I recently began reading a work titled The Good Old IRA, which was issued by the ‘Sinn Féin Publicity Department’ in November 1985. It lists ‘Tan War operations’ which injured or in some cases killed civilians in an attempt to highlight the hypocrisy of those who honoured the republicans of old while attacking their contemporaries.
The works introduction slates Labour Party leader and “Free State deputy-premier” Dick Spring for example, noting that he was
tongue-tied in attempting to explain the differences between the IRA gun-runner Roger Casement (in whose honour he was unveiling a statue at Ballyheigue, County Kerry) and those IRA gun-runners on the Marita Anne who had been arrested by his government’s forces off the Kerry coast 24 hours previously.
One incident detailed in particular, from 1921, stood out for me. It is listed on page 56 of the work.
One woman spectator, Miss Kate Wright, a student of Trinity College, was killed and another wounded in an attack by armed civilians on military officers playing in a cricket match at Trinity College Dublin on June 3rd. A man fired shots on to the field of play from the railings at Nassau Street from which the pitch was visible.
The Irish Times reported on the day following the shooting that
The occasion was one of festivity and enjoyment in the College Park. A cricket match in connection with Warriors’ Day was in progress. The teams were the Gentlemen of Ireland versus the Military of Ireland. The general belief is that the latter were the objects of the murderous attack which resulted so tragically
From the contemporary newspaper reports, we can establish quite a lot about Miss Wright. Aged only 21 (based on an Irish Independent report of the inquiry into her death),Kathleen Alexanderson Wright was engaged to be married to a young man who was also a student at the Dublin university. His name was Mr. Geo Herbert Ardall, and he was a native of Sligo. He was studying Science at the University, and was with Kathleen enjoying the cricket match, on what was said to be a lovely summers day in Dublin.
Kathleen was the daughter of the Rev. E.A Wright of All Saints Clapham Park in London, and the Irish Independent of June 4 1921 noted that he had “before going to England filled curacies in Cahir and Seapatrick”, both in county Down. At the time of the shooting she was living on Pembroke Road in Rathmines, but before hand had lived in digs at Trinity.
The Irish Independent reported how he told the inquiry into his fiance’s death that
When the shots were fired he pulled Miss Wright down on the ground as quickly as he could. She was moaning, but he was not certain she was hit until a few moments afterwards when he saw blood on the front of her blouse. Three doctors attended her, and one told him that the case was absolutely hopeless. He did not hear her make any remark. He accompanied her to hospital, where he was told she was dead
The Irish Times report into the inquiry noted that
Another witness stated that he was in the cricket pavilion, and heard someone remark that shots were being fired outside in the park. He went out immediately, and ran to where a crowd was collecting inside the park railings opposite the Kildare Street Club. A few of his friends told him what had happened and said that the shots came through the railings (…) When witness arrived at where the girl was lying on the ground the crowd who are usually gathered in Nassau Street outside the railings to watch the game had all cleared off.
Perhaps the most surreal details about the shooting come from the statement issued by Dublin Castle in the immediate aftermath of the event. The official reported noted that another female was wounded during the shootings, and provided great insight into the initial reaction of those on the green.
As soon as the shooting began,the players, realising what was happening, threw themselves flat on the field. A regimental band, which was on the field at the time, threw down their instruments and also lay prone. The spectators were not so quick to realise what was happening until a number of shots had been fired and persons were hit.
The attackers made good their escape.
Nobody was ever tried for the shooting of Miss Kathleen Wright, and little was written about her after her body returned home. Her story is just one of many told in The Good Old IRA, with other tragic events unfolding on the streets of Dublin over the course of the War of Independence.
I’ll no doubt think of her and her story next time I wander through Trinity College.