Civilian Cornelius (Con) Crowley

Civilian Cornelius (Con) Crowley (aged about 27) of Barrack Road, Bantry (Bantry)

Date of incident: 25 June 1920

Sources: CE, 26 June, 22 July, 26 Aug. 1920; II, 26, 28 June 1920, 28 Jan. 1921; CWN, 3 July 1920; RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, June 1920 (CO 904/112, TNA); American Commission on Conditions in Ireland, Interim Report, 22; Maurice Donegan’s WS 639, 3-4 (BMH); Ted O’Sullivan’s WS 1478, 16 (BMH); Seán Cotter’s WS 1493, 13 (BMH); John J. O’Sullivan’s WS 1578, 14-15 (BMH); Last Post (1976), 69; S. Fitzgerald (1994), 10-12; Abbott (2000), 117; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Ó Ruairc (2015), 151.


Note: In the early hours of the morning on Friday, 25 June 1920, unknown sympathisers with or members of the RIC murdered Con Crowley, two of whose brothers (both labourers) were closely identified with Sinn Féin. (Con was also a member of Sinn Féin, according to Bantry IRA leader Ted O’Sullivan.) These two brothers were not at home when four armed and masked raiders burst in and murdered Con, ‘who resided with his aged parents in a one-room house at Old Barrack Road. Deformed and delicate from his early days, he was looked upon in this town with much sympathy and compassion.’ His brothers Charles and Michael Crowley were well-known ‘Sinn Feiners’; Michael had been chosen as one of the members of the newly constituted Bantry Urban District Council, and it was for him that the raiders were searching. Con Crowley was shot in his bed by one of the raiders. His chest was ‘perforated with revolver bullets’. Crowley’s murder exerted a tremendous impact: ‘The murder of which Bantry was the scene this morning was the most harrowing, cold-blooded, and callous it is possible for the ordinary mind to conceive, and it has . . . occasioned the deepest feelings of horror and detestation among the townspeople generally.’ See CE, 26 June 1920.

On 18 July 1920 the parish priest of Bantry, the Very Rev. Canon Martin Murphy, presided over a largely attended public meeting at which the Bantry Indemnity Fund was launched to compensate the families of murder victim Cornelius Crowley and David O’Mahony, who had suffered some weeks earlier (his house and store had been destroyed), apparently at the hands of police enraged by the killing of several of their comrades. There were to be a fund-raising committee in Bantry itself and sub-committees in the districts of Kealkil and Coomhola. Even though other bodies were already collecting funds for different causes (the MacCurtain Memorial Fund and the Bantry Bay Fishing Disaster Fund), Canon Murphy was sanguine about the expected results of this particular endeavour. He dwelled in his speech on the sufferings of the Crowley and O’Mahony families. See CE, 22 July 1920. 

The IRA retaliated two months later by killing RIC Constable Matthew Haugh, who was believed to have been the triggerman in the shooting of Cornelius Crowley. The commandant of the Bantry IRA Battalion, Maurice Donegan, ordered Ralph Keyes, captain of the Bantry Volunteer Company, to eliminate two RIC men (Haugh and another constable named Power); Keyes and two comrades carried out the order in Church Street in Bantry at about 1:45 p.m. on 25 August 1920. Haugh died of his wounds, but Power and two other constables in the RIC party managed to escape injury. See CE, 26 Aug. 1920; Maurice Donegan’s WS 639, 3-4 (BMH); John J. O’Sullivan’s WS 1578, 14-15 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 117.  

Cornelius Crowley was one of the nine children of labourer Jeremiah Crowley and his wife Kate. In 1921 Cornelius Crowley’s father was about 76 years old and his mother about 61. Their son Michael, the member of the Bantry Urban District Council at whom the raid was directed, was about 25 years old.

Of the nine Crowley children (five sons and four daughters), at least four children (older siblings) had already emigrated to the United States and were living in Philadelphia at the time of the 1911 census, which recorded only four children (all sons) as then resident with their parents in Bantry. After the killing Michael Crowley went into hiding and subsequently left for Philadelphia (he arrived at Ellis Island on 13 December 1920); his brother Charles followed him to America in 1925. All of the Crowley children, except the late Cornelius and possibly his sister Ellen (who cannot be traced), eventually made their way to Philadelphia. [We are grateful to Tom White for this new information.] 

The Irish Revolution Project

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University College Cork, Cork,