Volunteer Section Commander Liam Hegarty

Volunteer Section Commander Liam Hegarty (aged about 27) of Ballymakeera (Ballymakeera outside Ballyvouney)

Date of incident: 5 Sept. 1920

Sources: CC, 6 Sept. 1920; CE, 6, 7 Sept. 1920; CCE, 11 Sept. 1920; SS, 11 Sept. 1920; Irish Bulletin, 4:1 (3 Jan. 1921); MSPC/RO/36 (Military Archives); Patrick O’Sullivan’s WS 794, 9-10 (BMH); Daniel Harrington’s WS 1532, 9 (BMH); Patrick J. Lynch’s WS 1543, 11 (BMH); Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 157-59; Last Post (1976), 70; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 55, 138; Sheehan (2011), 135; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 47, 80, 124, 125, 131-34, 273; IRA Memorial, The Square, Macroom. 


Note: A party of British troops from Macroom feigned the breakdown of one of their military lorries just outside the village of Ballyvourney on Sunday, 5 September 1920. The lorry had a secret compartment that hid armed soldiers and was nicknamed the ‘Q’ lorry after the Royal Navy warships disguised as merchant vessels and used to destroy German submarines during the First World War. When two local Volunteers—Liam Hegarty and Dannie Healy—opened the engine-bonnet fastenings, ‘from within came a fusillade of rifle shots’. Healy was able to escape ‘unscathed’, but Hegarty was fatally wounded. Another young man named Michael Lynch, who lived nearby and who was drawn to the scene by the shooting, ‘was mortally wounded by a rifle bullet. Whether the killers in the lorry aimed at him or not is not certain. But it is certain that one of the miscreants crossed the fence [at the roadside] and shot Liam Hegarty again as he lay wounded.’ This British action came after the IRA had destroyed abandoned military lorries on that same road, notably in the ambush at Slippery Rock near Ballyvouney less than three weeks earlier, in which the officer in charge had been killed and four of his men had been wounded. See Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 157-59 (quotations on 158). Hegarty was a member of Section 1 of B Company of the Eighth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. See MSPC/RO/36 (Military Archives). 

The account that appeared in the Cork Examiner of 7 September 1920 differed in some important details. Again, there was a story about how three military lorries had sped out of Macroom and stopped ‘near the cross a quarter of a mile from the village [of Ballyvourney], and probably not very far from the scene of the recent attack on the military cyclist patrol’. One of the lorries, covered in canvas, was apparently abandoned as if it had engine trouble. ‘Little children from the village began to congregate about it, and there was the greatest curiosity to know what was inside. Soon the crowd became larger and was largely composed of children and young boys and girls. One little lad had the temerity to lift the canvas and gaze in. Immediately, a volley of rifle fire was opened, and the frightened crowd fled in all directions.’ Liam Hegarty, a native of Ballymakeera, came along on his bicycle, dismounted, was wounded in the shoulder, tried to get away, but was shot twice more and killed. The son of Michael Lynch, also named Michael, rushed from his tea to the gate of his house near the scene to see what was going on; he was shot there and mortally wounded. ‘It is stated that the firing was from a machine gun, and that the road was torn up with bullets.’ See CE, 7 Sept. 1920.

Hegarty was honoured in death by his IRA comrades. In his account of the Kilnamartyra Volunteers, Dr Patrick O’Sullivan recalled: ‘On 7 September 1920 every man of the 103 Kilnamartyra Volunteer Company paraded at the military funeral of Section Commander Liam Hegarty of the Baile Mhúirne [Ballyvourney] Company, who was shot dead by the British military near Baile Mhic Íre [Ballymakeera] village.’ See Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 80.

Liam Hegarty was one of the seven children of the Ballymakeera master bootmaker John Hegarty and his wife Hannah. Six of their seven children (four sons and two daughters) co-resided with them in 1911. Volunteer Hegarty (then aged 18) had been the eldest child at home in that year. He was buried in Kilgarvan Graveyard near Kenmare in County Kerry.

The Irish Revolution Project

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