RIC Constable John McNamara

RIC Constable John McNamara (aged 24) from Crusheen, Co. Clare (Glengarriff)

Date of incident: 24 Aug. 1920

Sources: CE, 26 Aug. 1920; CCE, 28 Aug. 1920; CWN, 4 Sept. 1920; II, 16, 18 Oct. 1920; Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police, Aug. 1920 (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Maurice Donegan’s WS 639, 5 (BMH); Michael O’Driscoll’s WS 1297, 2-3 (BMH); Seán Cotter’s WS 1493, 12-13 (BMH); Eugene Dunne’s WS 1537, 6 (BMH); John J. O’Sullivan’s WS 1578, 13-14 (BMH); S. Fitzgerald (1994), 9; Abbott (2000), 116.


Note: Constable McNamara, a member of the RIC for three years, was shot dead in an ambush in Glengarriff, having survived a wound received in an earlier IRA attack on the Durrus RIC barracks. Three or four Volunteer gunmen arrived in Glengarriff at about 8 p.m. on 24 August 1920 and attacked three constables on patrol a short distance from their barracks while the town was still fairly crowded with the usual flood of visitors on fair day. McNamara fell immediately and Constable Patrick Cleary ‘staggered along a bit’ before falling. A third constable who was with the two others escaped back to the barracks, which was ‘strongly fortified on the latest principles, with wireless installation connected with the military quarters here [in Bantry]’. McNamara was shot through the head, while Cleary was ‘dangerously wounded, several shots having entered his body’. It was thought that this assault was an IRA ‘reprisal for the attack made on the previous night on the Sinn Fein houses in the village’. The shooters disappeared in a motorcar. See CE, 26 Aug. 1920.

Former Volunteer Michael O’Driscoll of the Coomhoola Company (Fifth Battalion, Cork No. 3 Brigade) gave a vivid account of this incident. He remembered that Volunteer leader Ted Sullivan had picked him and fellow IRA men William Dillon and Michael Lucey to shoot three RIC constables who were known to be drinking in O’Shea’s pub in Glengarriff. They found the three policemen in a snug at the end of a shop adjoining the bar. The snug ‘was too small to get in after the R.I.C.; there would be no room to move and I decided to wait until they came out.’ When the policemen finally left, the IRA men followed them into the street and took action: ‘We each picked one and opened fire. William Dillon’s gun misfired, and the R.I.C. man he was facing pulled the trigger and also missed fire. Before the R.I.C. man could fire again, he was hit and went down. The R.I.C. barracks was only a hundred yards away, and when the three R.I.C. men were down, we cleared off. One R.I.C. man was shot dead, one died the next day, and the third recovered from his wounds after some time.’ See Michael O’Driscoll’s WS 1297, 2-3 (BMH).

According to former Volunteer John J. O’Sullivan, who had participated in this attack, the RIC garrison in Glengarriff ‘had wrecked the home of the local company O/C (Jack Downey) on the previous night and were due to be taught a lesson’. The commandant of the Bantry Battalion, Maurice (‘Mossy’) Donegan, made the decision to undertake this raid on Glengarriff ‘in the hope of making contact with a patrol of R.I.C.’. See John J. O’Sullivan’s WS 1578, 13 (BMH).

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