Civilian Civilian John Albert (Bertie) Chinnery

 

Civilian John Albert (Bertie) Chinnery (aged 32) of Castletown near Ballineen (Castletown near Ballineen)

Date of incident: 27 April 1922

 

Sources: CE, 29 April 1922; CCE, 29 April 1922; SS, 29 April 1922; FJ, 29 April 1922; II, 29 April 1922; Belfast Newsletter, 29 April 1922; Evening Herald, 1 May 1922; Application of Rebecca Chinnery to Irish Grants Committee, received 4 Nov. 1926 (CO 762/31/3, TNA); MSP34/REF52679 (Military Archives); MSP34/REF26441 (Military Archives); Hart (1998), 273-92; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 25-32; Keane (2014), 143-73; Keane (2017), 85-89, 285; See also Cork’s War of Independence Fatality Register, https://theirishrevolution.ie/1921-13/ (accessed 14 March 2018).   

 

Note: John Albert Chinnery was shot dead at his farmyard on the night of 27 April 1922. The circumstances of his death were very similar to those of his neighbour and relative Robert Howe. See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 25-30.

 

The 32-year-old unmarried farmer John Chinnery resided on a farm located ‘about one mile on the Ballineen side of Castletown-Kenneigh’. ‘One account of his shooting states that in the middle of the night [on 27 April 1922] the occupants were awakened by loud knocking at the door. Chinnery himself answered the summons. He was ordered out to the yard and there commanded, it is stated, by the armed party responsible for arousing him from his sleep, to tackle a horse to a car in the shed. While engaged in this task, he was shot dead. Locally, he had the reputation of being a fine athlete, and he was physically very strong, being well known and respected in the district.’ Chinnery was said in this report to be the third man ‘to meet a violent death’ that night. See CCE, 29 April 1922. Chinnery was interred in the cemetery of St Bartholomew’s Church of Ireland near Castletown-Kinneigh. See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 25-30.

 

His mother Rebecca Chinnery was the owner of the family’s farm at Castletown near Ballineen (her husband had died in 1917), but as she stressed in her 1926 application to the Irish Grants Committee, her son John Albert Chinnery had managed the farm for her and had done ‘all the farming and marketing’. For her son’s death she had previously sought £5,000 in compensation from the Compensation (Personal Injuries) Committee set up by the Free State. See Application of Rebecca Chinnery to Irish Grants Committee, received 4 Nov. 1926 (CO 762/31/3, TNA).

 

Much has recently been learned from the successful pension claim of Mary Kate Falvey (née Nyhan), a member of the Kinneigh branch of Cumann na mBan, who lived in Castletown-Kinneigh and kept a large general store frequented by the IRA. Her duties from 1919 to 1923 included concealing weapons and carrying messages for the IRA in that district. She supplied leaders Liam Deasy and James Jordan of the local IRA column with equipment. She passed on information about local movements of the Auxiliaries and kept certain suspected spies under watch. In her pension application she specifically mentioned having kept under her surveillance John Albert (or Bertie) Chinnery of Castletown, Robert Howe of Ballaghanure, John Buttimer of Caher, and Joseph Moore of Castletown. The first three of these men were among those Protestant civilians in the Bandon Valley killed by the IRA as suspected spies from 27 to 29 April 1922. Elsewhere in her pension claim, Falvey stated that during the so-called ‘sixth period’ (from 1 April 1920 to 31 March 1921) she had ‘supplied definite information on spies’. Her district, she asserted, had a certain number of British loyalists living within it, including ‘anti-Sinn Fein supporters’. ‘So I had special vigilance over them. Some of them were giving information [to British forces]; they were tried and found guilty, and some were executed and others ordered out of the country.’ Among those whom Falvey had under her surveillance was Michael (or Denis) Dwyer, an ex-soldier suspected of spying by the IRA whose dead body was found in late January 1921 at Farranalough, about 4 miles north-west of Bandon. Dwyer (aged 23 at death) was a resident of Castletown-Kinneigh. See MSP34/REF52679 (Military Archives). See also Cork’s War of Independence Fatality Register, https://theirishrevolution.ie/1921-13/ (accessed 14 March 2018).   

 

Falvey also claimed that during a somewhat later period (from 1 April to the Truce of 11 July 1921) she had supplied the IRA column in her area with specific information about local unionists and about Auxiliaries based in Dunmanway. Threatened by British forces, Falvey had been compelled to leave her dwelling prior to the Truce, but her residence continued to function as a ‘call house’ for Cork No. 3 Brigade officers and men belonging to the anti-Treaty IRA Southern Division up until January 1923. A summary of her unsworn evidence dated 25 June 1943 is included in Falvey’s pension file. See MSP34/REF52679 (Military Archives).

 

The significance of Mary Kate Falvey’s evidence in her pension claim seems to be that loyalists suspected of co-operating with crown forces before the Truce of 11 July 1921 were later attacked (and some even killed) in reprisal during the Truce period. The IRA appears to have believed, to judge from the language used by Falvey and Patrick Carroll in their claims, that there were British agents or informers in the Ballineen/Enniskeane and Castletown areas. It is certainly not clear that these loyalists were actually engaged in informing, but not surprisingly, such loyalists in these districts talked to members of the Auxiliaries as they made their rounds. Inevitably, these loyalists would often have been observed doing so, thus raising suspicions among committed republicans.    

 

John Chinnery was in 1911 one of the six children of the farmer Henry Chinnery (then aged 75) and his wife Rebecca (aged 51). All six of these children (four sons and two daughters), ranging in age from 7 to 22, co-resided in that year with their parents at house 1 in Castletown near Ballineen. Living with them was Susan Howe (aged 75), described as a ‘general servant’ and an aunt. She was a Methodist, whereas all the members of the Chinnery family belonged to the Church of Ireland. John Chinnery (aged 20 in 1911) was the second of Henry and Rebecca Chinnery’s four sons. On the family gravestone in the cemetery beside St Bartholomew’s Church at Castletown-Kinneigh, the name of Susan Howe appears immediately under that of John Chinnery. Whereas he met an untimely and premature death on 27 April 1922, Susan Howe died naturally on 15 March 1927 at the age of 92. By the time that the IRA killed John Chinnery in April 1922, his father Henry had also died—on 12 February 1917 at the age of 81. His mother Rebecca survived until she reached the age of 73; she died on 29 October 1932.

 

 


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