Civilian Thomas Hanley

Civilian Thomas Hanley (aged 21) of Maiden Street, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick (probably near Macroom).

Date of incident: 17 Oct. 1921 (executed by IRA and disappeared)

Sources: Interview with Charlie Browne, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks (P17b/112, UCDA); Limerick Leader, 4 Nov. 1929; Toomey (2010), 263; WO 364/Piece 1513 (TNA); British Army WW I Pension Records, 1914-1920 (database on-line), Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com Operations, 2010.       


Note: Thomas Hanley was a ex-soldier who had served with the Royal Munster Regiment during the Great War. Following his discharge, he returned home to Newcastle West and lived there with his father until November 1920, when he joined the Auxiliaries. Stationed at Croom in County Limerick, he operated with the Auxiliaries until he left the force in February 1921. Hanley had also appeared in a court case at Adare about marauding ex-soldiers and rescinded testimony that he had originally given at the Newcastle West RIC barracks. See Toomey (2010), 263. On 22 June 1921, while visiting a neighbour’s house, he was shot and badly wounded by a party of armed and masked men. He recovered, however, and was awarded compensation of £550 on 10 October 1921. He planned to emigrate and had purchased a ticket, but on 17 October he was abducted and, it appears, executed soon afterwards at a secret location probably near Macroom. His body was never recovered. In a later interview (partly about suspected spies) with Ernie O’Malley, the Macroom IRA leader Charlie Browne recalled: ‘There were 2 lads, Hanley from Limerick, arrested in Macroom, and another fellow was arrested there. The arrests were reported to the [IRA Southern] Division, and also their movements were reported from other areas. They were both Irishmen. They were shot.’ See Interview with Charlie Browne, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks (P17b/112, UCDA). Years after Hanley’s disappearance—in late 1929—his father stated publicly that he had heard that his son Thomas had been killed in County Cork towards the end of 1921. See Limerick Leader, 4 Nov. 1929. For this reference we thank Padraig Ó Ruairc.

Private Thomas Hanley had a brief military career. Claiming to be 19 years old, Hanley enlisted at Limerick for ‘short service’ (i.e., for the duration of the war) in the Eighth Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 18 August 1915. A military officer at Limerick noted the next day on Hanley’s certificate of attestation that the new recruit ‘appears very young and not the age stated’. See Attestation of Thomas Hanley, 18 Aug. 1915. Hanley was discharged (after a little more than one year of service) on 28 August 1916 for having made ‘a mis-statement as to age on enlistment—under 17 years of age’. See Thomas Hanley’s Descriptive Report on Enlistment, dated 28 Aug. 1916. His true age at the time of his discharge at Tralee in late August 1916 was said to be 15 years and 9 months—an assertion that corresponds closely with the age of 1 year given for him in the 1901 census. He had four blemishes on his company conduct record that brought minor punishments: the ‘wrongful possession of a bayonet’; the making of a disorderly bed; the forbidden possession of 3 lbs. of butter—‘the property of no. 6 platoon’; and improper dress on company parade. See B Company Conduct Sheet, last dated 7 Dec. 1915. His ‘military character’ upon his discharge was nevertheless rated as ‘good’. See Proceedings on Discharge of Thomas Hanley, dated 28 Aug. 1916. It seems that Hanley later claimed a disability pension for service in World War I, but nothing appears in his record that would have been sufficient to justify such a pension. See WO 364/Piece 1513 (TNA); British Army WW I Pension Records, 1914-1920 (database on-line), Provo, Utah, Ancestry.com Operations, 2010.       

Thomas Hanley was in 1911 one of the three co-resident sons of the widower and general labourer Michael Hanley of Gortboy in Newcastle Urban District. It appears from the census returns that Thomas Hanley (then aged 11) had two surviving brothers—Joseph and John. Two other brothers—Patrick (aged 8 in 1901) and James (aged 4 in 1901) seem to have died in between the censuses of 1901 and 1911. Their mother Ellen (aged 25 in 1901) had also died by the time of the 1911 census. Of the two elder brothers of Thomas Hanley, one (Joseph) was a blacksmith in 1911, while the other (John) was a mineral-water worker.

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