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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

George Charles Payne casualty of the War of Independence

Today's post is a special guest post, from local historian, author and previous guest poster Aidan Doyle. With the recent launch of his website "A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly", this special post is to help promote the site and all the hard work and research put into it by Aidan. The following post about George Payne is just one of the 100 plus profiles connected with County Offaly which is featured on the website. The website can be found at https://revolutioninprofilesoffaly.com/


George Charles Payne was born in 1903 at Chesgrove near the village of Longhope in West Gloucestershire where his father worked as a general labourer.


In 1911 there were 864 people living at Longhope. During the Great War 136 men from the locality joined the British armed forces and 22 lost their lives in the conflict.


Payne was too young to fight in the war but in 1920 he enlisted as private in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and was with the regiment when it was deployed to Ireland later that year.


Prior to the outbreak of the War of Independence there were longstanding agrarian issues in west Offaly with cattle drives at Moystown, Hunstun and Derryholmes. In 1919, Mrs. H Mary Waller Sawyer (Daughter of Bolton Waller owner of Moystown House) purchased Hunstun House.  


Throughout 1920 the IRA in the county isolated the RIC, progressing from boycotts to launching a major attack on Clara Barracks and burning abandoned police outposts at Cloghan and Ferbane.


That summer the KSLI were stationed at Tullamore Gaol with a detail sent to occupy Hunstun House. In October the IRA captured and disarmed seven members of a Shropshire cycle column outside Belmont. 


On 13 January 1921, Payne was shot dead at Hunstun. Information on his death is limited but what does exist suggests that he was killed accidentally, and the IRA played no role in his death. When his remains returned to Longhope they were meet at the railway station…


"by the parents and other relatives and friends, and as a mark of respect a good company of local Comrades of the Great joined the procession. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack. Deceased was a former pupil of Longhope Church of England School, and the present scholars were lined up at the church gates. He had also been a member of the church choir and the surpliced choir with the Rector met with the cortege at the entrance to the churchyard. As the procession entered the church MR. W.H. Powell who officiated at the organ played “no shadows yonder” (Gaul) Psalm 39 was chanted and hymns 536 and 499 were sung. As the procession left the church the Death March in “Saul” was played. There was a large company present at the graveside."


Image courtesy of CWGC

A headstone erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission marks Payne’s final resting place.

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