Civilian John Bradfield


Civilian John Bradfield (aged 69) of Killowen near Bandon (Killowen)

Date of incident: 29 April 1922


Sources: CE, 2 May 1922; II, 2 May 1922; Belfast Newsletter, 2 May 1922; CCE, 6 May 1922; SS, 6 May 1922; Application of William and Elizabeth Bradfield to Irish Grants Committee, 5 Oct. 1926 (CO 762/37/3, TNA); Hart (1998), 273-92; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 33-34; Keane (2014), 143-73; Keane (2017), 85-89, 285.


Note: The farmer John Bradfield was shot to death at about 11 p.m. on Saturday night, 29 April 1922, inside his Killowen home, about 5 miles north-west of Bandon. Coroner Richard Neville held the inquest on Monday, 2 May, at Bradfield’s residence. His sister Elizabeth Bradfield testified: ‘I live at Killowen. My brothers William and John also live here. The deceased was 69 years of age. We all retired to bed about 10 o’clock on Saturday night last [29 April 1922]. About 11 o’clock there was a call from the front of the house for a pony and trap. The deceased got up and walked to the window, and the party said they wanted the pony and trap to go to Bandon, and he did not reply. I then heard heavy knocking at the kitchen door, and then at the hall door, and the bell rang. I next heard the dining room window being smashed, and they came in through the window, and two men came upstairs. They were calling as they came upstairs for the pony and trap, which I said I would give them. They were asking for my brother William, and the deceased said he wasn’t in the house. They then went into [the] deceased’s room and told him to stand up. I then heard a shot and a fall. They then came to my room and pointed a gun or stick at me. It was dark but they had flash lights. I said: “Surely you won’t shoot me?” And a man who was standing by the man with the gun said: “Put it down.” They then went away. There was a number of men there, and I did not recognise any of them.’ The victim’s servant Annie Hurley recalled at the inquest that her employer John Bradfield ‘was suffering from rheumatism and could not walk without the aid of two sticks’. Dr J. J. Welpy indicated that he had found ‘a gunshot wound at the back of the neck, the vertebrae and spinal cord being shattered. Death was instantaneous.’ Representing the police at this inquest was District Inspector Daniel O’Neill of the Irish Republican Police—a brother of Commandant Michael O’Neill, who had been mortally wounded at Ballygroman House in the first of this long series of killings over three days and nights. See SS, 6 May 1922.


The original target of the IRA in this attack was the victim’s brother William Bradfield, who later acknowledged to the Irish Grants Committee that the IRA had suspected that he and his sister Elizabeth ‘were spies for the British government’. For the death of their brother John Bradfield, they claimed £3,000 in compensation. William Bradfield quickly fled to England, followed shortly thereafter by his sister Elizabeth. Through a local solicitor, they later managed to sell their farm at Killowen, but only ‘at a great loss’. See Application of William and Elizabeth Bradfield to Irish Grants Committee, 5 Oct. 1926 (CO 762/37/3, TNA).


‘As in the Ballineen/Enniskeane slayings, the gunmen [at Killowen] once again used the pony-harnessing ruse [in an effort] to draw their victim out of the house and shoot dead someone who was not a primary target. This was the only killing to occur within the boundaries of the Bandon Battalion area of the Cork No. 3 Brigade, an additional act of defiance against [Commandant Tom] Hales. The ten killings that followed those of the three Ballygroman House occupants seemingly took place within the precincts of three West Cork Brigade battalions (Dunmanway, Clonakilty, and Bandon).’ See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 34.


In 1911 John Bradfield was resident in the farming household headed by his much younger brother William (then aged 42). Living with them in that year at house 7 in Killowen townland in Kilbrogan parish near Bandon were their sister Elizabeth (then aged 54) and two much younger Catholic servants—John Hanlon and Catherine Hickey. John, William, and Elizabeth Bradfield were all unmarried; all three of them belonged to the Church of Ireland. John Bradfield was 57 years old in 1911 and 69 at the time of his death in late April 1922.                          


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