National Army Soldier (Captain) Denis or ‘Dinny’ Coakley


National Army Soldier (Captain) Denis or ‘Dinny’ Coakley (aged about 44) of Lissane near Drimoleague (Skibbereen) 

Date of incident: 6 Jan. 1923

Sources: CE, 11 Jan. 1923; II, 13 Jan. 1923; MSPC/3D199 (Military Archives); Keane (2017), 347, 421.


Note: Captain Denis Coakley died from service-related bronchitis (‘due to severe colds’) and asthma—leading to heart failure—in Skibbereen on 6 January 1923. See ‘Report on a Claim for an Allowance or Gratuity’, 25 March 1929, MSPC/3D199 (Military Archives). His death was said to have prompted ‘profound regret not alone amongst his comrades in arms but also amongst the general public, for the deceased and his family were well and favourably known throughout this wide district’. He was a native of Lissane near Drimoleague. His funeral Mass was said at the Pro-Catherdral in Skibbereen on 8 January 1923, followed by interment in the family burial ground at Drimoleague. The funeral cortege was reportedly ‘of immense proportions, [with] large parties of military being present’. See CE, 11 Jan. 1923.

A report submitted to the Army Penions Board in December 1928 by Major General Seosamn MacSuibhne contained much relevant detail about Denis Coakley’s overall military record: ‘The deceased was also a member of the Irish Volunteers and held the rank which would correspond with that of captain in the National Army. During his service in the Volunteers the deceased was very active and took part in numerous engagements with the enemy. He was on the run for a long period. This service would have necessitated his experiencing many hardships in the way of exposure, loss of rest, [and] lack of suitable food, clothing, and accommodation. His service was unbroken and during his period in the National Army he would have met with further hardship. He served in an area which was most disturbed and took part in almost continual opeations against the Irregulars.’ Another report indicated that Coakley had been active for six successive years in the Irish Volunteers and the National Army. See MSPC/3D199 (Military Archives).

Denis Coakley was in 1911 one of the four children (seven born) of the farmer and widower David Coakley (then aged 83). Three of these children—Michael (aged 36), Margret or Margaret (aged 30), and Denis (aged 33) co-resided with their very elderly father in that year in the townland of Lissane Lower in Bredagh parish near Drimoleague. Denis and Michael Coakley listed themselves as farmer’s sons for the census-taker. With Denis choosing political activism and the military life, it would have been Michael who inherited the family farm.

Captain Coakley had served with the Flying Column of the Fifth Cork Brigade in the National Army. He had joined up on 9 June 1922. His sister Margaret Coakley maintained in the relevant pension file that her deceased brother had served with the Irish Volunteers and then the IRA since 1917. In civilian life he had been a contractor with the Cork County Council and was for a time directly employed by the County Council in the repair of roads and bridges. He had lived with his sister Margaret in a cottage at Lissane. She suffered from at least some metal disability. He was about 44 years old at death. See MSPC/3D199.

In June 1929 Margaret Coakley was finally awarded a gratuity of £100 (to be paid in monthly installments of £3) under the 1927 Army Pensions Act in consideration of her brother Dinny’s death more than six years earlier. She had first applied for a gratuity or allowance on 28 February 1924. Her claim had initially been rejected in April 1924. Her renewed claim was finally approved in 1929 because the authorities were now satisfied that she had become ‘permanently incapacitated by ill-health as required by the 5th schedule to the Army Pensions Act [of] 1927’. She was belatedly regarded as deserving of the award of £100 because her brother Denis Coakley had died from a ‘disability incurred during service in the National Army’. The Army Pensions Board itself had determined that Denis Coakley’s death had been ‘due to disease attributable to service in the National Army’. See MSPC/3D199.

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