Civilian Finbarr Darcy or D’Arcy

Civilian Finbarr Darcy or D’Arcy (aged about 28) of Riverstown (near Cork Military Detention Barracks, Cork city)

Date of incident: night of 4-5 Jan. 1921

Sources: II, 6, 7, 8 Jan. 1921; Nenagh Guardian, 8 Jan. 1921; Kerryman, 8 Jan. 1921; Anglo-Celt, 8 Jan. 1921; CE, 29 Jan. 1921; Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/148/77 (TNA); Eoin O’Mahony’s WS 1401, 4-5 (BMH).                                      


Note: A former Alexian lay brother, Darcy (about 28 years old) was arrested, interrogated, and killed by crown forces under extraordinary circumstances on the night of 4-5 January 1921. Darcy was a native of Riverstown, about 4 miles from Cork city. At the time of his death he had been living with his mother at the Riverstown Post Office, where she also had a shop; his brother claimed at the military inquiry that Finbarr Darcy had been ‘home on sick leave from London’. See II, 7 Jan. 1921. For about two or three years he had been a lay brother at Twyford Abbey Nursing Home for Gentlemen near London. He left London and returned to Ireland in 1918; he had not been in robust health recently since his recovery from a severe attack of influenza. He was a very regular visitor to the Imperial Hotel in Cork city but had slept there only once previously. He signed himself in the visitors’ book as ‘Rev. Father Darcy’. See II, 6 Jan. 1921.

Darcy’s behaviour on the fatal night was strange. The incidents began in the Imperial Hotel bar at about 10:30 p.m. when, according to an Auxiliary cadet giving evidence before a military inquiry, Darcy, ‘who was having a drink, pushed witness’s stool away as he was going to sit down. He was dressed in clerical clothes [like a priest] and was obviously pretending to be drunk.’ Though he tried to chat up this cadet, the Auxiliary ordered Darcy to leave the bar and eventually he did so. But he aroused further suspicions by taking the hat, coat, umbrella, and mackintosh of a comrade of the cadet witness. The hotel register was then checked, and it was found that Darcy had taken Room No. 5. ‘This fact made witness still more suspicious about deceased [Darcy], owing to Room No. 5 having been suspected as being connected with the recent raid [and robbery] on the G.P.O., which adjoined the hotel. Witness had proved that it was quite possible to enter the G.P.O. from this room or vice versa. They entered Room 5 and found the deceased near the window striking matches and waving them.’ He was made to undress and searched; nothing incriminating was found. But he had no pajamas or toothbrush, and when left alone in the room for a short time, Darcy escaped through a window and was later found naked trying to hide under a bed in the servants’ quarters of the hotel. After a further scuffle with an officer in a different hotel room, Darcy was taken to a military lorry for movement into detention. The officer in charge told the soldiers in the lorry to shoot Darcy if he tried to escape again. When Darcy did so within 50 yards of the bridewell, he was shot dead. The superior of his order at Twyford Abbey in Willesden was soon asked about Darcy’s impersonation of a priest; he replied that ‘the community had received information from time to time that he had been going about in priest’s attire, but, he added, he had no right to do so’. See II, 7 Jan. 1921.

Casting suspicion on official claims about the manner of Darcy’s death, a writer for the Irish Independent sharply observed on 6 January: ‘According to official reports, the number of men killed in attempting to escape arrest is now 22, while 7 other tragedies of that kind have been unofficially reported.’ When Darcy’s funeral took place on 7 January at SS. Peter and Paul’s Church, ‘there was a large attendance of the public’ before his interment in St Finbarr’s Cemetery. See II, 8 Jan. 1921.

Eoin ‘The Pope’ O’Mahony’s BMH witeness statement included the following passage about Darcy: ‘Although his family lived in Glanmire, he spent a great deal of his time drinking in Fanny O’Grady’s [a well-known and upscale Cork city watering hole] and in the Imperial Hotel, and in actual fact slept a great deal of his time for several weeks at the Imperial Hotel, which was then the most expensive Cork hostelry. He constantly wore clerical garb [even though he had left the Alexian order in about November 1919]. The accepted Cork story in unofficial circles is that he conspired with [two other men] . . . to rob the Cork G.P.O., which stands beside the Imperial Hotel. It is alleged that they succeeded in stealing eight thousand pounds during curfew hours. . . . It is believed commonly that it was on the actual night of this robbery that Darcy was taken up by British troops and conveyed to Cork barracks, not because of this robbery but merely for being on the streets after curfew, and that he was shot dead while trying to esacpe from the lorry.’ See Eoin O’Mahony’s WS 1401, 4-5 (BMH).                                     

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