Civilian Alfred Charles Reilly, J.P.

Civilian Alfred Charles Reilly, J.P. (aged 58), of The Hill, Monfieldstown, Douglas (Douglas)

Date of incident:  9 Feb. 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 10 Feb., 29 March, 6 June 1921; CC, 11, 15 Feb., 30 March 1921; CCE, 12 Feb. 1921; CWN, 19 Feb. 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/157B/15 (TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 36 (BMH); William Barry’s WS 1708, 7 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 42-43, 49-52, 100 (note 71), 168; Murphy (2010), 41, 116-18; Ó Ruairc (2016), 88-90, 120.


Note: In a ‘shocking murder’ Alfred Reilly, managing director of a large bakery and restaurant business in Cork city (H. H. Thompson and Sons, Ltd.), was shot dead very near his home in the Cork suburb of Douglas. Pinned to his chest was an envelope on which the words ‘Spies beware penalty for all, I.R.A.’ had been written in pencil. See Military Inquests, WO 35/157B/15 (TNA). He had left his office in Cork city at about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 9 February 1921, and had driven in a pony and trap towards his residence in Douglas. ‘Some time later, the female lodge-keeper saw the empty trap standing outside the avenue gate, and she went along the road for some distance until she found Mr Reilly lying on the ground face downwards.’ Reilly was ‘well known in the commercial life of the South of Ireland’. Besides the position that he held at Thompson and Sons, he was managing director of Messrs Stewart in Limerick city and ‘was connected with a number of other firms’. He was also a member of the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Shipping but ‘was not connected with any political organisation’. See CCE, 12 Feb. 1921.

Aged 58 and a Methodist, Reilly was a member of the Cork business establishment. He had earlier organised a Methodist Church petition calling for the release of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney when he was on hunger-strike. Reilly had Home Rule and Liberal political sympathies. Though he had been a J.P., he had not taken an active part in police-court work for about the last six years and had been fined for refusing to carry out jury duty early in 1920 when republicans were beginning to face British courts. See Military Inquests, WO 35/157B/15 (TNA). Nevertheless, he was suspected of being part of a civilian unionist intelligence group operating out of the Cork Y.M.C.A. He was also thought to be a Freemason. In fact, however, he was neither a Freemason nor a Y.M.C.A. member. See Borgonovo (2007), 42-43, 49-52, 100 (note 71), 168.

The killing was carried out in especially chilling fashion by three members of D Company (Second Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade), including its captain William Barry, who recalled the deed: On the evening of 9 February, as Reilly ‘was returning from work in King Street (now MacCurtain Street) in his pony and trap, four of us, armed with revolvers, got into the trap and drove him to his home at Rochestown. We shot him outside the gate of his house and affixed a card to the body with the words “Spies and Informers Beware” written on it.’ See William Barry’s WS 1708, 7 (BMH).

A widower aged 48 in 1911, Reilly resided in the Douglas suburb of Cork with his elderly mother (then aged 70), and listed himself as a manufacturing confectioner. He had two children from his first marriage (to Louisa Mason Brewitt): a daughter, Dorothy Kathleen and a son Percival, who was killed in July 1916 serving in the British Army during the Battle of the Somme. The family had three Catholic servants. Alfred Reilly later remarried, and his second wife, Agnes, claimed compensation for the killing of her husband on 9 February 1921 near his residence—Hill House. The Recorder of Cork city awarded £4,500 to her and another £4,500 to Dorothy Kathleen. See CE, 6 June 1921. The name of Alfred Charles Reilly appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 9 February 1921, with the notation that British liability was accepted, and with a note that compensation of £9,000 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA). Thanks to Jenny Hickey for correction to our earlier draft on family connections.

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