National Army Soldier Michael O’Brien


National Army Soldier Michael O’Brien (aged about 25) of Kilmona in Grenagh parish near Blarney (Cork city)

Date of incident: 2 April 1923

Sources: CE, 3, 4, 5, 6 April 1923, 2 April 1924; FJ, 4 April 1923; MSPC/3D56 (Military Archives); General Weekly Return of the Cork Command of the National Army for 7 April 1923, CW/OPS/04/05 (Military Archives); O’Mahony (1986), 107; Keane (2017), 356, 422; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 2 Aug. 2017).


Note: Private Michael O’Brien was mortally wounded in a double bomb attack on the night of 2 April 1923 (Easter Monday night) by four armed men riding bicycles who hurled bombs at Free State sentries who were guarding the Cork Electric Power House (Albert Road Power Station) and the Cork, Blackrock, and Passage Railway station. The explosions were ‘almost simultaneous’. Another soldier and a girl were slightly wounded in the incidents. Two youths aged about 16 or 17 years old were taken into custody in connection with these explosions. See CE, 3 April 1923.

O’Brien was a member of the Railway Protection and Maintenance Corps of the National Army, and he was stationed at the post guarding the Cork, Blackrock, and Passage Railway station in Cork city on the night of the attacks. About a dozen other unarmed military men were standing near him around the door of the station; only the sentry at the nearby gate was armed. See CE, 6 April 1923. Badly wounded in the left side of his body, O’Brien died at the Mercy Hospital on 3 April 1923, less than ten hours after admission. The third son of Thomas O’Brien of Kilmona, he was interred at Grenagh on 4 April. See CE, 4 April 1923. A subsequent court of military inquiry concluded that O’Brien had died from a wound ‘caused by a splinter of a bomb thrown by persons in armed opposition to the present government, and that such persons were guilty of wilful murder’. See CE, 6 April 1923.

Michael O’Brien was in 1911 one of the eight children of the ‘plate layer’ Thomas O’Brien and his wife Nora. Six of these eight children (three daughters and three sons) co-resided with their parents in that year at house 15 in Kilmona townland in Grenagh parish near Blarney. The six co-residing children ranged in age from 3 to 17. Michael O’Brien (then aged 12) was in the middle of the three sons still living at home, but he apparently had two older brothers, one of whom was not recorded in the 1911 census.

It is not surprising that Michael O’Brien decided to serve with the Railway Protection and Maintenance Corps of the National Army. In civilian life he had been employed by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. His elderly father Thomas O’Brien was awarded a gratuity of £80 by the Army Pensions Board in consideration of the death of his third son Michael. See MSPC/3D56 (Military Archives).    

The Irish Revolution Project

Scoil na Staire /Tíreolaíocht

University College Cork, Cork,