Corporal John Matthews or Mathews


Corporal John Matthews or Mathews (aged 56) of the 3rd Battalion, Buffs Regiment (Cork Park, Cork city)

Date of incident: 13 May 1920 

Sources: CE, 14, 20 May 1920; CWN, 22 May 1920.


Note: The body of Corporal Matthews was found in a pond at the eastern end of Cork Park, on the south side of the Marina, with marks of violence on his body; medical evidence at the post-mortem on 14 May 1920 indicated that there were ‘some wounds on the chest’. He was employed as a clerk at the headquarters of the British 6th Division in Victoria Barracks in Cork. A native of St Helen’s in Lancashire, he lived in Cork Military Barracks.


Could Matthews have been killed by the IRA? There were suspicions of foul play in some quarters. But statements made at the coroner’s inquest cast serious doubt on the notion of his death having been a murder or homicide. Though the marks on his chest and neck were initially ‘supposed to have been violently inflicted’, the foreman of the jury observed that Matthews ‘had been demented for some time owing to the death of his brother’. Matthews, it turned out, ‘was personally known to most members of the jury, who could not believe that his death was the result of foul play’. It appears that Matthews committed suicide, though the coroner and jury reached a different conclusion. Captain Patrick Hayes, R.A.M.C., who conducted the post-mortem with the assistance of Dr. Michael B. Shanahan, ‘was of opinion that the death was due to asphyxiation, the result of drowning’.  Coroner J. J. McCabe declared to the jury on 19 May that ‘it was apparent that he [Matthews] had been suffering from a severe mental shock following the death of his brother. He had been evidently wandering about the place [Cork Park] where his body was discovered, and whether by accident or through suicidal tendencies his body was found in the water, the jury had no right on the evidence to construe that it was suicide. He accordingly suggested a verdict that death was caused by asphyxiation, the result of accidental downing. The jury readily acquiesced, and the verdict was signed with a rider expressing sympathy with [the] deceased’s staff captain and [with] his relatives.’ See CE, 20 May 1920. 

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