John Sheehan, Greenane, 1921

Civilian John Sheehan (about aged 26) of Greenane near Kanturk (near Kanturk)

Date of incident: ca. 5 March 1921 (abducted and later executed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 22 March 1921; FJ, 22 March 1921; II, 22 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921; Connaught Telegraph, 26 March 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/4 (TNA); WS 744 of Jeremiah Murphy, Michael Courtney, and Denis Mulchinock, 14 (BMH); Death Certificate for John Sheehan, died ca. 5 March 1921 (received from military inquiry held 24 March 1921).


Note: Armed men came knocking at John Sheehan’s door at Greenane. Sheehan told a close relative (wrongly said to have been his sister) not to open it: ‘It’s the Sinn Feiners come for me.’ British forces later found his body with a note declaring, ‘Spies, traitors, informers in Kanturk associated with military, police, and Black and Tans, you are all listed. Beware, I.R.A.’ At a subsequent military inquest, however, Lieutenant C. McKerren of the Machine Gun Corps stated that while Sheehan had been known in Kanturk as a ‘bad character’, he had never given information to the military. See Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/4 (TNA).


A butcher by trade, single, and aged about 26, Sheehan was abducted on about 5 March 1921 from his mother’s house in or very near Kanturk by a number of armed men. His body, with a bullet hole in the forehead, was found in a field on the farm of the Archdeacons near Kanturk on 21 March 1921 by the military and police; it was in a badly decomposed state and was removed to the Kanturk workhouse. His death was officially registered on foot of a coroner’s certificate received from the military court of inquiry held on 24 March. See CE, 22 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921.


This killing has the hallmarks of an IRA execution. Three former local Volunteers observed many years later: ‘During March 1921 a spy was found guilty of giving information to the enemy and was executed by members of the Kanturk Battalion. In view of the fact that relatives of this man are still resident in the locality and will probably continue to live in the district for many years to come, it is not considered desirable to elaborate on the details of this shooting.’ See WS 744 of Jeremiah Murphy, Michael Courtney, and Denis Mulchinock, 14 (BMH).


In 1911 John Sheehan (then aged 16) resided with his aunt Bridget Callaghan and his mother Kate Sheehan, Bridget’s sister, at Lower Greenane near Kanturk. His aunt was a ‘dealer in old clothing’, while his mother was a ‘dealer in confectionery’. Though Kate Sheehan indicated to the census enumerator that she had been married for sixteen years (with only one child), there was no sign of her husband. Bridget Callaghan, her nephew John Sheehan, and her sister Kate Sheehan shared a dwelling with only three rooms. All were Catholics.


Cornelius Sheehan, Blarney, 1921

Civilian Cornelius Sheehan (aged 54) of 198 Blarney Street, Cork city

(Blarney Street)

Date of incident: 19 March 1921 (killed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: II, 10 Jan., 22 March 1921; CE, 10 Jan., 21 March, 11 May 1921, 17 March 1926; CCE, 26 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921; CC, 1 June 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/3 (TNA); Monthly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/150, TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Reports, Cork City and East Riding, Jan. and March 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); ‘Report on Operations’, CO 762/59/14 (TNA), Cork No. 1 Brigade (March 1921), Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/38 (UCDA); Charles O’Connell’s WS 566, 3 (BMH); P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 23-24 (BMH); Borgonovo (2007), 76, 100 (note 71); Murphy (2010), 41; Fin/Comp/2/27/300 [NA Dublin]. (We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Theresa Ellis, granddaughter of Cornelius Sheehan, in correcting elements of an earlier version of this entry with information from various sources she had gathered.)


Note: A former asylum attendant at the Cork District Lunatic Asylum (he had worked there for twenty-two years), Cornelius Sheehan (known as ‘Long Con’ because he was 6 feet, 2 inches tall) had gone on sick leave following an attack on the night of 8 January 1921 on Blarney Street. Two IRA gunmen fired at him and an RIC constable, wounding both. This incident occurred as he was returning home from work at the asylum, when he stopped to talk with Constable Carroll (of the Cornmarket Street RIC Station) near the Good Shepherd Convent. See II, 10 Jan. 1921. The police later reported that Sheehan had been ‘fired at and wounded owing to the fact that he kept company with a certain R.I.C. man in Cork. The constable was also wounded on this occasion.’ The police report in January 1921 concluded that the motive for this shooting was to murder the constable and his friend Sheehan, who was suspected of supplying information. See RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, Jan. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA).


A police report provided a more specific account of this incident: ‘At 6:30 p.m. on 8.1.21 Constable John Carroll of Cornmarket Street was standing in Blarney Street speaking to Cornelius Sheehan. The constable was in plainclothes. They saw 7 or 8 men on the street near them and got the order “hands up”, and almost simultaneously with the order, several shots were fired. Sheehan was shot in the left shoulder and a bullet grazed the constable’s wrist. The constable drew his revolver and fired, but it is not known if anyone was hit.’ See Monthly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/150, TNA).


This encounter may have raised further suspicions within the local IRA. The Cork County Eagle of 26 March 1921 reported about a case heard in the Cork Police Court on 18 March, when in the course of the hearing Sheehan’s daughter had complained about a neighbour’s conduct; his daughter had indeed testified that her life and her father’s had been threatened by this neighbour. The following day (19 March), while he was at home with his wife and other family members at about 8:30 p.m., gunmen pounded on the front door of his house and demanded admission, and a revolver appeared through a small hole in the door. His wife refused to open it. Suspecting the worst, Cornelius Sheehan ran out the back door, where another group of gunmen were waiting and shot him; he died almost instantaneously with his eldest son at his side. See CC, 21 March 1921; CE, 21 March 1921. A doctor at the military inquest testified to an older wound on Sheehan’s shoulder and to two new bullet wounds that had caused his death. See Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/3 (TNA).


Both the Irish Independent of 22 March 1921 and the Cork Weekly News of 26 March 1921 reported that Sheehan was suspected of having given information to the police on the Clogheen IRA arsenal at the back end of the asylum farm. Crown forces had earlier raided this IRA arms dump on 13 January 1921 [when Mary Bowles was arrested]. According to the historian William Sheehan, this raid was conducted on the basis of information derived from the girlfriend of a soldier of the Hampshire Regiment; her information corroborated two other sources whose identities remain a mystery. See Sheehan (2011), 88.  Since Sheehan was wounded some days before this, it appears improbable that the first shooting episode was connected to the Bowles’ raid.


It is apparent from the BMH witness statement of local Volunteer Charles O’Connell that ‘on further information from the brigade another spy was shot. This happened in ‘C’ Company area, though the job was carried out by ‘D’ Company.’ See Charles O’Connell’s WS 566, 3 (BMH). Corroborating this statement is an operations report from the First Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, which recorded that a ‘spy [had been] shot dead in Blarney St’ by members of the First Battalion on 19 March 1921. Another report in the same file dated 22 February 1921 revealed that two men of the same battalion had earlier ‘attacked [a] Black and Tan and [a] spy in Blarney Street. Both enemy seriously wounded; both our men escaped.’ See Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/38 (UCDA).  This February report suggests the IRA had come to suspect him already, referring to him as a “spy”.


The Sheehan family has long argued that he was innocent and had been set up by his landlord. In testimony given at the inquest into his death, his wife Abina Sheehan declared that ‘the only enemy my husband had was a woman—Mrs Abina Walsh of 196 Blarney Street—who had threatened to shoot my husband. The house [in which the Sheehans lived] was rented from her. She had declared in my presence that she would have him shot: “I will get him another bullet” [she had allegedly said].’ Some members of the party engaged in the killing had used the house of Abina Walsh (a few doors down from the Sheehans’ dwelling) to make good their escape after climbing over their backyard wall close to where the shooting had occurred. The evidence given by John Walsh (her husband) at the inquest alleged that he had seen three men at the door of his neighbour Cornelius Sheehan. The same three men had subsequently entered his kitchen [Walsh’s] from the backyard and then disappeared onto the street. They had goggles, similar to motor goggles, the glass of which was a dark colour. One ‘spoke with a rough country accent’. A daughter of the victim testified that she had seen about a dozen men then leaving the scene of the killing and that they had gone in the direction of Blarney. See Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/3 (TNA). The military and police from Shandon Street arrived shortly after the killing and moved the body to the house. Later, a military lorry arrived, and the body was taken to Cork Military Barracks. See CE, 21 March 1921; CWN, 26 March 1921.


It is possible that the landlord had set up Cornelius Sheehan with false allegations about informing, which played on IRA suspicions raised by the initial shooting episode, more especially since Abina Walsh’s threat to have him killed was made the day before he was fatally shot. A high-ranking officer in the British army, in reacting to the inquest evidence, certainly felt that there were sufficient grounds to question Abina Walsh further on this specific threat. As a result of a subsequent case at the quarter sessions in which Abina Walsh sought to repossess the house, which had been condemned by medical doctors as unfit for habitation (she had been instructed to put it back in order by Cork Corporation), she argued that repairs could not be done until the Sheehans were ejected as they were using the woodwork as fuel, and maintained that she had not received rent since Sheehan had been killed. Mrs Sheehan and her children were now clearly in a very difficult situation and were dependent on the St Vincent de Paul Society. She claimed that the Walshes had never given her husband peace or rest until he was killed while they were trying to get the house back from him. See CC, 1 June 1921. Abina Sheehan continued to live in the dwelling on Blarney Street for a little over a year after her husband’s death.  Her landlord alleged she retained connections with the “Tans” and left Ireland with them, and that her twenty-year-old daughter married a Tan.  Abina Sheehan denied she ever entertained Crown forces, and family members today state that her daughter never married a policeman.  Abina Sheehan moved out of the house in late March 1922 and stayed briefly with her brother  before emigrating to London in early April 1922.  While it is clear that her subsequent compensation claim for lost furniture was grossly exaggerated,  much of the landlord’s allegations against her appear to have been maliciously motivated. See Fin/Comp/2/27/300.  Abina Sheehan claimed in 1926 that “the reason they were down on her was owing to the killing of the Clogheen boys” (CE, 17 March 1926).  Since the six “Clogheen boys” were killed by police four days after her husband’s death, it is very unlikely Sheehan provided information in that case.


Cornelius Sheehan’s killing prompted a claim for compensation from his wife and children. Compensation of £2,890 was paid out to her by March 1923 (CO 762/59/14, TNA).  As a consequence she was able to set up a boarding house in London. In 1911 the asylum attendant Cornelius Sheehan (then aged 44) and his wife Abina (aged 30) resided with three young children (aged 1 to 6) in house 5 in Knocknacullen West in the parish of St Mary’s Shandon in Cork city. The Sheehans were Catholic.

Patrick John Sheehan, Charville, 1921

Civilian Patrick John Sheehan (aged about 31) of Main Street, Charleville (Coolasmuttane near Charleville)

Date of incident: 29 June 1921 (ex-soldier executed as suspected spy by IRA)

Sources: CE, 30 June, 1 July 1921; CCE, 2 July 1921; CC, 5 July 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/163 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, June 1921 (CO 904/115/942, TNA); Michael Geary and Richard Smith’s WS 754, 25-27 (BMH); Maurice Noonan’s WS 1098, 8-9 (BMH); John D. Crimmins’s WS 1039, 9-10 (BMH); Timothy D. Crimmins’s WS 1051, 10-11 (BMH); Application of Mary Sheehan to Irish Grants Committee (CO 762/127/2); Hart (1998), 300.


Note: Sheehan ‘was kidnapped last evening [28 June 1921] by a party of armed men at Clonmore while carting goods to Ballygran Creamery. His horse and car were found this evening [29 June] in a field near the scene of the tragedy.’ The IRA executed him as a suspected spy along with John Sullivan. Sheehan ‘was apparently shot at close range as the hair was singed near the temple’. Aged about 31, Sheehan too was a native of Charleville. See CE, 30 June 1921. His mother Mary Sheehan explained to the Irish Grants Committee that her dead son was alleged to have given information ‘to the British military as to the movements of the Republican Army then operating in the vicinity of this town’. She added that ‘my late son always took the part of the British. Also, all my sons and male relations served with the British army during the Great War.’ See Application of Mary Sheehan to Irish Grants Committee (CO 762/127/2).


Patrick John Sheehan was in 1911 one of the eight living children (ten born) of the shopkeeper and widow Mary Sheehan (then aged 60) of 112 Main Street in Charleville. Four of her eight children (three sons and a daughter) co-resided with her in that year. Patrick (then aged 21) was probably the youngest of her children and was certainly the youngest still living at home. He was employed as a carter. The Sheehans were Catholic.


The IRA’s evidence against Sheehan and O’Sullivan was detailed in the joint BMH witness statement of Michael Geary and Richard Smith: ‘Sometime about May 1921 two locals named Patrick J. Sheehan and John O’Sullivan (nicknamed “Slag”) came under grave suspicion of giving information to the enemy and were acting as spies, and had been used by the enemy as “stool-pigeons” by being placed in with I.R.A. prisoners in Tipperary town and Kildorney [Kildorrery?]. The first information we obtained concerning them was from a Johnny White (since dead), who was catching a pony one night in a field at the rear of the R.I.C. barracks and saw Sheehan and Sullivan getting out very furtively over the barrack wall. The following day a Corporal Pepper, who was one of the [British] garrison intelligence staff and who was practically always dressed in “civvies”, warned White to keep his mouth shut regarding Sheehan and Sullivan [sic] coming from the barracks. Subsequently, when the R.I.C. shifted quarters to another part of the town, a Volunteer named Joe Nagle, who had a harness shop near the barracks, saw the two boyos coming from the barracks. On another occasion Mick Geary and a Johnny Higgins saw them coming from the barracks. Confirmation was also obtained about them being used as “stool-pigeons”, and in fact information was obtained from one of our lads working on the railway that Sheehan actually travelled from Charleville to Tipperary on an enemy rail warrant. Furthermore, in one of our raids on the mails a money order . . . was caught addressed to a Mrs Murphy in town, and we were satisfied that this was for Sheehan, as he was a frequent visitor to her house.’ The Charleville IRA arrested O’Sullivan in ‘about mid June’ and Sheehan within the next fortnight. ‘They were both tried by courtmartial, at which the Battalion O.C. (Jim Brislane) presided, and the Brigade O.C. (Liam Lynch), who happened to be in our area at the time, was present at the trial. Mick Geary and Tom Lyons of Buttevant gave evidence at the trial, and both the accused were sentenced to death, which sentence was duly carried out on June 29th, 1921. They were attended by a priest immediately prior to the execution.’ See Michael Geary and Richard Smith’s WS 754, 25-27 (BMH). Geary was captain of the Charleville Company, while Smith was assistant adjutant of the Third Battalion of the Cork No. 2 (later 4) Brigade.


There is a strong possibility, however, that the two Charleville victims were innocent. RIC officials understood that the IRA had killed Sheehan and Sullivan because they were giving information to the police, but the police reported that such was not the case. See RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, June 1921 (CO 904/115/942, TNA); Hart (1998), 300.

Patrick Sheehan, Cork, May 1921

Civilian Patrick Sheehan (aged 41) of 9 Lankford Row, Cork city (9 Lankford Row)

Date of incident: 15 May 1921

Sources: Death Certificate, 15 May 1921 (registered 11 June 1921); CE, 14, 16, 17, 21 May 1921; FJ, 19 May 1921; IT, 19 May 1921; CWN, 21 May 1921; Irish Bulletin 5:5 (7 June 1921); Borgonovo, 164-65 (note 122); Murphy (2010), 41.


Note: ‘About half past two or three o’clock’ in the early morning of Sunday, 15 May 1921, ‘a party of armed men entered the residence of Mr Patrick Sheehan at 9 Langford Row. They . . . shot him dead [and] left the house not long afterwards.’ A medical doctor found that Sheehan had been wounded ‘through the base of the heart and also through the neck’ and had died immediately. See CE, 16 May 1921.


There is strong evidence that members of the RIC assassinated Patrick Sheehan. The crime was believed to be a reprisal for a previous attack on the police. A police party surrounded the boarding house in which Sheehan and his wife lived, stormed into their bedroom, seized Sheehan from his bed, and shot him in the presence of his wife. They had been married for only a fortnight. See Irish Bulletin 5:5 (7 June 1921).


Patrick Sheehan was the fourth son of the late John Sheehan of Commons East near Bandon. See CE, 17 May 1921. In 1911 Patrick Sheehan (then aged 31) lived with his three slightly older brothers John, Joseph, and Daniel Sheehan at house 11 in Commons (Templemartin) near Bandon. His oldest brother John (a married farmer with one daughter) headed the family but shared the household with his sister and his three brothers. By occupation Patrick Sheehan and his brother Daniel were cattle dealers. Patrick Sheehan was buried in Templemartin Graveyard in May 1921.

David V Sheehan MD

The Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS) is a short, simple, and cost-effective measure of disability and functional impairment that can be quickly administered and scored without disrupting the flow of routine care.  The SDS is a composite of three self-rated items designed to measure the extent to which three major domains in the patient’s life are functionally impaired by psychiatric or medical symptoms.  The SDS assesses functional impairment in three major life domains: work, social life/leisure activities, and family life/home responsibilities.

  • Sheehan DV. The Anxiety Disease. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons; 1983.
  • Sheehan KH, Sheehan DV. Assessing treatment effects in clinical trials with the discan metric of the Sheehan Disability Scale. Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008;23:70–83. [PubMed]


“So Costly A Sacrifice Upon the Altar of Freedom:” The Story of the Sheehan Brothers of Fermoy & Vancouver

“So Costly A Sacrifice Upon the Altar of Freedom:” The Story of the Sheehan Brothers of Fermoy & Vancouver

“Through the late 20s and 30s the Sheehans became embedded in Canadian life and took up citizenship. The children were well-educated in the local Catholic schools, and James operated his own store. With the outbreak of war in 1939, a number of the Sheehan children began to turn their thoughts to military service. Ultimately the majority of them did so– for example Thomas saw service with the 4th Battalion of The Canadian Scottish Regiment, while Michael went to sea with HMCS Laurier. For the three youngest Sheehans though, there was only one branch for them. Edward, Francis (Frank) and Henry (Harry) all set their sights on the skies.”




The late Donal o’Siodhacháin was a regular white house guest and Open Mic contributor at the White House Pub poetry sessions up to the time of his untimely death in late October 2012*.

Born, and reared, in the heart of Sliabh Luachra, it is no surprise that poetry and history have been driving forces in his life. Ever true to the fountain of his roots, ‘In Celtic lore, it was believed the strongest memory in the mind was the last left at the moment of death and so became the first reality experienced after the cross-over into the spirit world to begin a new life’. (Quote)