Civilian Jeremiah Holland


Civilian Jeremiah Holland (aged about 35) of Mawmore West near Bandon (Coolcower or Coolcour Bridge near Macroom)

Date of incident: night of 2-3 Sept. 1923

Sources: CE, 4, 5, 14 Sept. 1923; FJ, 4 Sept. 1923; II, 4 Sept. 1923.


Note: Coroner Richard Neville conducted an inquest on Tuesday, 4 September 1923, into the death of Jeremiah Holland of Mawmore near Bandon, who had been the victim of a major road accident at Coolcower Bridge (also spelled Coolcour Bridge) on Sunday night, 2 September 1923. (According to several accounts, however, the accident occurred shortly after midnight, i.e., in the first hour of Monday, 3 September 1923.) Cornelius Daly of Coolcower, who lived near the bridge, testified that he had heard the crash and rushed to the scene: ‘He heard the motor-car crashing through the bridge a quarter of a mile away. He jumped out of bed and went to the door. There he heard the screams of the women. He put on his clothes and rushed out, calling at Kelleher’s and Leary’s cottages for help. He went round the bridge and approached the car from the far side. The four wheels were up and the lamps were alight. A woman had hold of the deceased man, trying to keep his head out of the water. Witness [Daly] saw another man standing dazed, with his face all blood[y]. On looking around, he saw a woman with the frame of the hood on her, and she appeared to be dead. She was lying face upwards. On getting help, he got the two from under the car. . . . There was another woman, whom [the] witness did not see, crouching beside the buttress of the bridge. On getting to town, he sent one messenger for Dr J[eremiah] Kelleher and went for Fr. [John] Hartnett himself.’ The condition of Coolcower Bridge was reportedly very bad. Along with many other bridges, it had been at least partly destroyed earlier by the anti-Treaty IRA. Another nearby bridge at Ballytrasna was in even worse condition: ‘There is barely the width of a car on the repaired part of that bridge.’ When Dr Kelleher arrived at Coolcower Bridge from Macroom, he found Jeremiah Holland to be dead. His wounds were on the forehead and the lower jaw; his artificial teeth had been knocked out of his mouth. Kelleher removed a piece of the upper plate of Holland’s artificial teeth from his throat; Kelleher gave it as his opinion that the victim’s death ‘was caused by choking from the presence of the foreign body in his throat. All the others seemed to be suffering from concussion and were badly injured.’ Mrs Holland, who was within two months of giving birth, was sent to the Mercy Hospital in Cork city along with four other victims who had survived the accident. See CE, 5 Sept. 1923.

The travelling party had been returning home through Macroom from a visit to Killarney. The accident occurred at a ruined bridge about 2 miles outside Macroom. Besides Jeremiah Holland and his wife, the passengers included three female relatives (two sisters and a sister-in-law) and the driver Jeremiah Mahony. The driver missed the temporary causeway at Coolcower Bridge and plunged the car with its five passengers into the River Lee. ‘Approaching the bridge from Macroom there is a sharp turn on the road, then a gentle rise on to the bridge, followed by a sharp sag, where the explosives had done their fell work, but where a temporary causeway had been constructed for the public convenience. There is nothing whatever to indicate to a stranger travelling at night that a breach exits, and one wonders why accidents have not been more frequent, or why the responsible public bodies are so unmindful of their obligations to the public.’ See CE, 4 Sept. 1923. See also FJ, 4 Sept. 1923.  

The editor of the Cork Examiner was highly critical of the Cork County Council in the wake of this accident: ‘It is now twelve months since the irregularrs, in pursuit of a policy of destruction, blew up bridges, which, to use a hackneyed phase, could be of no military importance. The government pressed upon the public bodies the necessity of restoring these bridges as soon as possible. The County and Rural Councils cannot be accused of undue haste or rashness in this matter. They evaded their clear duty for months on the plea they had no guarantee the bridges would not be blown up again. . . . Had the work of restoring the bridges been prosecuted with reasonable energy, the tragedy of Coolcower would be impossible. Every bridge in the county should be fully restored by this time.’ See CE, 5 Sept. 1923. The members of the Cork County Council later passed a motion of condolence for the relatives of Jeremiah Holland, but at the same meeting they again deferred action on bridge rebuilding ‘for a fortnight, [with] the County Surveyors to bring up a report on the different bridges’. See CE, 14 Sept. 1923.

In 1901 Jeremiah Holland (then aged 13) was one of the seven children of the farmer Timothy Holland and his wife Hanora. These seven children (four daughters and three sons, ranging in age from 11 to 26) co-resided with their parents at house 1 in the townland of Mawmore West in Kilbrogan parish near Bandon. Jeremiah Holland was the youngest of the three sons; he had three older sisters and one younger one.

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