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Commemoration of double murder

December 12th, 2020 6:25 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Canon Thomas J Magner and Tadhg Crowley who were murdered by a British Auxiliary policeman at Ballyhalwick, Dunmanway, on December 15th, 1920.

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THE murders of Canon TJ Magner and Tadgh Crowley by Auxiliaries near Dunmanway 100 years ago this month marked a ‘new low in a cycle of bloodshed in which innocent bystanders were all too often the victims.’

That’s according to Dr Mervyn O’Driscoll, head of the School of History at UCC, who will be giving a graveside oration at their graves this Sunday in Dunmanway. Dr O’Driscoll said that, were it not for the fact that a Resident Magistrate was present at these murders in Ballyhalwick, on December 15th 1920, this might have been yet another unknown or unsolved murder.

‘It broke the basic code of not targeting clergy and the murders united opinion in Ireland and Britain in condemnation,’ said Dr O’Driscoll.

‘The murder of two innocents in broad daylight occurred in the presence of Resident Magistrate, Patrick Sarsfield Brady, who was threatened with death. Canon Magner was on his daily walk and he and Tadhg Crowley decided to help Mr Brady and give his car a push to start.’

Two Crossley tenders of the ‘K’ Company of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC passed with the second one under the command of Cadet Sgt Vernon Hart. Hart threatened to shoot Brady, and then shot Tadhg Crowley dead. He then interrogated Canon Magner, knocking his hat off and asking him to kneel and put his hands above his head before shooting him twice, and then emptying the contents of his pockets onto the road.’

Dr O’Driscoll said that the murder of a 71-year-old man of the cloth – who was widely respected across all shades of the local community as a pacifist for his efforts to counsel peace and harmony – marked a low in a cycle of bloodshed in which innocent bystanders were all too often the victims.

‘Cadet Hart had been on his way to the funeral of a Cadet Spencer Chapman who died as a result of a bomb thrown during an ambush at Dillon’s Cross in Cork city on December 11th.

‘The subsequent court martial of Hart resulted in a guilty but insane verdict, but many commentators were notably sceptical about this verdict. The double murder was also discussed in the House of Commons when Commander Kenworthy asked the Chief Secretary, Sir Hamar Greenwood that was it the case that, were it not for the presence of the Resident Magistrate, nothing would have been done?

The centenary of their deaths will be commemorated on Sunday, December 13th with a mass at midday in Dunmanway followed by an ecumenical wreath-laying ceremony at the graves of the two men in St Patrick’s Churchyard.

A wreath will also be laid at the monument at Ballyhalwick, marking the scene of their deaths.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, social distancing will be strictly adhered to, so numbers attend the Mass will be limited. Members of the public are welcome to attend the ceremony in St Patrick’s Churchyard, while observing social distancing.

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