Civilian James Clarke

Civilian James Clarke (aged about 54) of Leemount House near Coachford (Rylane in Aghabulloge parish)

Date of incident: 17 Feb. 1921 (kidnapped, held hostage, executed, and disappeared as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 18 Feb. 1921; Irish Times, 18 Feb., 4, 15, 19 March, 5 April, 7 July, 30 July, 2, 5, 22 Aug. 1921; Record of the Activities of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, Florence O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31, 339 (NLI); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Pension Application of Frank Busteed, MSP34/REF4903 (Military Archives); Interview with Frank Busteed, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA); Denis Dwyer’s WS 713, 5-10 (BMH); Daniel McCarthy’s WS 1457, 6-8 (BMH); O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 121; O’Callaghan (1974), 157; Pyne Clarke (1986), 50; Sheehan (1990), 175-76; O’Farrell (1997), 55; Borgonovo (2007), 88, 104; T. Sheehan (2008); Kautt (2010), 125-29; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 156-60; http://www.tameside.gov.uk/museumsgalleries/mom/objectfocus/razor (17 Sept. 2015); http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/Timeline/Dripsey.htm (accessed 28 May 2016); Richard Murphy, ‘Ambush at Dripsey, 28 January 1921’, at http://www.inniscarra.org/styled/page83/dripsey_ambush.html (accessed 29 May 2016).        


Note: Chauffeur/butler James Clarke and Mrs Mary Lindsay were kidnapped on 17 February 1921 as suspected spies; they were subsequently tried by the IRA and sentenced to death for passing vital information to British forces in connection with the abortive Dripsey ambush of 28 January 1921. This would-be ambush ended in disaster for the large IRA party (about seventy men) and its leader Volunteer Captain Frank Busteed after Clarke’s female employer Mrs Lindsay tipped off British officers of the 1st Manchester Regiment at Ballincollig Military Barracks. Mary Lindsay had been driven to Ballincollig barracks by her chauffeur Clarke. After holding Clarke and Mrs Lindsay as hostages for almost a month, the IRA executed them together at Flagmount in the Rylane district on 14 March 1921 and secretly buried their bodies.  They were killed in reprisal for the executions (at Victoria Detention Barracks on 28 February) of five of the eight Volunteers captured at Dripsey and for the sentencing to death of a sixth Dripsey prisoner on 9 March.

Among her domestic employees, Mrs Lindsay had apparently dispensed with the services of her one-time coachman Daniel Sullivan at Leemount by 1921, and the butler Clarke was doubling as the family chauffeur. He was a native of County Down, like his male employer John Lindsay, and he was a Presbyterian. The name of James Clarke appears in the Compensation Commission Register under 5 March 1921, with the notation ‘British supporter’, and with a note that £200 was awarded. See Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA). It is very unlikely that Clarke was a spy or informer; his execution was attributable primarily to his association with Mrs Lindsay at the time of her abduction and then to the knowledge that he must have acquired of the identities of her captors and the location of their hiding places.

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,