Clonoghill Stories: The accidental shooting of Lieutenant Ross
Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Among the many military graves of Clonoghill Cemetery, Birr there is the grave of Lieutenant Douglas Archibald Ross of the Royal Scots Fusiliers who was accidentally killed on 1 August 1889. This is his story.
Douglas was the son of Lieutenant Colonel John Stephen Ross and Helen Sophia Ross. He was born in Gondah, India on 18 June 1865, and was baptised at Frizabad on 30 July. John Stephen was the in the Madras Staff Corps and was Deputy Commissioner of Gondah, India.
The 1871 census records Douglas with his parents as living on Queen’s Road, Shankin, Isle of Wight. His father was noted as retired from the army.
Douglas attended Dulwich College, London. Afterwards, in 1885 he enrolled in Sandhurst Military College for officer training. On his graduation he was commissioned as Lieutenant in The Devonshire Regiment vice J. Bayly on 30 January 1886. On 10 March 1886 he was transferred to the Royal Scots Fusiliers vice W. A. Young.
In 1888 the Royal Scots Fusiliers arrived in what would be the home for the next year and a bit, Birr Barracks. In their spare time officers would often indulge in hunting and other passtimes. It was while one of these trips that Lieutenant Ross’ accidental shooting would occur.
On 1 August Lieutenant Ross and Lieutenant C. M. G. Godfrey had decided to go duck hunting for the day on Lough Derg, near Portumna, County Galway. They were driven out as far as Derrylahan (King’s County), where the residence of another officer was. From here they made their way to Carrigahorig, County Tipperary where they employed the service of a boat man James Hehir to take them out on the lake.
Around 1pm the boat man drew the officer’s attention to a flock of plover on the shore. Lieutenant Godfrey took aim at the birds and as he was about to discharge his gun Lieutenant Ross immediately stood up, received the full blast of the shot to the back of his head, blowing away part of his head. The poor Lieutenant was killed instantaneously. The boat was quickly brought ashore. At the same time another boat containing Doctors Golden and Goodbody from Parsonstown appeared, but alas nothing could be done.
An inquest was held a few days later in a public house in Carrigahorig, County Tipperary where Lieutenant Godfrey was acquitted of all blame in this tragic accident.
Lieutenant Ross’s parents arrived in Birr a few days later and decided that he would be buried in Clonoghill Cemetery and a nice plot was selected, almost in view of the barracks. The funeral took place on Monday 5 August. The coffin was removed from his quarters in the barracks, “C” block, by his comrades. The coffin was brought to the cemetery with the band playing music as they marched. Upon reaching the cemetery and the burial plot, a funeral service was commenced with a firing party ringing out three volleys of shots afterwards. The funeral was very well attended.
A headstone was erected on his grave in January 1890. The inscription reads.
TO THE MEMORY OF
DOUGLAS ARCHIBALT ROSS
LIEUT ROYAL SCOTS FUSILIERS
ELDEST AND MUCH BELOVED SON OF
COLONEL ROSS J.P. AND HELEN SOPHIA HIS WIFE
OF WIMBLEDON ENGLAND
WHO WAS ACCIDENTALLY SHOT BY A BROTHER OFFICER
AND FRIEND ON AUGUST 1ST 1889
AGED 24 YEARS