Volunteer Brigade Commandant Charlie Hurley

Volunteer Brigade Commandant Charlie Hurley (aged 28) of Baurleigh near Kilbrittain (Ballymurphy near Upton)

Date of incident: 19 March 1921

Sources: Military Inquests, WO 35/161A (TNA); Denis Lordan’s WS 470, 24 (BMH); Mary Walsh’s WS 556, 6 (BMH); WS 560 of James O’Mahony et al., 19 (BMH); William Norris’s WS 595, 11 (BMH); William Desmond’s WS 832, 37-44, 47-48 (BMH); John O’Driscoll’s WS 1250, 11 (BMH); Michael Coleman’s WS 1254, 16 (BMH); William McCarthy’s WS 1255, 11 (BMH); Timothy Warren’s WS 1275, 15 (BMH); Timothy Keohane’s WS 1295, 11 (BMH); Cornelius Calnan’s WS 1317, 8 (BMH); Denis Murphy’s WS 1318, 10 (BMH); Daniel Holland’s WS 1341, 12 (BMH); Denis O’Brien’s WS 1353, 14 (BMH); Christopher O’Connell’s WS 1530, 21 (BMH); Michael J. Crowley’s WS 1603, 18-19, 21 (BMH); Charles O’Donoghue’s WS 1607, 9 (BMH); Daniel Donovan’s WS 1608, 14-15 (BMH); Daniel Canty’s WS 1619, 30 (BMH); James Doyle’s WS 1640, 20-21 (BMH); Florence Begley’s WS 1771, 1-5 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 161-62, 207; Deasy (1973), 249-51; Last Post (1976), 83; Barry (1949, 1989), 136-37, 232-35; Kautt (2010), 158; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Ó Ruairc (2015), 72; IRA Crossbarry Monument; Volunteer Charlie Hurley Monument, Ballymurphy; Volunteer Cathal Hurley Memorial, Bandon GAA Club; http://midletonheritage.com/2015/12/11/few-families-suffered-as-we-did-war-of-independence-pension-files-associated-with-midleton/ (accessed 13 March 2016)


Note: Commandant of the West Cork Brigade since August 1920, Hurley was wounded in the head and face during an attack on British military forces at Upton railway station on 15 February 1921. He recovered but had badly sprained his ankle and was not well enough to join the planned ambush at Crossbarry when on 18 March, in the company of brigade intelligence officer Seán Buckley, he returned at midnight from the O’Mahony farmstead at Belrose to his headquarters at the Fordes’ farmstead at Ballymurphy, four miles distant. There he was trapped on the following morning by a British raiding party and shot dead outside in the farmyard as he sought to make his escape. Tom Barry claimed that the firing at Ballymurphy could be heard at Crossbarry on the morning of the ambush. See Rebel Cork’s FS, 162. According to evidence given at the 1921 military inquest, Sergeant Pool had fired the fatal shot at 6 a.m. as Hurley, armed with a Webley service revolver, ran out the back door of the Fordes’ farmhouse. See Military Inquests, WO 35/161A (TNA).

British soldiers brought Hurley’s body into Bandon and placed it in the morgue there. Members of Cumann na mBan from Kilbrittain collected the body and brought it to the church in his home area at Clogagh. The officers of the Cork No. 3 Brigade ‘decided to give Charlie a military funeral, so we [the members of the Flying Column] paraded again on the evening of 20th March and began a long march to Clogagh, which we reached about 2 a.m. next morning. The local priest was called, and the coffin containing the remains of Charlie was carried on the shoulders of his comrades to the grave. The members of the column with arms reversed marched behind the coffin. When the grave had been closed, Tom Barry delivered a short oration and fired three revolver shots over the grave. The sentries, which had been posted during the burial, were now called in, and the column marched away to billets in Ahiohill, which was reached about 8 a.m.’ See Denis O’Brien’s WS 1353, 14 (BMH).

Hurley had been born at Baurleigh on 29 March 1893. He was one of the seven children of the Baurleigh farmer John Hurley and his wife Mary. Charlie Hurley went to work at an early age in a Bandon stores, and while there, he studied for and passed the civil-service examination. Appointed as a junior clerk at Haulbowline Dockyards, he served there from 1911 to 1915 (the year when he joined the Volunteers). When he was then promoted to a clerical position in Liverpool, he rejected the post because its acceptance would have entailed conscription into the British navy in an administrative role. In 1917 Hurley assumed a new job at Castletownbere and took a prominent role in the Volunteer movement in that district. ‘Since his boyhood in Bandon he had also been an active member of Sinn Fein, the Gaelic Athletic Association, and the Gaelic League, thus being well grounded in the faith of Irish separatism for which he was to work so hard and eventually to die. Early in 1918 he was arrested and charged with being in possession of arms and plans of the British fortifications on Bere Island. Found guilty, he was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude, part of which he served in Cork and Maryborough jails. Towards the end of the year [1919] he was released with other hunger-strikers under what was known as the “Cat and Mouse Act”.’ See Barry (1949, 1989), 232-33.

After returning to West Cork, he promptly joined the Kilbrittain Volunteer Company. In January 1920 he was appointed vice-commandant of the Bandon battalion, and he became commandant of the Cork No. 3 Brigade in August of that year, after the arrest and torture of Tom Hales. Hurley’s first important decision as brigade commander was the formation of a brigade column under Tom Barry’s leadership. See John Desmond, ‘Commdt. Charlie Hurley’s Profile’ (unpublished paper); Deasy (1973), 84-85, 134-35. 

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