Civilian Mary Frances Parnell


Civilian Mary Frances Parnell (aged about 32) of 11 Kyrl’s Quay, Cork city (pub near Kyrl’s Quay)

Date of incident: 26 June 1921

Sources: CC, 27, 29 June 1921; CE, 28, 29 June 1921; II, 28, 29 June 1921; FJ, 29 June 1921; SS, 2 July 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/57 (TNA); WS 558 of Mark Wickham et al., 4 (BMH).


Note: A war widow with two children, ‘Mrs’ Parnell (her maiden name) was accidentally shot by crown forces at about 8:15 p.m. on 26 June 1921 when she came into the line of fire as soldiers and police were seeking to recapture a prisoner and North Main Street resident, leading city Volunteer John (Seán) Twomey (aged 23), who had escaped. Twomey was O/C of the Active Service Unit in the city. Arrested on the Grand Parade on the previous Friday, Twomey was shot during the escape attempt and wounded. Mary Parnell, described as a British loyalist, had been standing in the doorway of Mrs Bradley’s public house, into which the prisoner Twomey ran. See Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/57 (TNA).


Found lying in the doorway of the pub, Mary Parnell had died instantly from rifle fire, ‘most of her face and [the] top of her head having been shot away’. One soldier witness testified: ‘Witness fired himself with his revolver. Witness fired six shots. Witness’s driver fired two [shots], and one of the R.I.C. also fired, but he did not know how many shots.’ See CE, 29 June 1921. Twomey ‘was removed to the Military Hospital in Victoria Barracks and was released during the Truce, having recovered’ from his wounds. See WS 558 of Mark Wickham et al., 4 (BMH).


A witness at the military inquest held at Victoria Barracks on 28 June 1921 identified the female civilian victim ‘as her sister Mary Parnell (aged 30 years), widow, who lived at 11 Kyrl’s Quay, Cork’. The inquest jury determined that Mary Parnell had been killed ‘by crown forces in the execution of their duty’. See CE, 29 June 1921. The Southern Star reported that Mary Parnell ‘was a widow and had one child’, and that her husband had been ‘killed at the front during the late war’. See SS, 2 July 1921. The Cork Constitution and the Irish Independent presented similar accounts of the background of the victim, stating that Mary Parnell was ‘the widow of a soldier killed in the European war’ and had ‘one young child’. See CC, 27 June 1921; II, 28 June 1921.

Mary Parnell was the daughter of Thomas Fletcher (labourer) and Sarah O’Shea. She married in Cork in 1912 and had two children; Victor (born in 1913) and Mary (born in 1914). Her husband, Victor Parnell, was a corporal in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment, who was killed in action in France on the 26th August 1914, so the two surviving infants lost both their parents in tragic circumstances. (We would like to thank Jean Prendergast for providing this information)


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