Silver Trophy. Royal Irish Constabulary/Easter Uprising 1916 - Dingle, Killarney
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Silver Trophy. Royal Irish Constabulary/Easter Uprising 1916 - Dingle, Killarney:
Historic piece of Victorian sterling silver in the form of a claret jug presented in 1889 to Alexander Gray, at the time a District Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, to mark his leaving his position in Dingle to take up a new role in Killarney.
The silver claret jug was presented to Alexander Gray early in his career with the Royal Irish Constabulary where he would remain until he became the most senior officer of the Royal Irish Constabulary to be killed in the Easter Uprising of 1916.
This elegant claret jug has the following presentation engraving:
"PRESENTED TO A. Gray Esq. D.I.R.I.C. (District Inspector, Royal Irish Constabulary) ON HIS TRANSFER TO KILLARNEY. AS A TOKEN OF REGARD AND ESTEEM FROM FRIENDS IN DINGLE. JUNE, 1889".
Included with the claret jug is a photo reprint depicting Alexander Gray in the uniform of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Sterling Silver Claret Jug: Weight: 632.0 gm. Height: 320 mm. Diameter of base: 110 mm. Hall Mark: London 1887. Maker's Mark: William Hutton & Sons (Edward Hutton).
Alexander "Baby" Gray: Alexander was born in 1858 in County Tyrone, Ireland and presumably got his nickname 'Baby" due to his boyish looks. In 1880 he enrolled in the Royal Irish Constabulary cadet school in Dublin and in March 1882, at the age of 23, Gray graduated from the cadet school. In January 1883 he received his first official posting when he was sent to Dingle, County Kerry & was given the position of 3rd sub-inspector for the area.
It would take him only four years to rise to the rank of District Inspector and in that role in the Dingle area he would have been heavily involved in the Land Wars of the 1880s and was unsympathetic to the plight of the local tenant farmers who were evicted from the estate of Lord Ventry, believing there was no scarcity of money amongst them. In January 1886 he wrote:
"There has been more drunkenness amongst the farmers of the county during the past six months than there was for a period of two years immediately preceding........there were fifteen drunk men in the lock-up here last night, thirteen of whom were farmers from the west of Dingle".
In June 1889, Gray was transferred from Dingle to Killarney by the RIC (see engraving on claret jug) where he became noted for quelling the odd riot. Apparently he would ride up and down the street fearlessly on his black horse until the rioters dispersed.
After his posting in Killarney, Gray would hold a number of positions around Ireland including in counties Donegal, Antrim, Dublin, Kildare and Roscommon before eventually being moved to Meath, where he became the County Inspector in June 1912. Gray saw a gradual increase in republican activities in the area but even he would have been taken by surprise by what was to come during Easter Week,1916.
After the outbreak of the rebellion Gray assembled a force of RIC at Slane Castle where they waited for reports of attacks in Meath. The RIC had managed to commandeer a fleet of cars so they could become a "Quick Reactionary Force" to mobilise quickly and defend any attack which could come at any time.
On Friday April 28th the call was to come that Thomas Ashe & his men had attacked the RIC barracks at the Rath Crossroads near Ashbourne Village. What was to follow became known as "The Battle of Ashboune". Gray took the lead car in the convoy but they were ambushed, sustaining heavy casualties in the five hour long battle that followed. Gray himself was hit early on during the fight and was rendered incapacitated. He died of his wounds two weeks later on the 10th May 1916 aged 57.
Eight RIC officers died at Ashbourne, including Alexander Gray, the largest number to die in a single incident during the uprising. Alexander Gray, in his role as County Inspector, was the most senior RIC officer killed (out of a total of 14) during the uprising. In addition, three members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) were also killed making a total of 17 Irish Police Officers killed during the 1916 rebellion.
When Roger Casement was hanged in Pentonville Prison on 3rd August 1916, his death brought the total number of rebels executed as a result of the Easter Rising to 16. Much less is known about the 17 other Irishmen who died during the rising, members of the domestic police forces, the RIC and the DMP. Alexander Gray, the recipient of the claret jug back in 1889, was one of those 17.
Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC):The armed police force of the island of Ireland under British rule, in place from 1814 to 1922. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed in 1921 the RIC was disbanded on 31st August 1922 and replaced by the Civic Guards which were formed on 7th February 1922 and re-titled the Garda Siochana in the Irish Free State in 1923. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was formed on 1st June 1922 in Northern Ireland.
Summary: As can be seen from the photos & history (above) this is a rare piece of memorabilia relating to the now long-disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary. I believe it to be an important item in the history of the RIC in both Dingle and Killarney as well as being important in the history of the RIC itself. Alexander Gray had a long & distinguished career in the RIC, rising to the rank of County Inspector but is most famous for being the most senior officer of the RIC killed in the Easter Uprising of 1916. Of museum quality! Good luck!