Frank Shawe-Taylor, Irish land agent and ex-High Sheriff of County Galway, is shot and killed in an Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambush on March 3, 1920 during the Irish War of Independence. Shawe-Taylor is a member of the Taylor family of Castle Taylor, Ardrahan, County Galway. He is related to Lady Gregory and Captain John Shawe-Taylor. He serves as High Sheriff of County Galway in 1915.
Land disputes in Ireland had been a contentious issue for much of the 19th century, with tenants of landlords insisting on fixity of tenure, which later grows into a demand to own their own land. In addition, The Wyndham Land Act of 1903 enables the transfer of about 9 million acres, up to 1914, from landlords to tenants. However, tenure and ownership of land is still a live issue on the eve of the Irish War of Independence.
Shawe-Taylor is a land agent to a local landlord, and is himself a tenant. Early in January 1920, a group of local IRA soldiers, including Mick Kelly, Bill Freaney and Larry Lardner, approach Shawe-Taylor on behalf of some local people who are requesting a road to travel to Mass. While Shawe-Taylor himself is amenable to their demands, his landlord refuses them outright and makes this known via Shawe-Taylor.
On March 3, 1920, Shawe-Taylor and his driver, Barrett, are making their way to Galway to attend the fair. At 6:00 AM the coach reaches Egan’s Pub, Coshla, where they find the road blocked. The donkey cart of a local, Johnny Kelly, has been stolen and placed across the road. From behind the wall, at least two shooters fire at Barrett and Shawe-Taylor, wounding Barrett and killing Shawe-Taylor. This results in a huge security presence in the area, which in turn leads to more unrest with the locals. This increases with the arrival of the Black and Tans, whose irregular methods result in shootings, assaults, rapes and deaths. Moorpark House is placed under Royal Irish Constabulary protection out of fear of further killings.
Other people who subsequently die as a result of the unrest in Galway include Ellen Quinn, a pregnant mother of six and a tenant of Lady Gregory, Fr. Michael Griffin, Tom Egan and brothers Patrick and Harry Loughnane. In addition, there are numerous incidents of violence, many of which are recorded with horror by Lady Gregory in her journal, who remarks that “the country has gone wild since the killing of Frank Shawe-Taylor.”
No one is ever tried for Frank Shawe-Taylor’s killing, though the identities of those involved are known to some locals at the time. His widow eventually sells their property and, with her young children, moves to England.
Shawe-Taylor is buried in St. Mary’s graveyard, Athenry. The music critic, Desmond Shawe-Taylor (1907–1995) and British racing driver Brian Shawe-Taylor (1915–1999) are his sons. His grandson is Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures since 2005.
(Pictured: Castle Taylor, near to Ardrahan and Caranavoodaun, Galway, Ireland | Photo © Mike Searle (cc-by-sa/2.0))
January 29, 2023 at 5:37 PM
I note that you are in Little Rock? I am the Commander of the 913 Airlift Group at Little Rock AFB.
The Egan’s you mention are my family. I spent my summers there, and Thomas Egan is my Great Grandfather.
I am very aware of the oral history of these events.
It would be nice to chat with you about them.
January 30, 2023 at 6:26 AM
Thank you for visiting my site, Cmdr. Egan, and thank you for your service to our country! An unexpected plus of maintaining this site is the comments I receive from people who are close to the subject of a post. Yours is by far the closest to home! Yes, I live in west Little Rock and have been a member of the Irish Cultural Society of Arkansas (www.irisharkansas.org) since 2010, serving as president from 2011 to 2017. We organize the Little Rock/North Little Rock St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will be held this year on Saturday, March 11. I hope you can come out and I hope to meet you!
February 6, 2023 at 3:53 PM
I’m very sorry for the late reply.
I’m currently back in Illinois and will be leaving for deployment a week from today. I will be back in Little Rock in about six months and would love to chat about this over a pint.
In the meantime, I like your site!
February 7, 2023 at 7:07 AM
Thank you for your kind words. Best wishes on your deployment! Stay safe!