National Army Soldier (Corporal) John F. Cronin
National Army Soldier (Corporal) John F. Cronin (aged about 19) of 5 Charleville Cottages, Alexandra Road, Cork (Rathduff near Cork city)
Date of incident: 14 Nov. 1922
Sources: Death Certificate (Blarney District, Union of Cork), 14 Nov. 1922; CE, 16, 17, 18 Nov. 1922, 14 Nov. 1923; SS, 18 Nov. 1922; MSPC/2D299 (Military Archives); Keane (2017), 325, 419.
Note: Corporal John Cronin was killed accidentally on 14 November 1922 while posted with Free State forces at Rathduff railway station near Cork city. He was a member of the Labour and Maintenance Corps (also known as the Railway Corps) of the National Army. He and his comrades had just beaten off an attack on their post at Rathduff by Irregulars and had returned to billets and to a so-called waiting room. As one comrade was unloading his rifle with the tragically mistaken thought that the magazine was empty, he pressed the trigger and fired the single bullet that was left in the breach. This bullet hit Cronin in the body and killed him almost immediately, according to a subsequent court of military inquiry. John Cronin’s father accepted at the inquiry that the comrade who had shot his son was free of any blame. CE, 18 Nov. 1922. According to his death notice in the Cork Examiner, John F. Cronin had served with the Leinster Regiment of the British army during the Great War. See CE, 16 Nov. 1922.
In civilian life Cronin had worked for the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. (His father too was a railway-man.) When the father lost his job, his son John had joined the Labour and Maintenance Corps. At the time of his death he and his comrades were posted at Rathduff railway station as a protective force. Immediately before and after Cronin’s death these soldiers had come under fire from Irregulars. In fact, while some of them were in the middle of saying the Rosary beside Cronin’s dead body, the Irregulars ‘again came on the scene, and all the party had to go out to reply to their fire’. See CE, 18 Nov. 1922.
A party of National Army troops returning from attending Cronin’s funeral at Rathcooney on 16 November 1922 was attacked by Irregulars near the village of Ballyvolane, just outside Cork city: ‘The attackers swept the road with bullets, and several of the soldiers were temporarily put out of action, Volunteer Michael Carey being wounded in the head, and Corporal White in the thigh, while the officer in charge of the party was slightly injured. . . . The wounded soldiers were removed to the Mercy Hospital, where all three are detained for treatment.’ See CE, 17 Nov. 1922.
John F. Cronin was in 1911 one of the two children (three born) of the Cork city railway porter Cornelius Cronin and his wife Flora. John Cronin (then aged 8) had an older sister named Mary (aged 9). They all resided at house 5 in the Charleville Cottages on Alexander Road in Cork.
Corporal Cronin’s mother Flora was awarded a gratuity of £50 in July 1924. It emerged during the processing of her application that her deceased son had served in the British army as a lance corporal before joining the National Army. Her husband was an unemployed railway worker, according to the Civic Guard report of 3 April in that year. MSPC/2D299 (Military Archives).