Volunteer Jeremiah O’Herlihy

Volunteer Jeremiah O’Herlihy (aged about 29) of Walshestown near Ovens (near Chetwynd Viaduct, about 2 miles south-west of Cork city)

Date of incident: 4 Oct. 1920

Sources: CE, 5, 6 Oct. 1920; Jeremiah O’Carroll’s WS 706, 4-5; Patrick Cronin’s WS 710, 4 (BMH); WS 810 of Timothy O’Herlihy et al., 15-16 (BMH); Michael O’Regan’s WS 1524, 4-5 (BMH); Last Post (1976), 72; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 62; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 273.


Note: O’Herlihy was mortally wounded when he and other Volunteers of the Third Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade were trying to ambush a British military party travelling by lorry along the Bandon Road just south of the Chetwynd Viaduct on the line of the Cork, Bandon, and South Coast Railway. The Volunteers were surprised and surrounded by members the 2nd Hampshire Regiment, presumably on the basis of information secretly given to them. Patrick Cronin of the Aherla Company was a member of the forty-man Volunteer force under Third Battalion O/C Timothy Herlihy and recalled the abortive ambush: ‘The Viaduct is about five miles out from Cork. We went up three days [to lie in wait], and each day there were eight men from Aherla Company there, and all the company generally volunteered to go there. . . . We all had shot-guns. Troops from Cork to Bandon used [to] pass along there in lorries. A lorry-load used [to] travel to Bandon about half-past ten every morning, and we wanted to capture their arms. We waited till about one o’clock on the third day, and we were surrounded by military from Ballincollig and Cork. We all escaped, except Jerh. Herlihy, who was shot and died afterwards in hospital.’ See Patrick Cronin’s WS 710, 4 (BMH). O’Herlihy was in 1911 one of the five children (four sons and a daughter) of the Walshestown (Ovens) farmer Jeremiah O’Herlihy and his wife Mary. 

‘Over six feet, with a magnificent physique, a sincere Volunteer, Jeremiah O’Herlihy, O.C. Signals, 3rd Battalion, died for Ireland October 14th, 1920’, declared one of his fellow Volunteers many years later. His comrades believed that his sense of duty (he had a clear view of the Cork-Bandon road two miles each way from the ambush location) had made him hold his position for too long. ‘Captured by the enemy, they pretended to release him; then, when he had walked off some distance, they fired on him. Shot in the throat, he rolled down about 50 yards of the steep field to the fence. There they left him for dead. A brave local woman found him that evening, contacting Cork Fire Station Ambulance, which conveyed him to the Union Hospital, Douglas Road. We had him removed to the Mosphere Private Hospital, Dyke Parade, owned by two very gallant lady nurses, Mrs Blonden and Miss MacGee. He died nine days afterwards. The battalion gave him a military funeral to his native Carrigadrohid.’ See WS 810 of Timothy O’Herlihy et al., 15 (BMH).

In a military reprisal for the attempted Chetwynd Viaduct ambush, British soldiers burned the nearby farmhouse of Joseph Lynch to the ground. See CE, 6 Oct. 1920. In fact, some civilians at Lynch’s farm were nearly burned alive. According to Tim Herlihy (former O/C, Ovens Battalion) and seven of his comrades, there was a squad of Auxiliaries among the British forces who sought to surround the IRA Third (Ovens) Battalion at Chetwynd Viaduct on 4 October 1920: ‘Capturing a number of civilians on the Cork-Bandon road, they carried them to Lynch’s outhouse, situated half a mile from Waterfall, 2 ½ miles from the Viaduct. This outhouse was divided into two compartments, one for cattle, the other containing old damp hay. The “Auxies” thrust their prisoners into the cattle compartment, padlocking the door. They then set fire to the old hay and stood some distance away to enjoy the sport. The hay was slow to fire, but dense smoke rose up in the sky. Apparently seeing the smoke, a military officer rushed his men for the house, and after a bitter show-down with the “Auxies”, the officer, to his credit, released the smothering prisoners.’ See WS 810 of Tim Herlihy et al., 15-16 (BMH).

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