Civilian Alexander Gerald McKinley

Civilian Alexander Gerald McKinley (aged 16) of Ballineen (Ballineen)

Date of incident: 28 April 1922

Sources: CCE, 29 April, 6 May 1922; CWN, 6 May 1922; MSP34/REF26441 (Military Archives); MSP34/REF52679 (Military Archives); Hart (1998), 273-92; Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 25-32. 


Note: Alexander Gerald McKinley was shot dead in bed in the village of Ballineen just after 1 a.m. on the morning of 28 April 1922. He was ‘staying in the house of his [grand] aunt, dressmaker Frances Peyton and her family, who subsequently slept out in their fields seeking safety. When they returned home, they were told to “clear out”, otherwise they would be murdered.’ See Bielenberg, Borgonovo, and Donnelly (2014), 27. See also CWN, 6 May 1922. ‘This young man, a native of the district, had been away for some years and returned about last July [1921].’ See CCE, 29 April 1922.

At the inquest his aunt Frances Arabella Peyton testified as follows: ‘The deceased was my grand nephew. He was 16 years of age last birthday. Last night [early on Friday morning, 28 April 1922] I heard shots down the street, and shortly after [that] there was a knock at the front door. It was to the best of my belief about half-past one [a.m.]. The deceased was not well during the [previous] evening. There was a second knock and I went upstairs to where the deceased was in bed, and told him there was a knock at the door, and he said to open it. I said I would not, but to have him dress himself. I came downstairs and went out the back door, and said to him to come on quickly. I opened the door and went out. There was a man outside who asked me where I was going. I am not sure if I answered. He ordered me back and told me to open the front door. I came in and opened the front door and asked the man who was standing outside it—was he going to shoot me, and he said, “No, I don’t shoot women.” I came in and went upstairs. The deceased had not stirred, and I called him again. I then came down again and went out in the yard, and after some time I went away to my sister’s house.’ A neighbor named Frances Harman testified: ‘I live in Ballineen and came to Miss Peyton’s residence at 6 a.m. that morning. One half of the door was open. I called [the] deceased and got no answer. I went upstairs, having a lamp in my hand. I found [the] deceased lying on his back in bed. He was quite dead. There was no sign of a struggle. There was a good deal of congealed blood about the clothes and on his face.’ See CCE, 6 May 1922.

Dr Eugene Fehily of Ballineen told the inquest jury: ‘I made a superficial examination of the body of [the] deceased. I saw 8 apparently bullet wounds—two in the right hand, one in the palm of the hand and the other two in the back. . . . There was a wound in the upper portion of the back near the spine. . . . There was a wound in the left front side of the neck that appeared to be an exit wound. There were two wounds near the left ear—one immediately in front and the other immediately beneath the left ear. . . . There was a wound immediately in front of the right ear. . . . There was a wound in the scalp on the right side just above the forehead; that was an exit wound. I            think there must be two bullets [still] in the body. The bullets that caused the last wound I described undoubtedly traversed the brain and caused immediate death of itself [sic].’ See CCE, 6 May 1922. 

In 1911 Gerald McKinley (then aged 5) resided in the household of his widowed great-grandmother Rebecca Peyton (then aged 80) at house 23 in Ballineen town. Living with them were Rebecca Peyton’s two unmarried daughters Frances Arabella Peyton and Elizabeth Peyton (aged 34 and 33 respectively). Frances Peyton was a dressmaker. She and her sister Elizabeth were Gerald McKinley’s grand aunts and were raising him. He had been born in Dublin. All four members of this family belonged to the Church of Ireland.

There may have been a connection between the Peytons of Ballineen and the Peytons of Dunmanway. In October 1926, Mrs Lucinda Letitia Peyton sought compensation from the Irish Grants Committee: ‘My claim is based on the loss of my husband, his business, and means of livelihood. We were Southern Irish Loyalists residing at Dunmanway, Co. Cork, where my husband [Francis or Frank Peyton] carried on business [as a general draper] for about forty years. It was at the end of April 1922 that my late husband and two sons had to take refuge in England for their own personal safety. One of the victims [chemist David Gray] at the time in Dunmanway being a near family friend, and it was only by the intervention of Providence that they were saved on that awful night. My late husband was threatened at various times previously that his business and home would be taken from him and was secretly advised to leave the district. He was always a loyal subject and upheld the British crown and constitution. My husband on various occasions refused to subscribe to the disloyal element on conscientious grounds and was held in ill-repute in consequence.’ Her husband and two sons fled to Lancashire on or about 1 May 1922. Her husband Frank Peyton committed suicide in February 1924. In a separate statement by a solicitor there was said to be ‘not the slightest doubt that Mr Peyton’s death by suicide was entirely due to the fear in which he lived and the treatment which had been meted out to him in Ireland. It is stated that the county coroner who conducted the inquest will support this statement. There was evidence that prior to suicide the deceased was mentally unbalanced and in constant fear and dread of being shot.’ See Application of Lucinda Letitia Peyton to Irish Grants Committee, 25 Oct. 1926 (CO 762/10/14, TNA).

Some further confirmation and explanation came about a year later from Dunmanway. In a letter dated 10 November 1926, the Rev. Arthur Wilson, the Protestant rector of Dunmanway, recalled: ‘The terrible events of the night of 26-27 April 1922 (when three Protestants were murdered by an armed gang and two more narrowly escaped death) intimidated the Protestant population, and many fled away to England, among them Mr [Frank] Peyton & his two sons, who left secretly by motor car two days after the murders and never returned to Dunmanway. The fact that one of the victims, Mr David Gray, was married to the sister of Mrs William Peyton intensified the terror as far as the Peyton family was concerned. And as Mr Gray was a very popular chemist, very kind & attentive to the poor, and no reason could be assigned for his murder, it was believed by many that a general massacre of Protestants was intended, and hence the panic ensued. Mr [Frank] Peyton never recovered from the shock to his nerves and died at St Anne’s on the Sea [in Lancashire] without making a will.’ See Application of Lucinda Letitia Peyton to Irish Grants Committee, 25 Oct. 1926 (CO 762/10/14, TNA). This file contains the Rev. Arthur Wilson’s letter of 10 November 1926.             

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