Civilian Charles (Seámus) O’Leary


Civilian Charles (Seámus) O’Leary (aged 16) of Derrycool near Bandon (Farnalough near Newcestown)

Date of incident: 4 Feb. 1923

Sources: Death Certificate (Murragh District, Union of Bandon), 4 Feb. 1923; CE, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 16 Feb., 5, 26 March 1923, 5 Feb. 1924; Evening Herald, 5 Feb. 1923; II, 6 Feb. 1923; SS, 10, 17 Feb. 1923; Keane (2017), 348-49, 421.


Note: Charles (Seámus) O’Leary was one of the two men killed outright when a ‘trigger mine’ exploded at Farnalough near Newcestown on Sunday, 4 February 1923. See the previous note.

The father of the mine-explosion victim Charles O’Leary was so disturbed by the report in the Cork Examiner of 5 February 1923 suggesting that his son (among others) was an Irregular that he directed the Bandon solicitor P. J. O’Driscoll to call the newspaper to account. This O’Driscoll did in a letter of 10 February to the editor of the Examiner: ‘I am instructed by Mr John O’Leary of Derrycool, Bandon, to say that the suggestion contained in that report [of 5 February] that his son Charles O’Leary, who was killed by a mine explosion on Sunday, the 4th inst[ant], at Newcestown, was a prisoner in military custody as a person who was suspected to be in active hostility to the government, and for that reason was compelled by the military, with other prisoners, to remove a road obstruction which they knew was mined, and so met his death, is entirely false. My client desires that the public should know that his son, who was only 16 1/2 years of age, never in his life had anything to do with the present political unrest, and instead of being in any way hostile to the government, his sympathies and those of his father were cordially in their favour. My client feels very much aggrieved that such a construction should be placed upon the occurrence which resulted in his son’s death. The true facts are that he was, when leaving the parish church at Newcestown, compelled with all the other young men of the congregation, regardless of their political views, to go and remove this mined road obstruction.’ See CE, 13 Feb. 1923.    

Free State troops traveling in a military lorry from Youghal to Midleton narrowly escaped with only slight injuries when another land mine exploded near Castlemartyr as they were passing on the night of 4 February 1923. See CE, 6 Feb. 1923. An official National Army report indicted that twenty land mines with apparatus were found in a cave at or near Fermoy about the same time. See CE, 8 Feb. 1923.

Charles O’Leary was in 1911 one of the five children of the Derrycool farmer John O’Leary and his wife Mary. All five of these children (four sons and a daughter), ranging in age from 1 to 8, co-resided with their parents at Derrycool near Bandon in that year. Charles O’Leary (then aged 6) was their second son. His father had two live-in male farm servants. 

Charles O’Leary’s death certificate of 4 February 1923 gave his age as 21, but his age in 1911 suggests that he was about 18 years old when killed. See Death Certificate (Murragh District, Union of Bandon), 4 Feb. 1923. As previously noted, however, his father insisted in the days immediately after his son’s tragic death in 1923 that he was only 16 ½ years old.

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