Civilian Alphonsus Leo (Francis) McMahon


Civilian Alphonsus Leo (Francis) McMahon of St. Luke’s district, Cork city
Date of incident: 19 May 1921 (ex-soldier kidnapped, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)
Sources: CE, 28 July 1916; CE, 21 May 1921; CE, 5 Nov 1921; CCE, 21 May 1921; IT, 22 Aug. 1921; Daniel Healy’s WS 1656, 14 (BMH); Matthew O’Callaghan’s WS 561, 2 (BMH); Hart (1998), 298; Borgonovo (2007), 65, 68, 84, 100, 148, 179; Murphy (2010), 41, 282, 315, 348; Marriage certificate Alphonsus Leo McMahon to Mary Cronin, 28 April 1920. 

Note: McMahon (age 27) was one of four men abducted by city Volunteers at this time in and around the city. A Mrs Mary McMahon, giving an address at 6 Woodland View, Western Road, later applied for £3,000 in compensation for the loss of her husband, who was kidnapped on 19 May 1921. He was an ex-soldier and a clerk in the War Pensions Office. While proceeding to work on the morning of 19 May, he had been held up at the Queens Street corner of the South Mall by three men who forced him into a covered car and took him away. About three weeks later, Mrs McMahon received word that her husband had been court-martialled and executed. The Recorder of Cork awarded her £2,000. See CE, 5 Nov 1921. Orders had passed from the headquarters of the Cork No. 1 Brigade to Daniel Healy, the O/C of the Cork city Active Service Unit who carried out the execution together with other members of the ASU, according to his BMH witness statement. They picked McMahon up, ‘took him out to the country in a two-wheeled cab’, and shot him dead. See Daniel Healy’s WS 1656, 14 (BMH).


Alphonsus Leonard (also known as Francis) McMahon was the second son of James Christopher McMahon and Ellen Hacket McMahon, who were the parents of ten children (three daughters and seven sons). At the time of the 1911 census  the family resided at 59 Shanakiel in Cork city. Leo’s father was the owner of a grocery and hairdresser’s business in Paradise Place in Cork. His son Leo, who was commonly called Francis in 1921, had served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the Great War. Before the war he had been employed as a pawnbroker’s clerk. The McMahons were Catholic. (We are grateful to family members Martin McMahon and Nickie Cohalan for supplying details about his identity and family background, and to Jean Prendergast for clarifying his military status.)  


Gerard Murphy contends wrongly in his book The Year of Disappearances (see pp. 282, 315) that the McMahon in question was a Freemason. Murphy’s list of probable disappearances in the appendix of his book is problematic, as Barry Keane has noted. See Keane’s detailed web post, ‘The Undead: Cork’s Missing War of Independence Freemasons, 1920-1926’, at: The Francis McMahon described as a Freemason by Murphy was not in fact the victim who died in 1921. The confusion lies partly in the fact that the victim had altered his Christian name. He was originally Alphonsus Leo McMahon, a clerk, who had married Mary Cronin in Cork city on 28 April 1920. At the time of his marriage he lived in Sundays Well, while Mary gave an address at 6 Woodland View, Western Road, Cork—presumably her family address. Her father was the engineer Timothy Cronin. She returned to the latter address after the disappearance of her husband, and this was where she resided when she was awarded compensation for Leo McMahon’s death. 




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