Civilian James Lehane or Lyhane

Civilian James Lehane or Lyhane (aged 38) of Ballymakeera (Ballymakeera near Ballyvourney)

Date of incident: 15 Oct. 1920

Sources: Death Certificate, 15 Oct. 1920; II, 18, 19 Oct. 1920; CE, 18 Oct. 1920; Daniel Harrington’s WS 1532, 11-12 (BMH); Patrick J. Lynch’s WS 1543, 12 (BMH); Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 142, 159; Last Post (1976), 73; Hart (1998), 29; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 125, 138-39, 146, 354; http://theauxiliaries.com/companies/c-coy/c-coy.html (accessed 28 April 2016).  


Note: The Macroom correspondent of the Cork Examiner observed: ‘A guileless, inoffensive, and harmless individual, and a man who scarcely appreciated the merits of the political issues that now wrack this unfortunate land, he it was whose innocent life was given to slake the official thirst for Irish blood.’ Lehane and his wife ‘were making some purchases in a local store’ in the village of Ballymakeera when some Auxiliaries entered, asked him his name, invited him outside, and shot him dead at close range. Local people were incensed by the killing: ‘The indignation of the people is deep and their outlook one of despair.’ See CE, 18 Oct. 1920.

In his memoir Where Mountainy Men Have Sown, Micheál Ó Suílleabhaín told a somewhat different story of the killing of Lehane by Auxiliaries from Macroom. On 15 October the Auxiliaries of C Company from Macroom raided the village of Ballymakeera in Ballyvourney parish. One of them ‘entered a house where [there] lived a quiet, inoffensive married man named Jim Lehane. He had just returned home after his day’s work as a labourer. He was not a Volunteer and had no martial characteristic or inclination.’ The Auxiliary cadet asked Lehane his name and then invited him outside: ‘The poor man followed across the road to the village cross and a few yards down the road beyond it. Here the Auxie turned and emptied a revolver into him at close range. Unsuspectingly, Jim had walked to his death. It was just a cruel and callous murder without the slightest justification, near or remote. It was only one of many.’ See Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 142. Though the name of James Lehane appears on the IRA ‘Roll of Honour’, he was not a Volunteer.

An eyewitness to Lehane’s murder (Volunteer Mick Dinneen) later recalled that a group of Auxiliaries had ‘caught him [Lehane] by the shoulders and roughly marched him out of the door [of a neighbour’s house] and down across the road, almost across from where I was hiding in the bushes. I could hear the soldiers shouting roughly and threateningly at Jim, and Jim asking them, “What do ye want me for?” He was told to put his pipe and tobacco away and then a succession of shots rang out, and Jim Lehane, who was a quiet, honest, innocent, unassuming labourer, was dead. As soon as the Auxiliaries in the lorry heard the shots, the whistle blew and the order “all aboard” rang out, and the Auxiliaries, who were scattered around the village, made for the lorry at the double, and the vehicle took off at speed.’

Volunteer Jamie Moynihan described the aftermath: ‘The village neighbours were shocked and stunned by the murder of this amiable man, who was everybody’s friend. There was no question, investigation, or inquiry about this wicked murder. All [public] inquests and judicial enquiries had been abolished by the British authorities earlier that year. Nurse Singleton, the local nurse who had laid him out, told us afterwards that six bullets had entered his body. I am convinced that the Auxiliaries had intended burning Baile Mhic Íre [Ballymakeera] village that night but had decided against it after killing Jim Lehane.’ See Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 138-39. A military court of inquiry took place on 19 October 1920, as noted in Lehane’s death certificate; no one was held responsible for his murder.

Former Volunteer Daniel Harrington offered perhaps the best explanation as to why the Auxiliaries killed James Lehane after they had ‘placed tins of petrol along the village street preparatory to burning down the village’. They had arrested the civilian Lehane in the house of a local blacksmith named Sullivan. Once they had ascertained Lehane’s name, ‘they took him into a by-road where they riddled his body with bullets. . . . We had a very good I.R.A. man of the same name in the local company. The military officer in charge, hearing the shots in the by-road, immediately ordered the tins of petrol to be collected, after which the raiding lorries [eight of them] hurriedly left. It was assumed that he was under the impression that it was the I.R.A. who had fired the shots, whereas the shots were fired by his own men when they murdered Lehane.’ See Daniel Harrington’s WS 1532, 11-12 (BMH).

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