Civilian Cornelius Looney


Civilian Cornelius Looney (aged about 70) of 23 Boyle Street, Bandon (near Warner’s Lane, Bandon)

Date of incident: 14 May 1921

Sources: Death Certificate, 15 May 1921; CE, 16, 17, 18 May 1921; FJ, 16 May 1921; II, 16 May 1921; CCE, 21 May 1921; Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15); Barry (1949, 1989), 172; (accessed 8 Aug. 2014).  


Note: On the Saturday afternoon of the IRA attack on soldiers playing football in the grounds of Bandon Grammar School near Devonshire Square (now Allen Square), two civilians—Cornelius Looney and Patrick Walsh—were wounded. ‘Both are aged men and were making their way home to Boyle St through a field near Warner’s Lane when they were hit. . . . The wounded civilians were removed to the hospital, where Cornelius Looney died about 10:30 that night [14 May 1921].’ See II, 16 May 1921. Looney’s residence on Boyle Street (now called Connolly Street) could be reached via Warner’s Lane (about 300 metres from Boyle Street) and via Shannon Street (now called Oliver Plunkett Street). He was struck by gunfire in a field at the back of, or a little south of, Shannon Street.


There was and there still remains disagreement as to whether Looney was a victim of firing by Volunteers or by British forces. Looney’s death certificate indicates that he died on 15 May from ‘shock and haemorrhage caused by [a] gunshot wound received near Warner’s Lane’ in Bandon as a result of ‘misadventure’—the crossfire between the IRA and the British soldiers attacked while playing football.


Tom Barry, however, denied any claim that Looney had died in crossfire: ‘The reply of the British [to the IRA attack] was a poor show, but judging by the report in the Cork Examiner of May 16th, they must have become very warlike after our departure, as it stated [that] “the terrific machine-gun and rifle fire, lasting for over half an hour, which broke out in Bandon on Saturday afternoon, was in the general opinion an attack on the military barracks.” There was little shooting by the enemy during our attack, but apparently they must have fired wildly for over half an hour after we had retired. It was in this firing that the enemy wounded the two civilians, as most certainly there was no civilian with the unit we attacked.’ See Barry (1949, 1989), 172.


On the other hand, John Desmond, a Bandon historian, knowing where Looney was mortally wounded, has maintained that he could not have been shot by either the IRA or British forces from the area of the improvised British military headquarters (now Hamilton High School) sited on the western side of the square. The headquarters included living accommodation for officers, the mess room, and the playing pitch. The main Bandon Military Barracks ran along the southern side of the square. Since Looney and Walsh took fire at the back of Shannon Street (now Oliver Plunkett Street), they were far from the IRA’s targets at the playing pitch of the military headquarters. According to Desmond, the two civilians were shot by British soldiers firing from atop the Devonshire Arms Hotel, which local British forces had commandeered and which was located higher up on Kilbrogan Hill, some 100 metres from the square on its eastern side and about 200 metres from Bandon Military Barracks. Even one British military report about the IRA attack on the school ground indicated that two civilians ‘were accidentally hit by fire from police barracks’, though the Bandon RIC barracks seems not to have been a location from which Looney and Walsh could have been hit. See Military Inquests, 35/89 (TNA).


Cornelius Looney and his wife Ellen were in 1911 the parents of six living children (nine born), of whom three sons co-resided with them in that year. Looney was a distiller’s labourer and two of his sons were brewer’s labourers while a third son was a rural auxiliary postman. By the time of his death in May 1921 Cornelius Looney had become a widower. He was interred in St Patrick’s Graveyard in Bandon.

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