Volunteer Patrick White

Volunteer Patrick White (aged about 34) of Meelick, Co. Clare (Spike Island)

Date of incident: 31 May or 1 June 1921

Sources: Death Certificate, 31 May 1921; CC, 2 June 1921; FJ, 2 June 1921; CE, 3, 4 June 1921; II, 3, 6 June 1921; Irish Bulletin, 5:14 (20 June 1921); Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/35 (TNA); Richard O’Connell’s WS 656, 27-28 (BMH); Last Post (1976), 88; Ó Ruairc (2009), 247.


Note: White (a carpenter) was shot dead by a British sentry (Private Whitehead of the King’s Own Scotch Borderers Regiment) at Spike Island while in British custody in a bizarre incident. The shooting occurred without warning or challenge.

Fellow prisoner Richard O’Connell, previously a high-ranking officer of the Mid Limerick Brigade, recalled what happened: ‘In Spike Island the huts were on one side; in front of these was a gravel path and then the barbed wire entanglement fence, and outside that was the compound where we used [to] play. We had hurleys. We were out this day hurling and the ball went into the wire. Paddy White of Meelick, Co. Clare, rushed over to pull the ball out with the hurley. If he got through that wire, it would have been into his own hut, which had nothing to do with escaping from the place. The next thing was the soldier on sentry duty put up his rifle and shot White dead. Someone—I think it was the old camp commandant—roared at us then, “Get back from the wire.” The sentry had re-loaded as if to fire again. No one moved. Then the governor of the island—the old commandant—came up and disarmed the soldier. We went over, knelt down, and said a prayer for Paddy while he was dying. He died within a minute.’ See Richard O’Connell’s WS 656, 27-28 (BMH). 

White’s remains ‘were removed from there to Cobh railway station, where they were transferred to Limerick’. Fr Callanan, the Spike Island chaplain, accompanied the body to the Cobh station. See CE, 4 June 1921. According to his death certificate, White died on 31 May, though newspaper sources gave Wednesday, 1 June, as the date of his death. White was captain of the Meelick Company of the East Clare Brigade.

He was in 1911 one of the seven children (eight born) of the elderly farmer and carpenter James White (aged 72) and his wife Elizabeth of Meelick (Killeely). Four of their children (three sons and a daughter) were co-resident with their parents in that year. Patrick (then aged 24 and employed as a carpenter) was the youngest son still at home.  

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