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Civilian John Cowhig

Civilian John Cowhig (aged 63) of Tower Town (Coolflugh) near Blarney (Tower Town)

Date of incident: 27 Jan. 1921

Sources: Death Certificate, 27 Jan. 1921; CE, 29 Jan. 1921; FJ, 29 Jan. 1921; CWN, 5 Feb. 1921; CCE, 5 Feb. 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/148/35 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, Jan. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 274, 355.


Note: A shoemaker (aged 63), Cowhig was shot fatally by three armed and masked men who according to newspaper reports had demanded money from him; he was known to keep or suspected of keeping a large sum of money in his house. The generally accepted motive for this killing was robbery, but in his recent edition of Volunteer Jamie Moynihan’s memoirs, Dónal Ó hÉalaithe claims that Cowhig was a Volunteer killed by British forces. His death certificate notes that he was shot through the heart ‘by some person or persons unknown’ and died almost instantly. His age makes it unlikely that he was a Volunteer, but he was almost certainly a supporter. His name does not appear on the Roll of Honour of the Cork No. 1 Brigade deposited in the Cork Public Museum in Fitzgerald Park in Cork city.

In 1911 the unmarried bootmaker John Cowhig (then aged 53) resided with the elderly master bootmaker Michael Ambrose (aged 73) at 13 Tower Town near Blarney. Residing with them was an apprentice bootmaker named John Coghlan (aged 17). The widowed Catherine Rohan, Ambrose’s daughter, was the only female in the house. At the time of his death in January 1921 Cowhig ‘had been managing the business of the late Mr Ambrose’.

While crown forces were investigating Cowhig’s death, they shot a local man named Timothy Twomey (aged about 34) in the neck. Twomey either did not hear or failed to obey an order to halt. Seriously wounded, he was removed to Cork Military Hospital. See FJ, 29 Jan. 1921. According to the 1911 census, Timothy Twomey of Coolflugh (Matehy) was the youngest of the four co-resident sons of the widow Mary Twomey. Her son Timothy was described in the census as being of ‘weak intellect’ and unemployed, and his mental disability may well explain why he failed to halt when soldiers challenged him on 27 January 1921.

In the immediate aftermath of these events—indeed, the very next day—crown forces inflicted serious casualties on the IRA when a Volunteer force lying in ambush was surprised at Dripsey near Coachford. The reporter for the Cork County Eagle claimed that Cowhig’s death and the foiling of the planned Dripsey ambush were closely connected: ‘A large force of military visited the village of Tower in connection with the murder of John Cowhig on the previous day [27 January], and they obtained intelligence of the supposed [sic] ambush.’ See CCE, 5 Feb. 1921. There is much evidence to indicate that Maria Lindsay of Leemount in Coachford was the chief informer who alerted officers of the Manchester Regiment to the planned Dripsey ambush (news upon which they acted), but she may not have been the only informer.                                                                                                                        

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