Lieutenant Commander Edward Cregan
National Army Lieutenant Commander Edward Cregan (aged about 22) of Dungeeha near Newcastle West, Co. Limerick (Curraghs near Kanturk)
Date of incident: 20 Aug. 1922
Sources: Evening Herald, 23 Aug. 1922; CE, 24 Aug. 1922, 20 Aug. 1923; MSPC/2D37 (Military Archives); O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 199; Keane (2017), 296-97, 416; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 2 Aug. 2017).
Note: Lieutenant Commander Edward Cregan was killed on 20 August 1922 at Curraghs near Kanturk in an attack on a party of National Army officers and men by members of the anti-Treaty IRA. Cregan was shot through the stomach and died within a few hours. He and four of his fellow National Army officers had been travelling from Dromcolliher in County Limerick to Kanturk when they were ambushed at Curraghs in Kilbrin parish outside Kanturk. They had been inspecting National Army posts at Liscarroll and Dromcolliher. See MSPC/2D37 (Military Archives).
The Field GHQ of the National Army’s South Western Command issued an official bulletin about the incident on 22 August: ‘While a detachment of 7 men under Lieut.-Comdt. E. Cregan of the West Limerick Brigade was returning from Liscarroll to Kanturk on Sunday evening [20 August], they were ambushed at 7:30 o’clock by 60 irregulars with 2 Thompson guns and rifles at a place called Curraghs, 3 miles from Liscarroll. Lieut. Comdt. Cregan was seriously wounded. The driver of the car remained with the wounded officer while the others of the party engaged the attackers. The driver was taken from the car by the irregulars and made a prisoner. The irregulars then proceeded to set the car on fire while the wounded officer was still in it. The driver, however, made good his escape and returned to find the dying officer in the burning car. He carried his officer from the car, and Lieut.-Comdt. Cregan died immediately on the roadside. Meanwhile, the remainder of the party made a fierce resistance and fought their way through the ambushes, inflicting severe casualties, and all succeeded in reaching Kanturk, fighting a rereguard action for over a mile. Two of the troops were slightly wounded.’ See Evening Herald, 23 Aug. 1922.
According to the victim’s father, his son Edward Cregan was the first National Army officer to fall in an ambush by the anti-Treaty IRA in the South of Ireland during the Civil War. His father also correctly stated that just prior to the ambush his son had been appointed to the National Army Divisional Staff. See Edmund Cregan to Adjutant General’s Office, Dublin GHQ, 29 Nov. 1922, MSPC/2D37. The father’s solicitor J. P. Lavan asserted in April 1924 that the Irregulars had deliberately attempted to burn Cregan’s body after killing him. See J. P. Lavan to Secretary, Army Pensions Department, 11 April 1924, MSPC/2D37.
In a letter dated 17 April 1923, a solicitor in the Newcastle West branch office of Patrick T. Liston & Co. of Rathkeale gave valuable information to the Army Pensions Department at Portobello Barracks in Dublin about Edward Cregan’s local standing and about his importance to the rest of his family living on their farm at Dungeeha:
‘The father is a farmer . . . [and] has about 40 Irish acres of land. His family consisted of his wife, three girls, and two boys [recte four girls and three boys], one of whom was [the] deceased. The other boy is an invalid, so that the father was totally dependant on the assistance of the deceased [Edward Cregan], and his going into the [National] Army after he had been in the Volunteers was simply from patriotic motives and to help to sustain the government and to restore peace and the expected prosperity of the country. The deceased was a young man of the very highest character and did a great deal in his own district, where he had a large following and exercised his influence for the National cause. His father has now to employ skill[ed] labour, such as ploughman and mower, and also employ another labourer for the tending of his crops. The father is a man of 65 years, and this boy was the mainstay of the entire family. In time he would have got up the farm from his father. He would have married, and according to the custom of the country, receive[d] a good fortune, which would be the means of providing for the female members of the family. The loss sustained by his death is everywhere recognised, and the poor family have the sympathy of the entire country, as was evidenced by the public demonstration at his funeral.’ See MSPC/2D37.
According to the undated Civic Guard report in the same file, the victim’s father, then aged 71 and ‘incapacitated by ill health during the past twelve months’, had been for all practical purposes entirely dependent on the deceased Edward Cregan for the management of his farm. Of his two other sons, one was ‘an imbecile’ and the other now worked on the family farm, but with the assistance of outside labour.
The father Edmund Cregan eventually received a gratuity of £75 in consideration of the death of his high-ranking-officer son, who also had a previous record of service with the West Limerick Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence. His father’s original claim had been rejected. Claims from his father for additional sums and from his married sister Josie Normoyle for a dependant’s allowance were rejected by the Army Pensions Board. During the processing of these claims, representations were made to and by the President and the Office of the President W. T. Cosgrave. See MSPC/2D37.
Lieutenant Commander Cregan was one of the seven children of the Dungeeha farmer Edmond Cregan and his wife Katie. According to their ages as given in the 1911 census, these children (four daughters and three sons) were spaced one year apart, from age 10 through 16. At age 11, Edward (or ‘Eddie’ as he was listed in the census) was the second son and the second youngest of the children.