The small fishing village of Carrigaholt, in County Clare , was stunned by the drownings of four British soldiers, 100 years ago in the summer of 1920.
It was Wednesday, July 14, 1920, when four young soldiers who were based at nearby O'Curry College had time off and decided to spend it on the Shannon. From the Highland Light Infantry, the four soldiers were from Glasgow, Scotland, and all aged between 20 and 21.
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Privates Richard McClintock, John Browne, Henry McIlroy, and John Stokes thought it was a good idea to take advantage of the warm summer's day and go on a fishing trip on the River Shannon but, their plans proved foolishly fatal.
The four soldiers had time off from implementing imperial rule on West Clare and took it upon themselves to take a rowboat belonging to the Brennan family. The Brennans were well-known in Clare for their long and proud tradition of piloting ships along the dangerous parts of the Shannon estuary.
The four young soldiers were in a jovial mood and as they rowed out on the water they ignored the dangers and got caught in a current off Kilcredaun Point. Panic set in and as they frantically tried to signal to a nearby ship for help, they toppled the small boat. The four soldiers fell into the water and drowned.
Three of the four bodies were found the following month - Privates McClintock, McIlroy, and Browne. They were buried at Shanakyle Kikrush Cemetery. The body of Private Stokes washed up on the north Kerry coast and he was buried in Tralee military cemetery.
The Highland Light Infantry had arrived in Carrigaholt in June 1920, a month before the drownings of four of its soldiers. They took over the O'Curry Irish College which resulted in Irish students having to vacate to Miltown Malbay and Kilkee.
Unlike other British Regiments in Ireland during the War of Independence, the Highland Light Infantry had a low mortality rate. These deaths were not combat-related but rather tragic events. Along with the four drownings at Carrigaholt, a solider in Limerick succumbed to TB while another died from pneumonia. A solider in Limerick took his own life while another drowned in the River Shannon there, a month prior to the Carrigaholt drownings in County Clare.
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