Civilian William Connell

Civilian William Connell (aged about 59) of Lissanoohig near Skibbereen (Lissanoohig)

Date of incident: 19 Feb. 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 21 Feb. 1921; FJ, 21 Feb. 1921; CWN, 26 Feb. 1921; CCE, 9 April, 14 May 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/148/11 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, Feb. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); Register of Compensation Commission (Ireland) Cases of Private Persons (CO 905/15, TNA); Application of Elizabeth Annie Connell to Irish Grants Committee (CO 762/151/12); Patrick O’Sullivan’s WS 1481, 8 (BMH); William Crowley’s WS 1502, 9 (BMH).


Note: A well-to-do Protestant farmer aged about 59, Connell was shot on the night of 19 February 1921 at Lissanoohig, about 3 miles from Skibbereen, in the presence of his wife by a party of undisguised armed men. Connell had been in Skibbereen on business and had been home for only a few minutes when the gunmen entered his house and riddled him with revolver fire; eight bullet wounds were found on his body. This execution too was carried out ‘by selected members of the Lisheen Company’ of the Schull Battalion of the West Cork Brigade. See William Crowley’s WS 1502, 9 (BMH). Like his neighbour Mathew Sweetnam, Connell was said to have given information to the authorities about collectors for the Brigade Arms Fund who had called on him for payment of the levy. In particular, Connell and Sweetnam were killed because they were thought to have given evidence against Florence McCarthy, a rural-district councilor, who had recently been sentenced to six months in jail for collecting money for the arms fund. See Patrick O’Sullivan’s WS 1481, 8 (BMH).

A police report for February 1921 recorded that Connell and Sweetnam had been murdered ‘for having given evidence at a court martial’. Rather than having furnished information on a regular basis to the RIC or the military, these two Protestant farmers seem to have been killed for what the IRA deemed a serious but singular offence that came on top of their general defiance of attempts by the IRA to impose its authority in that area. See RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork West Riding, Feb. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA).

The Lissanoohig farmer William Connell and his wife Elizabeth had been married for fifteen years by 1911. They were childless. They had three Catholic servants, one listed as a ‘general domestic servant’ and the other two as farm servants. The Connells belonged to the Church of Ireland. The close kinship of the prosperous Connells to the well-to-do Protestant Good family of Barryshall near Timolegue, two of whose members would also be killed as suspected spies (in March 1921), became clear as a result of a human-interest story published well after the deaths of all four victims in the County Cork Eagle in mid-May of that year. William Connell was the brother of Elizabeth Good, the wife and mother respectively of John and William Good of Barryshall, who would be shot dead in March. On the day in February that Connell and Sweetnam were buried, Connell’s sister Mrs Good attended the funeral of her brother and afterwards took his dog under her care and carried the animal with her “for safekeeping” when she returned by train from Skibbereen to Timoleague. The dog, however, ‘soon displayed an aversion to his new home, from which he disappeared last week [early in May], and was not seen again until he walked into his late master’s farmyard [at Lissanoohig] . . . , having covered the 30 miles distance alone’. See CCE, 14 May 1921. [Thanks to Jean Prendergast for this reference.] 

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