Volunteer Section Commander Joseph Patrick Begley

 

Volunteer Section Commander Joseph Patrick Begley (aged about 24) of Castle Road, Ballymodan (near Laurel Walk, on Bandon-Dunmanway road)

Date of incident: 2 Dec. 1920

Sources: II, 4, 9 Dec. 1920; CE, 4 Dec. 1920; CCE, 11 Dec. 1921; CWN, 11 Dec. 1920; Military Inquests, WO 35/150/50 (TNA); Charles O’Donoghue’s WS 1607, 10 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 207; Barry (1949, 1989), 53-56, 236; Deasy (1973), 177-78; Last Post (1976), 76; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 140; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/essex-deserters/essex-deserters.html (accessed 3 Aug. 2014); ‘Death of Three Bandon Volunteers’, http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/Bandon_Killings.html (accessed 9 Oct. 2015); IRA Memorial, Dunmanway Road, Bandon. 

 

Note: The deaths of the three Bandon Volunteers Joseph Begley (a clerk), James O’Donoghue (a clerk), and John Gallivan or Galvin (a carpenter) occurred in the immediate aftermath of an attempted ambush by the IRA of an RIC county inspector and three lorries of police near Bandon on 2 December 1920. Though the police suffered no casualties, ‘there was much military activity in the district immediately afterwards’, and these three men were shot dead. According to a British military report, in the aftermath of the Brinny ambush, troops encountered the three men ‘on the Ballineen road. On being ordered to halt, they started to run. Shots were fired at the patrol, who gave chase, during which the three civilians were shot. Three revolvers and ammunition were captured, loaded, and had been fired. There were no casualties among the patrol.’ See CE, 4 Dec. 1920. The evidence presented in the military inquest states that Begley was shot through the head by a member of the Essex Regiment called Benton.  An Old IRA memorial cross was positioned on the Bandon-Dunmanway road, about 100 yards west of the junction with the Laurel Walk, which would indicate the location where the killings were believed to have occurred.  A photograph of the three Volunteers in their open coffins was published in Bandon Opinion in June 2001. (Thanks to Bandon native Brendan O’Donoghue for this information.)

 

Liam Deasy gave an entirely different account of this episode: The three Bandon Volunteers—Begley, Galvin, O’Donoghue—were planning to meet an army sergeant (the brother of a deserter from the Essex Regiment held by the Volunteers) at Laurel Walk outside Bandon town in order to discuss an operation being planned by the Volunteers under the assumption that this sergeant in return for money would cooperate with them. The operation had as its grand goal the capture of Bandon Military Barracks. Tom Barry was to be one member of this group, but he suffered a serious illness just as he was about to leave for the meeting. The other three Bandon men, unaware of Barry’s illness, went to collect arms from a dump at Clancool. ‘Just as they emerged from the fields on to the road, they were immediately surrounded by a large force of the Essex Regiment that had been lying in wait along the roadway. They were seized, ill-treated, and then shot dead. When the bodies were found next morning, each had a bullet hole in the centre of the forehead.’ See Deasy (1973), 177-78.

 

Tom Barry also noted of the three dead Bandon Volunteers: ‘In the centre of each of their foreheads was a hole made by a revolver bullet. There were no other bullet holes, but their bodies showed the marks of ill-treatment before they were killed off by the savages who called themselves soldiers of the British king. Bandon mourned for those three fine young men who died for Ireland, while the Essex and the Black and Tans caroused to celebrate another famous British victory.’ See Barry (1949, 1989), 55.

 

Joseph Patrick Begley was one of the seven children of the Bandon egg packer James Begley and his wife Mary, according to the 1911 census. Their five sons (including the eldest, Joseph Patrick, then aged 15) and their two daughters co-resided with their parents in that year. Their youngest son was named Robert Emmett Begley. Volunteer Joseph Patrick Begley was buried on 5 December 1920 in the new Republican Plot at St Patrick’s Graveyard in Bandon. He was the elder brother of the well-known West Cork IRA brigade staff officer Florence ‘Flor’ Begley.

 

More recently, the authors of ‘Death of Three Bandon Volunteers’ have given a rounded view of these three Volunteer deaths. For them the murders of Begley, Galvin, and O’Donoghue stemmed from the seeming readiness of two self-proclaimed deserters from the Essex Regiment in Bandon—Privates Thomas Watling and Percy Taylor—to help their IRA captors with their plans for an attack on Bandon Military Barracks. Taylor is said to have told Tom Barry that he had a brother in Bandon barracks who would cooperate fully in arranging a plan of attack during a future meeting with Barry at an appointed time and place. Taylor sent a letter to his brother, and the meeting was fixed for the night of 2 December 1920 at Laurel Walk. Barry fell seriously ill just before the arranged meeting unbeknownst to his comrades, and three of them set out for Laurel Walk in the countryside, along the main Bandon-to-Dunmanway road. They marched from Bridge Street in Bandon over Convent Hill and through Convent Cross. They then moved south-westwards across farm fields towards Laurel Walk. Their great mistake was not to take the precaution of scouting the area of the rendezvous site. As a result, they walked into a trap that had to all appearances been set for them by the Essex Regiment. According to this account, Joe Begley was the first to fall, followed by O’Donoghue, and Gallivan was shot when he stopped to assist the wounded O’Donoghue. All three were buried in the new Republican Plot in St Patrick’s Graveyard, ‘where they lay side-by-side just as they had died’. See ‘Death of Three Bandon Volunteers’, http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/Bandon_Killings.html (accessed 9 Oct. 2015).    

 


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