Civilian Theobald or Theophilus Nicholas Creber
Civilian Theobald or Theophilus Nicholas Creber (aged 25) of Carrigrohanebeg near Cork city (Kilcrenagh House near Blarney)
Date of incident: night of 19-20 Aug. 1923
Sources: CE, 21, 22, 23 Aug. 1923; FJ, 21 Aug. 1923; II, 21 Aug. 1923; Belfast Newsletter, 21, 22, 23 Aug. 1923; SS, 25 Aug. 1923; Inquests, CRT/2003/1 (1923), (Cork City and County Archives); Jus/H/5/925 (NAI); Murphy (2010), 205-6, 209, 249, Appendix 2, 338.
Note: Theobald Creber was shot in the heart and killed at or near Kerry Pike in the Blarney district on the night of 19-20 August 1923. Local people believed (wrongly) that he had been serving as a caretaker for the property of Ebenezer Pike, ‘the well-known railway and shipping director’, whose Big House—Kilcrenagh— had been ‘burned down during the Black and Tan regime’. The garden and grounds had reputedly been under Creber’s care. ‘During the night shots were fired and this morning [20 August 1923] his dead body was found with a bullet wound in the heart’ on the lawn at Kilcrenagh. Pike employed Creber’s family. It was stated that Creber ‘never took part in politics’. See FJ, 21 Aug. 1923. A death notice appearing in the Cork Examiner of 23 August 1923 gave the victim’s name as Nicholas James Creber (aged 25), only son of the late John Creber, and stated that his death from a shooting by ‘some unknown persons’ had occurred on Sunday night, 19 August 1923. See CE, 23 Aug. 1923.
At the inquest held at Kerry Pike the victim’s mother Susan Kreber mother identified the body of her son Theobald. She stated that he was 25 years old and unmarried. He was a labourer but ‘had not been working since last November, when he had a finger amputated owing to blood poisoning. He was not a caretaker for Mr Pike.’ She had last seen her son alive on Sunday afternoon, 19 August, when he had left to go to Twomey’s, the gardener’s, at Kilcrenagh. On Monday morning at 10 or 10:30 a.m. she had found his dead body on Pike’s lawn at Kilcrenagh. Her son had last worked for Mr Bass of Carrigrohane. She ‘could suggest no reason as to why her son had been shot’. Jeremiah Twomey, the Kilcrenagh gardener, testified that he had last seen the victim shortly before 9 p.m. on Sunday night, when Creber had left Twomey’s house to ensure that the visiting Mrs K. Looney (of Temple Lawn Lodge) got safely over Healy’s Bridge, which was broken. Twomey declared that ‘he did not know of anybody having any grudge against the deceased’. A doctor who had helped to carry out the postmortem examination indicated that the fatal .45 calibre revolver bullet had perforated the heart and punctured the right lung. His medical colleague suggested that the revolver shot had been fired at ‘fairly long range’, or else the bullet would have passed completely through the body. The coroner told the inquest jury: ‘There was no question of suicide—the man was obviously murdered. Whether he was shot by men who mistook him for someone else, or by men whom he might have caught in some illegal act, such as robbery, did not alter the fact [that they] could not come to any conclusion as to the motive on the evidence before them, but it was not necessary for them to do that.’ The jury ‘found that death was due to a revolver bullet wound in the heart, inflicted by some person or persons unknown, who were guilty of willful murder’. See CE, 22 Aug. 1923.
In the opinion of the local police it was possible that Creber had been killed by Irregulars on suspicion of conveying information to the Free State authorities, or that Creber had been mistaken for the Kilcrenagh gardener Jeremiah Twomey, for whom he did work and with whom he was friendly. Twomey was unpopular in the locality, and so too indeed was his employer Ebenezer Pike, a leading Cork Quaker businessman, who had been living in exile in England ever since the destruction of his Kilcrenagh mansion by the IRA in May 1921. Creber’s family was said to have had a long association with the Cork city Y.M.C.A. See Inquests, CRT/2003/1 (1923), (Cork City and County Archives); Police Report, 6 Oct. 1923, Jud/H/5/925 (NAI); Murphy (2010), 205-6, 209, 249, Appendix 2, 338.
Theophilus Nicholas Creber was in 1911 one of the three children of the agricultural labourer John Edward Creber and his wife Susannah. All three children (one son and two daughters), ranging in age from 2 to 13, co-resided with their parents in that year at house 8 in the townland and parish of Carrigrohanebeg near Cork city. Theophilus Creber (then aged 13) was the eldest child. His father John Edward Creber was the sexton of the Church of Ireland chapel at Carrigrohane