Lieutenant Seymour Lewington Vincent

 

Lieutenant Seymour Lewington Vincent (aged 30) of the Army Educational Corps and the Intelligence Staff (Coom East near Glenville)

Date of incident: 24 May 1921 (abducted, executed, and disappeared as intelligence officer by IRA)

Sources: Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15); George Power to Florence O’Donoghue, 21 Dec. 1953 (Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31,421 (11), NLI); JUS/H/257/B (NAI); Interview with George Power, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/100 (UCDA); Interview with Jim Bronach, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/123 (UCDA); George Power’s WS 451, 15-16 (BMH); Con Leddy’s WS 756, 13-14 (BMH); William Buckley’s WS 1009, 21 (BMH); James Hackett’s WS 1080, 6-8 (BMH); O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 119; Sheehan (2011), 74; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/vincent/vincent.html (accessed 8 Aug. 2014).

 

Note: Vincent was captured near Watergrasshill under suspicion of engaging in intelligence-gathering activities: ‘He was disguised as an ordinary tramp. In his possession was found a notebook containing a list of names of persons known to be loyal to the British connection. It had been evident for some time that loyalists in some parts of the brigade area were supplying information to the British forces.’ Vincent or another intelligence agent was relaying information about a series of ‘safe houses’ in which Liam Lynch had been staying. ‘Lieutenant Vincent was removed to the Glenville area under guard, and arrangements were being made for his trial. On the morning of the day following his capture, British forces began a round-up of the area in which he was held, and the prisoner made a desperate attempt to escape. He was shot down and killed.’ See O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 119.

O’Donoghue’s account was confirmed by William Buckley’s WS 1009, 21 (BMH). Buckley was the captain of the Castlelyons Company of the Fermoy Battalion of the Cork No. 2 Brigade.

 

According to Fermoy Volunteer leader George Power, Vincent was caught because he was unfortunate enough to call to a republican household, one of whose members reported him to the local company captain. He was captured, and when he attempted to escape, Volunteer Dan Daly shot and wounded him. Vincent asked for a cigarette, said the game was up, and asked Daly to put a bullet in his forehead. Daly obliged. On Vincent’s person were found details of a parcel that he had left in the goods office of the Fermoy railway station. This parcel was picked up and included a notebook (mostly in code) and a list of names. See George Power to Florence O’Donoghue, 21 Dec. 1953 (Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31,421 (11), NLI).  

 

Volunteer Jim Bronach of the Cork No. 2 Brigade later told Ernie O’Malley that before Vincent was killed, he had been offered the spiritual services of either a priest or Protestant ministers, but that he declined the offer. Bronach did remember Vincent’s singular last request: ‘There was one wish he wanted before he died, he said. He wanted to sleep with a woman. He was a brave man.’ See Interview with Jim Bronach, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/123 (UCDA).   

 

On the evening that Vincent had been taken prisoner, George Power, then O/C of Cork No. 2 Brigade, had sent a dispatch to Jim Coss, intelligence officer of the Fermoy Battalion, asking him to secure Vincent’s kit bag at the Fermoy railway station. The job was assigned to Volunteers James Hackett, John Joe Bulman, and Jack Daly. In the bag Hackett and Daly ‘found a revolver, a Sam Browne belt, a camera, some documents relating to evidence given at a court martial, and a note book containing a list of names of contacts which Lieut. Vincent could approach with safety. These were mainly members of the R.I.C., but there was also a fair number of civilians’ names listed. Immediately we had seized the contents of the camp bed, we withdrew [from the office of the Fermoy railway station]. I passed the documents and the note book to Jim Coss (Battalion I.O.) for transmission to brigade headquarters. . . .’ See James Hackett’s WS 1080, 6-8 (BMH).

 

The Cairo Gang website argues that in Vincent’s military file British Military Intelligence in London apparently denied to other government officials that there was anyone named Vincent in its employment, and his local military commander in Fermoy did not view him as an intelligence operative. Vincent was given military leave earlier in May and also sought to resign his military commission. Yet Vincent’s movements around the time of his abduction remain unexplained. He had been shell-shocked during the First World War, a circumstance that may or may not have been relevant to his actions.

 

In June 1924 an anonymous loyalist sent a letter to the British Secretary of State for War indicating that Vincent’s body and that of ‘another poor man’ had been secretly buried in a bog at Coom East near Glenville—a piece of land said to be owned by Daniel Hickey, ‘the notorious reble [sic] farmer’. The secret burial place turned out to be Lenihan’s Bog in the Glenville district. See http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html (accessed 8 Aug. 2014).

 

Finally, on 18 October 1926, Vincent’s remains were disinterred from Lenihan’s Bog and placed in a zinc-lined oak coffin inscribed with his name. The coffin was conveyed by Crossley tender to the Church of Ireland in Glenville, where it was received by the local rector. A funeral ceremony then took place that was attended by a sister of the deceased and a cousin, among others; Vincent’s remains were then reinterred in a new grave that had already been dug in the adjoining cemetery. It was alleged in the correspondence relating to this 1926 reburial that sufficient evidence had been found on Vincent to connect him with the British intelligence service. It was also noted that he had been kept in a house near Glenville until 26 May 1921, when he had been shot while trying to escape; he had been executed later the same day. See JUS/H/257/B (NAI).


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