National Army Soldier James Gavigan Jr


National Army Soldier James Gavigan Jr (aged about 21) of 4 Mill Road, Mullingar, County Westmeath (Rochestown)

Date of incident: 8 Aug. 1922

Sources: II, 11 Aug. 1922; Nenagh Guardian, 12 Aug. 1922; MSPC/2D383 (Military Archives); Keane (2017), 292-94, 416.


Note: While serving with the Curragh Reserves, Private James Gavigan Jr died of wounds received at Rochestown on 8 August 1922 as Free State forces encountered brief resistance from the anti-Treaty IRA during their advance towards the capture of Cork city. The Nenagh Guardian of 12 August 1922 reported that National Army troops on board the SS. Lady Wicklow after the successful landing at Passage West ‘brought back with them the dead body of a National soldier, Private J. S. Gannaghan [sic], Mill Road [in Mullingar]. He was killed by a sniper during the advance on Cork.’ See Nenagh Guardian, 12 Aug. 1922. One of the crew members of the Lady Wicklow reported that ‘the steamer had experienced a vicious “peppering” with bullets on her way, both inwards and outwards at Cork’. See II, 11 Aug. 1922.

Gavigan’s pension file contains a copy of a letter dated 9 August 1922 to his father from the commanding officer Staff Captain O’Kelly: ‘I deeply regret to inform you that your son was killed in action at the battle of Rochestown. Sad to say, he was the only casualty [in his unit] that we had. He was attached to my company and was a fine brave lad. I am a Mullingar man myself so my sympathy is all the deeper. When the fight was over, I got my company, which includes several Mullingar lads, and kneeling around our hero, we prayed for the happy repose of his soul. May he rest in peace.’ See MSPC/2D383 (Military Archives).   

James Gavigan Jr was in 1911 one of the five living children (seven born) of the labourer James Gavigan Sr and his wife Anne. The children (four daughters and one son) then resided with their parents at 42 Patrick Street in Mullingar. They ranged in age from under 1 year to 15. James Jr (then aged 10) had two older and two younger sisters.

In civilian life James Gavigan Jr had been a labourer. His father James Gavigan Sr was awarded a gratuity of £36 in consideration of the death of his son. The father was already in receipt of his own weekly British army pension of about £1 10s. and of a weekly dependant’s allowance of 14s. (up to 31 March 1924) arising from his son’s National Army service. In June 1924 he was described as ‘permanently invalided’. He then had six surviving children (five daughters and one son) ranging in age from 10 to 26. His deceased son James Jr had reportedly served in the British army prior to joining the National Army. See MSPC/2D383 (Military Archives).

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