Civilian Daniel O’Callaghan

Civilian Daniel O’Callaghan (aged 36) of Carrigtwohill (Carrigtwohill)

Date of incident: 21 June 1921 (ex-sailor killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: Death Certificate, 21 June 1921; CE, 23 June 1921; CC, 23 June 1921; FJ, 23 June 1921; RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, June 1921 (CO 904/115, TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/156/49 (TNA); Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/23 (UCDA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Seámus Fitzgerald Papers, PR/6/32 (2), (UCC); O’Neill (1975), 68; Fitzgerald (2009), 115-16; Murphy (2010), 41; Sheehan (2011), 76.


Note: An ex-sailor and Royal Navy Reserve pensioner, O’Callaghan was pulled from his house in Carrigtwohill ‘by two men who shot him just outside’ at about 9 p.m. on 21 June 1921. He was taken to Queenstown/Cobh Hospital but died there on the following day. Unmarried and aged 36, he resided with his mother and had worked at a Haulbowline dockyard. See CE, 23 June 1921. A witness at a subsequent military inquest stated that O’Callaghan had told him that ‘he was being [counted?] as a spy and that he was intending to seek protection from the military’. O’Callaghan was described at this inquest as a loyalist. See Military Inquests, WO 35/156/49 (TNA). 

In the Diary of Activities of the Fourth (Midleton) Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade for June 1921, there appeared the following notation about B and D Companies of that battalion: ‘2 enemy spies, J. J. Walsh, Midleton, and M[ichae]l Callaghan, Carrigtwohill, shot. Latter believed to be of importance.’ See Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/23 (UCDA).

Thomas Cotter, a lieutenant in the Carrigtwohill IRA Company, later claimed responsibility for executing O’Callaghan as a spy. See Sheehan (2011), 76. Cotter named his associates in executing O’Callaghan as Volunteers Harry O’Brien of the IRA First Southern Division Engineers unit; M. McCarthy of E Company (Knockraha) of the 4th Battalion; and P. Mahony of Anngrove (Carrigtwohill). See Seámus Fitzgerald Papers, PR/6/32 (2), (UCC).

A local-history account based on oral testimony from Knockraha provides more detail. Though incorrectly dating the episode to the summer of 1920, this account notes that Volunteer Michael McCarthy of Brooklodge, a member of E Company of the Fourth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, and Harry O’Brien, a Volunteer on the run around Knockraha, were assigned to capture or shoot a spy based in Cobh whose mother lived in Carrigtwohill, and whom he was known to be visiting. This spy was being used by the British to identify IRA men or republicans as the crown forces travelled around the area by motorised patrols. The two Volunteers set out in a horse and trap from Knockraha for Carrigtwohill; they located and captured the alleged spy at the back of his mother’s house, near Geary’s public house. They placed him in the trap, but he struggled free and ran down a passageway leading from the centre of Carrigtwohill towards the castle at Barryscourt, where they shot him. According to this account, he died on the spot, but this detail is not borne out by other, conclusive evidence. See Fitzgerald (2009), 115-16. In 1911

The name of Daniel O’Callaghan appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 21 June 1921, with the notation that British liability was accepted, and with a note that £600 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA). Daniel O’Callaghan was one of the five co-resident children of the Carrigtwohill fowl dealer and widower Mary O’Callaghan. One of her six children lived away from home. Her son Daniel (then aged 26), the oldest of her children living at home, described himself to the census-taker as a labourer and a ‘Royal Fleet Reserve Pensioner’. The O’Callaghans were Catholic.

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,