Civilian Frederick Charles Stenning (aged 57) of Innishannon (Innishannon)
Date of incident: 31 March 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)
Sources: CC, 1 April 1921; IT, 1 April, 27 June, 19 Oct. 1921; CCE, 2 April 1921; CWN, 9 April 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/40 (TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Richard Russell’s WS 1591, 21 (BMH); James ‘Spud’ Murphy’s WS 1684, 21-22 (BMH); Malicious Injury Claims, Box 16/41, Cork County Secretary Files (CCCA); Fitzgerald (2012), 188; Donnelly (2012), 177-78; Ó Ruairc (2016), 121.
Note: Described as one of the ‘best-known residents’ of Innishannon, Stenning was gunned down at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night, 31 March, reportedly after he had answered a knock on the hall door of his mansion (details of this report were soon revised). See CCE, 2 April 1921. Stenning had become a target of the IRA because of his loyalist associations and also because he had been observed watching as members of the local Volunteer battalion took up ambush positions at Granure on the road from Bandon to Ballineen; he then cycled off to Innishannon, where the RIC were still entrenched in their barracks. A native of England, a member of the Church of Ireland, and the father of a British soldier killed in the Great War, Stenning was the sub-agent of the gentleman Moreton Frewen, the owner of the fair-sized mansion called Innishannon House and the proprietor of most of the houses and shops in the village. A staunch loyalist, Frewen was also the holder of fishing and shooting rights in the valley of the River Bandon. In his capacity as sub-agent, Stenning collected the rents of shop and house property in the village; he also served as Frewen’s gamekeeper and woodranger. See CC, 1 April 1921; IT, 1 April, 27 June, 19 Oct. 1921; CWN, 9 April 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/40 (TNA). Given Stenning’s professional duties, he must have acquired quite a few local enemies, but it was not any overly aggressive performance of these duties that led to his demise.
Stenning had been identified by the IRA as a major loyalist informer—important enough that the IRA sent two Volunteers from the West Cork Brigade Flying Column to kill Stenning; he was at home when IRA men John Lordon and James ‘Spud’ Murphy approached the front door of his house in the village. Volunteer Richard Russell had been posted at the rear of the house to prevent Stenning’s escape. As Russell vividly remembered years later, Lordan and Murphy ‘knocked [at the front] and the door was partly opened by Stennings [sic], who tried to close it again but was prevented from doing so by John Lordon. Stennings then dashed along the hallway, pursued by Lordan and his companion. As Stennings dashed away, he drew a revolver and opened fire on his pursuers, who, replying to the fire, shot him dead. Following this incident, I joined the column in [the] Newcestown area with the party who had taken part in the execution of Stennings. The column had just returned from the attack on Rosscarbery R.I.C. barracks on 31st March 1921.’ See Richard Russell’s WS 1591, 21 (BMH). According to testimony given at the subsequent military inquest, Stenning was known as the staunchest loyalist in his neighbourhood, and according to this witness, that fact no doubt accounted for his murder. See Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/40 (TNA).
The surviving members of Stenning’s family (his wife Annie and three adult children) were forced to flee even before their fourteen-room house was burned down on 25 June 1921. The name of Frederick Stenning appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 30 March 1921, with the notation that British liability was accepted, and with a note that compensation of £5,500 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA). The Stennings belonged to the Church of Ireland.