Civilian James Blemens


Civilian James Blemens (aged about 55) of Blackrock (possibly Carroll’s Bogs on southern outskirts of Cork city)

Date of incident: 29 Nov. 1920 (abducted, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: II, 1 Dec. 1920; CE, 2 Dec. 1920; Executions by IRA in 1920 (Military Archives, A/0535); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 33 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 28-33, 52, 92, 100, 168, 170-73, 179; Murphy (2010), 41, 294. 


Note: A horticultural instructor with the Cork County Agricultural and Technical Committee, Blemens was abducted from his home, Braemar, on Blackrock Road in Cork city by armed men at about 7 p.m. on 29 November 1920. His son Frederick had been ‘reported missing earlier in the day’. See II, 1 Dec. 1920. They were both executed as spies on 2 December after having been tried and convicted by members of the Cork No. 1 Brigade of the IRA. The city IRA believed that Blemens and his son Frederick were among the most active members of a pro-British body often styled the ‘Anti-Sinn Féin Society’ that was supposedly based at the city Y.M.C.A. James and Frederick Blemens appeared on the list of ‘missing persons’ published in the Irish Times of 22 August 1921. The date of their kidnapping was given there correctly as 29 November 1920. According to city Volunteer leader Michael Murphy, the IRA abducted James Blemens and his son Frederick and executed both of them ‘as members of the senior spy section in the [city] Y.M.C.A. Their names were given to me by [a youth named William] Parsons. We also had information about them from letters captured by our lads in raids on postmen for mails.’ See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 33 (BMH). Moreover, Murphy revealed in his interview with Ernie O’Malley that in following up information acquired from Parsons, he and other IRA men had listened to meetings in the Blemens household from the backyard. See Borgonovo (2007), 170.


Blemens was an Anglican. His name appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 29 November 1920, with the notation that British liability was accepted for both members of the family (contrary to Gerard Murphy’s suggestion that it was not accepted in their case), and with a note that £3,000 in compensation was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA). On balance it seems likely that at least one member of this household was operating actively against the IRA.


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