Civilian William Lehane (alias William Lyons)

Civilian William Lehane (alias William Lyons) of Cleandra, Ardgroom, near Castletownbere (Cleandra)

Date of incident: night of 7-8 May 1920

Sources: Death Certificate (Cork No. 6 Urban), 10 May 1920; CE, 10, 11, 12 May

1920; CCE, 15 May 1920; Liam O’Dwyer’s WS 1527, 1, 3, 8-14, 18-20 (BMH); William O’Neill’s WS 1536, 2 (BMH); James McCarthy’s WS 1567, 12-17 (BMH).  


Note: The young farmer William Lehane died of shock, haemorrhage, and septic poisoning at the Mercy Hospital in Cork city on 10 May 1920. Lehane had been shot at his own house at Cleandra in the Ardgroom district, 9 miles from Castletownbere, on the night of 7-8 May 1920. He had been wounded by a shotgun blast in the legs, with one of the shots completely shattering his right thigh bone. He was conveyed to the Mercy Hospital close to midnight on 9 May, where doctors intended to amputate his right leg in an effort to save his life, but before they could operate, he succumbed at about 8 a.m. the next morning. Lehane had been shot reportedly because he had taken a farm five years earlier from a man named Timothy Shea, whom the Congested Districts Board had evicted. And two years earlier, a potato field belonging to Lehane had the stalks mowed off, and Lehane, in violation of local sentiment, had sought and received compensation ‘levied off the district’. See CE, 11 May 1920. 

The death certificate gives the victim’s surname as Lyons, but the detailed report of the coroner’s inquest in the Cork Examiner of 12 May 1920 gives his name as William Lehane. In its verdict the inquest jury referred to ‘William Lehane (alias William Lyons)’.

Information later surfaced suggesting that members of the Castletownbere Battalion were implicated in the killing of Lehane. On 15 March 1921 the IRA executed Bridget Noble of Ardgroom Inward as a suspected spy. She was the daughter of a local farmer. One of the charges brought against her was that she had named Liam Dwyer or O’Dwyer and Patrick Crowley to the Castletownbere RIC as the men who had shot William Lehane on the night of 7-8 May 1920. This charge emerged in a report about the IRA execution of Bridget Noble sent from the Cork No. 5 Brigade HQ to the IRA GHQ, Dublin, and dated 21 Oct. 1921. See IRA Executions, 1921 (Military Archives, A/0649).

Volunteer Liam O’Dwyer of Ardgroom (aged about 26 in 1921) was among the most important IRA leaders in West Cork, becoming successively adjutant of the Castletownbere Battalion in April 1919, briefly vice O/C in August 1920 (with special training duties), and then battalion O/C at the end of March 1921 through the Truce of 11 July. After he became battalion O/C, his house at Ardgroom was burned down by British forces on 25 May in reprisal for the killing by the IRA of three young and unarmed British soldiers at Furious Pier near Waterfall on Bere Island on 14 May. The other person named to the RIC by Bridget Noble as implicated in the killing of farmer William Lehane—Patrick Crowley—was also probably a member of the Castletownbere Battalion. See Liam O’Dwyer’s WS 1527, 1, 3 (quote), 8-14, 18-20 (BMH); William O’Neill’s WS 1536, 2 (BMH); James McCarthy’s WS 1567, 12-17 (BMH).       

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