Thomas Kirby, 1880-1921

Thomas Kirby was abducted and shot by the IRA near Golden, Tipperary on 8 Jan 1921, as a spy and informer. His body was never recovered at the time, but was found in 1990 about 4 miles from where he disappeared.

There is a Service Record of Thomas Kirby, born Golden, Tipperary , joining Royal Irish Regt no 6486 on 7 Nov 1898 aged 18 and in the Militia. 5ft 8in. Scar over left eyebrow. Next of kin listed as father John, mother Ellen at Ballinlina, Golden, Tipp. Elder brother Mixhael, younger brothers John & Patrick.

1911 census Working as a farm labourer at Scarrough, Donohill, Tipperary

A second service record exists for a 32 year old Thomas Kirby enlisting in 1916. Comparing the signature on the enlisting form, they are the same man. 5ft 9in. Next of Kin Michael Kirby, Golden, Tipp.(his uncle)

1921 Jan 8 Shot by IRA as a spy.

From Tadhg Dwyer's witness statement:-
“Towards the end of 1920 it became clear to us that the British forces were getting information concerning the houses and places frequented by men on the run. An ex British soldier named Thomas Kirby was suspected of spying and he was ordered to leave the area. He joined the British forces and returned to the barracks in Dundrum, from where he guided the enemy forces in their nightly prowls for wanted men. Although he disguised himself whenever he was out of the barracks with enemy parties, he was soon recognised. Then one night he ventured out alone and was followed and captured in a public house at Ballybrack near Annacarty where he was drinking. He was tried by court-martial and could give no satisfactory explanation of his movements. To the charge of spying for the enemy forces he pleaded insanity. He was sentenced to death and was executed by a firing party. Before his death we brought a priest to him, who anointed him and gave him all spiritual aid. We buried him up in the hills near Ballybrack. Kirby’s execution took place on or about the 8th January. 1921.” [Bureau of Military History, 1913-21; Document No. W.S. 1,356]

1990 Sep 7. Irish Times reports on the body of a man found in a bog in Tipperary. According to local historians he was kidnapped in County Tipperary, possibly in January or February 1921, tried and shot dead at the place where his body was found at Turaheen, outside Rossmore. The man's clothes were completely intact and comprised a tunic, greatcoat and cap with the Lincolnshire Regiment badge. It seems unlikely now that he was police; but the locals believe his name was Thomas Kirby and was in his 40's came from the Glen of Aherlow. Its most likely that he was wearing a Lincs great coat and hat because at the time of his killing the Lincs Regiment had a small number of men stationed in Dundrum Police Barracks. A church burial is to be held, possibly today, for the body of the man, exhumed from a shallow grave on a wooded hillside in Co. Tipperary yesterday.

Sept 7th 1990 From the Times.

A Church Burial is to be held, possibly today, for the body of a man, believed to be a member of the RIC, which was exhumed from a shallow grave in a wooded hillside in Co. Tipperary yesterday. The body is believed to be that of Thomas Kirby, who was in his 40s and who came from the Glen of Aherlow. Research carried out by the Clonoulty Community Council suggests that he was kidnapped by the IRA in Co. Tipperary, possibly in January or February 1921, tried by a Sinn Fein court and shot dead at the spot where his body was found in the past week, at Turraheen, outside Rossmore. The site of the grave was said to have been well known locally among elderly people. For years after the killing, local people cutting turf in the area prayed at the spot which was marked with a cross of stones. The area was planted with pine trees 30 years ago, but the forestry workers left the area of the grave untouched. After hearing about the grave, the members of the community council approached elderly people in the area. The council is involved in restoring graveyards in the area and wished to give the body a Christian burial.

One of the members of the Council, said they were shown the grave by an elderly man from the area last Saturday. They dug up part of the grave and found a button and rosary beads. They then decided to call the gardai who completed the exhumation yesterday afternoon. The body was taken to Cashel Hospital where a post mortem was carried out by the State Pathologist, Dr. John Harbison. The Council member said the turf bog appeared to have preserved the body. The mans clothes were completely intact. She said the man appeared to have been dressed in a British Army uniform when he was shot. He had a cap with the Lincolnshire Regiment badge, an army tunic and great coat, all of which were well preserved.

It is not known if he had worn the uniform and was in service as an auxiliary or Black and Tan at the time he was seized by the IRA, or was dressed in the uniform by his captors before he was shot. According to the locals, Kirby was held for three weeks before he was shot. He was said to have been attended by a Priest before being shot by a firing squad. The IRA in the area was commanded by Dan Breen and Denny Lacey and there was a considerable amount of violence during early 1921 before the truce that year.

The Council member said that there had not been any objection or controversy over the exhumation and many people had expressed the wish over the years for a proper burial for the man. She had spoken to a number of people who remembered the incident and to one man who knew Kirby, but all wished to remain anonymous. The man who had known Kirby said he had not spoken about him for over 50 years.

The grave was found by another elderly man who was able to trace the site by following old bounderies.In pursuing the case the Council member studied State papers on the era, but was unable to trace many details. She believes he joined the RIC and served in Dundrum for only a few months before being kidnapped and killed.

Scotland Yard Spies