Civilian Robert Robertson Nagle

Civilian Robert Robertson Nagle (aged 16½) of MacCurtain Hill, Clonakilty (Clonakilty)

Date of incident: 27 April 1922

Sources: SS, 29 April 1922; CCE, 29 April 1922; ‘IRA Intelligence Reports on Civilians Accused of Giving Information to and Associating with British Forces during War of Independence in Counties Cork, Kerry, Waterford, and Limerick’, ca. 1921 (A/o 897, Lot 4, Military Archives); Application of Thomas Nagle to Irish Grants Committee, 1 Dec. 1926 (CO 762/3/6, TNA); Hart (1998), 273-92; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 25-32; Keane (2014), 143-73; Keane (2017), 85-89, 285.


Note: ‘Late on Thursday night [27 April 1922] armed men entered the residence of Thomas Nagle, McCurtain Hill, Clonakilty, and shot dead one of his sons (Robert). He was about 18 years old and employed at the Post Office. The father is a summons and process server, sheriff’s officer, and caretaker of the Masonic Lodge, Kent Street, Clonakilty, which was subsequently burned.’ See SS, 29 April 1922. The equivalent report in the Cork County Eagle stated that the Masonic Lodge on Kent Street, of which Thomas Nagle (father of the victim) was the caretaker, ‘was burned some time ago’, and not right after the killing of young Robert Nagle. In this report Robert Nagle was said to have been ‘the last to go down by the bullets of the raiders, who appear to have been relentless in carrying out their terrible purpose. Later accounts from the district state that other houses, too, were visited and inquiries made for certain of the occupants, who were, however, by one subterfuge or another, fortunate enough to get to a place of safety.’ See CCE, 29 April 1922.

The primary target of the IRA in this attack was Robert Nagle’s father Thomas Nagle, but by hiding behind a cupboard, he escaped the gunmen. ‘IRA records from 1921 list Thomas Nagle as a suspected informer; one such report indicted that “the police were visiting the house frequently”.’ See ‘IRA Intelligence Reports on [Accused] Civilians’, ca. 1921 (A/o 897, Lot 4, Military Archives). ‘Thomas Nagle was a process server and a “sheriff’s officer” as well as the secretary and caretaker of the Clonakilty Masonic Lodge. . . . The Cork No. 3 Brigade had listed that specific lodge as an “enemy institution” in July 1921. It was one of only two Freemason institutions so classified in County Cork; the other, in Bandon, was also located in the Cork No. 3 Brigade area. The Clonakilty lodge was burned down shortly after Nagle’s death. Robert Nagle had also worked at the local post office, which was a concern of IRA intelligence and possibly factored into his assassination.’ See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 31.

The primary IRA target Thomas Nagle Sr later provided a detailed description of events that night and an account of his various professional and commercial duties and of his flight to England in the aftermath of his son Robert’s murder: ‘On the night of April 27th, 1922, three armed and masked men entered my private dwelling house at Clonakilty, Co. Cork, and asked for me. They searched the whole house, but I escaped them by hiding behind a cupboard. They then entered my sons’ room and shot dead the eldest of the boys, Robert Nagle, aged 16½ years. They then left the house, threatening to return. Early the next morning I left the house secretly and escaped to England, where I have since remained. I had previously received threatening letters. I had lived all my life in Clonakilty, serving for many years as a Civil Bill Officer at a salary and fees of £40 per annum; sheriff’s officer at £20 p.a. and fees £30; and court keeper [at] £10 and summons officer at £10. I had also a general and green-grocery business which was worth £52 and an agency for Messrs Hillier & Co., Jewelers of Cork, worth £52 a year. My total earnings were therefore upwards of £210 per annum. I had no savings, having spent all my earnings in bringing up my thirteen children. 

Thomas Nagle Sr then added about his deceased son: ‘Robert Nagle . . . was employed as a Post Office messenger.’ Of his own and his family’s politics the father declared: ‘I and my family have always been Protestants and loyalists. . . . Three of my sons were employed in the British Post Office, and before shooting my son Robert, the [armed and masked] men made him admit that he was a Post Office employe[e]. Three of my sons served in the British army, the others being under age. I was a Freemason, and on the very morning of the murder [of Robert Nagle] and of the attempted murder [of myself], [I] had assisted in removing the regalia and silver from the Masonic Hall to a place of safety.’

Thomas Nagle itemised his estimated total losses for the Irish Grants Committee at £2,236. This sum included £500 for the shooting of his son Robert—in addition to £250 previously awarded to him on that account by the Personal Injuries Commission under Justice Johnston in Dublin. Apart from that £250, Nagle bitterly complained that his application for compensation had been ‘ignored by the Free State government’. At the time of writing on 1 December 1926, Thomas Nagle claimed to be ‘totally dependent’ on three sons who were then employed by the London Postal Service. See Application of Thomas Nagle to Irish Grants Committee, 1 Dec. 1926 (CO 762/3/6, TNA).       

Robert Nagle was in 1911 one of the twelve children of Thomas Nagle Sr (then a bootmaker) and his wife Marian. Nine of these twelve children (all sons) co-resided with their parents in that year at house 38 in Barrack Street in Clonakilty. These nine sons ranged in age from 2 to 17. Robert Nagle (then aged 5) was the seventh of these nine sons. His elder brother Thomas Jr (then aged 15) was employed as a railway porter, but all of his other co-resident brothers were still in school. All members of the Nagle family were adherents of the Church of Ireland.   

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