Sunday, April 17, 2022


Click on any image for a larger version

While on a visit to Gorey, I was told that there was a Harry Clarke window in the Protestant Cathedral in the town.

I was aware of Harry Clarke and his extraordinary Geneva window, a work of absolute beauty. So I paid a visit to the church in Gorey.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the window had the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) crest (above) worked into it. Now, I have RIC in my family history, too many of them maybe, so I was immediately intrigued by the window and wondered about its background.

The dedication was to the memory of Percival Lea-Wilson who had been an RIC District Inspector in the town and who had been shot there in June 1920 by members of Michael Collins's squad.

Now, at that time there were RIC members being shot all over the place, so what had this guy done that merited the squad being sent to liquidate him.

Well, it appeared that after the leaders surrendered in the Easter Rising, they and others, were herded into the garden of the Rotunda Hospital and, on the orders of Lea-Wilson, made to lie on the ground for 12 hours, soiling themselves in the process. And Tom Clarke, the ageing leader of the Rising, was ordered by Lea-Wilson to be stripped naked and beaten.

This led to Michael Collins vowing revenge which he finally got in 1920 in Gorey town.

Lea-Wilson's widow commissioned the stained glass window in memory of her husband and the theme of choice was St Stephen the first Christian martyr.

Click on the image for a larger version

This is the full window. The two insets are the RIC crest and the Wilson family crest. Ironically, the motto on the family crest is facta non verba, deeds not words, which ironically could be applied both to the treatment of Tom Clarke by Lea-Wilson and the subsequent treatment of Lea-Wilson by Collins. No messing.

Incidentally, it was Lea-Wilson's widow who ended up, in the 1930s, donating a painting, which has only lately been discovered to be an original Caravaggio, to the Jesuits. The Jesuits have now loaned it indefinitely to the National Gallery of Ireland.

You can view a good video on Percival Lea-Wilson here and commentary on the stained glass window here.

You can also check out my own RIC connections here. I haven't yet delved into the full implications of all of these particular connections.

You can follow up on the RIC generally here.

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