Civilian Thomas Bradfield

Civilian Thomas Bradfield (aged 56) of Knockmacool House, Castlederry (near Ahiohill)

Date of incident: 1 Feb. 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 3 Feb., 18 June 1921; FJ, 3 Feb. 1921; II, 15 Feb. 1921; CWN, 19 Feb., 19 March 1921; SS, 1 April, 25 June 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/146A/52 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, Feb. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Denis Lordan’s WS 470, 14 (BMH); J. O’Mahony, D. Crowley, and J. Fitzgerald’s WS 560 (BMH); Michael J. Crowley’s WS 1603 (BMH); James ‘Spud’ Murphy’s WS 1684, 12-13 (BMH); Murphy (2010), 73-76, 126, 188, 191, 236, 238, 240; Fitzgerald (2012), 191; Ó Ruairc (2016), 120.             


Note: When Thomas Bradfield’s body was found on the day after his kidnapping at a point about three miles from his house, a label bearing the words ‘Convicted Spy’ was attached to his remains. He too had been fooled into revealing his spying activities, as leading Volunteer James ‘Spud’ Murphy recalled in his BMH witness statement: ‘Tom Barry approached the house and asked the maid whether Mr Bradfield was at home. She said that he was out in the fields. Dan Corcoran accompanied the maid to the field to call Bradfield and to inform him that the officer wanted him. We were all wearing Sam Browne belts outside our trench coats and Bradfield assumed that we were members of the British forces. When Bradfield came in, he welcomed us and invited us into the sitting-room where he gave us some refreshments. He sat down and began to talk to Tom Barry about the activities of the I.R.A. in the area, giving a number of names of prominent officers. At this stage I had taken up position at the front door and Dan Corcoran was likewise at the back door. When Bradfield had given sufficient information, Tom Barry disclosed his identity and Bradfield was certainly shocked. We immediately placed him under arrest and removed him on foot to Ahiohill area. He was tried that night, and when we were moving from Ahiohill to Burgatia House [in Rosscarbery] on the night of   1st Feb. 1921, Bradfield was executed.’ See James ‘Spud’ Murphy’s WS 1684, 12-13 (BMH). Bradfield had made himself odious to the Volunteers much earlier. When they raided his house near Ahiohill for arms in May 1918, Bradfield had seriously wounded Volunteer Michael J. Crowley of Kilbrittain by shooting him in the chest at close range; Crowley needed three months to recover. See Michael J. Crowley’s WS 1603, 2-3 (BMH).

Thomas Bradfield of Knockmacool, his wife Elizabeth, and their only child Elizabeth Mary Susan were Methodists. In 1911 they lived with a niece (aged 5) and a Catholic domestic servant in a ‘first-class’ house with as many as eleven rooms. The Bradfield farm had three smaller houses occupied by tenants and/or labourers. Before his murder Bradfield and his wife and daughter had been ‘very prosperous’: ‘Their substantial and beautiful residence [near Desertserges railway station on the Cork-Bandon line] had a farm of about seventy acres attached to it. That farm would have been worth £3,500 if it could have been sold in the ordinary way.’ As a result of the persecution to which they had been subjected, his wife and daughter tried to hold a public auction of the house and lands. When the day of the auction arrived (10 March 1921), their representative and the auctioneer found that ‘no member of the public was in attendance’, and that the auction could not be held. Instead, they discovered that notices had been posted up ‘all over the place’ to the following effect: ‘Take notice, any person or persons having any dealings or communication with spies, or the relatives of spies, do so at their own risk.’ The IRA seized almost everything: ‘The stock was cleared off the farm, and furniture and other articles taken away—in fact, there was nothing left to sell. All the property had gone in that way.’ The widow Elizabeth Bradfield had disappeared into hiding. ‘After her departure the residence was left in the charge of servants, but those servants had been hunted out of the place, and all the moveable property was then taken away. The place was practically left derelict.’ Cattle and effects to the value of £1,779 had been stolen. The judge at Clonakilty quarter sessions awarded Bradfield’s widow £4,000 and his daughter £2,000 in compensation. See CE, 18 June 1921. The name of Thomas Bradfield appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 2 February 1921, with the notation ‘British supporter’, and with a note that £6,000 in compensation was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA).

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