15 Aug 2022

Sammy Devenny: ‘Regarded as quiet and mild mannered by everyone’

On July 16, 1969 Sammy Devenny had his breakfast, walked the shorty distance from William Street into Derry city centre.  He bought some items for his brother who was ill at the time then had some lunch. After this Mr Devenny picked up his sister-in-law and took to her to Altnagelvin Hospital to see her husband. He then drove back home and picked up his wife Phyllis, collected his mother and father-in-law and drove to Buncrana where they played a round of Pitch and Putt. The family then asked looked around the Inishowen town for holiday accommodation for later in the summer before returning to Derry. That evening, they all had a fry for their supper and then Sammy drove his mother and father-in-law home before returning to William Street again. Sammy watched television until midnight and headed for bed about 12.15am. Mrs Devenny followed him up around 12.30am and recalled that Sammy “was in the best of form.” As she got into bed Phyllis said Sammy said “oh dear” and was panting and wheezing. She wasted no time in calling a priest and a doctor and her neighbour Mrs Myra Doherty. When Fr Mulvey and Fr McCullough arrived, Mrs Devenny left the room.  Sammy Devenny died around 12.45am on July 17, just as Dr Clarke arrived at the house. Mr Devenney’s remains were formally identified by his son Harry and the Post Mortem examination was carried out by State Pathologist Dr TK Marshall on the day of the death. The cause of death was established as coronary atheroma and old thrombosis. The central question surrounding the death of Sammy Devenny has always been whether it was caused by the injuries sustained during the RUC assault. When conducting the Post Mortem examination it was noted by Dr Marshall that in 1967, Mr Devenney had complained to his doctor of aches in his left shoulder and lower left side and the back of his chest but nothing sinister had been found at that time. As a result the Pathologist did not state that the death had been caused the injuries taken during the attack. Also, Dr Pantridge at the Royal Victoria Hospital believed that death occurred from natural causes and the assault was not a contributory factor. And, Dr Vine, Consultant at Altnagelvin agreed with the others and suggested that if the heart attack was the result of the attack by the RUC it probably would have occurred immediately. But, Dr Clarke, partner in the practice of Dr Kinsella, the Devenny family’s practice said that the assault on Sammy Devenny and his children and the acute nervous tension arising from contributed to the heart attack. The Inquest into the death of Sammy Devenny was opened on July 23, 1969 and was conducted by Coroner MF Leslie who recorded that: “The jury, having heard all the evidence and in accordance with the medical evidence placed before them, return a verdict of death by natural causes.” By occupation, Sammy Devenny was an undertaker and hearse driver for the firm of McClafferty and Sons in Derry. He was regarded by everyone as a quiet and mild-mannered man and had never been involved in any political agitation. Newspaper reports recorded that his funeral was one of the largest the city had ever seen and was attended by an estimated 15,000 people. CAPTION: The remains of Sammy Devenny being carried past his home in William Street.  

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