Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Edward/Eddie Donohue/Donoghue/O’Donoghue 1910-1922

Edward Donoghue was born at Birr in 1910. His father Thomas served in Boer War and was wounded while fighting in the Great War as member of the Leinster Regiment. His mother Bridget (nee Eagleton) hailed from Wood Lane in the town. The Eagleton family were also associated with the Leinster’s. In 1916, Bridget’s brothers Edward ‘Ned’ Eagleton and Michael Eagleton suffered frostbite while fighting in France, Michael was reported killed in action in July of that year.

At the time of the 1911 census the Donoghue family were living at Barrack Street and by 1922 in the Sandymount area, close to Birr Workhouse. The workhouse had opened on the eve of the Famine and operated until 1921. In the run up to the Civil War it was one of many such buildings across Ireland occupied by the IRA. In July 1922, the retreating anti-Treaty forces burned Birr Military Barracks at Crinkill.

On their arrival in the town the pro-Treaty National Army occupied both the Workhouse and Birr Castle. In August 1922, a series of discussions took place with a view to rehousing the troops stationed at the workhouse and repurposing the building as a sanitorium. 

Throughout the summer of 1922, Edward Donoghue became a fixture around workhouse and was considered something of a favourite by the soldiers garrisoned there. On 29th August He was accidentally shot by a sentry on duty at the workhouse gate.

An unnamed private later told an inquest into Donoghues death that…

‘He was sitting down on the seat outside the gate when young Donohue got a long stick with to hit witness playfully. Witness, rifle in hand jumped up with the intention of catching the deceased, when a shot suddenly went off, the boy falling immediately and witness who realised that the boy had been shot, sent a youngster a priest’  (1)

Among the Donoghue family it was long believed that Edward had just returned to Birr after saving turf with his uncle in Clonghill and was accidentally shot with a rifle the sentry had allowed him to examine. 

The inquest found that …

Death was caused by shock and hemorrhage, as the result of a bullet wound, which was accidentally received.’

After his inquest, Edward Donoghue’s remains were removed from St Brendan’ Hospital to Clonoghill Cemetery. The cortege included many of his school mates and the National Army garrison.  The funeral was saluted at the workhouse gate where the guard presented arms. His coffin was carried to graveside by four N.C. O’s. The funeral service was conducted by the local curate Fr. Pat Gaynor, a former member of the Sinn Féin national executive. Edward’s sister Bridget was born on the day of his funeral.

The author wises to acknowledge the substantial investigation carried out into the life and death of Edward Donoghue by Stephen Callaghan, Michael Donegan and Dr. Philip McConway


 1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at

Michael Donegan. ‘Devoted Lives- Christy and Evelyn O’Donoghue’ Birr Review 2009.

Gerard Dooley. Irish Civil War: A hallmark of the conflict was its tragedy of errors. online at

Dr. Philip McConway. ‘The National Army’s accidental killing of Edward Donoghue, Offaly’s youngest Civil War victim’. The Barrack Square website online at

Cork Examiner. 28 July 1916.

Leinster Reporter. 1 April 1916.  15 April 1922. 19 August 1922. 2 September 1922. 9 September 1922.

Nenagh Guardian. 19 August 1922.

Nenagh News. 12 August 1922.

(1) Leinster Reporter. 2 September 1922

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