Civilian George Horgan

Civilian George Horgan (aged about 20) of Mathew Place, Ballintemple, Cork city (Lakelands, Blackrock)

Date of incident: 9 Dec. 1920 (abducted, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 10, 14 Dec. 1920; IT, 22 Aug. 1921; Executions by IRA in 1920 (Military Archives, A/0535 and A/0649); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Borgonovo (2007), 29, 100 (note 71); Murphy (2010), 41, 92, 94; Ó Ruairc (2016), 119.  


Note: A working-class Protestant, Horgan was abducted from his residence at Mathew Place in Ballintemple by the city IRA on 9 December 1920. The IRA executed him the same day for espionage on a farm at Lakelands in Blackrock. The next day persons claiming to be Black and Tans published notices with the following threat: ‘If G. Horgan is not returned by 4 o’clock on to-day (Friday), 10th December, rebels of Cork, beware, as one man and one shop shall disappear for each hour after the given time. (Signed) “B’s and T’s.”’ See CE, 10 Dec. 1920. Horgan’s disappearance was in fact one of five that led to similar notices on the streets and in the newspapers from the ‘Anti-Sinn Féin League’. Thus in Horgan’s case connections with the police seem likely. What makes them appear even more likely is that Horgan’s father had served in the RIC, and Horgan himself had been a member of the Royal Army Service Corps. His brother Denis died near the of the First World War, having served as a driver with the Royal Field Artillery.  See White and O’Shea (2010), 299.  (Thanks to Jean Prendergast for this information.)  Borgonovo lists Horgan among the twenty-six alleged spies executed by the city IRA in 1920 and 1921. After much of Cork city was in fact burned on 11-12 December 1920 (with the Auxiliaries of K Company especially prominent among the arsonists), another notice appeared stating that the earlier one containing the threat to burn one shop for every hour that passed after 4 o’clock on 10 December had been bogus. This new notice came, so the document itself claimed, from ‘a deputation of Cork police, including Auxiliary R.I.C.’. See CE, 14 Dec. 1920. 

The only Protestant named George Horgan residing anywhere in Cork city or its suburbs in 1911 was one of the eight children (including three co-resident sons) of the widowed butter-factory worker Anna Horgan of Ballintemple in Blackrock. Anna Horgan and her three sons, including George Horgan, were adherents of the Church of Ireland.

Anna Horgan of Ballintemple later sought compensation for the death of her son George at the hands of the IRA. A widow for the previous eighteen years when the Recorder of Cork heard her claim in January 1922, she testified that she had three sons—Denis, James, and George. ‘The three joined the army at the outbreak of war. Denis was invalided [home] and subsequently died, [with] George and his brother [James] serving during the war. On the 9th December [1920], at 5 o’clock in the morning, a number of armed men knocked up the household, and George Horgan was called for. He came down the stairs and in reply to their questions said that he was George Horgan and asked them what they wanted. They told him to dress and he did so. The household by this time was roused, and applicant [Anna Horgan] got into a great state of distress. He went to her to comfort her and told his brother James not to appear lest anything should happen [to] him. The men searched the house, and when they had finished dressing, they took him to the kitchen, searched his pockets, and took him away. Before going, he appealed to his mother not to worry, that he would be all right, and bade her good-bye. From that day to this he had not been seen or heard of, though the utmost inquiries were made through all sources. As an ex-soldier when he entered civilian employment, he was on friendly terms with the military and police, and used frequently [to] speak to them, many of them being friends he met during his service.’ The kidnappers were ‘armed and disguised’ as they took away her son George, whose age she gave as 21. The Recorder of Cork awarded £900 to Anna Horgan. See CE, 13 Jan. 1922. The name of George Horgan appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 9 December 1920, with the notation that British liability was accepted, and with a note that compensation of £900 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).

The Irish Revolution Project

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