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Ships & Their Role in a Forgotten Murder the Subject of TG4 Documentary

13th December 2021
Dorice, Hilda and Morse, the characters in the drama-documentary about a forgotten murder on TG4 this week
Dorice, Hilda and Morse, the characters in the drama-documentary about a forgotten murder on TG4 this week

When Hilda Hunter eloped with Hori Morse on the SS Barrabool to Australia, little did she know that she would become the last victim of the Auxiliaries.

She was on board another vessel, SS Medic, and trying to escape from her former lover, when she was shot dead with the Smith and Wesson revolver that Morse had used against the IRA in Ireland.

The two ships were central to a forgotten murder which is the subject of a drama-documentary on TG4 this week.

Galway film producer Des Kilbane worked with award-winning directors Lydia Monin and Andrew Gallimore on Pairteach I nDúnmharú - An Auxiliary To Murder, which records how Morse and Hunter’s relationship linked in with a seminal chapter in Ireland’s War of Independence.

SS BarraboolSS Barrabool

Morse, originally from New Zealand, was a member of the infamous “H Division” of the Auxiliaries which besieged Tralee, Co Kerry, from November 1st to 9th, 1920. The Auxiliaries were known as a “gentleman’s Black and Tans”, wreaking havoc and fear during their short but murderous spell in Ireland.

Morse began his relationship with Hunter, who lived in Coleraine with her husband and three children, while he was on leave in Wales.

Hilda HunterHilda Hunter

After he resigned from the Royal Irish Constabulary, the couple eloped to Australia to work on the sheep-shearing circuit. However, Hunter decided to leave him, and was on board the SS Medic when she was persuaded to disembark in Adelaide.

As Kilbane says, that decision “sealed her fate”. Morse shot her dead with one bullet through her heart on February 24th, 1924, and then turned the gun on himself but survived.

Morse stood trial for murder in Adelaide, and a petition signed by 22,000 people saved him from hanging. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released after ten years, having reportedly been a “model prisoner”.

He returned to New Zealand, married and had two children and passed away in the 1970s.

Hori Morse fires the fatal shot in the TG4 docu dramaHori Morse fires the fatal shot in the TG4 docu drama

As Kilbane explains, there were no court martials, no war crimes tribunals, no truth and reconciliation commissions dealing with the havoc which the Auxiliaries had caused.

Morse’s trial in Adelaide, therefore, became the “only legal forum to investigate the character of a man who became part of the most feared killing machine of Ireland’s revolutionary period”, he says.

Relatives of Hunter were interviewed for the drama-documentary, which draws on newsreel archive footage of the War of Independence, along with contemporary film, photographs and newspaper reports.

The documentary is narrated by Sile Nic Chonaonaigh, and was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It is due to be broadcast on TG4 this Wednesday, December 15th, at 9.30 pm.

Published in Maritime TV
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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