Civilian William B. Purcell


Civilian William B. Purcell (aged about 40-45) of 7 Charlotte Quay, Cork (Turner’s Cross, near Tory Top Lane, Cork)

Date of incident: 6 May 1921 (ex-soldier killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 9, 10 May 1921; CWN, 14 May 1921; RIC County Inspector’s     Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, May 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/78 and WO 35/162 (TNA); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 42 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 68, 76, 78; Murphy (2010), 41; Death Certificate.


Note: Purcell was abducted on 6 May and his dead body was found the next day in a field near Turner’s Cross, not far from Tory Top Lane, where other IRA executions had taken place. His face ‘was disfigured—he had been shot through the head’. See CE, 9 May 1921. He was an ex-soldier who had served with the Royal Munster Fusiliers. He had worked as a cattle trader, but he had been jobless for several weeks at the time of his death. He had recently been living in a lodging house at 7 Charlotte Quay while seeking work; he had stayed at that address ‘from time to time for the last five years’. According to Michael Murphy, O/C of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, Purcell ‘was shot for spying. He was traced through letters captured by our lads in the mails.’ See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 42 (BMH). Testimony given at the inquest indicated that it was believed that Purcell was suspected of having provided information against the IRA. See Military Inquests, WO 35/162 (TNA).  His death certificate reveals he died from shock and haemorrhage on 7 May 1921 due to bullet wounds, and his death was classified as ‘homicidal’.


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