RIC Constable Peter Coughlan

RIC Constable Peter Coughlan (aged 45) from County Kerry (O’Connell Street, Blackpool, Cork city)

Date of incident: 14 May 1921

Sources: CE, 16, 19, 20, 25 May 1921; CCE, 21 May 1921; CWN, 28 May 1921; Charles O’Connell’s WS 566, 3 (BMH); Lieutenant-Colonel John M. McCarthy’s WS 883, Appendix, 11-12 (BMH); Patrick Murray’s WS 1584, 23-24 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 238-39; Kingston (2013), 215.


Note: The ‘Blackpool ambush’ was a notable but grisly IRA success. At about 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, 14 May 1921, a patrol of seven police (two sergeants and five constables) from the Shandon RIC station was attacked on O’Connell Street near William O’Brien Street by members of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, two of whom threw a bomb into the midst of the patrol. The explosion that followed was ‘loud enough to be heard almost all over the city’. See CE, 16 May 1921.

The blast mortally wounded three constables and injured several others less seriously. According to evidence given at a military inquiry held at Victoria Military Barracks on 19 May, Constable Peter Coughlan ‘sustained a large lacerated wound in front of the left leg which fractured both bones and injured main blood vessels. He died [at the scene] from shock following his injuries. . . . Constable Ryle had both legs fractured, and it was found necessary to amputate the left leg from the thigh. He . . . died from shock and hemorrhage [at the North Infirmary] following his wounds. . . . Constable Coughlan was a married man of 45 years of age and leaves a widow and six young children, and Constable Ryle was a bachelor and about forty-six years of age.’ See CCE, 21 May 1921.

Constables Hayes and Rothwell were also badly wounded, ‘with severe lacerations’; Hayes later died. Coughlan’s remains were interred on 18 May at Killarney. See CE, 19 May 1921; Abbott (2000), 238-39.

In all the contemporary newspaper references, including those about the bombing, about the military inquiry that followed it, and about his funeral, the name given is Constable Peter Coughlan. Abbott, however, refers to him as Constable Peter Carolan, a bachelor from County Cavan whose age he gives as 35. Newspaper sources, including the Cork County Eagle of 21 May 1921 cited above, give his age as 45 and describe him as married and as having six young children in Killarney, where he was buried.  

The police casualties, reported the Cork Examiner, ‘were all caused by the explosion of the bomb, and as far as can be ascertained, the shots which followed did not result in any others. . . . The bomb was hurled from the bottom of Quarry Lane, and a few minutes after the explosion the members of the attacking party were observed quite coolly walking, not up Quarry Lane, but up William O’Brien Street, in the opposite direction to that in which they had thrown the bomb. They disappeared up Water Lane.’ See CE, 16 May 1921.

In a set of official military reprisals on 24 May, British troops destroyed two public houses and two private residences in the Blackpool district. See CE, 25 May 1921.

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