Volunteer Daniel McGrath

 

Volunteer Daniel McGrath (aged about 19) of Springvale near Kildorrery (Corracunna Cross near Mitchelstown)

Date of incident: 21 July 1920

Sources: FJ, 23, 27, 29 July 1920; CE, 24, 27, 30 July 1920; II, 24, 30 July 1920; CC, 27 July 1920; CWN, 31 July 1920; Patrick J. Luddy’s WS 1151, 10 (BMH); Inquest Book, no. 2, 1897-1929 (TNA); Rebel Cork’s FS, 259-60; Last Post (1976), 69; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 137; Corracunna Cross Memorial.

 

Note: Two young men of the labouring class—both Volunteers but not on duty— were shot dead by the military at Corracunna Cross near Mitchelstown on the night of 21 July 1920. According to a report in the Freeman’s Journal two days later, ‘McGrath was shot through the head and also in the side; McDonnell was shot through the back of the neck, [with] the spinal column and vertebrae being shattered. Rev. M. O’Connell, C.C., Rev. Fr Casey, U.S.A., and Dr T. O’Brien arrived, but the men were then beyond all aid. After the shooting the Volunteers warned the people to keep to their houses. They also took charge of the bodies. Indignation prevails in the district, which is one of the quietest in Ireland.’ See FJ, 23 July 1920.

 

Military witnesses insisted at the coroner’s inquest that shots had been fired first at troops in the lorry by ‘the people’, and that the firing by the soldiers was in self-defence. As many as 119 shots were fired by this military party. The deceased were, along with other youths of both sexes (twelve men and six girls), dancing and singing at Corracunna Cross when the incident occurred. ‘The appalling murders’, noted the correspondent of the Cork Examiner, ‘have spread sorrow and mourning in a wide circle and created horror and indignation.’ When the remains of the two victims were brought to the Catholic church in Mitchelstown, ‘the cortege was of immense proportions and representative of all classes. To-day all shops in Mitchelstown are closed and shuttered. There is a general atmosphere of mourning.’ The young people at the cross insisted that they had given ‘no provocation whatsoever’. After the first shot (which did not take effect), the youths had run away, but the soldiers had continued firing as they ran, according to one of the young people at the inquest. See CE, 24 July 1920.

 

Circumstances at the time seemed to indicate that the two dead young men were civilians, but Patrick J. Luddy, the captain of the Mitchelstown Volunteer Company, later recalled that ‘two Volunteers (Dan McGrath and Thomas McDonnell) were shot by a party of British military at Corracunna Cross about 1½ miles from Mitchelstown on the road to Cahir. They were standing with a crowd of civilians at the crossroads. I arrived at the crossroads shortly after the shooting and had to send other Volunteers who had been with me on parade to search the fields to ascertain if any others had been shot. At the inquest held on these Volunteers the jury brought in a verdict of murder against the crown forces, and I think that this was one of the last inquests held. The crown solicitor representing the British forces involved asked the jury not to bring in a verdict of murder or they would all be shot.’ See Patrick J. Luddy’s WS 1151, 10 (BMH). 

 

Sergeant Joseph Morgan, of the Buff Regiment stationed at Fermoy, told the inquest that two or three shots had been fired at him and his men from the ‘Diamond Green’ at the Cross before he gave the order to fire; he also insisted that the youths who had run away had fired back at his men. He conceded that of the 119 rounds fired by the Buffs, he himself had fired 45!

 

At the funerals for the Corracunna Cross victims on 23 July 1920, ‘the whole town was in mourning, and many of the persons on the sidewalks and in the cortege wore republican mourning emblems’. Daniel McGrath’s coffin ‘was draped with the tri-colour flag’, and his coffin was carried on the shoulders of six Volunteers. Following the hearse to the gravesite at Kilbehenny outside Mitchelstown were ‘large numbers of Volunteers, Cumann na m-Ban, and some thousands of the general public’. Volunteer groups from Tipperary and Limerick joined the procession ‘a short distance’ outside Mitcelstown. The funeral of Thomas McDonnell an hour later ‘was equally impressive. The Mitchelstown brass and reed band formed part of the cortege [going to Glanworth] and played funeral marches. The Last Post was sounded and volleys [were] fired over both graves.’ See CE, 24 July 1920.

 

The local girls and boys who testified at the inquest all denied that there had been any shots fired from the little gathering of youths at the Cross. The members of the inquest jury determined that the two deceased young men had died from bullet wounds inflicted wilfully and ‘without provocation’ at Corracunna Cross by an armed military patrol of the Buffs from Fermoy: ‘We consider the military system of these details to fire on an unarmed and defenceless people a grave violation of the principles of constitutional and moral law. We consider the sergeant in charge responsible for the tragic occurrence.’ See CE, 30 July 1920.

 

In 1911 Daniel McGrath (then aged 10) was one of the eleven children of the labourer and widower John McGrath (then aged 38) of Springvale near Kildorrery. Of his eleven children, nine (six daughters and three sons) co-resided with him in 1911. His wife appears to have died in giving birth to their youngest son John, who was only a year old in 1911. 


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