Volunteer William Heffernan

Volunteer William Heffernan (aged about 21) of Conna near Fermoy (Castlemartyr)

Date of incident: 27 Nov. 1920

Sources: CE, 29 Nov. 1920; Joseph Aherne’s WS 1367, 31-34, 36-37 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 182; Last Post (1976), 67; Conna in History and Tradition (1998), 107; Abbott (2000), 155; Midleton IRA Memorial, Main Street, Midleton; Volunteer William Heffernan Memorial, Castlemartyr.


Note: A member of B Company of the Fourth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, William Heffernan was shot dead by a police sergeant at Castlemartyr on 27 November 1920. He was the driver of a car being used by Midleton Volunteers to visit the houses of two RIC constables in Castlemartyr whom the IRA hoped would help in capturing the RIC barracks in that village (for the second time). Before the Volunteers could begin their return to column headquarters outside Castlemartyr, RIC Sergeant Curley and Constable Timothy Quinn became suspicious about the car. From inside the car Volunteer James Aherne shot and mortally wounded Constable Quinn, but Sergeant Curley fatally wounded the driver Heffernan. Volunteer Joseph Aherne later recalled having visited Heffernan’s father to deliver the sad news: Heffernan ‘was an only son and his father, who was almost a cripple with rheumatism, lived alone. I will never forget the anguish of the old man when we informed him of his son’s death, but I could also see that he was proud of the fact that his son had given his life for the cause. We buried him the following night with full military honours. [Volunteer Diarmuid] Hurley, before departing, gave the old man twenty pounds, which was all he had in the world.’ Hurley was commandant of the Fourth Battalion column of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. See Joseph Aherne’s WS 1367, 31-34, 36-37 (BMH). The monument erected in Castlemartyr indicates that Volunteer Willie Heffernan of Conna was killed in action by British forces at Castlemartyr on 27 November 1920 and was later interred at Conna (Knockmourne parish). See www.irishwarmemorials.ie.

Heffernan had moved to Midleton to take up employment at Dalton’s, The Commercial Hotel, where he worked as a chauffeur. This work experience helps to explain why Heffernan became a driver for the IRA company and battalion officers. See Conna in History and Tradition (1998), 107. Volunteer Heffernan was the son of the retired coachman and widower Michael Heffernan (aged about 52 in 1911), who (along with his son Willie) lived with his brother-in-law Michael O’Brien and his wife Catherine at Clashaganniv in Knockmourne parish at the time of the 1911 census. 

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