St Mary’s Republican Plot

The recently erected steel tribute panel to fallen comrades on the Republican Plot in St Mary’s Cemetery pays homage to the three men who died during and after the Egyptian Arch ambush of Monday 13 December 1920.

William Canning was from Magilligan Point in Derry but at the time was working as a shop assistant in Cahill Bros of Hill Street, Newry. The RIC report was that his badly-mangled bullet-ridden body fell from the Arch to the roadway below.

This was patently untrue. Later in court-delivered evidence, a ‘Special’ admitted to ‘throwing the body from the Arch as it was ‘the quickest way to get it down’.

Peter Shields of John Martin Street was badly wounded in the ambush but at first survived. Comrades helped to whisk him from the scene.

He lived for a while in a shepherd’s hut in Omeath. Less than a fortnight later – on Christmas Day, as it happened – he died and was privately buried in an unmarked grave in Omeath.

John Francis O’Hare of Needham Street was badly wounded and captured by the British military. He was detained in a military hospital until July of the following year when he was released only so that he could die at home.

He died on 5 October 1921. The body of the former was exhumed and buried on 8 October jointly with O’Hare, when Newry Cathedral was packed with mourners.

They were buried in the plot here pictured.

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