Civilian William McCarthy

Civilian William McCarthy (aged about 52) of 17 Bridge Street, Mallow (near Mallow)

Date of incident: 29 May 1921 (ex-soldier executed and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA on that date)

Sources: IT, 22 Aug. 1921; CE, 14 Jan. 1922; FJ, 14 Jan. 1922; IRA Executions in 1921 (Collins Papers, A/0649, Military Archives); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Interview with Ned Murphy, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/111 (UCDA).


Note: McCarthy had earlier retired with the rank of colour sergeant from the British army’s Royal Irish Regiment. On 23 May 1921 he left his home in Mallow to go to Mourne Abbey in order to shoot rabbits. He was never seen again. In response to an appeal after the Truce of 11 July 1921, his widow received a letter from the Adjutant’s Department at the headquarters of the Cork No. 4 Brigade (dated 12 September 1921), stating that her husband had been tried by court-martial on 23 May, found guilty of espionage, and sentenced to death. The letter noted that the sentence had been carried out on 29 May. Subsequently, efforts were made to recover his body but without success. He left not only his wife Bridget but four children as well. See Bridget McCarthy’s affidavit in CE, 14 Jan. 1922. See also IRA Executions in 1921 (Collins Papers, A/0649, Military Archives). McCarthy’s name appeared on the list of ‘missing persons’ published in the Irish Times of 22 August 1921. The date of his kidnapping was given incorrectly there as 21 May 1921. As previously noted, he was last seen on 23 May.

At the time of the 1911 census McCarthy (then aged 42) was already living as a British army pensioner with his Wexford-born and much younger wife Bridget (aged 24) and two small children in house 11.3 in the Ballyvoloon section of Queenstown/Cobh. The McCarthys were Catholic.  The name of William McCarthy appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 29 May 1921, with the notation that British liability was accepted, and with a note that £2,600 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).

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