The Killing of Captain Liam Hoare in Ballymacoda, April 8th 1921

On April 8th, it will be the 100th anniversary of the killing of Captain Liam Hoare. The world is a very different place from the afternoon of Friday April 8th 1921 when the 24 year old was killed in Ballymacoda, another brutality to be attributed to the forces of the crown in Ireland at that time.

William (Liam) Hoare had come to live with his Aunt and Uncle, Michael and Margaret Cunningham, at Beanfield in Clonpriest near Youghal a few years earlier. The 1911 Census of Ireland records show only one William Hoare in the entirety of the country who would be the right age at that time (14) as the William Hoare who was killed in Ballymacoda 10 years later. He is recorded as living in Kilbarraree, a townland in the parish of Cloyne, where he had lived before moving to Beanfield.

William (Liam) Hoare captured in the 1911 census records

Captain Liam Hoare was a member of the Ballymacoda company (‘O‘ company) of the 4th Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade of the IRA. There are a couple of versions of the story of how Hoare came to meet his end in Ballymacoda.

One story goes that at approximately 13:45, Constable Harold Thompson of the RIC who was driving the leading vehicle in a convoy, spotted Hoare leaving his bicycle against a hedge in Ballymacoda village. Constable Thompson stopped, and ran towards Hoare causing him to run into Gumbleton’s house at the bottom of the village. Allegedly, the RIC only fired after Hoare did first, firing four shots in their direction, but that is impossible to verify, and highly unlikely to be true. Hoare was killed, and allegedly a Mauser automatic pistol and revolver were found to be in his possession.

A further account, given by a Constable Connaughton, says that when Hoare spotted the convey, he had immediately jumped from his bicycle and ran. When ordered to stop by Constable Thompson, he failed to comply and was shot and killed.

There is an interesting side note here that I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere before relating to Constable Harold Thompson, involved in both versions of events as outlined above. As well as being the constable who spotted the young Captain Hoare in Ballymacoda that afternoon, he also had a connection to the Battle of Clonmult. Constable Thompson, who was an Australian, was killed just over a month later on May 14th in Midleton along with two other RIC members. This was seen as a reprisal for the killing of two IRA prisoners taken at the Clonmult ambush in February 1921.

The IRA version of the killing of Captain Liam Hoare, as mentioned in the book “Cork’s Revolutionary Dead” is very different, as recalled by Kevin Murphy from Cobh, a member of Fianna Éireann, in a witness statement:

I was arrested and taken to the military camp at The Hutments, Belmont, Cobh, where I was put into the guardroom. Here two soldiers stood in front of me, loading and unloading their rifles and all the time threatening to shoot me if I failed to give information regarding the IRA. After half an hour or so of this sort of business, and failing to make me give them any information, I was put into a cell adjoining the guardroom and left there for the night without a bed of any kind on which I could lie. In the morning I noticed what appeared to be clotted blood on the floor of the cell, and after a while the soldiers brought me a bucket of water, a scrubbing brush and cloths to clean up the floor. I refused point blank to do this. I learned later that an IRA prisoner named Hoare from East Cork who had been shot by the Cameron Highlanders, tied with ropes to a military lorry and dragged for miles along the road, had been thrown into the cell which I now occupied. This accounted for the clotted blood on the floor which I was ordered to wash.

Kevin Murphy, Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1629

Liam Hoare’s remains were brought to St Ita’s Church at Gortroe on the evening of Saturday April 9th, with the coffin draped in the republican flag. The funeral mass took place on April 12th, with huge crowds reported as being in attendance. The funeral procession from Gortroe to Ballymacoda was reported to have taken over 2 hours, where Liam Hoare was laid to rest in the churchyard near Fenian leader Peter O’Neill Crowley, and his comrade Richard Hegarty, killed at the Battle of Clonmult earlier that year. He was survived by his Aunt and Uncle, and two younger sisters, with his parents being already dead. Interestingly, in the Military Service Pensions Collection archive it is noted that an application was made by Liam Hoare’s sister for a service medal which was approved, but it is unclear from the file if the medal was ever issued to his surviving family.

In 1946, on the 25th anniversary of his death, a monument was unveiled to Captain Liam Hoare in the churchyard at Ballymacoda. Orations were given by Florrie O’Donoghue and Sean O’Hegarty.

O’Donoghue, who was intelligence officer of the Cork No. 1 brigade said of Hoare in his oration:

“Hoare was typical of the men of the IRA at a time when the Army had attracted to its ranks all that was brave and virile, all that was chivalrous, unselfish and high-spirited,” presenting “the best of the young manhood of the nation.”

The book “Historical Remains of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge” lists the memorial committee members as Michael Shanahan (chairman), Patrick Lawton (honorary secretary), J. Hegarty (treasurer), and John O’Keefe and W. Wigmore (committee members).

The monument to Captain Liam Hoare in Ballymacoda Churchyard

References & Further Information

The Irish Revolution, Volunteer Liam Hoare

The National Archives of Ireland, 1911 Census Records

The Dead of the Irish Revolution, Eunan O’Halpin, Daithi O Corrain, Yale University Press, October 2020

Cork’s Revolutionary Dead by Barry Keane

Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1629, Kevin Murphy

Historical Remains of Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge, Ballymacoda / Ladysbridge Community Council Historical Society

Irish Military Archives, Military Service Pensions Collection

The Murder of Patrick Hanlon

The events leading up to the death of Patrick Hanlon in Youghal on March 8th 1887 are complex and require some background. The outcome though is clear: Patrick Hanlon, a 30 year old fisherman from Ballymacoda was bayoneted to death by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during a riot.

Death Record of Patrick Hanlon, listing cause of death as ‘wound inflicted by sword bayonet

There are contemporary sources listing Patrick Hanlon as being a native of Ballymacoda, such as the ‘The Little Book of Youghal‘ (2016) by Kieran Groeger, and sources from the time such as The United Irishman.

However, his birth year of 1857 makes that difficult to find evidence of. Census fragments survive for 1821-51, which is too early to record Patrick, and the 1901 and 1911 census records are of no use as they occurred after his death. Consulting the available Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge Parish Baptismal records also yielded no Patrick Hanlon baptized in 1857, at least in the entries which are still legible.

A few possibilities exist here. One is that Patrick Hanlon was born or baptized outside the parish. The 1901 census records show two distinct families with the surname Hanlon living in Knockadoon and Ballyskibbole (but both record a living Patrick Hanlon in each household). Another possibility is that the records have been lost over time. Leaving aside the fact that there is not much evidence that can be found of Patrick Hanlon in Ballymacoda, nonetheless he came to be in Youghal on March 8th 1887 and was brutally murdered.

The so-called ‘Plan of Campaign‘ had been devised in 1886 by the Irish National League. This was founded by Charles Stewart Parnell to succeed the Land League after that had been suppressed. Simply put, the main aim of the plan was to protect tenant farmers, especially if there was a poor harvest which impacted the tenants’ ability to pay the rent on the land they were farming. In the case of a poor harvest, the tenant would offer the landlord a reduced amount of rent, and if the landlord refused, the money would be put into the care of a trustee, generally a trusted member of the community. This money would then be used to help evicted tenants.

The ‘Plan of Campaign‘ measures were to be put in place on 203 estates across Ireland, and the estate of Charles Talbot Ponsonby at Park in Youghal became one of the first to be targeted with the new measures. This estate was on the outskirts of Youghal town, and when substantially reduced rent was offered, Ponsonby refused, and started to evict tenants. As directed by the Plan of Campaign, the reduced amount of rent was then paid by the tenants to the trustee.

Park House, the home of Charles Talbot Ponsonby in Youghal

The curate in Youghal at that time was Father Daniel Keller. Authorities strongly believed Keller was a secret trustee of the Plan of Campaign fund, and in early March 1887 he was called to Dublin to testify about his involvement in the fund. When Keller failed to appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest. This issuing of a warrant for the arrest of Fr. Keller caused outrage in Youghal, and street protests and a riot ensued. During the riot, the RIC charged the crowd with fixed bayonets, and Patrick Hanlon was killed.

Fr. Daniel Keller (1839-1922)

The coroner in Youghal recorded a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ in the death of Patrick Hanlon, and the news was reported widely, as far away as New Zealand.

Excerpt from the Ashburton Guardian, March 25th 1887

Based on the verdict, Constable Garrett Ward and District Inspector Somerville were arrested for the murder of Patrick Hanlon, and taken to prison in Cork. There was significant pressure for both to face justice. The events at Youghal were mentioned in the House of Commons many times in the following weeks, and on March 24th 1887 MP for Cork East William Lane asked Arthur Balfour, Chief Secretary for Ireland (and future British PM) if justice would be served:

Whether, as the inquest at Youghal terminated in a verdict of wilful murder against District Inspector Somerville and Constable Ward, he will take measures to have these prisoners brought to trial at the next Cork Assizes.

Question from Mr. William Lane, MP for Cork East to Chief Secretary for Ireland, Arthur Balfour, Thursday March 24 1887.

Balfour’s response indicated that both Ward and Somerville would be dealt with in the same fashion as anyone else accused of a crime.

I am advised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland that the case of the prisoners referred to will be dealt with in the ordinary and usual course.

Arther Balfour’s response, which in time was proven to be false.

Both Constable Ward and Inspector Somerville were eventually acquitted, with the crown entering a nolle prosequi in the case, essentially meaning they were unwilling to pursue any charges against the defendants.

Father Keller, having been arrested on March 18th 1887 and brought to Dublin, continued to refuse to cooperate with the authorities and was jailed for 2 months in Kilmainham jail, until an appeal in May 1887 found no legal grounds for his continued detention. After his release, he continued to support tenants on the Talbot Ponsonby estate, where the plan of campaign survived until 1892. Keller remained the parish priest of Youghal until his death on November 8th 1922.

Patrick Hanlon was buried in the Hill Cemetery in Ballymacoda. The Morning News on Friday 11th March 1887 carried a description of the funeral.

The Morning News, Belfast, Friday 11th March 1887

The United Irishman, the newspaper owned and edited by Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, published in New York for the week ending April 20th 1889 (over two years after the events), carried a story about a monument to Patrick Hanlon being unveiled in Ballymacoda. The article as written suggests that the monument was in the churchyard at Ballymacoda, but could well have been in the Hill Cemetery based on that being where Patrick Hanlon was interred.

The United Irishman, Week Ending April 20th 1889

If any readers are aware of such a monument to Patrick Hanlon, I would love to update this post with the details. If for reasons of time that such a monument existed, but has been forgotten, it is surely something that should be addressed so this tragic event in the history of Ireland and Ballymacoda is never forgotten.

References and Further Information

Dictionary of Irish Biography, Entry for Daniel Keller

The Little Book of Youghal, by Kieran Groeger

Historic Graves, St. Peter In Chains Church Ballymacoda

Papers Past, The Ashburton Guardian, March 25th 1887

Law And Justice—Riots At Youghal—District Inspector Somerville And Constable Ward Ireland, Civil Registration Deaths Index, 1864-1958, Death Record of Patrick Hanlon

The Morning News, Belfast, 11th March 1887, Paid Records