Civilian John Sheehan


Civilian John Sheehan (about aged 26) of Greenane near Kanturk (near Kanturk)

Date of incident: ca. 5 March 1921 (abducted and later executed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 22 March 1921; FJ, 22 March 1921; II, 22 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921; Connaught Telegraph, 26 March 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/4 (TNA); WS 744 of Jeremiah Murphy, Michael Courtney, and Denis Mulchinock, 14 (BMH); Death Certificate for John Sheehan, died ca. 5 March 1921 (received from military inquiry held 24 March 1921).


Note: Armed men came knocking at John Sheehan’s door at Greenane. Sheehan told a close relative (wrongly said to have been his sister) not to open it: ‘It’s the Sinn Feiners come for me.’ British forces later found his body with a note declaring, ‘Spies, traitors, informers in Kanturk associated with military, police, and Black and Tans, you are all listed. Beware, I.R.A.’ At a subsequent military inquest, however, Lieutenant C. McKerren of the Machine Gun Corps stated that while Sheehan had been known in Kanturk as a ‘bad character’, he had never given information to the military. See Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/4 (TNA).


A butcher by trade, single, and aged about 26, Sheehan was abducted on about 5 March 1921 from his mother’s house in or very near Kanturk by a number of armed men. His body, with a bullet hole in the forehead, was found in a field on the farm of the Archdeacons near Kanturk on 21 March 1921 by the military and police; it was in a badly decomposed state and was removed to the Kanturk workhouse. His death was officially registered on foot of a coroner’s certificate received from the military court of inquiry held on 24 March. See CE, 22 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921.


This killing has the hallmarks of an IRA execution. Three former local Volunteers observed many years later: ‘During March 1921 a spy was found guilty of giving information to the enemy and was executed by members of the Kanturk Battalion. In view of the fact that relatives of this man are still resident in the locality and will probably continue to live in the district for many years to come, it is not considered desirable to elaborate on the details of this shooting.’ See WS 744 of Jeremiah Murphy, Michael Courtney, and Denis Mulchinock, 14 (BMH).


In 1911 John Sheehan (then aged 16) resided with his aunt Bridget Callaghan and his mother Kate Sheehan, Bridget’s sister, at Lower Greenane near Kanturk. His aunt was a ‘dealer in old clothing’, while his mother was a ‘dealer in confectionery’. Though Kate Sheehan indicated to the census enumerator that she had been married for sixteen years (with only one child), there was no sign of her husband. Bridget Callaghan, her nephew John Sheehan, and her sister Kate Sheehan shared a dwelling with only three rooms. All were Catholics.

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