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LETTER: Remembering Jane Boyle, 100 years on

An in memoriam card for Jane Boyle. —
An in memoriam card for Jane Boyle. — Contributed photo

On May 18, 2011, the Queen made a historic trip to Dublin at the invitation of Irish President Mary McAleese. A highlight of that royal visit was the Queen’s symbolic visit to Croke Park, which is the headquarters and spiritual home of the Gaelic Athletic Association of Ireland.

This was a significant act of Anglo–Irish reconciliation, for the massacre by British forces of 14 people — including one woman, Jane Boyle — took place on this site 100 years ago, on Nov. 21, 1920. A crowd of 5,000 people had gathered for a football match between Tipperary and Dublin.

Jane Boyle was 27 years old and worked as a butcher’s assistant.

This event, known as “Bloody Sunday,” was a definitive marker to solidify enormous support on the way to Irish Independence after an intense and violent struggle. I need not catalogue the atrocities by the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries in Cork and Balbriggan. The Saturday night before Bloody Sunday, Michael Collins and the IRA assassinated members of “The Cairo gang” — British detectives in Dublin on the trail of the IRA.

Some suggest that the killings at Croke Park were an act of revenge. One player killed was Michael Hogan from Tipperary. A new stand was built in his memory. In the crowd, another shooting victim was Michael Feery, who ironically fought with the Royal Marines in the First World War. As well, the Tipperary goalkeeper, Scout Butler (from Fethard), was searched for having a gun. He replied to the British Forces that, “The last time he had used a gun was at the Somme.”

A hundred years ago, Croke Park was a grassy field north of Dublin. Today it is a modern stadium that can hold 80,000-plus people. International rugby and soccer games have been played there along with many musical performances. In July of this year during COVID-19 the Muslin Association of Ireland wanted 200 of their members to celebrate the Muslin festival of Eid, and they did so at Croke Park.

With COVID restrictions now, all the victims of Bloody Sunday will be remembered this weekend at Croke Park in a virtual manner. The memories will include the only woman in history killed by British forces while attending a football game.

Jane Boyle was 27 years old and worked as a butcher’s assistant. She was a daughter of Thomas and Jane Boyle and lived in Lennox Street, Dublin. Her father was a coachbuilder. Jane (Jennie ) went to the game with her fiancé, Byron, five days before her wedding day. For many years her grave at Glasnevin cemetery was unmarked and only recently has been restored.

It would be fitting to honour all the women of Ireland by erecting a stand or a plaque in memory of Jane Boyle.

Michael Boyle

St. John’s

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