Charles Kerrigan and the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India 1920
Charles Kerrigan

Charles Kerrigan and the Connaught Rangers Mutiny in India 1920

A piece I wrote for a genealogy history assignment a few years ago about my great grandfather and the Connaught Rangers Mutiny which occurred on this day 100 years ago. 

 

Charles Kerrigan was born in Glencar, County Leitrim in 1901. Kerrigan was one of seven children born to Thomas and Anne Kerrigan. After finishing school, he worked on the land with his father until the age of eighteen, faced with little chance of employment he walked to Sligo town and enlisted in the Connaught Rangers who had a recruitment office in the town.  On the 20 May 1919, he was attested into the Connaught Rangers at their Galway Headquarters. Charles went on his first tour of duty and sailed to India. After one years’ service in the army, Kerrigan would become one of the Indian Mutineers and face a death sentence.

On the 28 June 1920, several soldiers of the Connaught Rangers stationed at Jullandar barracks received letters from home of unrest… They refused to perform their military duties as a protest against the activities of the British Army in Ireland. Their objective was to be dismissed from the army. The protest soon spread, and by the end of the first day, four hundred men refused to obey orders. The protest at Jullandar ended within a few days as British Army reinforcements surrounded the men. On the first day of the protest, two soldiers left the Jullandar barracks and walked ten miles to the Solon barracks near the Himalayas to inform the other company. As Kerrigan stated in an interview many years later, ‘the action at Solon was more a spontaneous gesture of solidarity with pals at Jullandar’…

Charles Kerrigan

The men refused to obey orders and raised the Irish tricolour flag in the barracks. They also wore green rosettes on their uniforms and passed the time singing rebel ballads. The protests were initially peaceful, but on the evening of 1 July when rumours spread that the British were sending reinforcements, around thirty soldiers, attempted to recapture their rifles from the company magazine. The soldiers on guard opened fire, killing two men and wounding another. After this incident the mutiny ended, the mutineers at both Jullundur and Solon were arrested and detained in a prison camp. Sixty-one men were court-martialled and convicted for their role in the mutiny.

The Times newspaper in 1920 were the first to report of the disturbance in India.

Fourteen were sentenced to death by firing squad… Kerrigan received the death sentence for his part in the Mutiny as he was one of the men who broke opened the rifle rack. His death sentence was later commuted to twenty years imprisonment. Private James Joseph Daly from Westmeath was the only soldier executed on 2 November 1920 as he was considered the leader of the Mutiny at Solon.

Kerrigan spent six months in Daghai Prison in India before being transferred to Maidstone Prison in Kent. Negotiations were ongoing between the new Irish Free State government and the British authorities, with the Mutineers receiving amnesty in January 1923. After serving two and a half years Charles was released, he received a new suit and the price of the train ticket to Sligo. He returned home to Glencar, where a ceili was held in his honour by his family and neighbours. In 1923, he met Florence Fallon from Calry, Sligo at a country dance hall. They married and settled down in Glencar, County Leitrim. They had fourteen children including the author’s grandmother Kathleen Melanephy. Kerrigan became a sheep farmer around the Glencar mountains.

For many years after, like many of the mutineers, Kerrigan suffered from post-traumatic syndrome after the harsh treatment he received in Indian and English prisons and the stress of being on death row at such a young age. After many years campaigning, Kerrigan and the other Mutineers received a pension annuity in 1936 and were recognised as War of Independence Veterans by the Irish Free State. In 1949, an Indian Mutiny 1920 Memorial was unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery. In 1970 the bodies of James Daly, Patrick Smythe and Peter Sears were repatriated to Ireland.

In 1973, Charles and Florence and their large family celebrated their 50th Jubilee wedding celebrations in the Santa Maria Hotel, Strandhill, Sligo. A national newspaper interviewed Kerrigan about the Mutiny and reported on the happy event. Over the last few years of his life, he gave several interviews as he was the last of the Connaught Rangers Mutineers to survive. Kerrigan passed away on 10 August 1991 aged ninety and was buried at Glencar Cemetery, Leitrim.

Charles Kerrigan Grave SWT Copyright