National Army Soldier John W. (Bernard) Winsley


National Army Soldier John W. (Bernard) Winsley (aged 30) of 4 Market Avenue, Cork (Cork County Male Prison, Cork city)

Date of incident: 1 Sept. 1922

Sources: Death Certificate (Cork Rural District No. 2, Union of Cork), 1 Sept. 1922 (registered 8 Sept. 1922); CE, 2 Sept. 1922; O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 225; Boyne (2015), 177-78.


Note: Private John W. (Bernard) Winsley of the National Army (aged 30 and married) was executed in the Cork County Male Prison on 1 September 1922, according to Colonel Commandant Byrne. See Death Certificate (Cork Rural District No. 2, Union of Cork), 1 Sept. 1922. A death notice for Winsley appeared in the Cork Examiner of 2 September 1922. The notice stated that he had died on 1 September. He was a son of the late John Winsley, a chimney cleaner. There is evidence that prior to joining the National Army, Winsley had served with various units of the British army, including the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Garrison Artillery, and the Royal Engineers. See CE, 2 Sept. 1922.

‘“In a chilling sentence [in a letter dated 2 September 1922 to Defence Minister Richard Mulcahy], [General Emmet] Dalton also indicated that one of his men had been executed for treachery, showing a ruthlessness on the part of the Cork Command towards anyone colluding with the enemy. “One of our reserves was caught handing over ammunition to the Irregulars,” Dalton explained. “He was court martialled and shot and buried in the prison.” Little is known about this episode, and details are unavailable about the court martial or who presided over it—Dalton had been away in Dublin for some days following the death of Collins. There are indications that the executed soldier was Private John W. Winsley, also known as Bernard Winsley, a native of Cork city who had previously served in the British Army. It is likely he was one of the ex-servicemen who joined the National Army after Dalton’s forces took over Cork. Winsley’s name does not figure in the well-known list of seventy-seven anti-Treaty republicans executed by the Free State during the Civil War. Bernard Winsley is recorded by Padraic O’Farrell in his “who’s who” reference book on the revolutionary period as having been executed at Cork County Prison in September 1922. His remains were later exhumed, presumably for return to his family. On being informed of the execution, General Mulcahy wrote back to Dalton: “‘I note your action with regard to the man caught handing over ammunition to Irregulars, and I approve.’” See Boyne (2015), 177-78.     

In the 1911 census John Bernard Winsley appeared as a resident of 2 Grafton Street in Cork city. He told the census-taker that he was a chimney cleaner (like his deceased father). He gave his age in 1911 as 19. His mother Susan Winsley was described in the census as a widow. 

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