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Civilian John Foley

Civilian John Foley (aged about 38) of Leemount near Coachford (Leemount)

Date of incident: 10 July 1921

Sources: Death Certificate (Clonmoyle District, Union of Macroom), 10 July 1921; CE, 11 July 1921; FJ, 11 July 1921; IT, 11 July 1921; CWN, 16 July 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/150/46 (TNA); Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 275; Ó Ruairc (2016), 249-55.  


Note: During a general search and roundup in the Coachford district, the farm labourer John Foley was shot and mortally wounded by the military in his own house at Leemount on 10 July 1921. See CE, 11 July 1921. A search patrol of the West Yorkshire Regiment allegedly had to force an entry into Foley’s house at about 6 a.m. on that Sunday morning, working under orders to arrest all local males between the ages of 15 and 45. According to the testimony of two soldiers of this regiment—Corporal F. J. Smith and Lance Corporal W. Pearson—at a subsequent military inquest (they were the only two witnesses called), Foley had continued to resist capture after their forced entry. Pearson claimed that Foley had attacked Smith with a knife, but Smith neglected to mention this alleged act of aggression in his account. Indeed, Smith sought to convince the inquest that ‘he and Pearson were meekly retreating when Foley again attempted to attack him and they fired, fatally wounding Foley’. The army officers heading the inquest admitted that Foley ‘had no connections whatsoever to the IRA’, but found nevertheless that Foley ‘had launched an unprovoked attack on a force of armed British soldiers’. See Ó Ruairc (2016), 249-50.

Oral accounts of this set of events in the Coachford district today tell a very different story in which the British soldiers burst into the Foley home, ordered John Foley to dress, and then shot him in the back when he went to grab his coat. The locals recall that Foley ‘attempted to crawl to safety at a neighbour’s house and, collapsing en route, was left to die in a ditch by the same British soldiers, who then took his twin brother [Timothy] prisoner in order to beat and humiliate him by leaving him tied to a telegraph pole in Coachford village’. See Ó Ruairc (2016), 249-55. John Foley’s death certificate stated that he had died on 10 July owing to ‘haemorrhage caused by [a] gunshot wound inflicted by crown forces in the execution of their duty’.

A recently published republican source indicates that John Foley, allegedly a Volunteer, was ‘shot by British forces at Coachford on 7 [sic] July 1921’. See Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 275. But the evidence in general points clearly towards civilian status.

Foley was in 1911 one of the four children (three sons and one daughter) of the Leemount van driver Michael Foley, who appears to have been a widower. John Foley’s twin brother Timothy was also a van driver, while his younger brother Peter was an agricultural labourer like John Foley himself

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