On Friday the 26th of November 1920, Patrick Loughnane, aged twenty-nine, and his younger brother, Harry, aged twenty-two, were labouring in the fields near their mother’s home in Shanaglish, County Galway, carrying out the arduous work of threshing corn for the autumn harvest. With them were a dozen or so neighbours, families working together as a cooperative during the late farming season, gathering and feeding corn into a hired, steam-driven threshing machine.
While their siblings had left the region to find employment elsewhere, some emigrating to the United States and Britain, the Loughnane boys had stayed with their widowed parent to tend the family’s small patch of land in the west of Ireland. Patrick, a fine athlete and hurler, was the elected head of the local cumann or party branch of Sinn Féin while his studious, bookworm brother functioned as it’s secretary. Both men were also serving volunteers or citizen-soldiers of the insurgent Irish Republican Army, the older brother becoming a company commander in the local parish of Beagh.
Though their unit had seen relatively little action in the proceeding two years of resistance against the United Kingdom’s military and civil forces on the island, Patrick had participated in the Castledaly Ambush near the town of Gort on the 30th of October 1920, when one member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the UK’s omnipresent gendarmerie, was killed and four others were taken temporary prisoner. In response the RIC had murdered a local woman, twenty-three year old Ellen Quinn, who was heavily pregnant at the time, in the area of Kiltartan and burned a number of houses and outbuildings.
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