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Volunteer Patrick McCarthy

Volunteer Patrick McCarthy of Meelin, Newmarket (Millstreet)

Date of incident: 22 Nov. 1920

Sources: Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police, Nov. 1920 (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Florence O’Donoghue Papers (NLI MS 31,444 [5]); George Power’s WS 451, 13 (BMH); WS 744 of Jeremiah Murphy, Michael Courtney, and Denis Mulchinock, 12 (BMH); Daniel Browne’s WS 785, 8 (BMH); Cornelius Meaney’s WS WS 787, 13 (BMH); Denny Mullane’s WS 789, 16, 30 (BMH); Richard Willis and John Bolster’s WS 808, 25 (BMH); Seán Moylan’s WS 838, 147-48 (BMH); Leo O’Callaghan’s WS 978, 9-11 (BMH); Joseph P. Morgan’s WS 1097, 8 (BMH); James J. Riordan’s WS 1172, 9 (BMH); William Reardon’s WS 1185, 4-6 (BMH); James Hickey’s WS 1218, 7-8 (BMH); Thomas Roche’s WS 1222, 11 (BMH); Daniel McCarthy’s WS 1239, 7 (BMH); James Cashman’s WS 1270, 6 (BMH); Seán Healy’s WS 1339, 8-10 (BMH); Cornelius Healy’s WS 1416, 7-11 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 201; O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 99-100, 104; Lynch (1970), 358; Deasy (1973), 49; Last Post (1976), 75; Carroll (2010), 71; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 273; IRA Memorial, Main Street, Millstreet. 


Note: Patrick McCarthy was ‘a leading North Cork fighter who played an important part in the capture of Mallow Military Barracks. A short time afterwards he fell in action in a fight at Millstreet.’ On 22 November 1920, Volunteers from the Millstreet Battalion and the column of the Cork No. 2 Brigade attacked the forces of the crown, which had been terrorising the nationalist population of Millstreet. According to Volunteer and column member Seán Healy, ‘the Black and Tan garrison in Millstreet were making themselves very objectionable to the public. They were visiting public houses, demanding and getting free drinks, smashing windows, and damaging doors. It was decided to teach hem a lesson, and so the column, in conjunction with members of local companies, who were acting as scouts, moved into positions in the town of Millstreet about 9 p.m. on 22nd November 1920.’ See Seán Healy’s WS 1339, 8 (BMH).

The decision by leaders of the Cork No. 2 Brigade column to attack the Auxiliaries recently arrived in Millstreet was prompted by the bombing of the house of Volunteer William Reardon and the attempted burning of the houses of Timothy Murphy and Mrs Lenihan on 20 November 1920. The Auxiliaries must have been anticipating such a reprisal. As one of the attacking Volunteers William Reardon, recalled, ‘When we had been in position for some time, there was no sign of any activity, but suddenly someone dashed past the end of Mill Lane, at the same time firing a shot. We rushed on to the Main St at the junction with Mill Lane and opened fire on two Black and Tans who were running up the street towards their barracks. The enemy party escaped, but when we returned to Mill Lane, we found that Paddy McCarthy had been shot dead by the single shot.’ See William Reardon’s WS 1185, 5 (BMH). 

The IRA unsuccessfully sought to avenge McCarthy’s death: ‘Every night for the next week we moved into the town [of Millstreet], but the Tans made themselves conspicuous by their absence and confined themselves severely to the barracks. On the last night we went in, we brought the Hotchkiss [gun] into a dressmaker’s shop facing the barracks and fired a series of volleys into the barrack windows and door. They made no effort to come out.’ See Richard Willis and John Bolster’s WS 808, 25 (BMH) 

McCarthy’s comrades removed his body to the house of Eugene O’Sullivan at Gortavehy, 5 miles away, where it was waked through the night and carried off for burial in Kilcorcoran Cemetery the next day. Liam Lynch personally took charge of the funeral arrangements. See Rebel Cork’s FS, 201. In the words of Seán Moylan, ‘It was an eerie experience following a coffin at midnight along lonely bye-roads from Millstreet to Kilcorcoran. And in spite of the secrecy with which the proceedings had to be veiled, the funeral cortege at Kilcorcoran had reached immense proportions. Men seemed to come from everywhere to pay their last tribute of respect to the dead soldier, and our loyal friend, Father Leonard from Freemount, came to say the last prayers at the graveside.’ See Seán Moylan’s WS 838, 147-48 (BMH). Almost two years later, McCarthy’s body was exhumed with extraordinary ceremony and reinterred in the family burial ground at Clonfert near Newmarket in October 1922: ‘The coffin lay overnight in his native church, Meelin, with an all day and night guard in relays. The funeral cortege was over three miles long. It reached from Clonfert to Meelin. The volleys fired over the grave were heard in Meelin, and the funeral procession was still moving out of the village.’ See Denny Mullane’s WS 789, 16 (BMH)

Seán Moylan, his close comrade, recalled McCarthy’s IRA career and personality: ‘Paddy McCarthy had been arrested after a battalion parade in March or April 1918. He was sentenced to eighteen months in Belfast prison. He participated in the strike there under Austin Stack. Afterwards he was transferred to Strangeways prison, Manchester, from which he escaped about September 1919. From the date of his arrival home in Ireland until August 1920, when he was selected as a member of the newly organised A.S.U., he had been associated with me in all activities. Now I was no more to see his friendly face, to hear his merry laughter, to have my spirits renewed by his unbreakable courage.’ McCarthy, declared Moylan, ‘had so much of dare-deviltry, was so infectiously gay and good humoured that he was an all-round favourite, and his death was the sorest blow that could be given to them [i.e., his comrades]’. See Seán Moylan’s WS 838, 147-48 (BMH).

The Irish Revolution Project

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University College Cork, Cork,