Volunteer Daniel Murphy

 

Volunteer Daniel Murphy (aged 24) of Orrery Hill (off Blarney Street), Cork city (Ballycannon near Clogheen)

Date of incident: 23 March 1921

Sources: Death Certificate, 23 March 1921; CE, 24, 25, 26 March 1921; CC, 25, 28 March 1921; FJ, 24, 26 March 1921; II, 24, 29 March 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/149A/1 (TNA); Felix O’Doherty’s WS 739, 48-49 (BMH); P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 27 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 40 (BMH); Daniel Healy’s WS 1656, 13, 15-25, with attached affidavits (BMH); Seámus Fitzgerald’s WS 1737, 28-29 (BMH); Roll of Honour, Cork No. 1 Brigade (Cork Public Museum, Fitzgerald Park, Cork); Last Post (1976), 83; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 144; Borgonovo (2007), 86, 89-90, 101, 112-13, 128, 180; Ó , (2016); Clogheen Ambush Memorial; http://theauxiliaries.com/INCIDENTS/ballycannon-ambush/ballycannon.html (accessed 23 March 2016). 

 

Note: Following a raid at the house of farmer Cornelius O’Keefe by a large party of crown forces, O’Keefe’s son was arrested and six others (including the pig buyer Daniel Murphy)—all members of the IRA—were shot dead in British custody on 23 March 1921. These killings became known as the ‘Kerry Pike Murders’ among republicans.

 

When the bodies of the six Volunteers killed at Clogheen were removed on the evening of 24 March 1921 from Cork Military Barracks to St Finbarr’s Catherdal, ‘large numbers of people lined the route along which the cortege would have to pass and awaited its coming. A large number walked after the coffins, which were borne on six hearses; and as the funeral passed slowly through the streets on its way to the cathedral, the crowds of people who lined both sides [of the streets] stood bareheaded while it passed.’ See CE, 25 March 1921.

 

The actual funerals took place after 12 noon Mass on Easter Sunday, 27 March, followed by interment in St Finbarr’s Cemetery. Before the funeral ‘pathetic scenes were witnessed at the cathedral mortuary during yesterday [25 March] when several hundreds of people viewed the bodies of the six young men shot near Clogheen village on Wednsday morning [23 March]. Despite the rain crowds of people waited in a queue and in respectful silence moved towards the mortuary. Volunteers kept order.’ See CE, 26 March 1921. The waking of these Volunteers coincided with Good Friday observances: ‘To-day [25 March] the church was crowded with a reverent congregation, the members of which paid their respects to the dead during the afternoon. The coffins enclosing the remains of the dead men were in the church during the sacred ceremonies of Good Friday and prayers were offered up for their spiritual welfare. The coffins as they lay in the church were uncovered, and the people in the church could see the faces of the dead men, with one exception, that of one of the victims whose face was so frightfully disfigured that a cloth was kept over it.’ See FJ, 26 March 1921.

 

Among republicans, stories circulated that the bodies of the six Volunteers had been mutilated with bayonets and after death. The prominent Volunteer and Sinn Féin activist Seámus Fitzgerald, who was in charge of Dáil Éireann publicity and prepared statistics on atrocities by crown forces that were published in the Irish Bulletin, later maintained that ‘the bodies of these 6 young men were greatly mutilated, and as they lay naked in the mortuary of the North Cathedral, the story was broadcast that they had been brutally mutilated by bayonets. In order to obtain the most positive evidence, I engaged the services of Professor Moore, a Protestant and professor of pathology at University College, Cork, and Dr George Hegarty, who had served in the British army in the World War, to assist me in arriving at a true verdict. . . . As may be seen from Dr Hegarty’s affidavit, all the horrible wounds were caused by revolver bullets or sharp[-]pointed nickel-coated rifle bullets, some or both of which had been found in the bodies. It was obvious that the young men had been told to run, when revolver and rifle or machine-gun bullets were fired point blank at them. The great majority of the entrance wounds were at the back, but some of the bullets caught the men as they were falling, causing terrible wounds in various parts of their bodies. . . . Some of these wounds were of such a nature as to give rise to the rumour that they had been mutilated after death, and I had to correct such an insinuation which Piaras Beaslai made in his “Life of Collins”, which he did in his second edition.’ See Seámus Fitzgerald’s WS 1737, 28-29 (BMH).

 

When the British military inquiry was conducted, the officers involved concluded that the six Volunteers had been ‘killed by the forces of the crown in the course of their duty’. They reached this decision without providing any details about the gunshot wounds or other injuries suffered by these Volunteers. But the public uproar over the deaths seemingly led the British authorities to go even further in whitewashing the atrocity. The original verdict was expunged and replaced with a different one that absolved the RIC men involved and ascribed blame to the six victims. According to the new verdict, ‘all the deceased, whilst in the custody of the R.I.C., attemped to escape. The constabulary in the course of their duty fired on them, whereby they suffered various gunshot wounds. The deceased were all killed instantly at the above hour. That no blame attaches itself to the R.I.C. or any member thereof.’ As Ó Ruairc has remarked, the changed verdict of the British military inquest ‘is a strong indication that some senior British military officers were fully aware of the circumstances of the event and were willing to turn a blind eye to the excesses, indiscipline, acts of violence, and reprisal killings carried out by their subordinates’. See Ó Ruairc (2016), 237-38.       

 


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