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Tragic Discovery Near Drumquin (1934)

I recently gained access to the online records of the Irish Newspaper Archives, and decided to see what interesting odds and ends I could turn up in relation to my own family, living in and around Drumquin in generations past. I've turned up quite a bit of material, none of it groundbreaking, but much of it of general interest, and I'll aim to post various threads here in the days and weeks ahead. The first and most startling story, however, gave more detail on a story I had always known a little about, but obviously not as much as I thought. The family had occasionally spoken of great uncle Sam (in reality, my great great uncle, an elder brother of my great great grandfather, Robert Hamilton Buchanan), and the fact that he had taken his own life on the outskirts of the family farm in Cooel in the 1930s. The following two articles answered a lot of questions about that particular incident, but have also left me with a number of new ones to ponder.

Donegal News, Saturday 22 December 1934, p. 6


The dead body of a farmer, Samuel Buchanan (40), Cooel, Drumquin, was found in a drain on the mountain near his home on Tuesday afternoon.

He had been missing since November 11, the day on which his mother died.

When found deceased was holding a sawed-off shot-gun in his hands, with one finger pressing the trigger. There was a shot through his head and a discharged cartridge in the barrel of the gun.

Fermanagh Herald, Saturday 29 December 1934, p. 3.


The mysterious disappearance on the day of the death of his mother, of a farmer named Samuel Buchanan, Cooel, Drumquin, had a tragic solution, when his body was found in a drain near his home on Tuesday, 18th inst., five weeks afterwards.

On Thursday afternoon in Dooish School, Capt. W. H. Fyffe, coroner, conducted an inquest on the body.

Bernard McKenny stated that on 18th inst. he left Cooel to go up the mountain for sheep, and on the way he stopped to cut bushes, and in a ditch he found the body of a man. The hands were clasped across his breast, and appeared to be clutching something. Witness returned to his uncle, James McKenny, and both went back to the body before reporting the matter to the police. At the time he discovered the body, the face was unrecognisable.

Sergt. Connor gave evidence that he went with the last witness to Cooel on the 18th inst. Lying in a drain and partly covered with whin bushes, he found the body of a man. It was lying on its back, with the arms across the chest; in the right-hand was a pistol which was evidently a sawn-off single-barrelled gun; the forefinger of the right hand was around the trigger; the body was decomposed and the features were unrecognisable. Witness brought John Buchanan to the field and he identified the body by the clothing.

In reply to the coroner, the man’s disappearance had not been officially reported at the police barracks.

John Buchanan, brother of the deceased, said his mother died on 9th Nov., and until that date his bother Samuel resided at home; the deceased was of a particularly retiring disposition. On 9th Nov. witness went to Drumquin at 2.0pm to make arrangements for the funeral, and he did not see the deceased afterwards. Witness heard, however, that Samuel was later seen in Omagh at the railway station. He thought his brother had gone to Scotland, as he had done so ten years ago without giving any notice at home. Deceased was very attached to his mother and felt her death greatly. Witness identified the body of his brother by the clothes and boots. He could not tell where the pistol came from as he has never seen it till it was produced at the inquest. His brother was in fairly good health.

In reply to the coroner, the family were not unduly concerned about Samuel’s disappearance on the day of his mother’s death, as he would not come into the house if there were any visitors. His mother made no will and there was no dispute among the family about property.

Dr. McNeill, Drumquin, said he had examined the body which was in an advanced state of decomposition. Death was due to shock and haemorrhage following gunshot wounds.

The jury returned a verdict that deceased died from gunshot wounds self-inflicted during temporary insanity.

Mr P. Browne, foreman of the jury, moved a resolution of sympathy with the relatives of the deceased.

Above: Sarah Jane Buchanan (nee Condy)

I hadn't realised, to being with, that it had been his mother's death that had driven Sam over the edge, as it now appears. Sarah Jane Buchanan was a formidable woman by all accounts, a mother to eleven children, all of whom survived into adulthood, and a woman who once, so the story goes, walked all the way from Drumquin to Dublin to take part in a weaving competition, which competition she subsequently won, netting herself a considerable sum of prize money in the process. Samuel, the fourth of her five sons, was obviously very close to her. Nor was I aware of his retiring disposition, and the suggestion that he wouldn't have entered the house if there were guests. That, and the amount of time he lay on the mountain, combine to paint a sad picture in many ways.

As to the new, unanswered questions - what had he been up to in Scotland ten years prior, and how long was he missing on that occasion? And where did he obtain a gun that his older brother John had never seen? I had always assumed he had simply picked up a shotgun from the farmhouse, but it would seem not. Was his trip to Omagh station and beyond simply a case of him wandering, trying to figure his next move, or was it more deliberate, perhaps allowing him to meet someone who supplied him with the weapon? And who might that have been? I doubt we will ever know at this remove, but it does make for interesting speculation, and I'm glad to have at least uncovered more information, even if it isn't the cheeriest or most positive I might have found.


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