Born on February 2, 1900, Thomas Grace was one of twelve children, four of whom died in childhood, born to Robert and Elizabeth (née Byrne) Grace. The family lived at Factory Street and Main Street, Mountrath at different periods.
Four of the sons joined the British Army and fought in the First World War. James and Robert enlisted in the Leinster Regiment, Patrick joined the Royal Munster Fusiliers and Thomas served with the Shropshire Light Infantry. James was accidentally drowned at Le Birget, Belgium on June 12, 1915 while on active service. He was 29 years old.
Thomas Grace continued to serve in the British Army after the war ended, before eventually resigning in 1921. He then started a business selling fish, fruit and vegetables in the Mountrath area, which he continued for about nine months. He joined the National Army on July 9, 1922 and was the first fatality of the Tonduff Ambush .
It is believed he was the machine-gunner aboard the Lancia armoured car, that was blown up in the initial moments of the attack. Having fallen from the overturned vehicle, Grace was hit in the first fusillade from the ambushers. Despite his injuries, it appears he was attempting to return fire on the attackers when he was killed.
According to his commanding Officer, Colonel Michael Gantley, Thomas Grace ‘although badly bruised, endeavoured to return the fire and the Irregulars shot him dead. There was no negligence or misconduct on his part. He was a very efficient soldier’.
His funeral took place on Sunday, July 30,1922. Following Requiem Mass in Mountrath, he was buried with full military honours in Clonenagh Graveyard, alongside with his brother Robert who died on July 17,1915. His name is not listed on the grave marker which bears a general inscription.
In February 1925, Elizabeth Grace sought compensation for the death of her son from the Military Service Pensions Board. She had received the sum of four shillings a week from 28 July 28, 1922 to August 30, 1923, a total of £79. 16s. 0d.
Following protracted correspondence and after initially recommending a gratuity of £50, the MSPB paid her a reduced amount of £25 on May 27, 1933.
Extract from The Tonduff Ambush Centenary Booklet by John Flannery