Civilian Mrs Maria Georgina (Mary) Lindsay


Civilian Mrs Maria Georgina (Mary) Lindsay (aged about 60) of Leemount House near Coachford (Rylane in Aghabulloge parish)

Date of incident: 17 Feb. 1921 (kidnapped, held hostage, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CCE, 5 Feb. 1921; CE, 18 Feb., 19 March 1921; Irish Times, 18 Feb., 4, 15, 19 March, 5 April, 7 July, 30 July, 2, 5 Aug. 1921; II, 16 March 1921; Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/21 (UCDA); Record of the Activities of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31, 339 (NLI); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Pension Application of Frank Busteed, MSP34/REF4903 (Military Archives); Interview with Frank Busteed, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA); Seán O’Mahony Papers, MS 44,047/3 (NLI); Denis Dwyer’s WS 713, 5-10 (BMH); Daniel McCarthy’s WS 1457, 6-8 (BMH); O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 121; O’Callaghan (1974), 157; Pyne Clarke (1986), 50; Sheehan (1990), 175-76; O’Farrell (1997), 55; Borgonovo (2007), 88, 99 (note 62), 104; T. Sheehan (2008); Kautt (2010), 125-29; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 156-60; (accessed 17 Sept. 2015); (accessed 28 May 2016); Richard Murphy, ‘Ambush at Dripsey, 28 January 1921’, at (accessed 29 May 2016).     


Note: Maria Lindsay was kidnapped on 17 February 1921 and later killed, along with her chauffeur/butler James Clarke. Her status as an informer was a matter of certainty for Florrie O’Donoghue, the intelligence officer of Cork No. 1 Brigade: ‘In her case the death sentence [passed by the IRA] followed a flagrant and deliberate action against the Army, that of conveying information to the occupation forces in regard to the Dripsey ambush. Even after sentence had been passed, an official letter from the Cork No. 1 Brigade to Major General Sir E. P. Strickland indicated that the sentence would not be carried out if the prisoners taken at Dripsey were treated as prisoners of war. The communication was ignored and Mrs Lindsay was shot.’ See O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 121.


Mrs Lindsay was executed by the IRA partly for having given information to the crown forces at Ballincollig Military Barracks (base of the 1st Manchester Regiment) that led to the capture of eight republicans (five wounded) in the abortive Dripsey ambush of 28 January 1921 and to the execution of five of them (plus a sixth Volunteer from Tipperary town) at Victoria Barracks in Cork city on 28 February 1921. Another captured republican died in prison from his wounds. The ambush took place outside Dripsey, at or near Godfrey’s Cross on the road to Coachford. In retaliation for the six executions on 28 February, the IRA shot twelve unarmed British soldiers (another source says ten, six fatally) in the streets of Cork city that night or the next day. Mrs Lindsay and James Clarke were executed by the IRA on 14 March 1921 at Flagmount in the Rylane district. See Sheehan (1990), 175-76; Borgonovo (2007), 88, 104; Record of the Activities of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31, 339 (NLI).


According to a reliable account of the Dripsey ambush and its immediate background, ‘That morning [28 January 1921] Mrs Mary Lindsay of Leemount House, who held strong loyalist views, heard of the [impending] ambush during a visit to Coachford. She was on her way to Ballincollig for a newly-introduced military inspection of her car (a measure introduced by the British to cut down on the commandeering of cars by the IRA). When she told Mr Sheehan [a local grocer] of her plans, he advised her not to go through Dripsey and Inniscarra, and when she asked why, he told her of the intended ambush. She told the local priest, Father Ned Shinnick, what she had heard before returning home. From there her chauffeur James Clarke drove her to Ballincollig to warn the army authorities. Meanwhile, Father Shinnick informed the local IRA command to tell the ambushers that the British had been informed of their plans. Father Shinnick was known to be anti-IRA, and the leaders of the IRA ambush party decided that the warning was just a ruse on the part of the priest to get them to abandon their ambush.’ See Richard Murphy, ‘Ambush at Dripsey, 28 January 1921’, at (accessed 29 May 2016). Had the priest’s warning been heeded, the disaster of the Dripsey ambush and all of its tragic consequences might have been avoided.  


A detailed and painstaking account of this episode was provided by Timothy Sheehan in his book Lady Hostage: Mrs Lindsay (Dripsey, 1990), but there is also a succinct and reasonably complete account of the events surrounding the Dripsey ambush of 28 January 1921, the court-martials and executions of Volunteers, the IRA reprisals against off-duty soldiers in Cork city, and finally the IRA execution of Mrs Lindsay and her chauffeur James Clarke on the following website: (accessed 28 May 2016). This last source includes copies of the letters sent by Mrs Lindsay (pleading for her life) to British Major General Sir (Edward) Peter Strickland at Victoria Barracks, and by the IRA to Strickland indicating that if ‘the five of our men taken at Dripsey’ were executed as scheduled ‘on Monday morning [28 February 1921]’ by the military, the IRA would execute Mrs Lindsay and her chauffeur James Clarke, ‘who have been convicted of spying and are under sentence of death’. Since the five Dripsey prisoners and one other condemned Volunteer were indeed executed on that day, followed by the trial and death sentence (later commuted) of Volunteer Denis Murphy on 9 March 1921, Mrs Lindsay and James Clarke were taken out and shot by the IRA on 14 March, as previously noted. Maria Lindsay and James Clarke both appeared on the list of ‘missing persons’ published in the Irish Times of 22 August 1921. The date of their kidnapping is given there as 19 February 1921. This date is incorrect.


In 1911 Maria Georgina (Mary) Lindsay (then aged 50) and her husband John (aged 66) had been married for twenty-three years. They were childless. They resided at Leemount, a modest mansion with thirteen rooms, along with their butler (and later chauffeur) James Clarke, a housemaid, a cook, and a coachman. John Lindsay was a native of County Down, his wife a native of County Kildare. They were adherents of the Church of Ireland; they did employ two Catholic servants, one as their cook and the other as their coachman. Very shortly after the IRA executed Mrs Lindsay and James Clarke, a party of Volunteers burned down the Big House in which they had lived. The Cork Examiner of 19 March 1921 reported that ‘the house of Mrs Lindsay was raided . . . by forty armed men, who gave the three women servants short notice to remove personal belongings. They then locked them in an outhouse and set fire to the dwelling-house, which was consumed with practically everything it contained.’


A somewhat different account of the circumstances surrounding Mrs Lindsay’s kidnapping and the destruction of Leemount House appears in a document found in the Richard Mulcahy Papers. After noting that Lindsay and Clarke had been abducted at about 1 a.m. on 17 February 1921, the writer observed that a party of men with the same leader as had directed the abduction had come again to Leemount a fortnight later. This leader presented a note from Mrs Lindsay asking for some papers to be taken from her desk, a task that her housekeeper performed. When asked how Mrs Lindsay was faring, the leader replied that she was then ‘fairly well and plucky’. Once the papers had been retrieved from Mrs Lindsay’s desk, Leemount House was sprinkled with petrol and burned down. See Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/21 (UCDA). A contemporary IRA record notes that Leemount House was burned on 2 March 1921, and that Maria Lindsay and James Clarke were executed on 14 March. See Record of the Activities of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31, 339 (NLI).  


The ill-fated IRA commander of the nearly seventy Volunteers gathered near Godfrey’s Cross between Dripsey and Coachford on 28 January 1921 was Frank Busteed, captain of the Blarney Company of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. He was personally involved in the later kidnapping and execution of Mrs Lindsay and James Clarke as well as in the burning of Leemount House after their executions. See Pension Application of Frank Busteed, MSP34/REF4903 (Military Archives).


Busteed later confirmed to Ernie OMalley key details of Maria Lindsay’s involvement in the wrecking of the Dripsey ambush and added several other interesting pieces of information about what allegedly passed between her and two local priests: ‘The priest in Coachford was involved, for it was he who gave Mrs Lindsay a lift. She was told about this party of men [at the ambush site]. She took out her car with her chauffeur [and] went through Coachford, where she met the CC [Catholic curate] on a road in the village going to the PP’s [Parish Priest’s] house and she gave him a spin, and I think she mentioned to him what she was going to do. The PP [Father Edward Shinnick], who was opposed to us and who wanted the British [to prevail], is reported to have sent around that Mrs Lindsay was going to inform the military and that we were to withdraw, but we thought that he was putting on an act and that he wanted to save the British and make us withdraw from this, to us, false threat. . . . [After mentioning the circumstances ending in the execution of Mrs Lindsay and her chauffeur, Busteed explained to O’Malley what in his mind justified the IRA’s decision to carry out this deed.] Mrs Lindsay denied her bringing the information [to the British forces] up to the hilt. We could only use what information she had told the PP. She had told the PP that she was going in to Ballincollig Barracks to tell the British that there had [been] an ambush prepared for them. He [the PP] didn’t tell us, for he didn’t appear in person . . . , but he sent someone [to let IRA officers know of Mrs Lindsay’s intention].’


According to Busteed, even Michael Collins did not know that Busteed and his comrades had executed Mrs Lindsay, and there is strong evidence that Collins and other IRA leaders in Dublin wanted to save her from this fate. See Interview with Frank Busteed, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA). Letters in the Seán O’Mahony Papers suggest that Mrs Lindsay and Clarke were killed on the night of 15-16 March 1921, and that while she was not actually shot (presumably she was poisoned), Clarke was shot dead. The bodies were secretly buried in the same grave at Rylane in the Donoughmore district. Following determined attempts during the Truce, the Civil War, and beyond by her family (notably her younger sister Ethel Benson) to recover her body, the Irish Free State government undertook fairly extensive investigations through the Ministry of Defence with the co-operation of the police in Cork. But shortly before their investigations led them to the correct location, her remains had been disinterred and removed to another area and thus rendered irretrievable by those within the IRA who were equally determined that her remains should never be returned. See Seán O’Mahony Papers, MS 44,047/3 (NLI). Her guilt in the eyes of the IRA was irrefutable.           

News & Events

University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland   |    +353(21) 480 2110   |
Copyright © UCC 2015/Irish Examiner 2015   |   Website by Doodle