Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
John Regan, Peter Hart and the ‘Bandon Valley Massacre’
By Gerard Murphy


I listened with interest recently to an interview with historian John M. Regan on Pat Kenny’s radio show in which he argued quite eloquently, it seemed to me, on the differences between academic and popular history. These arguments were further elucidated and expanded upon in a pair of articles, one in the Journal of the Historical Society, the other in History Ireland. Academic historians, according to Regan, are Dr Jekyll, using scientific methodology to sift and study the historical record, using evidence which must be verifiable, while public histories – Mr Hyde, if you like – ‘popularize the past, but are conditioned by the needs of the present’ and are not easily held to account.[1]

I remember when I first got interested in Irish history in the 1990s – interested in the sense that I wanted to find out what actually happened during the revolutionary period – I was dismayed to find that many of the standard histories available, usually penned by academics, were beautifully-written, almost philosophical essays on socioeconomic issues with the dramatis personae and indeed the actual events themselves demoted to the footnotes. In other words, they were of little or no value if you wanted to find out what took place during those years. My reaction at the time was similar to that of Greil Marcus on the release of Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait album, a comment which I may add ‘would not be printable in a family newspaper’ to borrow a phrase. The alternatives were the older popular histories, written mostly in the 1950’s and then out of print which were often splendidly unreliable and inevitably one-sided. But at least their writers had engaged with the period – after all they had lived through it and many of them had fought in the conflict(s).

John Regan elucidated the drift to revisionism and the reasons for it, giving us a history of history, so to speak. But his scattergun approach was to open fire on everyone, from Roy Foster to Tom Garvan, from Dermot Keogh to Richard English. Clearly in John Regan’s view everybody in the Irish history academy is wrong. When you consider that many of the best writers that have come out of Ireland in the past thirty to forty years have been its historians – putting novelists and poets and indeed scientists to shame – you would expect John Regan would have some serious data to back him up.

Instead, he does a very odd thing: He turns his gun on Peter Hart and more specifically on Hart’s 1998 book The IRA and its Enemies and, more specifically again, on one chapter in that book, the one that deals with the Bandon valley murders of April 1922, sometimes referred  to as the Dunmanway massacre.[2] This is strange because if Regan is right and the practice of Irish revisionism was to avoid writing too specifically about the revolutionary years for fear of ‘incitement to hatred’ and bluffing through with a combination of socioeconomic analysis and social history then Hart did the opposite. If the ‘revisionist’ thesis was to pretend that these events hardly happened at all, Hart went out among the people, interviewing Old IRA men and elderly Protestants. Indeed he got in just in time before that generation passed on to their eternal reward. I would take issue with some of his approach and some of his conclusions but if anodyne evasion was the sin of the revisionist generation then this was not something Hart could be accused of. Indeed, in those terms – and these are the terms Regan sets out – then The IRA and its Enemies was the least revisionist book to come out of the academy in a generation. Hart got down and dirty with the detail. But if you pat the dog of history and it turns around and bites you then it is the history that is at issue, not the historian.[3]

However, be all that as it may, what if Dr Regan is correct? His basic argument is that Hart’s research is flawed because he was guilty of ‘elision’, that is to say of ‘ignoring problematic evidence’ when it did not suit his thesis – his thesis according to Regan being that the Bandon valley massacre was primarily motivated by sectarianism. ‘Others said that the killing had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with spying against the IRA. Hart dismissed this,’ Regan states.[4] Now if this is true it is a very serious allegation. If Hart ignored evidence that those shot were ‘spies’ or ‘informers’ then he would indeed be guilty of ‘elision’ and worse than that, he would be guilty of gross manipulation of data.

So what does John Regan say about the killings in the chapter of his book that deals with them? Broadly speaking, he claims that those killed – they were all Protestants – were simple reprisals for the shooting dead of Commandant Michael O’Neill of the IRA by an ex-British army officer Herbert Woods. O’Neill was part of an IRA group who broke into the home of Thomas Hornibrook, a Cork Protestant and loyalist, and Woods’s father-in-law, on the night of 25/26 April 1922. This was nine months after the cessation of hostilities between the IRA and British forces and four months after the Treaty. It was also several months before the start of the Civil War. Hart claimed the IRA was out for revenge for O’Neill’s death and that the victims were picked almost at random and shot.[5]  Regan writes that Hart ‘vehemently argued that the massacre was bourne [sic] of sectarian hatred directed against the religious minority by Roman Catholics in the IRA’.[6] But there was nothing ‘vehement’ in the suggestion that these people were killed as reprisals for the killing of an IRA man by a loyalist. It was merely an obvious deduction based on the evidence available. I don’t think Hart even claimed in that chapter that the massacre was born out of sectarian hatred. Indeed ‘vehement’ is hardly a word that could be applied to Hart who was the mildest of men.

Regan writes that in 2010 his interest in the case was piqued when he came across references to three British intelligence officers being kidnapped and murdered near Macroom, especially when he discovered that this event ‘coincided exactly with the ‘Bandon Valley massacre’. He goes on to point out what he believes is a discrepancy between Hart’s PhD thesis, upon which his book is based and the actual published version which appeared some years later. In his PhD thesis (TCD 1992), according to Regan, Hart ‘accepted’ that Frank Busteed, a well-known gunman and member of the Cork No 1 Brigade, who had carried out many killings during the War of Independence and the Civil War, was involved in the massacre. When the book came out, ‘references to Busteed’s involvement were deleted’. Regan goes on to accuse Hart of deliberately leaving out any references to Busteed’s alleged involvement in the massacre on the basis that, because Busteed was an atheist and his father a Protestant, the charge of sectarian killing would not stick if Busteed was one of the killers.

Regan goes on to claim that it was very odd that Hart did not link the massacre in the Bandon valley with the kidnapping and execution of the three British IOs especially since they took place during the same week and since one of the officers, Robert [sic] Hendy ‘was Major (later Field Marshall) Bernard Montgomery’s battalion intelligence officer and among the most senior ranking intelligence officers killed in the period’. While Hart acknowledges that Busteed was involved in their murder, ‘nowhere in this massacre chapter does Hart discuss the possibility that events along the Bandon Valley were connected by Busteed to those around Macroom... It was this “elision” that allowed Hart to publish his unambiguous narrative of sectarian massacre.’ Regan’s essential thesis is that it is likely that it was information extracted from the three officers at Macroom that led to the killings in the Bandon valley and that a list of ‘informers’ was extracted from the officers and that those killed in Dunmanway, Ballineen, Bandon and Clonakilty were on that list. In other words, the Protestant men and boys shot during the last week of April 1922 were shot because they were spies. Hart is accused of deliberately ignoring this connection.

He also accused Hart of a an even graver ‘elision’ when he claims that he also deliberately left out a paragraph from the British army’s intelligence report, published and distributed internally after the conflict was over as part of ‘A Record of the Rebellion in Ireland’:
In the south the Protestants and those who supported the Government rarely gave much information because, except by chance, they had not got it to give. An exception was in the Bandon valley area where there were many Protestant farmers who gave information. Although the Intelligence Officer of this area was exceptionally experienced and although the troops were most active it proved almost impossible to protect those brave men, many of whom were murdered while almost all suffered grave material loss.[7]
Regan states that this is a direct reference to the Bandon valley killings[8] and since this is widely regarded as the most reliable source from the British side of the intelligence war Hart is accused of again ‘ignoring problematic evidence’ by failing to quote this in the context of the events of 25-29 April 1922 – especially since he quotes it elsewhere. (He edited the publication of the report in 2002.) All in all, when taken at face value, Regan’s arguments might appear to add up to a serious claim against Hart’s objectivity. But then Regan goes on to broaden his argument, suggesting that there is in effect a conspiracy among academic historians to support Hart’s ‘dubious’ analysis, while ignoring his own alternative view. Regan claimed, in an interview with Justine McCarthy last September, that academic historians turn a blind eye to Hart’s ‘elisions’ because it suits them to promote a so-called ‘sectarian’ view of the conflict.[9] ‘The evidence’, he said later, ‘is like a big bowl of alphabet soup from which we only choose letters spelling the words we want – the rest we leave behind. If nobody notices, or notices and stays dumb, we are free to write as we please.’[10] In other words, almost the entire academic community are part of a quiet conspiracy silently backing Hart’s analysis and ignoring any alternative viewpoint.

So how does Regan’s alternative analysis stand up to scrutiny?

Well, let’s begin with the last point. Regan claims that Hart deliberately neglected to quote the British army intelligence report in connection with the Bandon valley murders because if he had done so it would have effectively stated that they were ‘informers’. Yet the report states that it was Protestant farmers who gave information, while most of the victims of the massacre were townspeople or villagers. But is the intelligence report a veiled reference to the killings of April 1922 and why did Hart not quote it in the context of the killings? Well, the answer to that is very simple: the intelligence report could not have referred to the Bandon valley massacre because it was written before these events took place.[11] The reference to Protestant farmers in the intelligence report refers to people such as Warren Peacocke and others who were shot during the War of Independence or shortly afterwards for helping the British. It is Regan who is guilty of ‘elision’ in this instance for ignoring Hart’s statement that the report was written in early 1922 and for failing to check up the date of its publication. In other words, the report is a red herring as far as the events of late April 1922 are concerned, other than to tar those murdered in April 1922 with the same brush. On the matter of ‘informers’, the IRA in early 1922 had compiled a list of people they believed to have given information locally. None of the victims of the April 1922 killings were on that list, while the four spies named on the notorious Auxiliary document (including one Protestant) found in Dunmanway workhouse after the Auxiliaries departed were never touched.[12]

So what about the connection to Frank Busteed? If Hart ‘accepted’ that Busteed had been involved in the killings when he wrote his PhD in 1992 why did he change his mind by the time the book came out in 1998? The answer to that, I’m afraid, is also pretty simple: Hart learned a lot about the conflict in West Cork in the intervening years. Busteed’s alleged involvement comes from his statement to Ernie O’Malley that ‘we shot 5 to 6 loyalists, Protestant farmers, as reprisals’.[13] Yet it is clear from the context that Busteed was referring in this instance to executions carried out in Rylane, (in the 1st Brigade area in mid-Cork), not in the Bandon valley. Local historians in the Donoghmore/Rylane area are well aware that these men were shot and buried in their area. My view is that Hart only became aware of this in the intervening years.[14] Between 1992 and 1998 Hart carried out a number of interviews in West Cork. In those he almost certainly discovered the real identity of the killers. Also Busteed, who gave a substantial account of his activities to Sean O’Callaghan, and a shorter account to Ernie O’Malley, does not mention that he ever carried out any activities in the 3rd Brigade area, though he detailed almost everything else.[15]

But Regan’s most important point is the suggestion that it was information extracted from the three intelligence officers who were captured and executed in Macroom on the same week that led to the killings. How does this perfectly plausible thesis stand up to scrutiny and why will academic historians not accept it? What about Robert [sic] Hendy, who according to Regan was one of Montgomery’s battalion intelligence officer and ‘among the most senior ranking intelligence officers killed in the period’? Surely someone of such prominence might indeed know the names of informants in Co Cork? In his talk in Trinity in September 2011 Regan referred to him as a Captain Hendy. Yet Hendy was a mere lieutenant with a temporary appointment as captain. Far from being ‘among the most senior ranking intelligence officers killed in the period’ and ‘one of the most important enemies of the IRA in Co Cork during the War of Independence’  Hendy was of the same rank as most of the other officers who were shot for intelligence work. He was not even the most senior ranking I/O killed in that part of Co Cork.[16] And his name was not Robert Hendy but Ronald Alexander Hendy, something Regan could have discovered simply by googling him.[17]

But these are relatively minor issues. What is the likelihood that it was information extracted from the three that led to the West Cork killings? The timeline here is important. The entire massacre began on the night of 25/26 April when an IRA raiding party had one of its members, Michael O’Neill, shot dead while breaking into the home of Thomas Hornibrook near Ovens in the Lee valley. Hornibrook, his son and son-in-law (who pulled the trigger) were subsequently executed. The next night, April 26/27, the first of the Dunmanway murders took place, when James Buttimer, Francis Fitzmaurice and David Gray, were shot dead on their doorsteps. The shootings started just after midnight. The party who shot these men were also went looking for several other Protestant men who lived in the town would have shot another, George ‘Appy’ Bryan, only that he managed to escape. The remainder of the 13 killings took place over the following nights further east along the Bandon valley and in Clonakilty. For good measure, the IRA also came looking for former Crown solicitor Jasper Travers Wolfe and his cousin William Wood in Skibbereen on the evening of 27 April but, lucky for them, they were not at home.[18] William Perrott and Arthur Travers of Clonakilty were also to have been shot that night but managed to escape.[19]

The British IOs were captured in Macroom on Wednesday, April 26, the day after the events at Ovens. It appears they arrived in Macroom around 1.00 pm, went to a local hotel for lunch and were captured at some stage after 4.00-4.30 pm.[20] Accounts vary as to why they were in the town: in one, they were on a fishing trip, in another they were on their way to Bantry and had dropped into Macroom for lunch. There is no question though from the British army inquiry onto the killings that they were on an intelligence-gathering mission.[21]

John Regan’s contention is that information was extracted from the three under interrogation and that this led to the killings that began in Dunmanway that night. This means that the city IRA would have to get their interrogation team out to Macroom from Cork after 4.00pm, capture the officers, grill them by whatever means necessary.[22] The officers would then have to reveal the names within a couple of hours of being caught. Presumably this would have had to have been relayed back to IRA headquarters in Cork where a decision would then have to be taken to shoot those whose names were so gathered. Those who would carry out the killings would then have to get to Dunmanway, find the homes of the victims in the middle of the night – as well as those of the other would-be victims – and begin the shooting. And all before 12.15am when the first murder took place.

It is possible of course that members of the 1st Brigade got the information from the British officers, drove directly to Dunmanway – which according to Regan is only ten miles away – try driving it; it is almost twice as far – identified the homes of the victims and had them shot. So we have to look at it in a little more detail. There are three versions of the Macroom episode in circulation. The first came from Frank Busteed in which he claimed the officers were shot by himself (accompanied by the Gray brothers and ‘Sandow’ Donovan) because one of them was believed to have been Lieut. Vining, the intelligence officer of the Manchester Regiment based at Ballincollig whom Busteed blamed for throwing his mother down the stairs during a raid in 1921 thereby causing her death. According to Busteed, his own brother Bill, who was stationed in the British army at Ballincollig barracks, saw the officers head off with fishing gear, contacted Frank who in turn contacted’ Sandow’ and the Grays who then set off in search of the officers. They were discovered drinking in a pub near Macroom. In this version of events, the IRA men joined the Englishmen for a few drinks – Busteed believing he had Vining cornered – before they took them into the countryside and executed them immediately along with their driver - and their dog.[23]

The second version comes from Charlie Browne, adjutant of the Macroom IRA. Browne said that it was his own men who first noticed the army motor car parked at Williams’s Hotel in Macroom and established that there were officers drinking inside. The Macroom battalion then contacted Brigade HQ in Cork by telephone. HQ sent out a party to take the men into custody. The men were found ‘making their way amongst the townspeople’ and arrested sometime ‘after 4.00 or 4.30’. After another phone call, HQ sent out a ‘firing squad’ – consisting, presumably, of the Grays, Donovan and Busteed who ‘promptly’ executed them. ‘We sent out a firing squad because the Macroom lads had cold feet,’ was how ‘Sandow’ Donovan put it.[24] Since most of the Cork IRA leadership were in Dublin that week attending a conference, Donovan was the effective leader on the ground.

The military sent a search party to Macroom the following day, when the IRA denied that the abduction took place. They returned the following day (28 April) and established that the men had in fact been kidnapped in the town. They were given a tour of Macroom Castle to find that the men were not being held there – though three other prisoners were.[25] A prolonged stand-off took place over the following week when the British military returned with four armoured cars and eight Crossley tenders.[26] This is famous in IRA lore when Donovan faced down a furious Brigadier (later Field Marshal) Montgomery at Macroom castle. Montgomery, believing the men were still alive, demanded their release. The British even picked up known IRA men in the city either as hostages or because they thought they might have information.[27] Ultimately the IRA gave the British to believe that the three men had been shot as spies on 28th April and their bodies buried. The British evacuation of Cork was held up for three weeks as a result.[28] A few years later the bodies were recovered from the lands of a farmer at Kilgobinet, Clondrohid some four miles west from Macroom where it seems the execution took place.[29]All the British reports on the incident claim the men were held for two days before being shot.

So which version is correct? This is important because if either of the IRA’s own accounts of the story is correct, the four, Lieuts Henderson, Hendy and Dove, and their driver, a Private Brooks, were shot out of hand with only the most cursory interrogation and were unlikely to have given any list of informants. Regan states that they were held for 48 hours before being executed – which is to accept what the British were told rather than the accounts of the IRA men themselves.[30] Yet the British admitted that they had no proof of this.[31] If they were held for several days as the IRA told the British, they could have had such information extracted from them. But even if this was the case it is difficult to see how men from the 1st Brigade could have got down to Macroom from Cork, in the late afternoon of the 26th, carried out the necessary interrogations, made their way to Dunmanway and identify the homes of those they wanted to shoot in the middle of the night in a town they would have been unfamiliar with. But perhaps they were responsible for the killings that took place on the later nights, in Kinneagh, Ballineen, Clonakilty and near Bandon? Perhaps. But the Kinneagh assassins at least were travelling around by horse and trap, so they were moving slowly, suggesting the killers were locals.[32]

Either way, if the IRA had interrogated the men they did not make a very good job of it. Because among the men they captured was Lieut. G. R. Dove, the IO responsible for identifying the IRA hideout in Clonmult in East Cork where an entire flying column was wiped out in February 1921. Dove was one of the men Busteed believed had thrown his mother down the stairs. Yet he does not seem to have realized he had caught Dove, insisting instead that Vining was the principal target. Since his account was first published in the early 1970s, while the men involved were still alive, it can hardly be dismissed as wholly inaccurate.[33] The only way that information extracted from the three was what led to the murders in West Cork would be to use one British version of events and ignore others and also ignore local accounts and, since ‘Sandow’ was effectively bluffing Montgomery, the value of this is questionable to say the least. If the IRA men had extracted valuable information from the three then you would have expected that either the garrulous Busteed or the more reticent Sandow would have at least hinted at it in their accounts to Sean O’Callaghan and Eoin Neeson, respectively. It is hard to imagine that if Busteed and his fellow executioners had extracted the names of a whole ‘spy’ circle out of the three officers that they would not have said so at some point.

This brings us to the troubling point of the identity of the killers. This is a matter of some sensitivity in West Cork. But their identity is known locally and they are believed to have been locals – admittedly with connections to the 1st Cork Brigade. Peter Hart did not name them and I am not going to do so either because nobody has admitted on paper that they did it. It is quite clear, however, that in some cases their identity was known to the families of the victims – which would have been highly unlikely if they had come directly from Cork or Macroom.[34] There is nothing to suggest that Frank Busteed was one of them.

John Regan makes a big case out of the fact that Hendy was the chief intelligence officer in Cork at the time. But this has to be seen in perspective. He was brigade I/O of an intelligence operation that had been wound down since the end of January. The British army was on the eve of departure. There was no effective intelligence presence in the South by the middle of April – something which is perfectly plain from the military reports from Cork emerging from General Macready’s office from mid-February onwards which are little better than an amalgamation of newspaper cuttings. Hendy might in charge of a skeletal staff at that stage. But most of the intelligence office in Cork had been disbanded. Major Percival who ran the intelligence office in Bandon had by now also departed. Besides, would these men have known anything about the Bandon valley? The Bandon valley was controlled by the Essex Regiment during the conflict and these were also gone. These three had served with other regiments in and around the city. (Henderson and Dove would have known the Macroom area, which was why they were picked to go that day.) Then there is the little question that, if most of the most important ‘spies’ that the British used were Catholics and often members of the IRA and their families, then why was it that only Protestant names were extracted from the captured officers?

In this scenario it is unlikely that the captured British officers, none of whom had served with the Essex Regiment who operated in West Cork, divulged the names of supposed ‘informers’. If the IRA men were not even sure of the identity of the men they had captured, how likely is it that they had managed to extract a list of their informants within hours of capturing them? And even if they had extracted a list of informants from the officers then all the evidence suggests that they would have been quietly lifted and shot rather than being the victims of an undisciplined bloodbath like the one that took place in the Bandon valley that week.[35] Only one of those targeted during the week of the massacre claimed to have given information but he was being taken away, presumably to be executed, when he managed to escape.[36] We don’t know if he would simply have disappeared. What we do know is that he was not shot down on his own doorstep like most of the others.

But even if the victims were all spies then why did local republicans, led by Seán Buckley, the upstanding local officer of the 3rd Brigade equate the midnight shootings with those of the Black and Tans and equivalent sectarian shootings of Catholics in Belfast? Why were nationalist and republican members of Bandon District Council able to pass resolutions to the effect that ‘it was up to every man, both civilian and soldier, to hunt down and trace those night murderers.’ Why did Tom Hales, the commandant of the 3rd Brigade threaten the perpetrators with summary execution if there was a repeat of the killings? At a meeting of the same Council, of which Michael O’Neill’s brother was a member, held a fortnight later, two votes of sympathy were passed: To the O’Neill family for the loss of their son, but also ‘to the relatives of those who lost their lives under such regrettable circumstances. The fact that they were Protestants is significant. During the recent troubles many of them had sheltered our brave men from the fury of British assassins.’ Seán Buckley went on to state that he could bear personal testimony to this: ‘many of the men who were most wanted in that strenuous time were sheltered and supported by their Protestant neighbours and he would like that to be generally known, because there was, he was sorry to say, a sort of tradition that because people were Protestant they are of necessity anti-national… he would like it known that if any of our people had still it in their minds any shadow of doubt as to the loyalty if those people to the Republic that they should disabuse themselves of it.’[37]

It seems to me that Peter Hart’s thesis – which I also questioned by the way – that the Dunmanway killings were simple reprisals for the shooting of Michael O’Neill, is a lot more plausible than Regan’s above.[38] After all, Michael O’Neill was the only Volunteer to be shot dead by a Cork unionist. In IRA eyes this amounted to an appalling outrage. Michael O’Neill’s colleagues in the 3rd Brigade were hardly going to sit back and do nothing about it. Jack Buttimer, who was close to those alleged to have carried out the killings said: ‘the Dunmanway people were against us, very strongly against us in the town, but there were certain families loyal, who were the truly good ones in the Tan war’.[39] A disproportionately high number of Protestants were shot by the IRA across the country, most of whom were almost certainly innocent, though no doubt a minority did pass on information. I would argue that many were shot merely for being perceived as being ‘loyal’ or, in the months before the Truce, out of the need to put pressure on the British in the face of British military superiority. People like Seán Buckley and Tom Hales could not be described as sectarian. The Sinn Fein leadership always tried distance itself from the anti-Protestant sentiments associated with the AOH and elements within Home Rule nationalism. Richard Mulcahy refused to go along with 1st Southern Division demands that Freemasons and other loyalists be shot as reprisals for British execution of IRA men.[40] Hales’s men released all their loyalist – mostly Protestant – hostages after the Truce. The gratitude of West Cork Protestants to Buckley was such that for many years afterwards they voted for him and, by extension, for Fianna Fáil. But describing Protestant victims of shootings as ‘spies’ without evidence to support it is itself a form of retrospective sectarianism, even if it is often disguised by reams of spurious erudition. There is something disturbing, if not malevolent, about the way Hart has been attacked since his death on the basis of a handful of footnote errors and the alleged ‘elisions’ outlined above. Reading some of the commentary that has come out on this subject – a veritable Tower of Babel of inaccurate and mendacious distortion - you would be forgiven for thinking that there is a lot more of this kind of thing going on now than was going on then and that the ‘sectarianism’ such commentators decry is, often as not, in the eye of the beholder.

It is hard to understand why a professional historian like John Regan would put his name to such an amalgam of bluffing and dissimulation. There is something terribly sad about this. Why would such an obviously intelligent man let himself wide open to refutation by failing to check even the simplest facts? It beggars belief that he did not at least get the details right before going on lecture tours and talking to journalists and attempting to carry out what is in effect a character assassination of Hart. Such are the resources now available online that he could have checked most of these points without ever even leaving his desk. Whether he let his inner Mr Hyde completely get the better of his Dr Jekyll is a moot point. It seems to me that he is merely a mouthpiece for the kind of politically-motivated historical distortion which in recent years has greeted every published account of the travails suffered by Southern Protestants during the revolutionary period. There is a lot of slippery footwork going on here: ‘Hart’s interpretation is of course valid, mostly it is factual, but what it in doubt now is whether it is historical.’ [41] This statement of Regan’s, I’m afraid, says it all.

For this is the second attempt in the last few years to try to tar the victims of the Bandon massacre with the label of ‘spy’ – which they were not even labelled with at the time. (The first was based on equally spurious evidence – the suggestion that they were named on the Auxiliary dossier that was found in Dunmanway workhouse after the Auxiliaries who had occupied it left. The ‘spies’ named on the dossier were never harmed, while the Dunmanway victims were not named in it at all.) The past should be interpreted in its own terms. People should be innocent until proven guilty, not the other way round. Whatever about contemporary propagandists peddling this kind of nonsense, it is surprising to find a professional historian trying to do the same. Seán Buckley and Tom Hales were closer to the truth than many of those who would wish to overturn history. Hart’s interpretation of these events may need to be changed if new information becomes available. Until it does, however, it is still the best show in town.


[1] John M. Regan, ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Two Histories,’ History Ireland, January/February 2012.
[2] John M. Regan. ‘The Bandon Valley Massacre’ as a Historical Problem’ History, The Journal of the Historical Society, Vol 97 (1), pp70-98.
[3] Peter Hart, The IRA and its Enemies, Violence and Community in Cork 1916-1923, (Oxford, 1998).
[4] Regan, ‘Dr Jekyll’ op cit.
[5] Hart, op cit.
[6] Regan, ‘The Bandon Valley Massacre.’
[7] A Record of the Rebellion in Ireland (Intelligence Report). Published as British Intelligence in Ireland 1920-21, ed. Peter Hart (2002)
[8] Or at least he says that ‘it is difficult to identify any event other than the April massacre for which the Record’s description applies’. Regan, ‘The Bandon Valley Massacre’.
[9] Sunday Times, 9/10/2011.
[10] Regan, ‘Dr Jekyll’, op cit.
[11] It went to the printers on April 13, two weeks before these events. WO 141/93.
[12] Hart, The IRA and its Enemies.
[13] Frank Busteed, O’Malley, P17b/112.
[14] See PJ Feeney, Glory O, Glory O, Ye Bold Fenian Men  (1996), Tim Sheehan, Execute (1993).
[15] Sean O’Callaghan, Execution, (London 1974), Frank Busteed, O’Malley P17b/112.
[16] That distinction goes to a Captain Thompson of the Manchester Regiment who was killed by the IRA in late 1920 near Ballincollig.
[17] cairogang.com even has a photograph of Hendy, along with much information on his disappearance. He was given a temporary appointment as I/O to the 17 Infantry Brigade on 28 January 1922. Dove and Henderson were battalion I/Os. War Office to PGI, 29/9/1922, CO/739/11. He was also listed as Lieut R.A. Hendy in the British army’s commemoration services held in late 1922 in Kilmainham hospital.
[18] Jasper Ungoed-Thomas, Jasper Wolfe of Skibbereen, pp141-144. (Cork 2008).
[19] ArthurTravers CO 762/121 and William Perrott, CO 762/121.
[20] Eoin Neeson, The Civil War in Ireland p59.
[21] For fishing trip see O’Callaghan, for Bantry see Hart, p280 and the Irish Times 1/5/1922, for an insinuation of intelligence gathering Patrick J. Twohig, Green Tears for Hecuba, pp334-344 (Cork 1994). The British command in Cork publicly stated they had no idea that they had gone to Macroom, though General Strickland thought otherwise. War Office to PGI, 29/9/1922, CO/739/11. Strickland Diary, 26/4/1922, Strickland Papers, IWM. The British army inquiry into the event can be found in WO 35/180C
[22] ‘Sandow’ Donovan, one of the men involved in the execution, told his nephew Donal O’Donovan that he refused to go to New York to capture and torture ‘Cruxy ‘Connors, a well-known informer in Cork. ‘Ask me to shoot a man but not to torture him’ Donovan is reported to have told Sean O’Hegarty.
[23] Sean O’Callaghan, Execute, (Cork 1974).
[24] Patrick J. Twohig, Green Tears for Hecuba, p137-141 (Cork 1994), Eoin Neeson, The Civil War in Ireland p59.
[25] Draft Statement on the Macroom Incident (nd), WO35/180C.
[26] Ibid
[27] Freeman’s Journal, 8/5/1922.
[28] Paul McMahon, British Spies and Irish Rebels p67 (Woodbridge 2008).
[29] See cairogang.com for details of the disinterment. Some locals believed the men had been forced to dig their own graves, though this may just have been lurid rumour. R.W.Williams CO 762/152.
[30] General Macready told Hendy’s father that they had been executed two days after being captured and that they had been ‘drugged in the inn’. F.J.R. Hendy to Churchill, 30/5/1922, CO739/15.
[31] CoC Ireland to Chief Imperial Staff, 7/7/1922. WO35/180C.
[32] Hart op cit.
[33] O’Callaghan op.cit. Busteed’s account of the killing, whatever its drawbacks, was the one accepted in Cork city by anyone with an interest in the affair, even before O’Callaghan published his book.
[34] William Jagoe, CO 762/4, Hart, p273-274.
[35] There were many instances of disappearances during this period, some of whom are reported in my book The Year of Disappearances. On at least two occasions for instance in early July the Fishguard-bound mailboat was boarded in Cork Harbour and ‘some of the passengers kidnapped, taken ashore and removed in motor cars to an unknown destination.’ Who were these men? What happened to them? We will almost certainly never know: Snr Officer, Haulbowline to Admiralty, 4/7/1922, ADM 116/2135. Southern Star, 19/8/1922.
[36] Richard Helen, CO762/33.
[37] Southern Star 13/5/1922.
[38] I believed at the time of writing The Year of Disappearances that some of the killings, in particularly those of the two teenagers assassinated in their beds may have been connected to events in the city and to the capture and torture and execution of another teenager Edward Parsons a month earlier.
[39] Jack Buttimer, O’Malley P17b/112.
[40] Murphy, The Year of Disappearances, Chapters 55 and 56.
[41] Regan, ‘The Bandon Valley Massacre’.