Civilian (ex-Soldier) William Dalton

William Dalton, ex-soldier (aged 24), of 2 Dryden Place, Ballinlough Road, Cork city (probably Glounthaune near Cork city)

Date of incident: June 1922 (executed as suspected spy by IRA and disappeared)

Sources: IRA Pension Claim of Charles Cullinane (MSPC 34/REF 59839); IRA Pension Claim of Peter O’Donovan (MSPC 34/REF 29066); Brigade Activity Report (MSPC/A/1(D)2 [Military Archives]); Gerard Murphy (2011), 349, appendix x; Pension Record Card Ledgers, REF No. 13/MD/3462 (Ancestry.com Record).


Note: William Dalton (born in 1898) served as a private with the Royal Army Service Corps during the Great War. He was discharged from the British army on 25 November 1919, and a pension-record card indicates that he was suffering from neurasthenia (possibly resulting from shell-shock during his military service); the dates cited in the left-hand column of this pension-record card imply that he was still alive until the end of the Truce period, when the entries cease. See Pension Record Card Ledgers, REF No. 13/MD/3462 (Ancestry.com Record).

It is likely that he and his younger brother David were the persons W. Dalton and D. Dalton listed as members of the Cork city YMCA in 1920-21. See Murphy (2010), 349, appendix x. William Dalton had been involved as a boy with his brother in the St Nicholas Church of Ireland Lads’ Brigade, in which camping was a likely activity.  

According to family memory, William Dalton went missing in 1922 after going on a camping trip to Crosshaven or Myrtleville. The family suspected at the time that Dalton had been ‘disappeared’. It was certainly a highly dangerous time to go camping, and this outing might have created unwelcome attention, especially if his status as an ex-soldier became apparent; his neurasthenia may also have made him vulnerable in public contexts. Moreover, the YMCA was also an organisation about which the IRA had particular suspicions at this point.

It is possible that William Dalton was one of the ‘victims’ mentioned as executed in the IRA pension application of Charles Cullinane, an intelligence officer of the Knockraha Company commanded by Martin Corry. (Cullinane had earlier belonged to the Riverstown-Glounthaune Company.) In a letter of July 1942 listing his past IRA activities for a pension referee, Cullinane provided the following details about one set of actions: ‘Execution & guarding of two victims brought from Cork [city] by Crofts, Molyneaux, Peter Donovan & Co.—one was Head Constable Williams, ex-Cork RIC, captured in Tullamore or somewhere [else], the other was a small rat of a fellow, spying in Cork pre-Truce but only captured (in Crosshaven in a tent?) during [the] Truce.’ See Charles Cullinane to Referee, Military Service Pensions Board, 14 July 1942, in IRA Pension Claim of Charles Cullinane (MSPC 34/REF 59839). Peter O’Donovan was a member of C Company in the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, and during the Truce period, according to his pension claim, he worked full-time with the Cork city Active Service Unit. See IRA Pension Claim of Peter O’Donovan (MSPC 34/REF 29066). T. J. Molyneaux was a member of D Company in the Second Battalion. See Brigade Activity Report (MSPC/A/1(D)2 [Military Archives]). Thus both of these IRA men were concerned with the actions of the Second Battalion on the south side of the city. Tom Crofts described himself as the brigade intelligence officer for the Truce period.  

It remains unclear why William Dalton was abducted and killed by the IRA, and the precise timing also remains uncertain. The potential link between family memory of his disappearance during a camping trip and Cullinane’s evidence of a person picked up from a tent constitutes the limited evidence that has thus far surfaced on this case. Cullinane’s statement suggests that Dalton was executed late in the Truce period, which was some months after two Protestant teenagers—William Parsons and Thomas Roycroft (Roycroft too was listed as a YMCA member)—were also disappeared by the IRA and lived only a few streets away in the same neighbourhood on the south side of the city. If Dalton was the second victim mentioned by Cullinane, he was killed and buried at Martin Corry’s farm at Glounthaune. But a degree of mystery still surrounds this particular case, which should therefore be viewed with caution.

William Dalton in 1911 lived with his family at 15 Carragh Road near Turner’s Cross in Cork city. All members of the Dalton family were adherents of the Church of Ireland. We wish to thank Clifford Sweetnam for information on the Dalton family and family memory.   

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,