The killings of Sean Mulvoy and Seamus Quirke and the night of terror which followed on the night of 8th/9th September 1920 denotes a significant centenary in the history of Galway. On that night, the majority of people in Galway city supported the British side during the War of Independence. However, that changed as a result of what historians now call ‘the Krumm Affair’.
Edward Krumm was a Black and Tan driver who was stationed temporarily at Eglington St Barracks. The story goes got he got drunk and went with a civilian friend named Yorke to the railway station to meet the midnight train. It was common practice until relatively recently for Galweigians to visit the station late at night to buy the morning newspapers hot off the press in Dublin. It appears that Krumm for some reason produced his pistol and began firing in the direction of civilians or was at least threatening to fire his weapon. A person close buy jumped on Krumm’s back but he continued to fire, discharging all of the rounds with one striking and fatally wounding Sean Mulvoy. Mulvoy, an IRA volunteer is said to have gone to assist in retraining the drunken Black and Tan. In the melee, Krumm was shot dead by another IRA volunteer and when news of his shooting reached Eglington St Barracks, the forces of the state went on a shooting rampage, terrorising the people of the town. Seamus Quirke, a young man of 23 years of age and a well-known republican who was not present at the station, was dragged from his bed at his lodgings on the Docks and shot eleven times in the stomach. He died screaming in pain five hours later. Fr. Griffin was called and remained at his bedside until he died.
The RIC and other armed units of the British raided properties of known republicans shooting several more men and setting a house alight with a woman inside but all survived.
There remains some dispute as to the reason why Krumm started shooting. Fr. Griffin in an interview with an American journalist about a week after the event said, that there was great public interest in the news at that time as the Lord Mayor of Cork Terrence MacSwiney was on hunger strike and people wanted to get the latest news and also to know the results of a big race. The drunken Krumm might have been panicked by the surge of the crowd and thought he was under threat and fired his weapon in self-defence. Krumm however, was certainly not involved in a counter insurgency operation and while the IRA were transporting arms through the station that night, most of the IRA men present were not on duty.
The other story is that the drunken Krumm was boasting how he was a great a shot and shooting his mouth off on the way to the station. At the station he was probably shouting abuse when he produced his weapon and Seán Turke, an IRA volunteer, jumped on him fearing that he was about to discharge his weapon. However, it appears that this action panicked Krumm who then is thought to have discharged all the rounds in his pistol wildly around the station with one fatally wounding Seán Mulvoy.
A fellow RIC constable later testified to the American ‘Commission on the Conditions in Ireland’ that he worked with Krumm and stated that took his time getting his motorcar repaired and was generally a reckless fellow who drank a lot. Krumm was stationed in Dunmore but had been in Galway for two weeks while awaiting repair of his vehicle. He had gone to Baker’s Hotel to meet with a friend named Yorke and after some time drinking there, both of them went to the station late that night. Yorke is often named as a fellow Black and Tan which is not true, he was a civilian driver for the military. He was not beside his friend Krumm when the firing took place and did not witness the shootings.
It appears that the whole incident happened by accident there was no operation by either side yet it had enormous consequences for Seamus Quirke, the city of Galway and perhaps the country as a whole when news came to light of the behaviour of British forces during Galway’s Night of Terror in September 1920.
The following are two extracts from witness statements given to the bureau of Military History about the Krumm Affair. The first statement was given by Geraldine Dillion, nee Plunket was the daughter of Count George Noble Plunkett and sister of Joseph Mary Plunket, executed in the aftermath of the 1916 rising. She was married to Professor Thomas Dillion who was professor of chemistry at University College (now NUI) Galway.
The second witness statement extract is by Mícheál Ó Droighnáin, from Furbough, who was the Brigade Commandant, of the East Connemara Brigade.
Finally is an article from the Galway The Galway Express published on Thursday 9th September 1920 entitled ‘The Murder of Innocent Men RIC Savagery’ which urges the people of Galway to ‘keep cool’.
MRS. GERALDINE DILLON (PLUNKETT)
10, NEW LINE, GALWAY.
BLACK AND TAN PERIOD:
Beginning of the terror in Galway
They were in the habit of going to the station every night at 11.30 to meet the incoming train, to watch the movements of troops, to collect dispatches and to meet Volunteers from other districts. The Volunteers present were Seán Turke, Mulvoy, Johnny Broderick, Frank Dowd, Tommy Fahy and Michael Hynes. Some of them were not on duty. Krumm and his companion went on to the platform by the gate on the arrival side, where the bus station now is. Volunteers warned the men with the Longford guns and they went out by the signal-box with the guns. As the crowd started to go out the gate, Krumm drew his gun and made as if to shoot into the crowd. Turke jumped on his back and pulled him to the ground, trying to get his gun from him. Mulvoy went to help him. Krumm managed to fire all the rounds in his gun in the struggle, killing Mulvoy and wounding another man. Frank Dowd then shot Krumm just as Fahy and Hynes came to help. They took the gun. Krumm’s companion was still with him but seems to have taken no part in the business. Mulvoy was carried to his lodgings but was dead on arrival. The incident seemed to be closed except to those who knew that this was what the police were waiting for. Half-an-hour afterwards the lorries full of armed men tore down the road from Renmore and the shooting began. Volunteer Quirke was taken from his bed in his lodgings at the New Docks and shot through the stomach eleven times. He crawled on his hands and knees from the lamp-post on the quay where he was shot to the door of the house. Father Griffin was sent for and stayed with him till he died. This was five hours later and be screamed continuously during that time. It was thought that the police thought that Quirke had shot Krumm and that this was a mistake for Turke.
Troops then took Johnny Broderick from his home and Commins from his lodgings and put them up against the big door at the railway station and shot them. Commins was wounded in the leg and fell, Broderick’s head was grazed by a bullet and he cleverly fell, also, pretending to be dead. Seeing him covered with blood, the police left him. His mother was locked in her house and it was set on fire. Her screams mixed with poor Quirke’s. The neighbours rushed to put the fire out and were threatened with guns. When the police left, the fire was put out.
The “Galway Express” office was completely wrecked. This was supposed to be the only “Sinn Féin” newspaper in Ireland. Commandant Seamus Murphy was the manager, Tom Nix the editor and Dr. Tom Walsh the managing director.
A party of R.I.C. lead by Sergeant Fox of Eglinton St. police barracks ranged the town looking for Volunteers, who had nearly all got away at the sound of the first shots. They searched for Tom Fahy, who was gone, and Paddy MacAvinue got up on the roof of his mother-in-law’s house. He could hear Sergeant Fox howling for his blood in the street. One after another the lorries went back to the barracks, leaving the R.I.C. alone in the streets, quite mad with blood.
The next day some of the type of the Galway Express was got together and a leaflet was printed, giving the main facts of the previous night’s “orgy of murder and wreckage”. It formally accused the police, the R.I.C. of the murders and advised the people to keep cool. (I am giving one to the Bureau to copy (Appendix A). Louis E. O’Dea was the chairman of the town council. He attempted to hold an inquiry but the D.I. Cruise, stopped it and it was made quite plain to him that he would be murdered also. Louis had to go on the run.
Reports of burnings and shootings all over Ireland began to reach the English papers. The hard work of the propaganda department of Dáil Éireann began to have effect. A steady stream of English journalists had been sent all over Ireland, many of them had been in Galway and had attended Republican Courts, etc. They had been told the history of recent years in Ireland and had seen the condition of the country. The Irish Bulletin was sent to them every week. For the first time they knew something about us and reports given to them by their own government were recognised to be untrue. The Manchester Guardian published an article by Ivor Browne, saying that the Police: were being permitted to run amok. The New Statesman pointed out that Sir Henry WIlson was trying to “explode rebellion”, in the manner of Castlereagh. They said that the military and police were acting on direct orders from Downing St, over the heads of Dublin Castle.
This idea of provoking us into disorganised and senseless action, as they had done so many times before, and so working us out of our hard-won position as rulers of the country through our elected representatives, was out of date and did not allow for the speed of modern communications. The news was carried to the furthest corners of the earth and all men of good will, including all decent Englishmen, helped us to put an end to it.
While anxious that we should be terrified and so willing that we should know what was happening in other parts of the country, the authorities did not want the news to get abroad and were in a dilemma as to whether the news should be published or not, It was extraordinary that they allowed some reports, and still more extraordinary that they suppressed others. The Tribune was allowed to say that the police broke out, that they killed Vol. Quirke, etc. but later they began to threaten reprisals if information was given.
The “military authorities”, meaning that curious mixture of old and new R.I.C., Auxiliaries and regular army, did not always work well together. The police had orders, through their weekly gazette, the “Weekly Summary”, to “make Ireland an appropriate hell for those whose trade is agitation and whose method is murder”. Some regiments took these orders and some did not. The 17th lancers were quartered in the old distillery building, Earls Island, now the metal Industries factory. They bad semi-circular huts full of prisoners in their “care”. A prisoner told me that when one of the men wanted to give them blankets in the cold weather, an officer stopped him, saying that he never heard of swine wanting blankets.
While a raid was going on in Josie Lydon’s house in Spiddal, a soldier who was guarding the back of the house told me that he was from Tipperary, that he had seen what the ‘Tans had done to his own place and that he would be glad of a chance to kill them. later, the Sherwood Foresters, soldiers of the guard on the Town Hall internment camp saved Liam O’Briain’s life when ‘Tans wanted to kill him “while attempting to escape”.
For a month after the first break-out in Galway the Terror rose higher and higher. Louis E. O’Dea, chairman of the Town Council, courageously had a little handbill printed saying he was to hold a public inquiry into the deaths of Quirke and Mulvoy. Dean Considine was present. D. I. Cruise stopped it, saying that he would use force if necessary. No statements of any kind were allowed. Coroners’ inquests had been abolished by military law. A farcical military inquiry was held and adjourned. Requiem Mass was celebrated for Quirke and Mulvoy, the Bishop presiding. The Last Post was sounded. Except for Fr. Griffin, no public funerals were allowed after this.
The full statement can be read here…
Mícheál Ó Droighnáin,
Furbough, County Galway.
Identity. Brigade Commandant, East Connemara Brigade.
Subject. I.R.A. activities, East Connemara Brigade, 1917 – 1921
To come back to the journey from Broadstone to Galway, the large box was under the seat, and I sat all the way in a corner. The train would be reaching Galway at night – around eleven o’clock. At Oranmore Station, Christy Macken (now Dr. C. Macken) came into my carriage, by previous arrangement, and sat in the other corner, taking no notice of me. There Was a group of six or eight Galway Town Volunteers waiting at the station for my arrival, under the command of Seán Turke. Frank Dowd, Tommy Fahy (of Craughwell) Seamus Mulvoy and others were there. Tommy Reddington (R.I.P.) and Seán Seoighe (still in the Education Office in Dublin) had a sidecar ready, waiting to take the box away. We put the box up on top of the sidecar the driver sat up in the dickey, Seán Seoighe sat up on one side, and Tommy Reddington and I sat up on the other side. No sooner had the horse begun to move out of the station than shots rang out around us. We galloped off with our load.
What happened was this: A Black and Tan, named Crumm, was moving around the station, swinging a heavy revolver, and blowing about it, and making himself a nuisance to everybody. Just at the point that we had our box on the sidecar, Seán Turke jumped on Crumm’s back, and brought him to the ground. Crumm blazed away immediately, and one of his bullets hit Mulvoy, from the effects of which he died during the night. One of our boys had a .32 revolver and, with it, he shot Crumm dead. Some say it was Frank Dowd who did it, but I remember Tommy Fahy, the youngest of the lot, saying it was he who fired the shot. The Tans and R.I.C. broke loose after that, and shot all round them. They went to Séamus Quirke’s lodgings, pulled him out and shot him dead. Séamus was a young Cork boy, working at Faller’s jewellery establishment, a very active Volunteer, but he was not at the railway station that night. Joe Cummins was put up against the station wall, and fired at. He fell down, pretending to be shot, and did not move. The Tans left him there, thinking he was killed, but he was uninjured, and when they were gon, he made his way out of the town and took to the country. Seán Broderick, who was very young at the time, was pulled out of his bed and, in his night attire, was beaten, but was glad to get away with his life. I don’t remember how many more were molested that night, but shots were heard all over the town till morning.
When we left the station on our sidecar, we went on to the Courthouse Square, and took our box into McDonnell’s lodging house, but, about two o’clock in the morning, thinking the place not safe enough, we transferred it to Lohan’s house in Woodquay, and Seán Seoighe and I slept there for the rest of the night. The following day, Tom Courtney, who belonged to one of the Rowing Clubs, and a great oarsman, brought the box up the river Corrib by boat, and handed it over to Morgan Davoren and his boys of the Moycullen Company.
The Galway Express
Thursday 9th September 1920
Special issue. Price One Penny
“THE MURDER OF INNOCENT MEN RIC SAVAGERY”
People’s Admirable Restrain Under Extreme Provocation
Galway Express Premises Demolished
Advice Keep Cool
An unparalleled outbreak of murder and crime took place in Galway this morning
The public are aware that an English Member of the R.I.C. foully murdered J. Mulvoy, a citizen of Galway. who had called to the station to secure an evening paper from the midnight mail. Not satisfied, this “policeman” attempted to murder another peaceful citizen when he himself was killed in self-defence.
An orgy of murder and wreckage followed. James Quirke, known and loved by all in Galway, was taken from his bed, dragged to the docks and foully murdered by the hireling constabulary. Attempts were made to murder others. The printing machinery of the “Galway Express” was smashed to atoms, and attempts were made to set fire to at least one private residence. It cannot be urged by the most extreme supporter of British rule that the Republican forces were responsible for this appalling outbreak. While definitely charging the R.I.C. with full responsibility for the murders we feel it incumbent on us to counsel the people of Galway to remain calm under this terrible provocation.
We cannot refrain from commenting on the sinister fact that these murders have been committed practically immediately after the order of the British Government forbidding the holding of inquests in Galway.
We regret that under present circumstances we cannot make any pronouncement as to the date on which the “Galway Express” will resume publication. Remember Galway men and Galway women the watchword is keep Cool.
We think it only fair to show the contrast between the conduct of the R.I.C. and the British military to say that an English officer, who witnessed the occurrence at the Railway Station, offered to give evidence, and said that the policeman was the aggressor and that no course was open to prevent further bloodshed but to shoot him. As a further contrast between the conduct of the citizens and that of the murderers we must point out that a companion of the police murderer was not interfered with in any way. We feel it our duty to congratulate the citizens of Galway on the manner in which they acquitted themselves, and we look to them in the future to follow the same standard of courage and moderation.
We have just been informed that the remains of John Mulvoy and James Quirke will be removed to the Pro-Cathedral this evening at 6.30 p.m. Confession will be heard in the Pro-Cathedral and St. Patrick’s this evening from 8 till 9.30. There will be General Communion in Pro-Cathedral at 9 a.m