Anti-Treaty Soldier William Healy


Anti-Treaty Soldier William Healy (age about 21) of Lackabane near Donoughmore and 52 Dublin Street, Blackpool, Cork (Cork Jail/Cork Male Prison, Cork city)

Date of incident: 13 March 1923

Sources: CE, 10, 14, 15 March 1923, 28 Feb. 1924; Connacht Tribune, 17 March 1923; Derry People, 17 March 1923; Donegal News, 17 March 1923; Fermanagh Herald, 17 March 1923; Leitrim Obsever, 17 March 1923; Death Certificate (Cork Rural District No. 1, Union of Cork), registered 27 March 1923; MSPC/DP4295 (Military Archives); List of IRA Interments (Boole Library, UCC); Macardle (1937, 1968), 914; Cork One Brigade (1963), Roll of Honour; Last Post (1976 ed.), 106; Boyne (2015), 200; Keane (2017), 352-53, 422; http://www.independent.ie/regionals/corkman/news/the-last-man-to-be-executed-at-cork-gaol-honoured-29290339.html (accessed 30 July 2017); Creedon, O’Brien, and Healy Memorial, Donoughmore, Co. Cork, http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/pdf/408.pdf (accessed 5 Aug. 2017); http://irishvolunteers.org/ira-1-cork-brigadedonoughmore-cemetery-co-cork/ (accessed 3 Feb. 2018).


Note: The execution of William Healy in the Cork Male Prison at 8 a.m. on 13 March 1923 was one of seven executions carried out that day by the Free State government in Dublin, Wexford, Mullingar, and Cork. Healy had been arrested with arms during a recent attack on a house in Blarney Street in Cork city. See CE, 14 March 1923. The members of Cork Corporation voted to adjourn their meeting on 14 March in protest over Healy’s execution. See CE, 15 March 1923. According to a later pension claim, both of Healy’s arms had been broken and he had received several wounds to his body on 8 March 1923 while engaged in active IRA service in Cork city. See MSPC/DP4295 (Military Archives).

Since William Healy was the last person to be executed in Cork Jail and has been the subject of commemoration activities, especially by members of the Captain Kennefick Memorial Committee, much is known about him. He was born at Lackabane in Donoughmore (or Donaghmore) parish in 1901 (baptised 1 July 1901). He came from farming stock and was ninth in a family of twelve children. He attended Firmount National School but moved to Cork city at the age of 18 and worked as an agricultural labourer for a cattle exporter in Blackpool. He joined the Volunteers in 1918, serving with E Company of the First Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade. Among the numerous Volunteer actions in which he took part were the attacks on Blarney RIC barracks and on one of the RIC barracks in Cork city in 1921. He took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. See http://www.independent.ie/regionals/corkman/news/the-last-man-to-be-executed-at-cork-gaol-honoured-29290339.html (accessed 30 July 2017).

Healy was captured under extraordinary circumstances, according to a report sent from the 10th Infantry Battalion and dated 8 March 1923: ‘A party of armed men entered the house of Mrs Powell [Mary Collins Powell], Mount Nebo, Sunday’s Well, [Cork city], and proceeded to saturate it with petrol and set it alight. Commandant Scott and another officer arrived on the scene on a visit to Mrs Powell [sister of the late General Michael Collins]. The raiders opened fire on them, wounding Comdt. Scott in the arm. Comdt. Scott’s escort replied to the fire and [the] raiders got away. One man was believed wounded. In a search later one of the raiders was [found] hidden in the grounds, and near him was a short Webley revolver containing six rounds, two of which were spent. His name is William Healy, late of Donoughmore; his present address [is] 52 Dublin Street, Blackpool. The arrival of Cmdt. Scott and [his] party saved the house from destruction. Comdt. Scott lies at present in the Mercy Hospital and is not in a serious condition.’ See CE, 10 March 1923.  

William Healy was quickly court-martialed on 12 March on a series of charges: attempting to burn the house of Mrs Powell; conspiring to murder Commandant P. D. Scott of the 10th Infantry Battalion (Cork); conspiring to damage and destroy property by fire; and aiding and abetting an attack on National forces. After convicting him of these charges, the military court sentenced him to be executed by firing squad. On the day before his execution he sent a letter to his father that included the following passage: ‘If I had told on one of the boys, I would not be executed, but, as you know, I would not have it said that there was a spy in our family, because, as you know, I was out for a Republic and I sincerely hope it will be got some day.’ In the letter Healy forgave the firing party in advance and encouraged other anti-Treatyites facing execution to do likewise. Healy was initially interred in the grounds of Cork Jail, but his remains were given to his relatives in 1924. See Corkman, 23 May 2013, http://www.independent.ie/regionals/corkman/news/the-last-man-to-be-executed-at-cork-gaol-honoured-29290339.html (accessed 30 July 2017). His remains were then reinterred in the Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. See Last Post (1976 ed.), 106.

William Healy, a Donoughmore-area native, is commemorated on a substantial IRA memorial at Donoughmore along with two other IRA members, Denis Creedon and John O’Brien. Healy is also commemorated on a smaller memorial by the roadside at Donoughmore, which gives his date of death as 13 March 1923. Under this date his name appears again on the IRA memorial at UCC on the former grounds of Cork Jail. See Creedon, O’Brien, and Healy Memorial, Donoughmore, Co. Cork, http://www.irishwarmemorials.ie/pdf/408.pdf (accessed 5 Aug. 2017).

William Healy’s father Maurice was awarded a partial-dependant’s allowance or gratuity of £112 10s. in 1934 under the Army Pensions Acts. His sister Madge Healy’s application for an allowance was unsuccessful. See MSPC/4295 (Military Archives).

William Healy was in 1911 one of the twelve children of the Lackabane farmer and widower Maurice Healy (aged 50). All twelve of these children (nine sons and three daughters) co-resided with their father at Lackabane in that year. The children ranged in age from 4 to 21. William or Willie Healy, the sixth son, was then 9 years old. What caused the death of his mother is unknown, but she may have died in childbirth.

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