Volunteer Seán Buckley

Volunteer Seán Buckley (aged about 25) of Ballyedmond near Midleton (Ballyedmond/Midleton)

Date of incident: 27 Aug. 1920

Sources: Death Certificate, 27 Aug. 1920 (Midleton District, Union of Midleton); II, 30, 31 Aug. 1920; CE, 4 Sept. 1920; CCE, 4 Sept. 1920; CWN, 4 Sept. 1920; Kerryman, 4 Sept. 1920; Donegal News, 4 Sept. 1920; Ulster Herald, 4 Sept. 1920; British Official Reports, 1920 (Military Archives, A/0530); American Commission on Ireland, Interim Report, 24; Death Certificate, 27 Aug. 1920 (registered only on 13 July 1921); Joseph Aherne’s WS 1367, 23 (BMH); Michael Kearney’s WS 1418, 18-19 (BMH); John Kelleher’s WS 1456, 17 (BMH); Seámus Fitzgerald’s WS 1737, 30 (BMH); Fitzgerald (1970), 365; Last Post (1976), 70; Falvey (1998), 144; McCarthy (2008), 97; Midleton IRA Memorial, Main Street, Midleton. 


Note: The two brothers Seán and Bartholomew Buckley were arrested at Ballyedmund near Midleton on 27 August 1920, following an attack earlier in the week on a military lorry at Whiterock between Midleton and Castlemartyr in which the driver had been shot dead and two members of the Cameron Highlanders had been wounded. Seán (aged about 25) and Bartholomew (aged about 21) were detained in the military barracks at Midleton until about 6 o’clock that day, when they were dispatched in a lorry to Cork city ‘under strong military guard’. There was a suggestion that they were ‘roped together back to back’ in the lorry, though the military denied this. The suggestion apparently arose from the military account that Bartholomew, while trying to escape with Seán, was wounded in the shoulder by the same revolver bullet that struck Seán in the heart. The police left the following message at the Midleton cottage of his parents:

‘Your son John in trying to escape from military custody to-day on the way to Cork was shot. He died from wounds. Patrick (this should be Bartholomew) is also wounded in the shoulder. Inquire at Military Hospital, Cork.’ See II, 30 Aug. 1920.

The IRA account of what happened to the Buckley brothers, not surprisingly, differed from that of the British forces. Former Midleton Volunteer officer Michael Kearney vividly recalled this episode: ‘That night [27 August 1920] two brothers named Buckley were arrested in their home near Midleton by [the] military and accused of having taken part in the attack at Whiterock earlier that day. In fact, neither took part. One [Seán] was a Volunteer attached to the Midleton company; the other [Bartholomew] was not. The two men were put into a military lorry and tied back to back. The British officer in charge then fired from close range with a revolver, killing one of the brothers [Seán], the bullet passing through the body and lodging in the spine of the other brother. The latter feigned death, but when the lorry reached the military barracks in Cork, he asked for a priest. His request was granted. This man subsequently recovered, but the bullet was in such a position, close to his spine, that it could not be removed, and he was a cripple for the rest of his life.’ See Michael Kearney’s WS 1418, 18-19 (BMH). 

The differing fates of the two brothers were confused in the Last Post (1976), 70, which reported that it had been Bartholomew Buckley whom British soldiers killed. Seán Buckley’s death certificate, registered as late as 13 July 1923, indicates that he was an accountant (aged 25) who had been shot by crown forces on 27 August 1920 and had died later that same day at Cork Military Barracks. See Death Certificate, 27 Aug. 1920. Seán Buckley was a member of the Midleton Volunteer Company, whereas his brother Bartholomew was not. See John Kelleher’s WS 1456, 17 (BMH).

Seán Buckley was given a most impressive funeral. His remains arrived from Cork in Midleton at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, 28 August, and were taken to the Church of the Holy Rosary ‘on the shoulders of the Volunteers’. The funeral took place to Lisgoold on Sunday at 3 p.m. ‘The coffin, draped in the tricolour, was followed by thousands of Volunteers, members of Sinn Fein, and Cumann na mBan, while 5 bands played funeral music. The cortege was 2 miles long and took an hour to pass a given point.’ The officiating clergy included the parish priests of Midleton and Lisgoold and two Midleton curates. The Midleton Urban District Council ‘passed a vote of sympathy with the relatives of [the] deceased’ at a special meeting. See II, 31 Aug. 1920.

Seán Buckley was secretary of the local Sinn Féin Club in Midleton and treasurer of the East Cork Executive of Sinn Féin. He was employed as an accountant in Aherne’s victualing establishment in Midleton, while his brother Bartholomew worked at Kelly’s in Carrigtwohill. Both men ‘were extremely popular’. See II, 30 Aug. 1920. Seán and Bartholomew Buckley were two of the five children of lodge keeper Patrick Buckley and his wife Margaret, who resided in houses 1 and 2 in Ballyedmond (Templenacarriga) near Midleton in 1911. All five children (three sons and two daughters) were co-resident with one or another parent in that year. Seán Buckley was their second child (then aged 15) and Bartholomew was their fourth (then aged 11).

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,