Private William Jones
Private William Jones (aged 20) of the 2nd Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment (Fermoy)
Date of incident: 7 Sept. 1919
Sources: CE, 9, 10, 11, 12 Sept. 1919, 6 Feb. 1920; II, 9, 17 Sept. 1919, 3 May 1920; Times (London), 9, 10, 11 Sept. 1919; CCE, 13 Sept. 1919; Inquest Book No. 2, 1897-1929 (TNA); Con Leddy’s WS 756, 8-9 (BMH); Laurence Condon’s WS 859, 5-7 (BMH); Leo Callaghan’s WS 978, 2-6 (BMH); John Fanning’s WS 990, 7-12 (BMH); Owen Harrold’s WS 991, 5-8 (BMH); Patrick Ahern’s WS 1003, 9-14 (BMH); John J. Hogan’s WS 1030, 4-11 (BMH); Seán Hennessy’s Ws 1090, 9 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 45-46; Sheehan (2011), 116-17; Donnelly (2010), 155-68; irishmedals.org (accessed on 28 July 2014); Commonwealth War Graves Commission;
Note: On Sunday morning, 7 September 1919, some twenty-five Volunteers belonging to the Fermoy Company, aided by about ten others from Ballynoe and Mallow, surprised a corporal and fifteen privates of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Regiment who had nearly reached the local Wesleyan Methodist church to attend religious services. Commanded by Liam Lynch, O/C of the Cork No. 2 Brigade, the Volunteers were armed with half a dozen serviceable revolvers, wooden staves, and short clubs. They attacked the soldiers and beat them into submission after the soldiers had either ignored or not heard Lynch’s demand to surrender. One of the Volunteers gunned down Private Jones, who was about to strike Lynch with the butt end of his rifle after Lynch had accidentally fallen to the ground. Three or four other soldiers were wounded in the fracas. Two motorcars loaded with fifteen captured rifles and most of the participating Volunteers sped away from the scene along the Tallow-Lismore road. The coroner’s jury refused to bring in a verdict of willful murder in the death of Private Jones. The foreman of the jury declared that it was their unanimous opinion that ‘these men came for the purpose of getting rifles and had no intention of killing anybody’. See Times (London), 9 Sept. 1919.
This refusal and the death itself prompted an outburst of military rage on Sunday night, 8 September, when troops broke out of their barracks in the garrison town of Fermoy and engaged in the looting of many business premises following the destruction of their plate-glass windows. According to the Cork correspondent of The Times, ‘Between 50 and 60 shops were wrecked, mainly by soldiers, at Fermoy on Monday night, and for two hours something like a reign of terror prevailed.’ See Times (London), 10 Sept. 1919.
Later arrests of Volunteers suspected of participation in the fatal attack led to protracted and largely fruitless judicial proceedings that raised the profile and popularity of the Volunteers in the nationalist community in County Cork and beyond. The first Volunteers to be arrested and charged with the murder of Private Jones were John J. Hogan (a farmer’s labourer) and Peter Callaghan (a farmer’s son) from the Ballynoe district. Setting the pattern for those who followed them into British custody, Hogan declared when asked if he had anything to say, ‘We do not recognise this court, and we have nothing to say.’ See II, 17 Sept. 1919. Among those arrested later was Michael Fitzgerald, O/C of the Fermoy Battalion, who long went untried and on 11 August 1920 began (with others) a hunger strike that culminated in his death sixty-seven days later. See Rebel Cork’s FS, 45-46.
Those charged with the murder of Private Jones included Michael Fitzgerald (from Clondulane); Tom Griffin, John Joe Hogan, Patrick Leahy, Peter O’Callaghan (all from Ballynoe); and Daniel Hegarty and Leo O’Callaghan (both from Mallow). For many months (September 1919 to 4 June 1920) these seven men were subjected to weekly remands at Fermoy and were returned to Cork city for special detention. Early in June 1920 Griffin, Leahy, Leo O’Callaghan, and Peter O’Callaghan were released and were immediately accosted by ‘some stangers’. They informed Leo O’Callaghan that ‘they were taking charge of our party [i.e., the four ex-prisoners] and that I was not to go back to Mallow with my late employer. They took the ex-prisoners . . . to Turner’s Hotel, where we all had some refreshments. I was then informed by them that they were ‘G’ men (detectives—members of ‘G’ Division, Dublin Metropolitan Police) in Cork with instructions to shoot us on sight, and I was advised to leave the train at Mallow on the opposite side of the platform and also not to sleep at home. I carried out these instructions, and from June 4th 1920 to the Truce I was on the run and on full time service with the brigade and battalion columns from their formation.’ See Leo O’Callaghan’s WS 978, 5-6 (BMH).