Four weddings and a mutiny – India 1920

Private James Daly, Connaught Rangers.

Private James Daly, Connaught Rangers.

On 28 June 1920, members of the Connaught Rangers Regiment stationed at Wellington Barracks, Jullundur in Punjab, mutinied in protest against the activities of the British Army in Ireland. The irony of their stance as members of a colonial occupying army was, it would seem, lost on them. Two men took the protest to the Connaught Rangers company at Solon Barracks the next day. On the evening of 1 July, a group armed with bayonets attempted to take weapons from the magazine fort at Solon. The guard opened fire, killing a mutineer and an innocent man. The protest started peacefully at both locations—orders were ignored, tricolours were flown, Sinn Féin rosettes were worn, and rebel songs were sung. Sixty-one men were convicted of mutiny. Fourteen were sentenced to death, but only one, James Joseph Daly, was executed. Those imprisoned were released in 1923. Ballina man James J. Devers, one of the Solon mutineers, was among those released. Devers enlisted in 1918.

In October 1925, Mary Devers (née Canavan ) came before Castlebar District Court for a bail hearing. Canavan was charged with bigamy. On 4 March 1919, sixteen-year-old Mary married James J. Devers in Enniscrone. Shortly after, Devers was posted to India. He joined the Free State Army on his return to Ireland in 1923 but was discharged on medical grounds.

In April 1921, Mary Devers married John Walsh in Balla. When James J. Devers discovered his wife had married an 'Old Yank' and was living in Killavally, he confronted her. At her bail hearing, Canavan told the judge: 'He was my husband but never supported me. I was only a child when I married him, and I will never live with him'. Canavan found happiness with Walsh away from a marriage that had no reality outside the contract, evidenced in the marriage register. Walsh supported her at the hearing and put up financial security for her bail. When asked if he knew she was married, Walsh quipped that he 'could not tell from her appearance whether she was a wedded woman or a grass widow'.

Walsh and Devers did not take the court appearance or law seriously. They had decided their future was together. At Castlebar Circuit Court on 26 October 1925, Canavan was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to one day in prison. Her counsel stressed that Canavan was a child when she married and that Devers, 'a waster', had left her destitute. The judge did not want to convict her but felt not doing so would encourage bigamy. He also accepted that she would return to Walsh no matter the outcome.

When Devers died in 1958, his obituary published in the Irish Independent noted that his wife and daughters survived him. Their names are not given. Devers played a part in having the remains of Daly and others repatriated. He also served as chairman of the Connaught Rangers Association. In 1932, the Sligo Board of Health granted him seven shillings a week for support. The Irish Military Archives contain detailed correspondence concerning Dever's lengthy campaign for a pension. In 1937, the Commissioners of Public Works sought to evict Devers from the West Gate Lodge at the Phoenix Park. Devers had been allowed in as a caretaker pending the resolution of the pension issue. The pension was not forthcoming, and the commissioners wanted the lodge back. An order for possession was granted, and a short service pension followed.

On 20 August 1925, another Devers, John Joseph Devers, was convicted of bigamy at Glasgow Sheriff's Court and imprisoned for six weeks. Devers served with the Connaught Rangers in Ireland and secured a military medal in WWI. He met his wife in Ballina and went to India with his regiment. Discharged in November 1920, he lived in Glasgow in 1925 with a Lithuanian widow and her children. The couple married in 1923. Devers disclosed the marriage to his first wife, but she was uninterested. His second wife then expelled Devers from her home. Afterwards, he went to the police and gave himself up as a bigamist. Devers' military records record him as a single man. (Image: James J. Daly, In Wikipedia ).


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