Volunteer Patrick O’Donoghue

Volunteer Patrick O’Donoghue of 2 St Brigid Street, Cork city (Prince’s Street, Cork)

Date of incident: 23 Nov. 1920

Sources: CE, 24, 25, 26, 27 Nov. 1920; II, 24, 25, 26 Nov. 1920; FJ, 25 Nov. 1920; CCE, 27 Nov. 1920; Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/4 (TNA); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 29-30 (BMH); Jerome Coughlan’s WS 1568, 1 (BMH); Michael V. O’Donoghue’s WS 1741, Part 1, 80-81 (BMH); IRA Roll of Honour, Cork No. 1 Brigade (Cork Museum, Fitzgerald Park, Cork); Rebel Cork’s FS, 25; Last Post (1976), 75; IRA Memorial Plaque, junction of Friars Walk and Tower Street, Cork city.   


Note: The explosion of a bomb inflicted heavy casualties in Cork city: ‘A mysterious bomb explosion took place at nine o’clock last night [23 November] in Prince’s Street, near Patrick Street, Cork. About sixteen persons sustained injuries. Two deaths had taken place at the time of writing, and others are expected.’ See CE, 24 Nov. 1920. Three Volunteers were killed or fatally wounded in this explosion—Patrick O’Donoghue, James Mehigan, and Patrick Trahey. Those who were wounded by the explosion were taken to the North or the South Infirmary. All of them were now said to be ‘progressing satisfactorily’. See CE, 26 Nov. 1920.

When the remains of the three dead Volunteers were removed from the Mercy Hospital and one other facility to St Finbarr’s Church South on 25 November, there was an impressive public display of solidarity and sympathy: ‘The coffins, which were wrapped in tri-colour flags, were borne on the shoulders of Volunteers and were followed by several companies along Washington Street, Grand Parade, South Mall, Parnell Bridge, and Southern Road, and at the junction of Langford Row the sad procession was met by the funeral of Patrick Trahey, the third victim of the tragic occurrence. The joint funeral then proceeded to the South Parish Church. . . .’ The reporter also observed: ‘Despite the extreme inclemency of the weather, there was a remarkably large attendance, and sad and appealing attestation was forthcoming of the intense feeling of grief and condolence evoked by the terrible tragedy.’ See CE, 26 Nov. 1920. The three Volunteers were buried in the Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery on 26 November. O’Donoghue was a member of C Company of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade.

The source of the bomb that killed the three Volunteers was the subject of dispute. Their official death notice appearing in the Cork Examiner of 26 November simply stated that they were the ‘victims of the bombs thrown in Patrick Street on Nov. 23rd’. See CE, 26 Nov. 1920. The standard IRA account, well represented in the BMH witness statement of city Volunteer leader Michael Murphy, pointed to the Black and Tans: On 23 November 1920, ‘following a Volunteer meeting in the Thomas Ashe Hall, Cork, five men of the 2nd Battalion were standing at the corner of Prince’s Street and Patrick Street having a chat when a Black and Tan in civilian dress came along and threw a grenade into the group. As a result, three of our lads were killed outright, viz.: Paddy Trahey, vice-commandant of the 2nd Battalion; M. Donohue [sic], 2nd Battalion Q.M. [Quartermaster]; and Volunteer Mehigan. Of the two others, Seán Bawn Murphy had his arm shattered and Volunteer Reynolds had his thigh fractured.’ See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 29-30 (BMH). This narrative was also recorded in the casualty roll of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, which listed the IRA victims as ‘bombed unarmed’. See IRA Roll of Honour, Cork No. 1 Brigade (Cork Museum, Fitzgerald Park, Cork).

Another version of this episode was repeated by IRA Volunteer Michael V. O’Donoghue, who sometimes echoed local folklore of the period rather than his personal experiences. In his BMH witness statement he wrote: ‘What happened that night at Prince’s Street corner is still much of a mystery. At first the rumour was circulated that the Tans had thrown a bomb among a group of young “Shinners” and some eye-witnesses actually “saw” a uniformed figure silhouetted on the palisaded roof of the newly-built Pavilion Cinema as he threw the missile—this was the generally accepted story. But I and those with me are positive that no uniformed police or military were in the immediate vicinity then or even subsequently. Later, I ascertained from their comrades and a fellow officer of the victims that they had had a battalion staff Volunteer conference and afterwards had dispersed. These Blackrock Volunteers had dallied for a final chat before parting on reaching Patrick St. One of them had a percussion bomb in his possession and, through some mischance which will never now be explained, it must have dropped on the pavement, causing the frightful tragedy. It was certainly one of the three [Volunteers] who were killed, but which one will never be known. Needless to say, Volunteer sources kept a strict silence about the whole matter. As far as I could ascertain, no official I.R.A. inquiry was held into the matter.’ See Michael V. O’Donoghue’s WS 1741, Part 1, 80-81 (BMH).

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