Civilian Mary Anne Ward


Civilian Mary Anne Ward (aged about 61) of Cat Fort, Cork city (Tower Street, Cork)

Date of incident: night of 11-12 July 1920

Sources: CE, 13 July 1920; II, 13 July 1920; Borgonovo (2007), 31, 52, 93, 168, 170.


Note: Mary Anne Ward died of an apparent heart attack under conditions of the highest stress while being removed from Cat Fort on the night of 11-12 July 1920, ‘previous to the building being set on fire by a number of young men’ [i.e., Volunteers]. Cat Fort had served in the past as a barracks for the Cork City Artillery Militia and was later to house policemen. The building was then occupied by Arthur Ward, his wife Mary Anne (aged about 61), and their son Henry. Arthur Ward was employed as a caretaker by the Cork Y.M.C.A. and lived with his wife and son Henry at Cat Fort. The three of them went to bed shortly after 11:30 p.m. on that Sunday night, only to be aroused ‘a little later’ by loud noises coming from a group of about twenty young men (Volunteers), who seemed to the Wards ‘to be doing something with the cars’ parked in or very near the barracks square. Some of these Volunteers forced an entry into that part of the barracks building where the Wards were sleeping and ordered them to leave within five minutes. Before the three Wards were able to cross the barracks square after their frantic exit, Mrs Ward had ‘collapsed altogether’. By that time the Wards were near the outer barracks wall and gate. ‘His wife never spoke after that’, recalled Arthur Ward at the coroner’s inquest at the South Infirmary on 12 July, ‘or never [sic] gave any sign of life.’ The Volunteers had helped to carry the prostrate Mrs Ward across the street to Mrs Coughlan’s pub, and according to Arthur Ward, they had rendered every kind of assistance and ‘treated us with courtesy’.


William Lehane, the medical doctor at the inquest, suggested ‘cardiac failure, the result of fright,’ as the most probable cause of Mary Ann Ward’s death. Coroner William Murphy told the members of the jury that they should ‘find a verdict of death from heart failure, accelerated by excitement’. The jury essentially agreed, concluding that Mrs Ward had ‘died suddenly from heart disease’, and that her death had indeed been ‘accelerated by excitement’.


The Volunteers who burned part of Cat Fort may have had on their minds its connection with the Cork Y.M.C.A. in more than one sense. They also destroyed by fire ‘a Ford van laden with material for delivery at the Y.M.C.A. Camp at Fermoy’, which provided recreation facilities for British soldiers. See CE, 13 July 1920. The Cork city IRA suspected the Cork Y.M.C.A. of operating a network of informers working to defeat the republican cause. It is also possible that the IRA was seeking to deny the use of Cat Fort as a possible garrison for British reinforcements arriving in the city. On the same night as the Cat Fort raid local IRA forces also burned down two abandoned RIC barracks in the city at St Luke’s and on King Street (now MacCurtain Street). See CE, 12 July 1920; Borgonovo (2007), 31, 52, 93, 168, 170.  


In 1911 Mary Anne Ward resided with her husband Arthur (an auctioneer then aged 57) at 42 Douglas Street in Cork. Married for twenty-seven years, they were the parents of nine living children (fifteen born), the youngest of whom was their son Henry (then aged 10). Six of their children (three sons and three daughters) were co-resident with them in 1911. The members of Ward family were all adherents of the Church of Ireland.

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