RIC Constable Patrick William Joseph O’Connor

 

RIC Constable Patrick William Joseph O’Connor (aged 22) from County Mayo (Drimoleague)

Date of incident: 1 Feb. 1921

Sources: CE, 2 Feb., 23 March 1921; CCE, 5 Feb. 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/156/57 (TNA); Daniel O’Driscoll’s WS 1352, 9 (BMH); Ted O’Sullivan’s WS 1478, 30 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 191-92; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 142; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).

 

Note: The Drimoleague Company of the IRA under the command of Daniel O’Driscoll carried out an ambush in that town on 1 February 1921 as four constables were walking towards their nearby barracks (fewer than 50 yards away). Just before the shooting began, the constables heard the command, ‘Fire. Let them have it boy.’ See CE, 23 March 1921. Constable O’Connor was killed and Constable Griffin was seriously wounded; the other two constables escaped. Sergeant Dee had been badly wounded at this same location in October 1920. One object of the attack was to draw the Auxiliaries based at Dunmanway into a second ambush about a half-mile from the village of Gloundaw. Besides Dan O’Driscoll, the ambush party included Ted O’Sullivan, the vice-commandant of Cork No. 3 Brigade; Michael Harrington, the brigade adjutant; Con Keane, the captain of Inchingerig Company; Tom Collins of the same company; and Sonny Sullivan of the Bantry Company. See Daniel O’Driscoll’s WS 1352, 9 (BMH).

 

Ted O’Sullivan vividly remembered the ambush many years later: ‘I moved into Drimoleague about 7 p.m. We took up a position about 50 yards from the R.I.C. barrack behind a stonewall. All were armed with rifles. There was no appearance by the patrol at the expected hour, so I sent Dan O’Driscoll into the village to ascertain whether there were any R.I.C. in the village. When O’Driscoll returned, he informed me that four R.I.C. men were drinking in Beamish’s publichouse. This had been confirmed by an I.R.A. man—Tom Young—whom he had met on the street. In the circumstances we remained in our position, and after about 30 minutes the enemy party made their appearance. They walked down the street towards the barrack in two pairs. As they passed our position, we opened fire. Constable O’Connor was killed and his companion Constable Griffin was wounded. The other pair escaped. We immediately withdrew to Castledonovan, where we went into billets.’ See Ted O’Sullivan’s WS 1478, 30 (BMH). Constable O’Connor had only one year of service with the RIC; he was a decorated veteran of the Great War and had previously served in the Royal Navy.


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