was just 21 years of age.

Death Notice: Ryan, John Joseph, Limerick, L.D.F. soldier, native of Blarney, Co. Cork, aged 21, accidentally shot dead while on manoeuvres in Glenstal Abbey grounds with one of Limerick City L.D.F. Coy’s., employed with Munster & Leinster Bank in Limerick.

Garda Sergt. M. Malone, Murroe, had Jack’s body removed from Glenstal to Barrington’s Hospital Limerick.

An inquest was held by Coroner Dr. J.R. Cleary, with a jury on Saturday 4th July 1942. Dr. J.G. Tynan, house surgeon performed a post-mortem examination assisted by Capt. R. Ryan on Monday and found that there was a bullet wound on the front of the chest which did not leave any singeing and that he traced the course of the wound which continued through the lung and was consistent with having been caused by a small .22 bullet but could not say what distance it was fired from.. He also searched for a bullet but did not find it and also there was no exit wound. Cause of death was ascribed, by Dr. Tynan, to shock and haemorrhage and rupture of the left lung and was instantaneous. Capt. R. Ryan, Army Medical Service who assisted, agreed with Dr. Tynan. The Coroner, asked the Jury to note that no bullet had been found in the body. Supt. Dunning said he was applying for an adjournment of the inquest sine die (with no appointed date for resumption). All the papers in the case had been sent to the Attorney-General.

The resumption of the adjourned inquest into Jack Ryan’s death took place on Tuesday 18th August 1942. The Coroner, Dr. J.P. Cleary, in his summing up said that the medical evidence at the previous inquest showed that there was no doubt Jack had been killed by a bullet. The bullet, however, had not been discovered and he had been instructed that no proceedings were to be taken against anyone. He thought the best thing the jury could do was to bring in an open verdict. He also added that what had occurred should be a warning to the military not to use live ammunition on manoeuvres.

The cause of death was officially registered as: Shock and Haemorrhage following bullet wound in chest. Accidental and Instantaneous.

The remains of the late Jack Ryan, dressed in his full L.D.F. uniform, left Barrington’s Hospital on Monday 29th June 1942 in blazing sunshine for Blarney, passing through Limerick streets lined with thousands of sorrowing people with heads bowed. Blinds in all shops and office windows en route were drawn. Led by Limerick L.D.F. Band which rendered the Dead March in Saul, a guard of honour of his colleagues in the L.D.F. walked by the side of the coffin. The coffin was covered with the Tricolour and flanked by beautiful wreaths. It was followed by L.D.F., L.S.F., A.F.S. and Red Cross Society and the Army from the Limerick Garrison, all in full uniform. The Mayor and City Manager of Limerick, accompanied by T.D.s and Councillors and staff members from all the city banks also marched along with his colleagues from many Limerick sporting clubs. At the Borough boundary the final salute was given and the funeral proceeded to Blarney. The remains of Jack Ryan entered Blarney the same evening when they were met by a very large crowd. The Blarney L.D.F., under R. Linehan, the L.S.F. under T. O’Halloran and the Red Cross led by Mrs. Seigne of St. Ann’s Hill Hydro furnished guards of honour.

MILITARY HONOURS AT FUNERAL: The funeral took place on Tuesday 30th June 1942 from Blarney to St. Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork and the Blarney L.D.F. turned out in full strength, marching part of the way from Blarney and again through the city. The following members of the Blarney L.D.F. acted as pall-bearers: J.J. O’Leary, E.F. Manning, Ml. O’Regan and J. O’Callaghan. Requiem Mass was celebrated in Blarney by Rev. D. Murphy C.C.

The chief mourners were: Dr. and Mrs. T.F. Ryan (parents), Diarmuid and Theo (brothers), Miss Mollie Ryan (sister), Dr. Jerh. Ryan (grandfather, Cloghroe), Mr. Jerh Ryan (uncle), Miss Annie Ryan (aunt), Col. Ryan (granduncle), Mr. D.C. Aherne (granduncle), Mrs. Aherne, Mr. Eugene Ryan and Mr. John Ryan (Limerick) and other friends. A large number of Clergy, high ranking Military Officers, L.D.F. Staff Officers and Gardai was also present and a large attendance from the Blarney Hurling Club among the many other clubs present.

Full military honours were accorded at the funeral while at the graveside an army bugler and firing party under the Assistant Group Leader Nagle rendered the final honours.

Jack met a tragic end in the service of his country and is buried in the Ryan family grave at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork.

A memorial cross was erected at Glenstal Abbey commemorating the tragedy.

T. Desmond and Sons, Conway’s Yard, had charge of the funeral arrangements.

A limited number of back issues of ‘Old Blarney’ Journals and ‘Old Blarney’ Photo-Journals are still available by contacting 087 2153216, or www.blarneyhistory.ie. An ideal present for Christmas.

Contact: Mr. Brian Gabriel Email: wbriangabriel@gmail.com Tel: 021 4381349 Mob: 087-2153216