An estimated 14 civilians were killed during the Civil War in Kerry. A list detailing the names and dates of death is attached at the end of this post. Here is some information, where known, on those who died. If you have information on these or any other such fatalities, please get in touch on [email protected]
William Brosnan (26) was walking on Main Street, Castleisland when he was fatally shot by Free State forces on 3 December 1922. A butcher by profession, who was born in 1896, he was unarmed when he was killed. Tim Horgan records that Brosnan was shot dead moments after a 9pm curfew and that is not thought that he was a member of the IRA.
John Conway (29) from Caherina, Tralee, was a brother of All-Ireland senior footballer, Dan Joe Conway. He fought with the US army during the First World War and, on his return to Ireland, he joined the Irish Volunteers. He was a civilian prisoner when in custody in Tralee Workhouse in February 1923. On 24 February, he was taken from the jail by Captain Patrick Byrne and shot dead at Rathass. Press reports incorrectly stated that Conway was trying to escape from custody. It was later claimed that Byrne had been beaten by the IRA and had become extremely volatile.
Daniel Crowley (36) was a native of Lower Road, Cork who was crushed and scalded to death when the train on which he was a fireman derailed at Liscahane near Ardfert on 17 January 1923. Local anti-Treaty forces had removed some of the railway tracks in a bid to a train load of Free State troops bound for Tralee. Instead a goods and passenger train, driven by Patrick O’Riordan of Tralee travelled the line and was derailed. Crowley, who was the father of five children, died a few hours after the incident. (See Patrick O’Riordan below)
Jeremiah Hanifin (52), a farmer, lived with his wife and ten children at Knockreigh, Milltown. On 23 September 1922, he was standing outside his home speaking to a neighbour when a Free State army patrol passed by. The army was in the process of conveying a large quantity of stolen flour which had been seized in Milltown to their barracks in Killarney. The soldiers fired indiscriminately as they passed Hanifin’s home and he was shot dead.
Thomas Lyons (30) was a native of Killarney and worked as a chauffeur for the McCall company in Dublin. On the day he was killed he had been engaged to drive some female patients from the Mercy Hospital in Cork to their homes in the Tralee area. Lyons was driving his passengers towards Tralee when, at Ballycarty Bridge, ‘a shot rang out and Lyons was seen to collapse in the car.’ He was tended to by Fr McDonnell but died at the scene. His passengers were conveyed to their homes in Tralee in a farmer’s cart. Lyons was buried at Muckross Abbey in Killarney.
James Mangan from Mangerton View in Killarney was a 19-year-old student ‘improving his education’ when he was shot dead while walking at Kilbrean Wood on St Stephen’s Day 1922. He was with his friends James O’Connell and Hugh O’Sullivan when a shot was fired in their direction from an IRA hideout. Mangan died at the scene and the IRA men present told his friends they mistook them for military. ‘We knelt down,’ O’Connell told the inquest, ‘and said an Act of Contrition into deceased’s ear. The IRA put his [rosary] beads into his hands and they sent for Fr Brosnan.’ The inquest jury returned a verdict of ‘wilful murder against some person or person unknown.’
Jeremiah McKenna (30) and his mother Mary McKenna (60) lived at Knockavota, Milltown. Jeremiah appears to have had special needs and was described in one account as a ‘semi-lunatic.’ On 7 November 1922, a Free State army cycling patrol was travelling past the McKenna home. The Knockavota road was then the main road between Milltown and Killorglin and it was reported that the patrol came under fire from nearby Kilderry Wood. McKenna ran out onto the road, according to one account, swinging a hatchet. He was shot dead. His mother, Mary ran to his aid but was also shot. She died four days later the County Infirmary in Tralee.
Michael O’Driscoll, Barrow, Camp, died 16 August 1922 – details and circumstances unknown
Nora O’Leary (37) lived at Knockacopple, Rathmore with her husband, Daniel. She was accidentally shot in her home on 20 October 1922 by IRA commandant, Denis Reen, who was on the run and staying in the house at the time. The O’Leary home was described at ‘the resort of the IRA during the Civil War’ and Nora was described as ‘an ardent sympathiser of the IRA at the time’. She died from her wounds on 1 November 1922 at Killarney Hospital. Reen was a native of Rathmore and in the late 1930s was described as being ‘in America or Australia.’ Daniel O’Leary was destitute and in debt in the late 1930s.
Patrick O’Riordan from Tralee was the driver of a train which was derailed near Ardfert on 17 January 1923. The 50-year-old father of five was killed along with fireman Daniel Crowley when the train left the tracks at Liscahane. Rail tracks had been removed by up to 30 IRA men who were targeting a train bearing Free State army troops who were bound for Tralee. O’Riordan and Crowley were scalded ‘beyond recognition’ and crushed to death under the train’s engine. Major General Paddy O’Daly of the Kerry Command told those at the inquest that the pair who were ‘endeavouring to feed the people of Tralee’ had been murdered. (See Daniel Crowley above)
Michael O’Shea’s ‘bullet-riddled’ body was found on the roadside three miles west of Killorglin on the Glenbeigh road on 2 April 1923. He was a native of Keel, Castlemaine. Members of the Free State army removed the body to Killorglin. The lack of blood at the scene suggested he had been shot elsewhere. Around his neck when O’Shea was found was ‘a card with an IRA inscription.’ This suggests that O’Shea may have been an informer. There was no known motive for the killing. nor were his assailants discovered.
Patrick Power, a single man, was shot dead at Rock Street, Tralee on 17 September. He was thirty-five years old. Little else is known about the circumstances of his death.
Thomas Prendiville from Kilcusnan, Castleisland, was a father of four. It is unclear if he was an active member of the IRA but he was arrested by Free State soldiers in Castleisland on 18 January 1923. With another prisoner, he was interrogated about the movements of the IRA in the locality. While in custody, he was assaulted and shot dead by Lt James Larkin of the First Western Division, who was intoxicated. Larkin was subsequently charged with the killing and went on trial, as a civilian, in November 1924. Despite a defence appeal that his intoxication be taken into account, Larkin was sentenced to eight years in jail.
Military Service Pensions Collection, Military Archives
Tom Doyle, The Civil War in Kerry (Merrion Press, 2008)
Tim Horgan, Dying for the Cause: Kerry’s Republican Dead (Mercier Press, 2015)
Owen O’Shea, No Middle Path: The Civil War in Kerry (Merrion Press, 2022)
Newspaper reports from 1922 and 1923