Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Grandnephew James Lillis leads members of the County Carlow Flying Column to the grave of James Lillis during the public commemoration in Dunleckney Graveyard

THERE was a mixture of emotions at the recent commemoration of a Bagenalstown man who was executed during the Civil War. James Lillis, a native of Kilcarrig Street, was 22 when he was shot at Carlow Barracks in 1923 for the capital offence of possession of firearms.

Family members and locals who gathered at Dunleckney Graveyard felt the sadness reflecting on James’s short life, but also comfort at being able to come together and remember him 100 years on.

“It’s an important part of family history and important to keep that memory alive,” said the Bagenalstown man’s grandnephew, also named James Lillis.

“It was nice to mark the occasion and a lot of family and extended family were there. It was what we hoped it would be, to be honest.”

He added: “It was important to mark the occasion in memory of James. But 100 years later, we tried to remember everyone who died around that time, Treaty or anti-Treaty, we don’t distinguish.”

Fr Declan Foley led a prayer and spoke about James.

James was the son of John and Mary Lillis and was one of ten siblings. He was part of the anti-Treaty IRA and was suspected of being involved in the Graney Ambush in October 1922, which resulted in the deaths of two Free State soldiers. He was later found in possession of a rifle and ammunition in Borris while on the run, which was a capital offence at the time.

He was tried in Dublin on 12 December 1922, found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed in Carlow on 15 January.

In a letter to his mother shortly before his execution, he asks her ‘not to fret for me, for with the help of God I am going to Heaven’.

Charlie Murphy of Carlow County Council’s Decade of Centenaries Committee and county librarian John Shorthall were in attendance, as was the the County Carlow Flying Column Re-Enactment Group.

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