DEATH OF JOHN DUFFY OF DERRY
(Saoirse, May 2010)
On May 7th 1963 the last IRA volunteer of the 1956-63 campaign to give his life for Ireland died. He was John Patrick Duffy of Derry city. Aged 18 he was the youngest to die in the campaign and he was accidentally killed while engaged in training.
On May 14 the Irish Republican Publicity Bureau issued a statement dealing with the tragedy:
“The shooting incident in Derry City on May 7, in which a member of the Republican Movement, 18-year-old John Duffy, lost his life, was the result of a tragic accident. While weapons were being checked for defects, John Duffy handed a revolver by the butt to another member of the Movement. The revolver was loaded and a bullet was accidentally fired. “The sympathy of the entire Movement is tendered to the family of the dead youth. No blame is attached to the other man, who barely had the revolver in his hand when the shot went off.”
The statement was signed “J McGarrity, Secretary”.
The Irish Times of May 10 reported on the shooting and the inquest as follows:
“The inquest on John Patrick Duffy (18) the Derry apprentice baker who was found shot dead at 158 Bogside, Derry on Saturday night, was opened and adjourned yesterday. The proceedings lasted less than a minute and the only evidence called by Head Constable JR Williamson was that of identification. This was given by Duffy’s father, John Patrick Duffy, an unemployed bus conductor of 54 Malin Gardens. He said that the last time he saw his son alive was about 4 pm on Saturday. The body of his son was brought to his home by the undertaker on Sunday night.
“The City Coroner, Mr Cecil Milligan said that there being no further evidence he would adjourn the inquest sine die until some more evidence was forthcoming.
“The police search of the city continued for trace of Michael Joseph Montgomery* (25) whose home is the 158 Bogside and who has not been seen since the shooting. Road blocks were maintained in all streets leading out of the city and on the Border. City and country buses were examined. Police visited about 200 houses in the city and questioned many men.
“It was learned yesterday that they had found a revolver from which it is believed the fatal shot was fired. It was discovered on waste ground not far from 158 Bogside. On the previous night tracker dogs led to the discovery of an arms dump, buried in waste ground which included machine guns, revolvers, hand grenades, kit bags, safety fuses and Army books.
“The police are satisfied that there was a third man in 158 Bogside at the time of the shooting. “Further details of the shooting show that when Mrs Doris Montgomery, a few minutes after heating the shot, went downstairs, her husband was there and “the third man” had disappeared.
“Young Duffy was then in the livingroom and it was learned that Montgomery told Mrs Montgomery that the youth had been badly wounded as a result of an accident.
“It is also learned that Montgomery then took his wife to the home of his parents in Creggan Terrace and told her to have a priest brought to 158 Bogside.
“The gun which was found near 158 Bogside and which is believed to be the weapon from which the fatal shot was fired, had five chambers loaded and there was a spent bullet casing in the other chamber.
“Derry police have detained a 25-year-old Derryman for further questioning.”
The picture which accompanied the Irish Times report showed one Thompson sub- machine gun, six magazines for same, two revolvers, a hand grenade, about 500 rounds of ammunition and a coil of black fuse, alleged to have been discovered by sniffer dogs on waste ground in the general area of the shooting.
In July 2008, 50 years after their deaths, a roadside monument was unveiled at the Mullan Border crossing near Swanlinbar to the memory of Pat McManus and James Crossan. John Duffy’s name and date of death were also included on the memorial.
Suaimhneas síoraí go raibh aca triúr. Cuimhneófar ortha.
The Special Correspondent in Belfast of the Irish Times wrote on May 10, having visited Derry on Sunday, May 8. He reported: “The city had not seen such intense police activity since the outbreak of violence in the North in 1956.” He went on: “The authorities believe that they have nipped in the bud plans to stage a wave of incidents not only in Derry, but at points further inside Northern Ireland. The police searches were still going on tonight [May 9].”
He quoted Stormont Home Affairs Minister Faulkner. He mentioned the throwing of a hand grenade at an RUC sergeant in Keady, Co Armagh last week to “give the lie to the suggestion that the IRAhave ended their attacks on Ulster”.
*Better known to republicans as Mickey Montgomery. He was a formidable and well-loved figure in the Derry Brigade, later leading the OIRA and INLA in the city. Unfortunately, his experiences whilst being tortured during Internment (he was one of the 14 "Hooded Men") took a hard toll on him and he died in the early 80's.