Anti-Treaty Soldier John or Seán Dwyer


Anti-Treaty Soldier John or Seán Dwyer (aged about 21) of Crumpane near Castletownbere (Dromacappul near Kealkil)

Date of incident: 8 Dec. 1922

Sources: CE, 13, 18 Dec. 1922, 8 Dec. 1923; MSPC/DP3817 (Military Archives); Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story, 208; Last Post (1976), 101; Keane (2017), 337, 420; IRA Fifth Brigade Memorial, Bantry.


Note: John Dwyer died of gunshot wounds on 8 December 1922 while fighting with the anti-Treaty IRA near Kealkil in far West Cork. Large reinforcements of the National Army arrived by sea in Bantry Bay at night on 7 December and landed at different points in the region. One large contingent moved eastward early on the following morning towards Kealkil village. They ‘forced their way along over the deep valleys and hilly country and succeeded in occupying the village, which was for some time past in the occupation of the Irregular forces. . . . It is officially reported that an Irregular was killed in the course of the operations towards Kealkil village, which the National troops occupied in the afternoon. . . . The troops fought their way through the country, keeping up a running fight with Irregular outposts during the greater part of the way.’ See CE, 13 Dec. 1922.

A slightly later official report of National Army activities in the Bantry district after 7 December noted: ‘The column operating from Bantry got in touch with Irregulars at Dromlbrowe [Drombrow] wood. An attack was immediately launched, which lasted two hours, when the enemy retreated, leaving one dead with rifle and ammunition. The column then proceeded to Kealkil.’ See CE, 18 Dec. 1922.

During the War of Independence Dwyer served with the Eyeries Company of the Sixth Battalion of the Cork No. 3 Brigade, and during the Civil War with G Company of the Fifth Battalion of the Cork No. 5 Brigade. According to his pension file, he was killed in action against forces of the National Army at Dromacapppul near Kealkil on 8 December 1922. In civilian life he had assisted his father Michael on the family’s small holding at Crumpane and had worked for the Cork County Council for six months of the year. See MSPC/DP3817 (Military Archives). John Dwyer was buried in Castletownbere. See Last Post (1976 ed.), 101. He is commemorated on the memorial of the Cork No. 5 Brigade in the middle of Bantry.

The Eyeries branch of Cumann na mBan inserted an in memoriam notice for anti-Treaty IRA fighter Seán Dwyer (G Company, Fifth Battalion, Cork No. 5 Brigade) in the Cork Examiner of 8 December 1923, stating that he had been killed ‘at Kealkil’ on 8 December 1922. See CE, 8 Dec. 1923.

His father Michael Dwyer was eventually awarded a partial-dependant’s gratuity or allowance of £85 in 1936—some fourteen years after his son’s death. This award had been reduced from the sum of £112 10s. originally recommended by the Department of Defence. After the Department of Finance objected to the larger sum, the lower figure of £85 was adopted after negotiations between the two departments and after arbitration by Minister for Education Thomas Derrig. See MSPC/DP3817 (Military Archives).  

John Dwyer was in 1911 one of the seven living children (nine born) of the farmer Michael Dwyer and his wife Kate. These seven children (four daughters and three sons) all co-resided in that year with their parents at house 5 in Crumpane townland in the parish of Kilcatherine near Castletownbere. The children ranged in age from 3 months to 12 years old. John Dwyer (then aged 10) was the second son and third child. 

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