Volunteer Denis Joseph Spriggs Jr

 

Volunteer Denis Joseph Spriggs Jr (aged 19) of Strawberry Hill, Cork city (Blarney Street, Cork)

Date of incident: 8 July 1921

Sources: CE, 11 July 1921; Irish Bulletin, 11 July 1921; CWN, 16 July 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/34 (TNA); P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 30 (BMH); Roll of Honour, Cork No. 1 Brigade (Cork Public Museum, Fitzgerald Park, Cork); Rebel Cork’s FS, 25; Last Post (1976), 90; Ó Ruairc (2016), 233-34; Volunteer Denis Spriggs Memorial, Blarney Street, Cork; https://rebelcitywriters.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/rebel-lives-volunteer-denis-spriggs-a-rebel-a-patriot-a-martyr/ (accessed 23 Feb. 2016); http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/d’ydewalle/d’ydewalle.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/spriggs/Spriggs-d.html (accessed 8 April 2016).   

 

Note: While allegedly trying to escape from crown forces, Spriggs was mortally wounded on 8 July 1921 at the top of Blarney Street in Cork city and soon died. As in numerous other instances, the commanding officer of these soldiers of the South Staffordshires (2nd Battalion), a regiment that had become notorious for its lethal treatment of IRA and civilian prisoners, laid out a story that completely exonerated him and his men at the subsequent military inquest. He noted that he had arrested Spriggs at his home and placed him in a Crossley tender under escort. He then related a tall tale about how Spriggs had brought death upon himself: ‘When the Crossley had proceeded about 200 yards down Blarney Street, the tail board either fell down or was released by Denis Spriggs. Spriggs then leaped out of the Crossley and started to run up Blarney Street. The escort on the Crossley opened fire and he fell. He was apparently dead when picked up. Before putting Denis Spriggs in the Crossley, I personally warned him that he would be shot if he attempted to escape.’ The inquest jury fully agreed that Spriggs himself ‘was to blame, in as much as he attempted to escape from military custody after having been warned of the consequences’. The expression ‘shot dead while trying to escape’ from British lips had long been understood by Irish republicans to mean execution without trial. See Ó Ruairc (2016), 233-34.

 

Denis Spriggs belonged to C Company of the First Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. A plasterer aged 19, he lived on Strawberry Hill, off Blarney Street, and had joined the Volunteers three years earlier after lying about his age. He was an active member of the Cork branch of the Irish plasterers’ union. He was compelled to go ‘on the run’, but while briefly at home to visit his mother, a neighbour reportedly informed the military authorities, with fatal consequences for Spriggs.

 

‘At midnight on 8 July 1921 Denis Spriggs’s home’, according to one recent writer, ‘was raided by the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment of the British Army, commanded by Lieutanant A. d’Ydewalle. The raid was planned specifically to capture Spriggs, as the later British military inquest found. Spriggs was unarmed and complied with his arrest. Yet Spriggs was taken only 100 yards away from his home, put up agaisnt the convent gate at the top of Blarney St, and shot dead. The British said this was because of his attempting to escape. This was of course highly suspect, considering the fact he complied with his arrest and could not defend himself. . . . Spriggs was the 9th IRA member killed in Cork city while “trying to escape”. The South Staffordshire Regiment were also responsible for the killing of an unarmed civilian, William Horgan, a few months beforehand [actually, on 28 June 1921].’ See https://rebelcitywriters.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/rebel-lives-volunteer-denis-spriggs-a-rebel-a-patriot-a-martyr/ (accessed 23 Feb. 2016). See also http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/d’ydewalle/d’ydewalle.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/spriggs/Spriggs-d.html (accessed 8 April 2016).

 

Spriggs was in 1911 one of the seven children (four sons and three daughters) of the slater and plasterer Denis Spriggs Sr and his wife Mary of Shanakiel town in the parish of St Mary’s Shandon on the outskirts of Cork city (Commons Road district). Volunteer Denis Spriggs was the eldest son. He was buried in the Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. Newspaper sources gave his age as 20, but 19 is the age appearing on his gravestone in St Finbarr’s Cemetery. 


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