Volunteer Charles O’Reilly

Volunteer Charles O’Reilly (aged 24) of 14 Church Street, Newmarket (near Newmarket)

Date of incident: night of 13-14 March 1921

Sources: CE, 15 March, 30 April 1921; FJ, 15 March 1921; II, 16 March 1921; CWN, 19 March 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/157A/40 (TNA); Seán Moylan’s WS 838, 211-15 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS (2009 ed.), 205.


Note: British forces wounded O’Reilly near Newmarket, and he soon succumbed to his injuries. Soldiers on patrol had called on two occupants of a pony and trap to halt and fired on them when they got out and tied to run away. O’Reilly was found badly injured on the morning of 14 March 1921 in a nearby labourer’s cottage. He died on 15 March of gunshot wounds and acute peritonitis. See CE, 15 March, 30 April 1921. O’Reilly was the son of the well-known Newmarket auctioneer Michael O’Reilly. He and his wife Ellen were the parents in 1911 of nine living children (five sons and four daughters) ranging in age from 2 to 21. Charles was their fourth son; he had four younger sisters and a much younger brother.

As Seán Moylan recalled, a group of Volunteers attempting to demolish Clonfert Bridge, half a mile from Newmarket, was ambushed by a British military party as a few of the Volunteers returned to the bridge to collect a missing tool. Rifle fire struck O’Reilly. He was taken to Jerry Doody’s cottage on the Rockchapel road, ‘suffering agonies from two bullet wounds, one through the liver. Jerry [Doody] had crossed the river and was . . . making his roundabout way through the fields for the doctor. This man was Dr Algie Verling, who had been a British officer and had served all through the war in France. He was not noticeably a supporter of ours but was a good friend, and O’Reilly, when sending for him, knew that no risk would deter him from coming.’ O’Reilly nevertheless died the following day. ‘His funeral was the occasion of a great demonstration of force and intimidation on the part of the British. But in spite of this, its dimensions proved where the sympathies of the people lay and their respect for the dead soldier.’ See Seán Moylan’s WS 838, 211-15 (BMH).

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