"If you want to know who the leader is, I am - James Daly, number 35025 of Tyrellspass, County Westmeath, Ireland": so Private Daly of the Connaght Rangers stationed in Solon, a strategic garrison on the road between Delhi and Simla allegedly shouted to the officers guarding the munitions store which Daly and his fellow Rangers had attempted to seize. In the confusion of their attack, two men were killed and one seriously wounded. Before the summer was over, 61 Rangers were convicted by court martial of mutiny, 14 were sentenced to death and the remainder to varying periods of imprisonment. Many of the sentences were reduced on appeal, but Daly's conviction was upheld and he was shot at sun-up at Dagshai Barracks on November 2, 1920. He was the last soldier of the British Army to suffer death in peace or war for a military offense.
Daly had claimed to be the leader of the mutinous soldiers at Solon and while this was true, he had not in fact instigated the protest. This had begun 200 miles away at Wellington Barracks, Jullundur, in the Punjab on Sunday, June 27, 1920. That night, a small group of Rangers, among them Daly's brother, William, had been discussing the appalling state of affairs at home and they had decided to make a protest against British military atrocities in Ireland: they would "ground arms" and refuse to soldier. They were quickly joined by several hundred other Rangers, including at least one Englishman, Joseph Hawes, from Kilrush, Co. Clare, a veteran of the Western Front and Gallipoli, who was the prime mover at this stage. Smoking a cigarette, Private Hawes cooly informed his Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Deacon, that the men would not return to their duty until all British soldiers had left Ireland, and he then had the Tricolour run up the flag post. At this point, Hawes and his fellow-mutineers took the fateful decision to spread the protest to the Connaught Ranger companies at Jutogh and Solon. Emissaries were dispatched to these garrisons and though the men at the Jutogh hill-station remained loyal, the Rangers of Solon, led by James Daly, like Hawes, told his captain that they would soldier no more until all British soldiers had been withdrawn from Ireland. Under pressure from the Catholic chaplain at Solon, Fr. Benjamin Baker, the mutineers agreed to removal all their weapons to the magazine for safe-keeping. That night, however, a party of men led by Daly made an attempt to recover their arms and in the engagement two of them, Patrick Smythe and Peter Sears, were killed. Within a few days, both garrisons at Jullundur and Solon were occupied by loyal regiments, without incident, and the mutineers were marched off to face court martial. The "summer madness," as the regimental historian called it, was officially over.
Brother William Daly had indeed been active at the beginning of the protest but he had backed away from it within 24 hours. James Daly's youth, (he was 21 when shot), his coolness under pressure, his assertive personality and his effective leadership all marked him out as a remarkable man: perhaps these characteristics also prompted him to take the lead in the protest at Solon. In his last letter to his mother, James remarked that, "I wish to the Lord I had not started on getting into this trouble at all," but he concluded the note by claiming that "it is all for Ireland."
A Connaught Rangers Cenotaph was unveiled in Glasnevin cemetery in 1949. In 1970, James Daly's body and two others killed during the raid was brought back from India. Daly was buried at Tyrellspass and the others were reinterred at Glasnevin. A fourth mutineer, John Miranda, had died in prison in India. Born in Liverpool to a Spanish father and an Irish mother his bones remained in India. Joseph Hawes, then aged 77, was present at Daly's reinterrment and pronounced him to be "as brave a man as ever stood before a firing party."
Among the large number of departmental records made available to researchers in January, 1998, was one bulky file from 1968 containing correspondence relating to the repatriation of the remains of the Connaugh Rangers mutineers who had died in India in 1920.
A photo of James Daly and much more information on this subject appeared in "History Ireland" magazine (Spring 1998).