Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

George Charles Payne 1903-1921

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, Hunston and Derryholmes. In 1919, Mrs. H Mary Waller Sawyer (Daughter of Bolton Waller owner of Moystown House) purchased Hunston 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 Hunston 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 Hunston. 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 pf 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.’ (1)

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

The author wishes to acknowledge the investigation into George Payne’s life carried by the Cairo Gang website


Private George Charles Payne. Cairo Gang website online at

Commonwealth War Graves Commission online at

Longhope Parish website: The Great War at

Padraig Heaney ‘On the banks of three rivers: Stories from West Offaly’ (Cork) 2015.

Letter from Mary H. Waller Sawyer to Arthur Griffith online at

(1) Gloucester Journal. 22 January 1921.

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