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Updated: Feb 17

Figure 1: Duffin Gravestone, Glenravel, Antrim, Northern Ireland.

On this day 100 years ago, brothers Patrick and Daniel Duffin were ‘slain at Belfast for Ireland – 23rd April, 1921.’[1] Shortly before midnight, there was a knock on the door of their home at 64 Clonard Gardens, Belfast. John Duffin thought it was not unusual and probably ‘for the purpose of making a search’.[2] John heard his brother Dan open the door and speak to the callers. Suddenly he heard the stranger order Dan to put his hands up, immediately after, shots were fired. After he heard the callers leaving, John Duffin descended the stairs in trepidation and walked towards the kitchen.

Figure 2: Patrick Duffin.

He ‘found Pat and Dan lying on the floor, bleeding and unconscious.’[3] As there was a strict curfew the family could not leave the house until 5am on 24 April when restrictions were lifted. At this stage, John noticed a dog in the kitchen. This dog remained in the house until he was taken away by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

Figure 3: 'The Policeman's Dog'.

‘Dan was a Volunteer and a member of “B” Company. Pat was not involved in the Volunteers but was a keen nationalist.’[4] The RIC were of the opinion that whilst the Duffins were not part of the Sinn Fein organisation, ‘both deceased were advanced Gaelic Leaguers and took a prominent part in Gaelic Games. This in itself would go to show that their tendencies were directed towards Sinn Fein.’[5]

Figure 4: Dan Duffin, Memorial card.

On 11 May 1921, the Court of Inquiry found that Patrick and Daniel Duffin died from bullet wounds inflicted by persons unknown with homicidal intent. Local Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers were more confident about the perpetrators of the crime. They were of the opinion that the dog found in the Duffin kitchen belonged to a local District Inspector Ferris.[6] The Dundee Courier also reported that ‘a large yellow-haired strange dog-believed to have accompanied the avengers’ was discovered in the house.[7]

Figure 5: Findings of Court of Inquiry.

The issue was also raised by Joseph Devlin, during a House of Commons debate on 14 June 1921 about the Crown Forces in Belfast. He had received information that they had been killed by ‘military forces, rampaging through the city of Belfast.’[8] In essence, the Duffin brothers were murdered, allegedly by the RIC Murder Gang, in reprisal for the killing of two Auxiliaries, Ernest Bolan and John Bales in Dongeall Place, central Belfast, earlier in the night.[9]

Figure 6: Duffin memorial, Clonard Gardens.

The funeral of Pat and Dan Duffin took place on Wednesday 27 April 1921. Their coffins draped by the ‘Sinn Fein tricolour’ were removed from St Paul’s Church with thousands of sympathisers lining the streets.[10] It was ‘probably the most striking Sinn Fein display since the famous Ashe funeral in Dublin. There were many beautiful wreaths, including tributes from the O’Donovan Rossa and St. Gall’s Gaelic Clubs.’[11] The remains were taken to Glenravel in Antrim for burial.

‘Forget now those now sleeping,

In the Churchyard, side by side;

Join in requiem with the angels,

Colum, Patrick, and St. Bride.’[12]

Figure 7: In memoriam.

You can read more about John Duffin and his remarkable life

Thanks to Susan Gingras for many of the photographs of the Duffin brothers.


[1] Ulster Herald, 7 May 1921. [2] WO 35/149A/5. [3] Ibid. [4] Bureau of Military History Witness Statement (hereafter BMH WS) 410: Thomas McInally. [5] WO 35/149A/5. [6] BMH WS) 1322: Art McDonnell. [7] Dundee Courier, 25 April 1921. [8] Hansard 14 June 1921 Commons Sitting, hansard/commons/1921/jun/14/crown-forces-belfast-2 [9] Sympathetic RIC members confirmed that the Duffin brothers were murder by certain elements of the RIC. Jim McDermott, Northern Divisions: The Old IRA and the Belfast Pogroms 1920-22 (Belfast, 2001), p. 76-7. [10] Belfast Newsletter, 28 April 1921. [11] Freeman’s Journal, 28 April 1921. [12] Ulster Herald, 7 May 1921.

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