Private Henry Alfred Morris

Private Henry Alfred Morris (aged 21) of D Company, 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (Ellis Quarry, Croghtamore, near the Lough, Cork city)

Date of incident: 10 July 1921 (kidnapped and executed by IRA)

Sources: Death Certificate, 10 July 1921; CE, 12 July 1921; II, 12 July 1921; FJ, 12 July 1921; CWN, 16 July 1921; SS, 16 July 1921; Henchion (2003), 73; Sheehan (2011), 160; Ó Ruairc (2016), 162-75; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); Commonwealth War Graves Commission; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.htmlhttp://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/cork-executions.htmlhttp://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/morris/morris.html (accessed 8 Aug. 2014); http://www.theirishstory.com/2016/01/08/the-ellis-quarry-killings/#.VwghgpFN1Zghttp://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/d’ydewalle/d’ydewalle.htmlhttp://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/spriggs/Spriggs-d.html (accessed 8 April 2016).  


Note: Along with three other soldiers, Morris was killed by the IRA. The four soldiers were kidnapped near Gaol Cross on Sunday night, 10 July 1921, and executed at Ellis Quarry, Croghtamore, near the Lough, in St Finbarr’s parish. (Ellis Quarry lies at the end of a long lane called Sheehan’s Lane.) All four were found blindfolded and shot dead. The coverings ‘were still over the eyes when the bodies were found yesterday [11 July]’. See CE, 12 July 1921. They were unarmed. Morris’s death certificate gave Glasheen as the place of death.

Writing to his next of kin soon afterwards, Morris’s commanding officer tried to console one of his parents: ‘I regret very much to have to inform you that your son, Private H. Morris, was killed by the Irish rebels on Sunday, July 10, at about 10:30 p.m. He was out on [a] pass at the time with another friend in the regiment and with two men of the Royal Engineers. They were kidnapped, and although the tragedy is difficult to visualise, I feel that you would prefer to know what happened. As far as could be found out, your son and his friends were shot together. From what I saw myself when they were brought to the barracks, I am convinced that they could not have suffered but died instantly. Your son was blindfolded and taken to a field about two to three miles from where he had been walking with his friends.’ See irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014). Morris was buried with full military honours in Ryecroft Cemetery in Walsall near Birmingham in the West Midlands.

The city IRA leader Connie Neenan later recalled this gruesome incident, in which four Volunteers under his command carried out the execution of these four soldiers—killings that were widely condemned: ‘The night before the Truce, on July 10th . . . , my mother brought me the news about midnight that 4 young British soldiers had just been taken prisoner by our fellows. I felt alarmed. They were, I suppose, out for the first time in months with their guard down. One of them had gone into a shop to buy sweets. I gathered a group and we searched the fields from here to Toher. About 2 a.m. we met some of our lads, who told us the news was bad. I was astounded. Surely no one would shoot anyone at a time like this? I crept into a house, exhausted and filled with remorse. We could not sleep. We just hung out there until noon the next day. The Truce had come.’ See http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cork-jul-21/cork-executions.html (accessed 8 Aug. 2016).

It has recently been suggested that the killing of these four soldiers just before the Truce was a reprisal by the IRA for the murder of Volunteer Denis Spriggs on 8 July—just two days earlier. The deaths of the four soldiers were sometimes called the Ellis Quarry killings. See Ó Ruairc (2016), 162-75.

Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc has expanded on this linkage in an article posted online and titled ‘The Ellis Quarry Killings’: ‘A century later, this incident remains one of the most controversial events of the War of Independence. It has repeatedly been presented in academic work, popular histories, newspaper columns, and on television as pointless unprovoked murder committed by republicans whose sole motivation was a belief that the impending ceasefire meant they could never be brought to account. . . .

‘The verifiable facts are that the soldiers left the British army post at Cork Jail. They were travelling on foot and were unarmed. At 8 p.m. they were captured by a patrol of seven IRA Volunteers who had been searching an area from Donovan’s Bridge along the Western Road in an effort to find a suspected civilian informer. The only surviving account of the executions by an IRA participant is the official report sent to IRA GHQ, which gave no indication as to the grounds on which the execution was carried out. It simply reads: “We held up four soldiers (2 Royal Engineers, 2 Staffordshires) and searched them but found no arms. We took them to a field in our area where they were executed before 9 p.m.”’

This report was signed by the captain of H Company of the First Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, who has been identified in recently released records as Daniel F. Hallinan (then aged 36), a plasterer and slater from Clashduff in Bishopstown. Hallinan and Volunteer Denis Spriggs, murdered on 8 July by members of the South Staffordshire Regiment, appear to have been friends; they had both worked as plasterers and had both been active in the Cork plasterers’ union, and they belonged to the same IRA battalion. The evidence seems to point clearly to Hallinan as having had a personal reason to want to avenge the death of his comrade Denis Spriggs two days earlier. Privates Morris and Daker were themselves members of the South Staffordshire Regiment. The South Staffordshire officer who had led the raid on the house of Denis Spriggs was Lieutenant Adelin Eugene P.F.M.G. van Outryve d’Ydewalle, who reportedly ‘had a history of involvement in the killings of unarmed prisoners, and the likelihood is that Spriggs’ killing was a premeditated and deliberate act’.

The Ellis Quarry killings thus appear to have been a reprisal for the murder of Spriggs, albeit one that far outweighed the original homicide. The later career of H Company Volunteer Captain Daniel Hallinan was marked by a series of reversals and misdeeds—expulsion from the IRA during the Truce; dismissal from the Civic Guards in 1925 for indiscipline; and the alleged theft of union funds in 1932, followed by bankruptcy and a spell in prison. See Ó Ruairc, ‘The Ellis Quarry Killings’, at http://www.theirishstory.com/2016/01/08/the-ellis-quarry-killings/#.VwghgpFN1Zg (accessed 8 April 2016). 

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,