Civilian Michael Joseph Murray

Civilian Michael Joseph Murray (aged 22) of 10 Cahill’s Villas, St Luke’s, Cork city (Mount Vernon near Victoria Barracks)

Date of incident: 13 March 1921 (ex-soldier shot dead by British officer)

Sources: CE, 15 March, 16 April, 11 May 1921; CC, 15 March 1921; FJ, 15 March 1921; CWN, 19 March, 23 April 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/155B/32 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, March 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); Borgonovo (2007), 67, 99, 165.


Note: Murray was a fireman for the Great Southern and Western Railway and an ex-soldier. He was shot dead at about 9:15 p.m. on 13 March 1921 (by two armed men, it was said) when he attempted to run back to his residence at Cahill’s Villas. See CE, 15 March 1921. The RIC reported that he had been executed by the IRA as a fierce opponent of Sinn Féin who had refused to assist the IRA in removing goods from the Great Southern and Western Railway station. See RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, March 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA). But other evidence does not confirm the charge that the IRA shot Murray. 

Borgonovo concludes that ‘it seems likely that British gunmen were responsible for shooting’ both Murray and another civilian named John Healy, a jarvey. See Borgonovo (2007), 67. (John Healy miraculously survived and applied for compensation early in May 1921. The Recorder of Cork declared that ‘it was wonderful how Co. Cork medical men had pulled men out of the jaws of death. It was great medical skill that saved this man [Healy]. He gave a decree for £1,200.’ See CE, 11 May 1921.)

An entirely unexpected explanation for Murray’s death has been unearthed. The evidence given at a military inquest indicated that Murray had been fatally shot on the night of 13-14 March 1921 by an off-duty non-commissioned officer while Murray was molesting a woman in the vicinity of Mount Vernon Terrace, St. Luke’s; Murray was reportedly on top of the woman when the British officer came upon the scene and heard her cries for help. See Military Inquests, WO 35/155B/32 (TNA).

Evidence of a similar story was presented when a soldier of the Royal Army Service Corps was tried on 15 April 1921 for the manslaughter of Michael Joseph Murray before a field-general court-martial at Victoria Military Barracks: ‘An officer stated he was walking down Military Hill about 9:30 p.m. on the 13th March. When he got to Charleville Road, he heard a woman shouting, “Help, help.” He ran in the direction of the scream. He heard a shot fired, and when he got further on, he saw [the] accused [soldier] escorting a woman back. Her hair was rather dishevelled. He did not think she had a hat on. The [accused] sergeant said to [the] witness—“Look out; there’s a man with a gun at the corner. They had got hold of this woman.” Witness went back to the corner but didn’t find anything. He went back to [the] accused, who said the woman was on the ground, and that he told the man [Michael Joseph Murray] to put up his hands; that the man drew back and put his hand into his pocket, so that he ([the] accused) fired a round at the man. . . . Witness did not think he (accused) had killed the man. Next morning he heard about it [i.e, Murray’s death]. Witness reported the matter to the military police.’ A woman claiming to have been the victim of an assault by Murray gave evidence in favour of the accused soldier, and he was acquitted. See CE, 16 April 1921.  

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