One hundred years since Connaught Rangers mutiny

Today, Sunday June 28, marks one hundred years since Irish soldiers serving with the Connaught Rangers mutinied in India.

The mutiny took place on June 28, 1920, when a group of soldiers serving with the Rangers in the Punjabi city of Jullundur, on learning of Black and Tan atrocities in Ireland, refused to follow the orders of their British officers. When some of their compatriots mutinied in the nearby Solon, an armoury was stormed and two of the mutineers were killed.

Although dozens of the mutineers were arrested and initially sentenced to death, only one of their number – Tyrrellspass man James Joseph Daly (pictured above) – was executed after being identified as the ringleader. Daly was shot at Dagshai prison on November 2, 1920, the last man in British uniform to be executed for mutiny.

Almost fifty years later, Daly’s body was repatriated to Ireland and buried with “great fanfare”, according to Westmeath-based historian John Gibney, who is assistant editor with the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series.

In an article for the May/June edition of History Ireland (republished here), Gibney recalls how Daly’s coffin was draped with the tricolour that had covered Terence MacSwiney’s casket in 1920.

“The Westmeath-Offaly Independent estimated that a crowd of up to 6,000 followed the hearse as it made its way through Tyrellspass,” Gibney states. “As was so often the case at such funerals, a wide cross section of Irish society was represented.

“The cortege was led by a colour party and included republicans from across Ireland (led by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh), priests from throughout Westmeath and further afield, an ITGWU brass band, and surviving veterans of the Connaught Rangers, one of whom, Joseph Hawes of Clare, had played a leading role in the 1920 mutiny and said at the graveside that ‘Ireland had produced many brave men, but I believe the bravest of them all was Jim Daly’.

“The Department of External Affairs had argued against any official representation at the funeral and went so far as to advise the Indian ambassador not to attend. But at the insistence of President Éamon de Valera, he was represented in Tyrellspass by the OC of Custume Barracks in Athlone.”

With the Troubles in their early days, the “repatriation of James Daly,” Gibney adds, “had far more to do with 1970 than 1920.”

The Connaught Rangers mutineers have been included in the Government’s plans for the 2020 Decade of Commemorations Programme.

Last year, the BBC journalist Fergal Keane called on the British government to pardon Daly posthumously as a reconciliatory gesture.