Volunteer Lieutenant John Connolly
Volunteer Lieutenant John Connolly (aged about 25) of Shannon Street, Bandon (Castle Bernard Park, Bandon)
Date of incident: 30 Sept. or 1 Oct. 1920 (found dead on 16 Oct. 1920)
Sources: Death Certificate, 16 Oct. 1920 (Bandon District, Union of Bandon); II, 18, 19, 20 Oct. 1920; CE, 18, 20 Oct. 1920; RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, Oct. 1920 (CO 904/113, TNA); Charles O’Donoghue’s WS 1607, 10 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 207; Barry (1949, 1989), 31, 61, 103, 236; McDonnell (1972), 179; Last Post (1976), 71; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Ó Ruairc (2015), 75; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); IRA Memorial Cross, formerly Castle Bernard Park; Celtic Cross Memorial, Upper O’Mahony Avenue, Bandon.
Note: Connolly’s body was found on 16 October 1920 in Lord Bandon’s demesne—Castle Bernard Park. He had been taken into British custody more than two weeks earlier, on 30 September or 1 October. Connolly had an apparent bullet wound in the head or some other kind of traumatic head injury. ‘The body was partly covered with earth and leaves and was in a semi-decomposed state’ when discovered. He had been arrested on 30 September 1920 at a farmer’s house at Maulskinlahane, three miles from Bandon. His father Daniel (aged about 57) was a Bandon carpenter; his brother Patrick (aged about 22) identified the body. See CE, 18 Oct. 1920. Their address, according to the 1911 census, was 20 Boyle Street in Bandon. Connolly’s death certificate gives the date of his death as 16 October 1920 and states that the victim, a labourer aged about 25, had died of causes not definitely known, but as a result of a head wound sufficient to inflict death. See Death Certificate, 16 Oct. 1920 (Bandon District, Union of Bandon).
The Memorial Cross in Castle Bernard Park asserts that Connolly had been ‘captured’ by British forces on 24 September 1920, and that his body was not discovered until twenty-two days later. It also claims that he was killed on 1 October.
Kathleen Keys McDonnell recited some grisly details of his death: ‘Already the disappearance of a young Volunteer officer in Bandon greatly disturbed the public mind. A statement made by Daniel Connolly, Boyle Street, Bandon, describes how his son John was arrested with another Volunteer on 1 October. He was taken to the military barracks and then disappeared. The military denied the arrest, later admitting his release during curfew. On 16 October the body was found, battered almost beyond recognition, in the Bandon Park. At the inquest the military swore that he had been “let go on Saturday night without a mark on him.” This brutal murder purported to be a warning to my husband and other marked men.’ See McDonnell (1972), 179.
For Connolly’s funeral on 17 October ‘the cortege included a large number of young men marching in military formation’. They were headed towards the burial ground at Kilbrogan. But ‘armed troops stopped mourners from walking in military formation. Later, a stampede occurred, and some people were injured. The troops did not interfere with the republican flag on the coffin.’ What they did do after breaking up the military formation of Volunteers was to click the bolts of their rifles and point their rifles towards the crowd: ‘The people immediately stampeded, and in the scurry several fell and some were injured.’ See CE, 18 Oct. 1920.
On the same morning (16 October) that Connolly’s body was found, Volunteers seized and abducted three Bandon Protestants: Mr Thompson of Hilser Bros., jewelers, South Main Street, Bandon; his son George Thompson; and John Heron of Heron and Co., hardware merchants. They were taken to an unknown destination. See CE, 18 Oct. 1920. A flurry of notices then seized public attention. In notices written in red ink and posted up in different parts of Bandon on Tuesday morning, 19 October, those signing themselves the ‘Black and Tans’ threatened reprisals if the Protestant loyalists abducted three days earlier were not released within forty-eight hours. The warning was issued to ‘members of the I.R.A.’. See CE, 20 Oct. 1920. On the previous day (18 October) in Bandon ‘it was found that several shops and houses were marked with a cross, drawn in red paint. Written underneath the cross in chalk were the words: “Three days to clear out.” On a particular store was written: “Three days to clear out, rebels.”’ See II, 20 Oct. 1920. The three abducted Bandon Protestants were later released unharmed.