Civilian John Good

Civilian John Good (aged 66) of Barry’s Hall near Timoleague (Barry’s Hall)

Date of incident: 10 March 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 12, 30 March, 18 June 1921; CC, 12 March 1921; CCE, 12, 19 March 1921; FJ, 12 March 1921; IT, 12 March 1921; CWN, 19 March 1921; SS, 25 June 1921; Iris Oifigiúil, 11 July 1924; Military Inquests, WO 35/149B/29 (TNA); ‘Lest We Forget’ (PRONI D. 989/c/1/51); RIC Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, April 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/30 (UCDA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Application of James Good to Irish Grants Committee, received 29 Oct. 1927 (CO 762/152/1); John O’Connell’s WS 1250, 8 (BMH).


Note: An extensive and progressive Protestant farmer, John Good was shot and killed as a spy on 10 March 1921 by a party of masked and armed men belonging to the IRA. They knocked on his door, asked for him, and mortally wounded him when he appeared. A local medical doctor refused to come to his aid. His son William was to be killed on 26 March. The victim left a wife (Elizabeth) and five adult children, including a daughter and four sons. The Goods were adherents of the Church of Ireland. Local historians have suggested that the executions of the father and one of his sons by the IRA were in part reprisals for the killings of Volunteers Patrick Donovan and Denis Hegarty on 17 and 19 January 1921 respectively.

The correspondent of the Cork County Eagle connected the deaths of John Good and Hegarty in a suggestive way: ‘Those who knew the late Mr John Good, Barry’s Hall, Timoleague, heard with deep regret of his untimely end. A respectable farmer, of a retiring disposition, beyond the keen interest taken by him in agriculture and cattle breeding, he was little known in public life. The late Mr Hegarty, who was an employee of Mr Good’s, was a young man of excellent disposition and character, and he was cruelly murdered a short time since, under somewhat similar circumstances.’ See CCE, 19 March 1921. John Good was reportedly the fifth Protestant farmer in West Cork to be murdered within the past few weeks.

The case for the killing of John Good as an IRA reprisal seems rather strong. In a letter dated 24 October 1921 from the Divisional Adjutant at the headquarters of the First Southern Division of the IRA, the following account was recorded: ‘Early in March [1921] information came to hand that the Good family of Barryshall were doing the work of enemy agents in the district of Timoleague. This was later confirmed when a local Volunteer whom Good employed was killed in his bed in an outhouse of Good’s by enemy police and military. As a result of investigation the O/C Cork No. 3 ordered the execution of John Good and his son James; in the former case the order was carried out, but the latter had left the district when looked for. Land, goods, etc., were confiscated in accordance with a brigade order previously made relative to spy property.’ See Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/30 (UCDA).  

This case came before the Clonakilty quarter sessions in June 1921. The widow and a surviving son of John Good sought compensation not only for the two murders but also for property that had been stolen—‘the destruction and removal of property and stock’ on 25 April 1921, after the killings. The surviving Goods then fled for their lives: ‘Immediately after those terrible events, the widow of Mr John Good and the remaining members of the family had to fly out of the country, and had since been practically living in hiding. The family possessed a most valuable farm of about four hundred acres, and it was fully stocked, but in April it was found that the place had practically been wrecked and made derelict. Up to the 25th April, property and effects to the value of £3,040 had been taken away, and that state of things continued until the whole place had been practically made a desert.’ It was also mentioned in court that John Good was a brother-in-law of Thomas Bradfield and a relative of William Connell, ‘both of whom had also been shot dead’. Mrs Elizabeth Good and her surviving son James jointly claimed compensation of £10,000. See CE, 18 June 1921. Elizabeth Good, James Good, and Anne Young were awarded £3,000 and costs on 13 June 1921. See Iris Oifigiúil, 11 July 1924. 

Although Good was described by his surviving and inheriting son in his claim to the Irish Grants Committee as ‘a sturdy supporter of the government’, there is no indication in this claim that he was an informer, which would have increased the case for compensation. Although this was among the larger awards (£7,000), the amount was probably more a reflection of John Good’s social standing, the extensive damages to his farm, and the killing by the IRA of one of his sons. The fact that in this case full liability was not accepted on the British side, and that instead a notation of ‘agreed 50/50’ was written over the notation ‘L’, would support the contention that he had not provided information. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Application of James Good to Irish Grants Committee, received 29 Oct. 1927 (CO 762/152/1).

The succession of Cork Protestants killed by the IRA was widely noted in mid-March: ‘The Chief Secretary [Sir Hamar Greenwood] said he regretted to state that no less than eight Protestant farmers had been murdered in the County of Cork during the last three months, and that according to information he had received, there appeared to be a general desire among Protestant farmers of that county to sell their farms in order that they might leave the country.’ See CE, 19 March 1921.

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