Corporal Francis Quinn


The background of this North Irish Horseman is uncertain at present. One document (dated May 1919) gives his age as 33 and his address as Mullaghmore, Omagh, County Tyrone. Another (July 1916) states that he was from Londonderry. He may have been the Francis Quinn born on 29 June 1880 at Mullaghmore, the eighth or ninth of ten children of tobacco spinner Thomas Quinn and his wife Annie (nee Corkin).

Quinn enlisted in the North irish Horse on 10 August 1914 (No.980). He embarked for France with C Squadron eleven days later, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne. (The fact that he was permitted to go on active service so soon after he enlisted strongly suggests that he had previous military experience.)

At the end of 1914 or early 1915 Quinn left France, either sick or wounded. On 28 February 1915 he transferred to the 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (No.20167). Later that year at Ballycastle he was involved in an attack by soldiers on a number of Christian Brothers, as reported in the Weekly Freeman:

At the Ballycastle Petty Sessions on Monday, before Mr. J. P. O'Kane, J.P. (Chairman), and Messrs. Alexander Black, Dr. Dunlop, J. McClements, John Darragh, Roger Casement, W. G. B. Hayes, J. McKay, P. McCarry, jun.; A. B. Craig, and E. F. McCambridge, District-Inspector Brown charged Private C. E. Gillespie, Private Betts, and Private Quinn, of the 9th Battalion Inniskilling Fusiliers (Ulster Division), at present encamped at Clare Park, Ballycastle, with assaulting members of the Christian Brothers in the vicinity of the Catholic Church at about 8.30 p.m. on the 24th inst. Mr. Louis J. Walsh, B.A., solicitor, Ballycastle, held a watching brief for the Christian Brothers, and Captain Wilson, "B" Company, 9th Batt. Inniskilling Fusiliers, represented the military authorities.

The Rev. Bro. Craven was examined, and stated that as he and Bro. Conway were taking a walk on Saturday evening, at 8.30, along the road leading to the Catholic Church and when about 100 yards off the church they passed some soldiers belonging to the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who were cursing the Pope, uttering blasphemous language not fit to be repeated in Court – language which would shock the ears of innocent children. The Fusiliers were swinging their arms in a wild fashion and singing "Dolly's Brae." As the Brothers passed a group of about four or five of the soldiers, one of the latter gave him (Bro. Craven) a swinging and deliberate blow on the face, but he (witness) never said a word. Four others joined with the Fusilier and struck at him (witness) and his companion, who got several blows on the face and head.

Blood was pouring so copiously upon his clothes (produced) that they became saturated. He tried to defend himself as well as he could with his umbrella, but it proved to be too feeble an instrument against such savage assailants. One of the soldiers took a stone in his hand with the intention of hitting him, but was prevented from doing so by another who came up, and whom witness had recommended to the Colonel. The soldier informed him afterwards if the stone had hit him it would have opened his skull. Accompanied bv three or four soldiers who sympathised with them the Brothers went straight to the camp, covered over with blood, face, hands, and clothing, and reported the matter to Colonel Ricardo, D.S.O., Commanding Officer, who felt humiliated, and promised to make a searching inquiry as to the identity of the culprits.

Rev. Brother Conway, who was in company with Brother Craven when the assault took place, corroborated Brother Craven's evidence.

Brother Moynihan stated that he was out for a stroll on Saturday evening with a number of other brothers. They met large numbers of soldiers returning to camp. They (the Brothers) were insulted at first by three or four soldiers – who used language too vile to mention about the Pope, the Christian Brothers, and the Church. He had met with some rowdy batches of men in Belfast, but he never saw a more furious and violent crowd than these soldiers were. Some others came up and acted in a like manner. Just as he was passing a number of them, one fellow, waving a stick, made an attempt to strike him, but he caught the stick, which broke with the force of the blow. That fellow, to the bestof his knowledge, was Gillespie. His companions and himself were in the greatest danger, since the soldiers numbered now about thirty. Many of them urged on the assailants, crying out, "Kill them, the bloody Fenians." He was considerably frightened, and appealed for assistance. Eventually the Brothers escaped by running into the church near at hand.

Brother J. C. Ryan stated that one of the defendants, whom he thought was Quinn, was acting like a maniac. His references to the Church were worse than he had ever heard in any part of Belfast. About 300 yards from Quinn he met Betts with a number of others waving canes over their heads. Betts hit him, and farther down the road he saw Gillespie and Betts assault another Brother. A bunch of ten then came up, and tried to stop these men. Things getting hot, and as the crowds of soldiers who were coming up were shouting "Kill them," they (the Brothers) ran down the road and got well out of range, going into the church.

Brother O'Loughlin stated that there were several groups of soldiers on the road. Some of them passed them. Several were drunk. One passed right through a number of the Brothers waving a stick over his head, and twice knocked off witness's hat. Betts then struck him on the ear.

Private Graham Adair deposed that he remembered the occurrence. On Saturday evening he was returning to camp at 8.30 p.m. When near the Catholic church he saw four soldiers in front of the building using filthy language. There was a priest at the gateway of the church when Private Hughes and himself went past. Some distance they saw four Christian Brothers coming down. They were stopped. We turned, continued witness, and went back; but the Brothers were chased by a number of soldiers. We assisted Brother Craven up to the camp. We passed a soldier who had no cap. Witness could not say that he had a cut over the eye.

Private John Hughes said when coming to the camp he saw three soldiers singing. One of them ran into the church gate, where there was a priest standing, and used filthy language. He assisted Brother Craven to the camp. He saw Private Gillespie with a cut eye; he (Gillespie) was amongst the crowd that insulted the Christian Brothers.

Private Thomas Preston, examined, stated that he and Private Cooper were coming home at 8.30. He saw about eight of the gentlemen (Christian Brothers) running down the road, and a number of soldiers running after them. He also saw four more Christian Brothers, and saw a struggle going on. Afterwards he met Gillespie, whose eye was cut; he was along with Betts. He was told by Betts that they had great fun with the Christian Brothers. A number of soldiers were singing their favourite songs – "Dolly's Brae" and "Derry Walls." Another soldier said – "Look what I got for interfering with the priest." He got some of the men to go home the other way.

Private H. Gilmore stated that he was standing by the side of the camp when Quinn came up the road from Ballycastle. He (Quinn) said that "he had knocked spots out of the Christian Brothers," and showed with his cane how he "knocked spots" out of them. Witness saw two Christian Brothers coming towards the camp, and when Quinn saw them he went away towards a transport waggon.

Private Thomas Harbinson said he was standing by the camp when Quinn came up and started to tell how he "knocked spots out of the Christian Brothers." There was blood on his hand. He made gestures how he treated them. Then two Christian Brothers came up and Quinn went away.

Private S. W. Cross said that near the chapel he saw two Christian Brothers. Brother Craven was bleeding very badly at the nose. Witness assisted him, and advised him to go to the colonel. Witness accompanied him to the camp.

Private Alfred Cooper said that when up the road about 200 yards he saw five or six Christian Brothers running down the road, followed by a large number of soldiers, who were throwing stones at them. The soldiers went about 100 yards and then stopped. They were very rowdy – singing and cursing the Pope. He saw one of them knock off a Christian Brother's hat. Betts came up to him and said that "he had great fun with the Christian Brothers; that there were too many of them in town – he could stand one houseful, but he could not stand two." Quinn also exclaimed that "he got hit by a Brother's umbrella."

Captain Wilson, on behalf of the commanding officer, expressed their deep regret at the dastardly outrage, which was due to drink. If they came to a decision he was there to give them every assistance as to the character of the soldiers. In reference to Quinn's character, he said that he enlisted in August, 1914, in the North Irish Horse, and was at the front, being wounded in the head. When drunk he lost all self-control. He wanted to state this, as they might take it into consideration while giving their decision.

The Chairman stated that they had unanimously decided to sentence Private Betts and Private Gillespie to two months' imprisonment with hard labour. The Colonel had done his best to assist them in bringing the perpetrators of what was a truly dastardly outrage, committed by men who were pledged to fight for their country, and not against innocent men, whose duty was to educate the poor.

Whether Quinn was punished was not reported.

In October 1915 Quinn embarked for France with his battalion, part of the 36th (Ulster) Division. On 1 July 1916 he was severely wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was treated at No.13 Stationary Hospital at Boulogne before being evacuated to the UK.

In April 1918 Quinn was transferred to the 2nd Garrison Guard Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (No.3449), embarking from France with that battalion soon after. (On 13 July 1918 it was re-named the 8th (Service) Battalion.)

In May 1919, on his discharge from the army, Quinn immediately re-enlisted, joining the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (No.35297). How long he served with that regiment is not known.