Civilian Eugene Swanton

 

Civilian Eugene Swanton (aged about 32) of Ballynacorra near Midleton (Knockraha)

Date of incident: 5 June 1921 (ex-soldier kidnapped, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, June 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); ‘IRA Intelligence Reports on Civilians Accused of Giving Information to and Associating with British Forces during War of Independence in Counties Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and Limerick’, ca. 1921, CP/4/40 (Military Archives); Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA); WO 329/1765 (TNA); Interview with Edmond Desmond, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA); IT, 22 Aug. 1921; O’Halpin (2013), 332; White and O’Shea (2010), 461.

 

Note: Eugene Swanton was abducted on 5 June 1921 by the IRA from the house of Patrick Gleeson at Ballynacorra near Midleton and subsequently killed. His remains were never found. The British military reported that Swanton had been kidnapped from his home [Gleeson’s dwelling] at about 1 a.m. on 5 June by rebels claiming to be members of the crown forces, and that he had never been seen again. See Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA). Swanton allegedly carried papers given to him by William Daly, another ex-soldier, residing on Darby’s Lane in Midleton; Daly’s name was on the IRA’s list of suspected spies. Swanton also had in his possession from Daly a form for the IRA Prisoners’ Dependents Fund with a view to making contact with IRA sympathisers. See ‘IRA Intelligence Reports on Civilians Accused of Giving Information to and Associating with British Forces during War of Independence in Counties Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and Limerick’, ca. 1921, CP/4/40 (Military Archives).

 

Former Volunteer Edmond Desmond later told Ernie O’Malley that some IRA men dressed in British military uniforms, a few of whom were ex-officers of the British army, had approached Swanton for information about the Volunteers, and that he had given it to them. See Interview with Edmond Desmond, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA). He was probably executed at Knockraha.

 

A labourer and an ex-soldier, Swanton had served first with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers (RDF) and then with the Machine Gun Corps on the Western and Gallipoli fronts. Born in about 1889, he had enlisted in the RDF in 1915 at the age of 26. In one of his attestations for the British army he listed his trade or calling as that of general labourer, though in another and later attestation he called himself a chauffeur. His name appears on the Service Medal and Award Rolls of the British War Office and Air Ministry for 1914-20. He was a recipient of the British War Service Medal and the Victory Medal. See WO 329/1765 (TNA). After the Great War had ended in 1918 and he was demobilised, he postponed his planned emigration to Canada with an ‘assisted passage’ owing to malaria contracted during military service in the Middle East; he was in regular correspondence with the British War Office. See O’Halpin (2013), 332.

 

At the time of the 1901 census the grandsons Michael, John, and Charles Swanton (who died on the Western Front in 1916) lived with their grandparents, the farmers John and Kate Gleeson of Ballynacorra.  See White and O’Shea (2010), 461. The senior Gleesons’ unmarried son Patrick (aged 35 in 1901) and unmarried daughters Eleanor (Lena) and Hannah also co-resided with them. Patrick Gleeson appeared in the 1901 census as a ‘car driver’ and in the 1911 census as an ‘agricultural labourer’, but his father John Gleeson listed himself in that year as a farmer. Patrick Gleeson appears to have been Eugene Swanton’s uncle, as Lena Gleeson was certainly Swanton’s aunt. The Swantons and the Gleesons were all Catholics. Eugene Swanton’s intention to emigrate to Canada before his death intervened was entirely understandable. His mother Margaret Swanton, according to her son Eugene’s Descriptive Report upon Enlistment in 1915, was already a resident of Charlestown, Massachusetts, having emigrated from Ireland to that northeastern state near the Canadian border.  


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