RIC Constable Maurice Prendiville or Prenderville

RIC Constable Maurice Prendiville or Prenderville (aged 45) from County Kerry (near Youghal)

Date of incident: 3 Dec. 1920

Sources: CE, 4, 6, 8 Dec. 1920; II, 4, 9 Dec. 1920; Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police, Dec. 1920 (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/76 (TNA); Death Certificate, registered 13 Dec. 1920 (Youghal District, Union of Youghal); James Prendergast’s WS 1655, 6-7 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 243; Abbott (2000), 163.


Note: Constable Prendiville was one member of a party of six policemen (a sergeant and five constables) who had gone from Youghal to the Waterford side of the Blackwater to visit a bedridden ex-policeman named Coughlan who resided with the bridge caretaker ‘at the off-end’ of the Metal Bridge over the Blackwater. On reaching that spot at about 10 a.m. on 3 December 1920, they encountered ‘a fierce fusilade from the hills overlooking the harbour’. Prendiville fell, mortally wounded, and the others scattered and eventually returned safely to Youghal. There were at least two notable features of this murderous attack. First, ‘it seems evident [that] the attackers knew the custom of the Youghal police to pay Coughlan [a visit] on the 3rd of the month’. And second, ‘the incident took place at a short distance from the scene of the recent ambush, and where the mails have been frequently raided’. Prendiville left ‘a wife and six [recte five] helpless young orphans. He was stationed here [in Youghal] about two years. A fine, genial specimen of manhood, he was popular locally, and the sad occurrence has called forth expressions of regret and condemnation all round.’ See CE, 4 Dec. 1920.

Prendiville and another policeman named O’Neill had been captured by the column of the West Waterford Volunteer Brigade in an ambush at Piltown Cross on 1 November 1920 and had been spared execution on the understanding that they would resign from the force. ‘When O’Neill returned to Youghal, he took off his uniform, said he was finished with the R.I.C., and walked out. The other constable, Prendiville, did not resign as he had promised to do, but about two weeks later, when bringing a pension payment to the caretaker at the Youghal Bridge, who lived in a house at the Waterford end of the bridge, and who raised the bridge for the passage of boats, he (Prendiville) was shot dead from the high ground overlooking the bridge by the men of the column.’ See James Prendergast’s WS 1655, 6-7 (BMH). Prendiville’s death certificate indicates that he died of his gunshot wounds in the house of a chemist named Torrens on Main Street in Youghal about eight or nine hours after the shooting. See Death Certificate, registered 13 Dec. 1920 (Youghal District, Union of Youghal). He had twenty-five years of service with the RIC; earlier in his life he had been a farmer. 

There were ‘fearsome anticipations’ of reprisals in Youghal, but the night of 3-4 December 1920 passed off quietly. Citizens complied with the police order to suspend all business from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. as a mark of respect for the dead constable. The removal of Prendiville’s remains from Torrens’s pharmacy to the Catholic Mortuary Chapel was a striking event in several respects: ‘The coffin, which was draped with the Union Jack and covered with beautiful flowers, was borne on the shoulders of his companions up the Main St, De Valera St, and Thomas Ashe St. . . . The cortege was joined in by a very large and thoroughly representative body, including Roman Catholic and Protestant clergymen, professional, public, and business men of all creeds and classes. On arrival at the church grounds, the Rosary was said, all kneeling and joining in the responses.’ See CE, 6 Dec. 1920.

The police order about shop closings for the funeral read as follows: ‘All business premises must close on Monday, 6th inst., until 6 p.m. as a mark of respect to our murdered comrade, who died a martyr. By order—R.I.C. Signed: Black and Tans.’ Monsignor Daniel Keller of Youghal protested in church that Youghal citizens had already signified their respect for Prendiville, and he expressed doubt as to the official status of this closure order, but ‘after consultation with priests of the parish, [he] recommended the people to still further show their respect by shutting their shops while the funeral was passing and by attending at it’. See CE, 8 Dec. 1920.

Prendiville’s remains were then taken by motorcar to Listowel, and after a Requiem Mass in the parish church there, he was buried at Kilsinon. At the request of his relatives there was no military display at this funeral. Two of his brothers were serving RIC men, one in Clonmel and the other in Cork city.

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