National Army Soldier Richard Kearns


National Army Soldier Richard Kearns (aged 26) of 80 Wolfe Tone Street, Cork (near Watergrasshill)

Date of incident: 1 Sept. 1922

Sources: CE, 2, 6, 7, 9 Sept. 1922; Death Certificate (Cork Urban District No. 6, Union of Cork), 5 Sept. 1922; MSPC/2D80 (Military Archives); O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 206; Keane (2017), 301, 417; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 5 July 2017).


Note: Private Richard Kearns was seriously wounded in the head when a party of National Army Soldiers travelling in two cars were ambushed by Irregulars near Watergrasshill on 1 September 1922. They had gone there to inspect a burnt-out Crossley tender destroyed in a land-mine explosion two days earlier in which National Army soldier Albert Cottle had been killed and three of his comrades wounded. Kearns was the driver of one of the cars on this second occasion near the site of the first ambush. See CE, 2 Sept. 1922. He died of his wounds on 5 September at the Mercy Hospital in Cork city amid much public attention. See CE, 6, 7, 9 Sept. 1922. Free State solder Private Nicholas Ward was fatally wounded in this same ambush.

A death notice for Richard Kearns appeared in the Cork Examiner of 6 September. The notice told the public of ‘the inexpressible grief of his sorrowing wife and children, father, mother, sister, and brothers’. The funeral took place on 7 September, with interment in St Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork city. See CE, 6 Sept. 1922. A photograph of the funeral procession of Richard Kearns (with military honours) on the South Mall in Cork appeared in the Cork Examiner on 9 September. 

A driver attached to the Mechanical Transport Corps, Private Kearns had joined the National Army early in August 1922. His wife later claimed that Kearns had driven the car that had carried the body of the Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins back from Beal na Blath to Cork city after his death on 22 August. It is unclear from his pension file whether Kearns was actually present during the incident that led to Collins’s death.

Prior to joining the National Army, Kearns had served in the British army (with the Dublin Fusiliers) for some time until 31 March 1919. He left a wife and two children. At his death his two children were very young—an infant daughter named Mary under the age of 1 and a son named Patrick aged 2. His widow received a weekly dependant’s allowance of £2 5s. 6d. from 18 August 1922 to 9 February 1924. Soon after the latter date the Army Pensions Board recommended the following allowances: 17s. 6d. per week for the widow Mary Kearns; 5s. per week for her son Patrick Kearns; and 3s. 6d. per week for her daughter Mary Kearns. These allowances were apparently confirmed and paid. They amounted to much less, even in combination, than the earlier dependant’s allowance. See MSPC/2D80 (Military Archives).

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