The County Roscommon IRA Commemoration Committee held its annual ceremony at the grave of John McGowan in Tibohine Cemetery on Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile, Roscommon Sinn Féin held their commemoration in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Castlerea on Easter Saturday.
Those present at the Tibohine ceremony on Sunday marched from Tibohine NS led by the Raheen Pipe Band before Michael Hanilly recited a decade of the Rosary in Irish. A wreath-laying ceremony took place and the flags were dipped as a piper played a lament.
The Roscommon Roll of Honour was called out by Frank Dowd and the 1916 Proclamation was read by Tom Flynn. A statement from the leadership of the Republican movement was read by Joe Murphy and Ballyfarnon native, Sean Scott, delivered an oration and in the course of his address he outlined the circumstances in which the two volunteers met their deaths.
John McGowan was a native of Portahard, Frenchpark and he was captain of the local Tibohine Company, which was part of the East Mayo IRA Brigade. He was an active volunteer in his area and as a result was hunted by the local RIC. Due to this fact he couldn’t remain in his own home and had to go on the run. He stayed mostly in safe houses around the Frenchpark and Ballaghaderreen areas. A few nights before Christmas 1920 John was staying in the home of Pat Dwyer, Rathkeery, with Pat and his son Pat jnr. John’s safe house must have been betrayed to enemy forces by an informer as during the night of December 20th, the house was raided by Black and Tan forces.
Young Pat Dwyer was seized and brought to the front door where a light was shone in his face for an unknown person hidden outside to identify him. A voice outside confirmed Pat Dwyer’s identity and Pat was knocked unconscious from a blow of a rifle. John McGowan was then brought to the door for the same purpose and was identified by the person outside. It was a death sentence and the Black and Tans had their man. John was immediately shot dead on the door step.
A few days later John’s remains were laid to rest in Tibohine cemetery. Despite the fact that there were enemy forces in the cemetery on the day of the burial, John’s comrades discharged three gunshots over his coffin as a final salute to a brave and loyal soldier of the Irish Republic.
The ceremony on Sunday also commemorated the memory of Volunteer Thomas McDonagh from Co. Sligo. Thomas McDonagh, who was part of the South Sligo Brigade, was actually the first IRA casualty of the Black and Tan War in Co. Roscommon. Thomas lost his life a short distance from Tibohine in the Ratra Ambush which occurred 99 years ago in September 1920. He was born in the US and was reared in Cloonloo, Co. Sligo.
McDonagh was part of an ambush party that had hoped to disarm an RIC patrol at Ratra. The plan was to surprise the patrol and capture their weapons without firing a shot. But the encounter led to an exchange of gunfire between the RIC and the IRA. Thomas McDonagh was killed when he was confronted by armed RIC men and was unable to defend himself after his revolver misfired due to faulty ammunition. He was just 20-years-old when he met his death on the roadside in Ratra on September 1st 1920. Thomas was once described by a comrade “as being a fine cut of a young man”. His remains now rest in Temple Ronan Cemetery, about five miles from Tibohine on the northern side of Lough Gara in Sligo.
Sunday’s commemoration ended with the Raheen Pipe Band playing the National Anthem.