Wall of Rememberance

Material in addition to the information on the display board.

There were three roads at the Chapel (Saint James’ Catholic Church) junction: a minor road to the right closest to the river; the centre road led to Ballykissane, and the extreme left option led to both Caragh Lake and Cahersiveen. In the darkness the passengers decided that the Ballykissane road (which ended at a pier head on the River Laune) was the correct route to reach Cahersiveen, as it seemed that the road in front of the church just led back into the centre of Killorglin. Crossing over the railway bridge on the way to Ballykissane, the Briscoe passed Michael O’Donoghue from Reen, then a 21-year-old trainee national school teacher in his final year at Drumcondra Teacher Training College, who was home for Easter, and was escorting his girlfriend, Nellie Clifford, to her home in Mill Road, Killorglin. The couple were struck by the incredible luminosity of the vehicle’s single headlight.

At around 9.45pm the car left the smooth surface of the road and went on to Ballykissane Pier, a mile from Killorglin, which McInerney, seeing substantial stone walls on both sides, took to be a bridge. Suddenly realising he was about to hit open water, he slammed on the brakes, but the front wheels had already gone over the edge of the pier. Calling on his passengers to leave the car, McInerney attempted to open the passenger door, allowing those in the back seat to leave the car. As he tried to do so, the car destabilised, forcing him to jump into the fast flowing currents of the River Laune which was then at full tide. As the other passengers moved forward in the vehicle they shifted the centre of gravity and the Briscoe plunged into twenty-five feet of fast flowing water. When McInerney resurfaced he could see lights on the opposite bank of the river at Callinafercy and swam in that direction. He felt a hand grab his leg. It was Keating, who had extricated himself from the car. McInerney did his best to assist Keating, a strong swimmer, but they were both weighed down by heavy overcoats, revolvers and ammunition. Realising he could no longer defy the currents, Keating exclaimed: ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’. It was not a profanity, but the opening line of ‘the Night Offering’, a prayer, indicating that he was resigned to his fate.

Timothy “Thady” O’Sullivan lived in the house beside Ballykissane Pier, and was reciting the Rosary with his wife and three children when he heard the engine of the passing car, followed by an ominous eerie silence. Putting the stump of a Christmas candle into a jam jar, he approached the water’s edge, holding the lighted candle aloft. Recalling the sequence of events at the inquest on Easter Monday, Thady O’Sullivan said:

I am a farmer and live at Ballykissane Quay. On Friday night, 21st April, I was sitting by the fire when a motor car passed about a quarter to ten pm. My house is close to the pier. The road runs right into the pier but no further, and there is a little incline. I went to the door when I did not hear the car going back and heard splashing in the water and something like a moan. I took a candle and went to the river the nearest way to where I heard the splashing and heard a man shouting for help, and I held the light as well as I could and told the man to come this way and kept shouting all the time as he was drifting with the tide. I got down to the strand and the man came in to where I was out of breath, fell down and was unable to speak for some minutes. I took him by the arm and put him standing and asked him where he came from and he said Limerick. There was a light in the water where the motor was, probably from one of the lamps. I brought him to the Barrack where he got dry clothes. He told them he did not know the men in the car, and had no appearance of drink; he said one of the men met him at Killarney.

Once he composed himself, and still in a deep state of shock, McInerney was brought into O’Sullivan’s house and sat down by the fireside. As he took off his saturated overcoat, to the amazement of everyone in the room McInerney took a loaded revolver from his coat pocket and placed it on the súgan chair. Máirín Cregan contradicts this version of events which was recorded in “Kerry’s Fighting Story” in 1947. I will return to the alternative sequence she outlines in due course.

Enquiring about McInerney’s passengers, O’Sullivan was given vague details. McInerney claimed that he was from Limerick and had received a telegram to drive three men around Kerry over the Easter weekend. O’Sullivan suggested that they report the accident to the police. They would have the manpower and the equipment to recover the car and carry out a proper search, and possibly rescue his passengers who could still be alive. Tackling up his donkey and cart, O’Sullivan and McInerney hurriedly travelled the mile or so to Killorglin RIC Barracks; O’Sullivan telling every neighbour he passed that a car had gone over the pier at Ballykissane and that its passengers were feared drowned.

Among the locals who responded to the news were Patsy Begley, a farmer from Ballymacprior and his sons, Michael and James. Aged fifty-four, in his younger days Begley was a fine footballer and a founder member of Laune Rangers, Killorglin’s GAA Club, in 1888. An accomplished step dancer, he was also regarded as one of the finest Gaelic speakers in the district and a valued member of Killorglin Gaelic League, and much sought after by local language enthusiasts who wanted to improve their grasp of the language.6   

Arriving at the barracks, McInerney was given some dry clothes – ironically, for an IRB man – a police uniform, prior to being questioned about the accident. The police found his claim that he did not know any of the three passengers he had collected from the train at Killarney two hours earlier difficult to believe. It was not unusual, he maintained, for car hire firms like his to receive telegrams from clients who valued their privacy. Discretion was a valuable part of a chauffeur’s occupation. It is not clear if the RIC made any connection between McInerney and the car that had passed through Killorglin over an hour earlier that had failed to stop when challenged to do so by police.

While O’Sullivan and McInerney were in the Barracks in Killorglin, one of the neighbours, a woman, who had gone to O’Sullivan’s house out of a sense of curiosity, attempted to move McInerney’s overcoat closer to the fireside to dry it out. As she lifted the coat, she said ‘Would you feel the weight of the coat that poor boy who came in on the tide was wearing?’ Placing her hand in one of the coat pockets, she was amazed to discover a loaded revolver.7 She handed the weapon to one of the men who accompanied her to the house. They were equally shocked by the discovery.

Máirín Cregan was getting ready for bed at her home in Langford Street when she overheard the conversation between two passing neighbours. They mentioned the commotion at the police station, where the driver of a car that had gone over the pier at Ballykissane was being questioned. It was feared that his three passengers had drowned. Cregan’s instincts told her that these men may have been part of the Mac Diarmada ‘Radio Mission’ that she had been involved with in Tralee the previous day. After persuading her mother, Ellen, that she had promised to visit her old Irish teacher, Patsy Begley, while at home for Easter, she and her younger sister, Dora, headed for Ballykissane.

Reaching the Begley home at Ballymacprior, the Cregan sisters were informed that Patsy and his two sons had gone to O’Sullivan’s to help out as best they could in the search for the missing men. Arriving at Thady O’Sullivan’s house in advance of the police, Patsy Begley was shown the revolver that the other neighbours had found in McInerney’s overcoat. He was examining the weapon when the police arrived. Calmly he placed the revolver on the súgan chair and sat on the chair, concealing the weapon. As the police sergeant and his constables entered the house, Máirín Cregan and her sister, Dora, also arrived on the scene. Patsy Begley, then in his mid-fifties, told the officers that he suffered from rheumatism and needed to sit by the fireside on such a cold night as this, adding — for the Misses Cregans’ benefit — that he be excused that he could not stand in deference to their presence. Máirín Cregan explained to the police that she and Patsy Begley were old friends. The expression on Begley’s face conveyed to Máirín Cregan that something odd was afoot and confirmed her suspicion that McInerney’s group were involved in the radio enterprise was correct. When McInerney returned to Ballykissane Máirín Cregan tried to get him to talk to her about his passengers. He knew nothing about them, he explained. Bringing him to the water’s edge, and away from both the inquisitive onlookers and the prying police, she told McInerney of her involvement in preparing the ground for the radio delivery in Ballyard House the previous afternoon. Cregan was determined to do her best to rescue McInerney, and persuaded the police that she would tend to his injuries (he cut his leg when jumping from the car) and would be happy to vouch for him overnight. The police accepted her offer, but warned McInerney not to leave Killorglin as he would be required to give evidence at the inquest once the bodies of the missing men were recovered from the Laune. A proper search would begin at first light and at low tide early on Easter Saturday morning.

With the aid of a tractor the police recovered the car from the base of the pier at about 11am, but found no bodies inside. While submerged overnight, the false number plate had peeled off, revealing the original registration. On further investigation the police found the registered owner of the car was John Quilty of Rossbrien, Limerick.

McInerney also returned to Ballykissane early on Easter Saturday morning, primarily to recover his revolver from Patsy Begley. After a robust exchange of opinion, Begley convinced McInerney that the police were bound to seize it and with it his protestation of innocence would be gone. On a more practical level, Begley feared that McInerney would attempt to shoot his way out of the dilemma, probably resulting in both his own death and, possibly, some police fatalities. In most instances RIC men were respected members of their communities, with wives and families. After all, Begley’s brother, Martin, was an RIC sergeant and a champion boxer within the force, both accolades highly regarded within the wider Begley family.

 A thorough search of the foreshore between Ballymacprior and Reen Point brought no results. At the request of the police, Dodd and Power Salmon Fishery provided a number of fishing boats, and their crews, to ‘drift net’ the waters around the estuary of the Laune in the hope of recovering the bodies. Dónal Sheehan’s remains were recovered around two o’clock, Con Keating’s body was discovered a short time later. The body of the third passenger, Charlie Monahan, was not found. Local people assumed that he had made it safely to the opposite shore at Callinafercy. In fact it would be six months before Monahan’s badly decomposed body was found. On 30 October Michael O’Donoghue of Reen, ironically the last man to see the ill-fated car on Good Friday, was out on a duck shooting expedition with his neighbour, James Foley. They found the headless body close to Reen Point, about half a mile on the seaward side of Ballykissane pier. Before reporting their discovery to the police they hid their shot guns as they had no licences for the firearms.

While material evidence connected with the arms landing – a car – was recovered from the sea at Ballykissane early on Easter Saturday morning, about eighty miles away the actual vessel carrying the weapons was about to disappear beneath the waves. About 9.30am the Aud approached Daunt’s Rock at the entrance to Cork Harbour and Captain Karl Spindler hoisted the German ensign. As his twenty-two man crew boarded the lifeboat the explosive charges set earlier detonated, scuttling the ship. With his ship wrecked close to the entrance to the harbour, Spindler hoped that his action would close Cork Harbour to both naval and commercial shipping for the foreseeable future.

The remains of Keating and Sheehan were brought to Killorglin Courthouse, pending an inquest into the drownings set for Easter Monday. Not surprisingly, no locals could identify Sheehan, but Keating had played football for O’Connell’s GAA Club (Cahersiveen) against Killorglin’s Laune Rangers in Foley’s field, Castleconway, on a few occasions, and locals were able to tell the RIC, that his father, Jeremiah, was from Renard, Cahersiveen. After the inquest Keating’s remains were returned to his family and taken by train to Cahersiveen on Tuesday 25 April 1916. He was buried in Killovarnogue Cemetery, Cahirciveen, on the following day.

During the inquest, one of the jurors, named Leyne, proposed that the sum of money found on the unidentified man (3 pounds and 9 shillings) would help defray the cost of a shroud and a coffin, and facilitate a Christian burial. The inquest approved of Leyne’s suggestion.13 During May, Dónal Sheehan’s remains were interred in an unmarked grave close to the entrance of Dromavalla cemetery in Killorglin. When Charlie Monahan’s remains were recovered at the end of October, they were interred in the same plot as Sheehan.

Once Tommy McInerney confirmed that the two bodies recovered from the river were the passengers he was carrying on Good Friday night, he was arrested late on the afternoon of Saturday 22 April and transferred to Tralee Jail. He was not present at the inquest on Easter Monday.

The Ballykissane Memorial

In August 1935 a small committee was set up in Killorglin to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday drownings. The members wanted to erect a memorial to acknowledge the contribution that Con Keating, Dónal Sheehan and Charlie Monahan had made towards the attainment of Irish freedom and independence in 1916. The objective was to unveil the memorial on the twentieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1936.

The Ballykissane obelisk bears the inscription in Irish,

Arm Poblachta na hÉireann

In onóir don triúr saighdiuri

d’Óglaigh na hÉireann

Cathal Ó Monacháin

Conchubhair Ó Ceitinn

Domhnall Ó Siocháin

 a bathadh annso um Chaisg 1916

agus iad ag imirt a n’anam

ar son Poblacht na hÉireann.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n anama.

Fuil na mairtireach Siol na Saoirse

which translates as:

Irish Republican Army

In honour of the three soldiers

Charles Monahan

Con Keating,

Donal Sheehan

Who drowned here, Easter 1916

In the service of the Irish Republic

May they Rest in Peace

The blood of the martyrs is the Seed of Freedom


The Ballykissane Memorial was unveiled on Easter Sunday, 9 April 1939.