Civilian Michael Savage

Civilian Michael Savage (aged 33) of Glounthaune village (Killacloyne Bridge near Carrigtwohill)

Date of incident: 6 Feb. 1922

Sources: Death Certificate (Cork Urban District, Union of Cork), 8 Feb. 1922; FJ, 9 Feb. 1922; CWN, 25 Feb. 1922; Inquest Book No. 2, Midleton District (NAI); Military Inquests (WO 35/89, TNA); Military Inquests (WO 35/159A/3, TNA); Military Inquests (WO 35/163, TNA); McCarthy (2008), 171; Keane (2017), 282, 415.


Note: Michael Savage died at the Cork Military Hospital on 8 February 1922 from wounds inflicted at Killacloyne Bridge near Carrigtwohill two days earlier by a British military party. Colonel-Commandant H. W. Higginson was the officer in charge. At a subsequent military inquest it was asserted that Savage, a railway watchman, had been mortally wounded by crown forces in an exchange of fire between them and a party of armed civilians near Queenstown/Cobh. Savage was said to have been shot simultaneously by Lieutenant-Corporal French and Colonel-Commandant Higginson. See Military Inquests (WO 35/159A/3, TNA). A separate military record of the episode stated that Higginson and two other officers returning from Queenstown had been held up by two armed men at a broken-down railway bridge 2 miles west of Carrigtwohill. Shots had been exchanged and the armed civilians had run away. Michael Savage of Glounthaune had been severely wounded, but he was not believed to have been implicated in the episode. See Military Inquests (WO 35/89, TNA).

According to a detailed report in the Freeman’s Journal, Michael Savage left a widow and a seven-month-old infant. He had served throughout the Great War with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Killacloyne Bridge had been damaged during the War of Independence, and the railway company had recently commenced repairs. Savage was a resident of Glounthaune village and worked as a ‘milesman’ on the railway line. On the day of the incident he was scheduled to work as a watchman from 5:30 p.m. until 12 midnight. He was found wounded that evening at the foot of an embankment where railway materials were stored and where he performed his duties as watchman. The British forces maintained that they had been ambushed and that they had fired only in self-defence. See FJ, 9 Feb. 1922. See also Keane (2017), 282, 415. The military did not attend a local inquest, at which the coroner suggested that Savage was in no way connected with the ambush or holdup of the British military officers. See Inquest Book No. 2, Midleton District (NAI).

In his book Republican Cobh and the East Cork Volunteers since 1913, Kieran McCarthy suggests that Savage was hit by fire from a Lewis machine gun manned by an officer of a Cobh-based military party (probably Cameron Highlanders) when the gunner saw one of two railway workers running; the two workers were in fact seeking cover from the rain. In his account McCarthy identifies Savage as a local IRA Volunteer. See McCarthy (2008), 171. There does not seem to be support in contemporary documents for such an identification; indeed, clear and convincing evidence points in the opposite direction. 

Michael Savage was in 1911 one of the seven children of the labourer Jeremiah Savage and his wife Margaret. These seven children (five sons and two daughters), ranging in age from 3 to 23, co-resided in that year with their parents in house 4 in Ballycurreen townland near Carrigtwohill. Michael Savage (then aged 23) was their first son and eldest child. He was then a labourer like his father and two of his brothers.

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