Anti-Treaty Soldier (Lieutenant) George Bourke or Burke


Anti-Treaty Soldier (Lieutenant) George Bourke or Burke (aged about 29) of 93 Bandon Road, Cork (South Infirmary, Cork city)

Date of incident: 22 Dec. 1923

Sources: CE, 24 Dec. 1923; II, 25-27 Dec. 1923 (single issue); MSPC/DP1104 (Military Archives); List of IRA Interments (Boole Library, UCC); Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story, 25; Cork One Brigade (1963), Roll of Honour; Last Post (1976 ed.), 110; Keane (2017), 365-67, 423.


Note: George Bourke died of peritonitis at the South Infirmary in Cork city on 22 December 1923. He had been interned in Newbridge Internment Camp in County Kildare and had been released on 22 November. ‘The remains were removed to the Church of the Immaculate Conception and were escorted by a large cortege headed by the MacCurtain Pipers’ Band. The funeral took place on Christmas Day to the Republican Plot [in St Finbarr’s Cemetery].’ See II, 25-27 Dec. 1923 (single issue). George Bourke had been a member of G Company of the Second Battalion of Cork No. 1 Brigade. See Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story, 25. He is commemorated on a plaque at Phair’s Cross near Bandon Road, Cork city.

His death came in the aftermath of a mammoth hunger strike involving some 8,000 anti-Treaty IRA prisoners, mainly in Dublin and the Midlands; there were some 11,300 IRA prisoners altogether as of 1 July 1923. Two Corkmen who died on hunger-strike were Denis Barry, who passed away on 20 November, and Andrew O’Sullivan, who died two days later. O’Sullivan was buried in Mallow after a Requiem Mass in St Patrick’s Church there. Barry was eventually interred in St Finbarr’s Cemetery after enormous controversy. At first the Free State military authorities had refused to give Barry’s body to his family and had buried his remains in the internment camp at the Curragh, but the family secured a High Court decision, after which his remains were exhumed and handed over to his family for burial in Cork. But Bishop Daniel Cohalan of Cork forbade all the clergy of his diocese from allowing Barry’s remains to enter any church for funeral services. Barry’s remains were therefore taken to the headquarters of Sinn Féin on the Grand Parade in Cork before their reinterment in the Republican Plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery. This set of circumstances led to a funeral for Barry on 28 November 1923 that was ‘one of the largest ever seen in Cork’. See Keane (2107), 365-67, 423.

George Bourke’s extensive pension file provides much additional and significant detail about his life and his IRA service. He was born on 11 August 1894 at 93 Bandon Road in Cork city. In civilian life he worked at Henry Ford and Sons’ car factory in the city. From 1916 to 1918 he served in the British Merchant Navy. His service with the Irish Volunteers began in 1918, and he eventually became a lieutenant in G Company of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade during the Civil War. Towards the end of the War of Independence, on 11 June 1921, he was arrested by British forces and imprisoned on Spike Island until November of that year. Some witnesses claimed that while imprisoned on Spike Island, Bourke had suffered from food poisoning owing to bad food provided by the British authorities. While active on the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War, Bourke was captured by National Army forces on 30 September 1922 and sent to Newbridge Internment Camp in County Kildare, where he remained until his release on 22 November 1923. At Newbridge he had participated in a fifteen-day hunger strike. What kind of a toll these periods of imprisonment and hard living took on Bourke’s general physical condition is uncertain, but that his health suffered seems likely. His death on 22 December 1923 from a perforated duodenal ulcer, peritonitis, and toxaemia was considered to be attributable to or connected with his IRA service. There were long delays before the Free State authorities finally granted a partial-dependant’s gratuity of £112 10s. to his mother Nora Bourke in 1938. See MSPC/DP1104 (Military Archives).

George Bourke was in 1911 one of the ten living children (fourteen born) of the clerk Charles James Bourke and his wife Nora. These ten children (four daughters and six sons) all co-resided in that year with their parents at house 93 on Bandon Road in Cork city. The children ranged in age from 4 to 21 years old. George Bourke (then aged 17) was the second son and third child.

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