National Army Soldier Bernard Gray Jr


National Army Soldier Bernard Gray Jr (aged 16 or 17) of 16 Fairfield Street, Glasgow, Scotland, and 60 Rockmore Road, Belfast (Coachford)

Date of incident: 18 Sept. 1922

Sources: Death Certificate (Clonmoyle District, Union of Macroom), 18 Sept. 1922; CE, 19, 21 Sept. 1922; Evening Herald, 23 Sept. 1922; MSPC/2D289 (Military Archives); Keane (2017), 306, 417; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 13 July 2017).


Note: Private Bernard Gray Jr died of gunshot-related wounds accidentally inflicted at Coachford on 18 September 1922. The Cork Examiner of 22 September reported the tragic incident as follows: ‘It appears that he cleaned his rifle with some inflammable liquid, with the result that when he discharged the weapon, it burst, and the stock struck him, inflicting a compound fracture of the jaw as well as a fracture of the base of the skull. He succumbed to his injuries in a short time. He was aged only 16 [or 17]. His home address is 16 Fairfield Street, Glasgow.’ See CE, 21 Sept. 1922.

Private Gray was a member of A Company of the First Scotttish Brigade of the National Army. Along with another National soldier, he was buried ‘with full military honours’ in the Army Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on 23 September. The Requiem Mass for both of them, held in the Military Chapel of Portobello Barracks, ‘was attended by a large body of the National troops’. ‘Shortly afterwards the funeral cortege moved away from Portobello Barracks to the cemetery, Glasnevin, [with] a large contingent of National soldiers from Beggar’s Bush and Portobello Barracks marching slowly and solemnly with arms reversed in the long line of mourners, which contained a number of private carriages. Along the entire route almost, the pathetic scene was witnessed by crowds of spectators, who reverently saluted the remains as the two hearses passed through the busy thoroughfares. The mournful music was supplied by the Pipers’ Band of the Dublin Guard, Beggar’s Bush. . . . The firing party and guard of honour from Portobello Barracks was [sic] taken from Pte. Gray’s own Scottish Brigade, which was represented by Brigade-Adjutant Fullerton of Glasgow. . . . Private Bernard Gray, who was only 17 years of age, was a native of Govan, Glasgow, his parents being Irish. From his earliest years almost, the young soldier took part in the Irish national movement.’ The chief mourners were his father Bernard Gray Sr and a brother (Private Gray) who was also serving with the National Army. See Evening Herald, 23 Sept. 1922.  

Private Bernard Gray Jr been an apprentice riveter (with earnings of 25s. a week) in a Belfast shipyard before going into uniform. After delays about which she came to complain loudly, his mother Catherine Gray was awarded a dependant’s allowance of £50 in January 1925. Before then she had received only a temporary allowance of 7s. per week, which was greatly less than the full weekly earnings of her son Bernard, which she claimed to have received while he worked as a riveter. Vexed by the delays of the Army Pensions Board and the Department of Defence, she even sought the personal intervention of Home Affairs Minister Kevin O’Higgins and Irish President William Cosgrave. In response to her letter to President Cosgrave she was told in mid-June 1924 that the delay was ‘owing to the difficulties experienced in prosecuting investigations in the Northern Area’. But since her application for a dependant’s allowance had not been submitted until 21 February 1924, she had not been made to wait unusually long. The first document by date in this pension file is a letter of complaint dated 3 February 1924 from Catherine Gray to Defence Minister (General) Richard Mulcahy. See MSPC/2D289 (Military Archives).    

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