Civilian Abina Murphy


Civilian Abina Murphy (aged about 34) of 1 St James’s Square (off St Mary’s Road), Cork (Gerald Griffin Street, Cork city) 

Date of incident: 18 Aug. 1923

Sources: Death Certificate (Cork Urban District No. 4, Union of Cork), 19 Aug. 1923; CE, 20, 21, 22, 25 Aug. 1923; FJ, 20, 21, 25 Aug. 1923; Ulster Herald, 25 Aug. 1923; Donegal News, 25 Aug. 1923; Murphy (2010), Appendix 2, 338; Keane (2017), 363, 423.


Note: Two small groups of armed men belonging to the anti-Treaty IRA attempted to shoot a former National soldier on the night of 18 August 1923. One of their gunshots struck and mortally wounded Miss Abina Murphy of 1 St James’s Square in the Blackpool district of Cork. The victim was a shirtmaker by occupation. She was shot while returning home—only a short distance from where she lived. The shooting took place on Gerald Griffin Street at about 10:45 p.m. Mrs Coughlan, a witness at the inquest, who lived at 25 Gerald Griffin Street and had just returned home herself, told the inquest jury how all of a sudden Abina Murphy came through her front door and exclaimed, ‘Oh! Mrs Coughlan, I am shot.’ See CE, 25 Aug. 1923. Another woman named Kathleen Deasy of Spangle Hill in Cork was seriously wounded in the throat in this incident but appears to have survived. A third civilian was only slightly wounded, and this man was not detained for treatment. See FJ, 20 Aug. 1923.

Abina Murphy died of her wounds at the North Infirmary on Sunday evening, 19 August. See Ulster Herald, 25 Aug. 1923; Donegal News, 25 Aug. 1923. The medical evidence from the postmortem examination (provided at the inquest) indicated that a bullet had entered the victim’s left buttock and traversed the bone of the lower part of the back, coming into contact with the backbone: ‘The flattening out of the bullet [after it hit the bone] produced the severe internal injuries. There were ten separate perforations in the intestine, and several of the large blood vessels were torn, causing internal haemorrhage. The cause of death was shock following the internal injuries.’ See CE, 25 Aug. 1923.

Abina Murphy was in 1901 one of the eight children of the widow Catherine Murphy of 11 Well Lane in Cork city. All eight of these children (four sons and four daughters), ranging in age from 8 to 20, co-resided with their mother in that year. Abina Murphy (then aged 13) was the third daughter. An older sister worked as a cotton weaver at a local factory. By the time of the 1911 census this family lived at 1 St James’s Square in Cork. The household was much reduced in size, with only two daughters (Abina and her younger sister Mary Kate) co-residing with their widowed mother Margaret and two boarders. Both Abina (now aged 22) and Mary Kate listed their occupations as ‘machinist’ for the census-taker. 

It seems that the intended victim of the attackers on 18 August 1923 was James Long of 302 Blarney Street, an ex-captain in the National Army who had resigned from the force at the end of June 1923. He told the inquest jury that as he was going to visit a friend living on Gerald Griffin Street, he spotted some suspicious-looking men who seemed to him to be lying in wait for him near the top of Hillgrove Lane and at the corner of the lane. He therefore approached two men at the corner with his long Webley revolver held behind his back, and when he reahed these men, he asked, ‘What’s the game?’ One of the two men then fired at him, but he sidestepped just in time to miss a bullet that appears to have been the one that struck Abina Murphy, whom Long had passed along the lane. Another small group of men fired five or six shots at him from the rear but failed to hit him. The two groups of shooters escaped, though James Long believed that he had wounded one of them while emptying his own revolver of a full round. See CE, 25 Aug. 1923. 

An official report on this incident was circulated by the National Army Publicity Department: ‘An officer of the National Army was passing along Gerald Griffin Street about 10:45 p.m. when one of a party of three civilians drew a revolver and fired at point-blank range. The officer, anticipating the occurrence, side-stepped and evaded the discharge from the weapon. His assailants immediately decamped, and the officer fired four shots at his attackers, wounding a man. At the same time another party of men opened fire from the rear, and two girls and a man were wounded.’ See FJ, 20 Aug. 1923.    

Abina Murphy was buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork city on 21 August 1923. ‘A large body of mourners followed the remains, which were carried on a motor-car.’ Murphy had been a member of the Irish Union of Distributive Workers and Clerks (Cork Branch), which formally expressed the condolences of its members to the bereaved relatives of their late comrade at a special meeting. See CE, 22 Aug. 1923.

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