Posted By: November 02, 2020

Paul Robeson version of Kevin Barry BalLad



NOVEMBER 1, 1920


On This Day [in Irish history]

Irish News, November 2, 1920

Kevin Barry Hanged

Eamon Phoenix. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, November 2, 2020


Kevin Gerald Barry, the 18- year old medical student who was sentenced to death by court martial on 10th October, was executed in Mountjoy Gaol at eight o’clock yesterday morning by the English hangman, Ellis.

Up to the last moment many cherished the hope that the lad would not be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice of his young life, but this hope was rudely dispelled by Mr Lloyd George’s refusal of the last appeal for mercy by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The boy spent all Sunday and up to the time he was taken to the execution chamber in silent prayer. Practically his last words were that he was praying for Ireland, his friends and his enemies who had pronounced the edict of his execution. His death was noble and edifying to a degree, and never once did he flinch during the terrible ordeal.

As early as six o’clock crowds collected in the vicinity of the prison, but were only permitted to approach as far as the outer gate. By seven o’clock there were fully 2,000 people gathered. The guns from the turret of an armoured car were turned on the crowd who maintained an unmoved demeanour.

Shortly before eight o’clock the crowd had a vivid realisation of the dread tragedy which was about to be enacted. The knell of the passing bell was heard from the prison tower and a death-like stillness fell over the crowd. It was a moving, thrilling and historic scene.

The clang of the prison gate was heard and a venerable, stately figure came slowly out of the grim building. It was Canon Waters, prison chaplain. They pressed about him: ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Did they hang him?’ they asked. He brushed the tears from his eyes and answered simply: ‘Yes.’

There was a most touching and dramatic incident in the prison cell on Sunday when the prisoner’s mother and sisters saw him for the last time. He was quite calm and composed. He put on his trench coat with belt, as the nearest semblance to a soldier’s uniform in his possession, and he stood to attention and gave his mother a military salute as she left. (Few incidents of this period stirred Irish national consciousness more than Barry’s execution. The youth had been involved in an ambush in which three British soldiers died. In London Joe Devlin worked hard for a  reprieve. As he told a Republican: ‘ I did everything humanly possible for Kevin Barry. I went to the Prime Minister and made what I thought was an effective appeal….’ The matter went before the Cabinet which upheld the death sentence.)