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Col. Donal Francis Crowley (Former Clan Taoiseach)

Sister Anne Marie Crowley has informed us that her brother, Col. Donal Francis Crowley, died on December 13, 2010 in Dunlaoghaire, Dublin. "He had been ill for some time and being the old soldier that he was, he fought a long tough battle. Finally and peacefully his dear soul took flight into eternity. His requiem Mass was celebrated by the chief army chaplain of the Free State Army, Father Eoin Thyne who extolled Donal's virtues and emphasised his love for his family, his country and for the life in the army.

"His wife Kay, his son Ross, his three daughters, Sharon, Janet and Elva were present. Also present, were six of his eight sisters and one of his brothers-in-law. His two surviving brothers were not well enough to make the journey. There were many of his friends from the army including the only survivor of those who were with him in the Congo in 1959/62. He had a military funeral. It was most impressive to see six young soldiers carrying the coffin which was draped in the tricolour, surmounted by his hat and ceremonial sword."


By Marian Crowley Chamberlain, Crowley Clan Newsletter, March 2011

More about Donal

CROWLEY (Blackrock, Co. Dublin and late of Barryroe, Co. Cork) - December 13, 2010 (peacefully), in the loving care of all the staff at St Michael's Hospital, Dun Laoghaire, Donal (Dan) (Lt. Col. retired), dearly loved husband of Kay (Toal), devoted father of Sharon, Jan, Ross and Elva and grandfather of Molly, Joshua and Daniel; deeply regretted by his sons-in- law Hugh and Nagui and large extended family. 

Letters from Niemba: Irish troops in the Congo, 1960

The Congo—later known as Zaire, but now officially the Democratic Republic of the Congo—was colonised from 1878 at the personal behest of King Leopold of Belgium. By the early twentieth century, reports—including one by Roger Casement, then a British diplomat and later a key figure in the 1916 Rising—exposed the savage exploitation of its people and resources by the commercially driven rubber plantations and mining companies. The ensuing scandal forced King Leopold to relinquish control to the Belgian government. By 1955, owing to Congolese pressure, the Belgians were considering long-term plans to transfer power. Within five years they had reacted to increasingly strident demands by quickly granting independence..


A week later, on the evening of 4 October, Niemba was looted by Katangan gendarmerie and many Baluba were massacred. A UN patrol sent to check the situation discovered an abandoned town, and it was decided to establish a small post there to encourage the local population to return, and to protect them if they did. Two days later, Lieutenant Kevin Gleeson, aged 30, and half his platoon—including Gaynor—left Kamina for Albertville, and on 8 October set up base at Niemba.

In a letter finished on 1 November, Gaynor wrote to his relatives about the violence in the area; he describes discovering bodies that ‘had been ripped open’ and ‘young men that they had cut the legs off below the knees and forced them to walk around in a big circle before they eventually opened their heads with a chopper’. He notes that the perpetrators, whom he thought were in some cases Baluba, had left: ‘When we came they had left and most of the places were burned down and we had to bury and burn 17 bodies and what a job. Most of the villages were deserted and we had to search each one looking for bodies.’

There is little doubt that these details must have alarmed his relatives, as well as giving an insight into the risks of stationing the soldiers at Niemba. Lt-Col. Donal F. Crowley, then a captain, remembered going by train to Niemba on 3 November. At five train stations there were only women and children—but no men—to be seen. When they disembarked at Niemba, he recalled that ‘a Land Rover approached promptly and we had a big handshake and fáilte from the driver, Sergeant Hugh Gaynor and Pte Jim Creagh’. Crowley states that Gleeson noted that an interpreter was needed for negotiating with local chiefs and while on patrol. In addition, there was an increased armed Baluba presence in the countryside and a jumpy Irish sentry accidentally wounded a local Baluba youth, who survived his head wound.

Read more at History Ireland.