Volunteer and Column Commander William Bransfield

Volunteer and Column Commander William Bransfield (aged about 24) of Barryscourt, Carrigtwohill (Carrigtwohill)

Date of incident: 8 May 1921

Sources: CE, 14 May 1921; CWN, 14 May 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/146B/12 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, May 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); “Lest We Forget,” (PRONI, D. 989/c/1/52); Francis Healy’s WS 1694, 18-19 (BMH); Roll of Honour, Cork No. 1 Brigade (Cork Public Museum, Fitzgerald Park, Cork); O’Neill (1975), 66; Last Post (1976), 87; Cork No. 1 Brigade Memorial, Holy Rosary Cemetery, Midleton; Volunteer William Bransfield Memorial, Carrigtwohill; http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1921/may/24/murders-and-outrages (accessed 28 March 2016).  


Note: Three Carrigtwohill Volunteers—William Bransfield, Jack Hayes, and an IRA man named Keegan (a blacksmith)—were dragged from their homes by a party of disguised men. Bransfield was shot dead. The other two escaped. The armed party returned to Keegan’s house, where they piled up the furniture and bedclothes together and burned them. The windows in Keegan’s house were shattered. These actions appear to have been the work of a British military ‘death squad’ composed of Cameron Highlanders. Having narrowly escaped death at their hands that same night, Volunteers Francis Healy and Richard Hayes ‘stole back cautiously [into Carrigtwohill] and saw the body of a man lying on the street who had been shot through the head. This was William Bransfield, an active member of the local company. The sight of the mother leaning over the dead body of her only son left a lasting impression on me. Fr Tuohy, C.C., arrived shortly afterwards and administered the Last Rites.’ See Francis Healy’s WS 1694, 18-19 (BMH). Healy was a member (section commander) of D Company (Carrigtwohill) of the Fourth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. So too were the Volunteer victims mentioned above.

Bransfield’s brother-in-law Michael O’Keefe, a loyalist ex-soldier, had been shot dead by the IRA in Carrigtwohill on 30 April 1921. There had been ill feeling between them. The killing of Bransfield thus appears to have been a reprisal, at least in part, though the vengeance of the Cameron Highlanders certainly extended to Bransfield as a zealous republican. An intelligence officer of the Cameron Highlanders told a later military inquest that Bransfield was not simply a Carrigtwohill railway worker but an active member of the IRA and a Sinn Féin policeman who was known to carry arms. See Military Inquests, WO 35/146B/12 (TNA). 

Volunteer Bransfield was one of the three children (two sons and a daughter) residing in 1911 with their mother, the widow Mary Bransfield, at 2 Barryscourt in Carrigtwohill. Her older son Patrick (then aged 24) and younger son William (then aged 14) both worked as farm labourers. Unless Patrick had died between 1911 and 1921, William was not her only son, as claimed by former Volunteer Francis Healy. Volunteer William Bransfield was buried in the Republican Plot of Holy Rosary Cemetery in Midleton, where it is recorded that he was a column commander (of the Midleton Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade). 

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