Volunteer William or Liam Burke

Volunteer William or Liam Burke (aged about 19) of Ballymacphilip near Ballyhooly (near Gortroche, Ballyhooly)

Date of incident: 20 or 21 May 1921

Sources: II, 23 May 1921; IT, 23 May 1921; FJ, 23 May 1921; CCE, 28 May 1921; Connacht Tribune, 28 May 1921; Donegal News, 28 May 1921; Fermanagh Herald, 28 May 1921; Ulster Herald, 28 May 1921; Irish Bulletin, 5:5 (7 June 1921); Military Inquests (WO 35/162, TNA); Thomas Barry’s WS 430, 26 (BMH); Last Post (1976), 88; Volunteer Liam Burke Memorial, Gortroche, Ballyhooly. 


Note: A farmer’s son living near Ballyhooly in the Fermoy district, Burke reportedly failed to halt as ordered by a military patrol and was mortally wounded near his residence. His body was brought to Fermoy Military Hospital. Burke was a Volunteer, as Thomas Barry, O/C of the Castletownroche Battalion, later made clear: ‘In all the engagements in which the battalion took part, we suffered no fatal casualties. The only casualties would be two near Mitchelstown already referred to [those of Volunteers Daniel McGrath and Thomas McDonnell at Corracunna Cross on 21 July 1920], and the shooting of William Burke of Ballyhooley.’ See Thomas Barry’s WS 430, 26 (BMH).

The Irish Independent of 23 May 1921 treated the explanation of Burke’s death given by British forces with some increduality. It added the following note to its report of the fatality: ‘To date, 84 persons have been killed on failing to obey calls to halt or in attemped escapes, as alleged by crown forces.’ There is a limestone Celtic cross memorial to Volunteer Liam Burke at Gortroche, 4 kilometres south of Ballyhooly; the memorial indicates that he was ‘killed near this spot by British forces’ on 20 May 1921.

It appears that William Burke was one of the five children of the farmer James Burke and his wife Margaret of Ballymacphillip (Killathy) in the Ballyhooly district. All five children (three daughters and two sons ranging in age from 1 to 15) were co-resident with their parents in 1911. William (then aged 9) was the third child and second son.

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