A recent gathering at Kilsarcon Cemetery between Currow and Scartaglin of members of the O’Connor and extended families marked one of the most brutal and wrongful murders by the Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence.
A hundred years ago on this date on Tuesday, December 14th 1920 the brutality of the ‘Tans’ surpassed even their own standards of savagery in the treatment meted out to 45 year old, local farmer, John O’Connor.
Currow Murder Raised in UK Parliament
The treatment and ultimate murder of John O’Connor were deemed so barbaric that the case was raised in the House of Commons at the time.
The event and others like it served to highlight the unjust acts of violence carried out in communities across Kerry during this time.
“On the day of the murder, John O’Connor was searched and arrested. He was taken in a lorry in the direction of Farranfore,” said O’Connor family representative, Cora O’Connor.
Legs and Hands Broken
“Before arriving in Farranfore the Tans threw John O’Connor from the lorry. Already badly beaten and injured from the fall, they fired at him and wounded him badly.
“Maurice Keane, a witness, stated hearing shots and a man groaning in pain calling out ‘Maurice come to me for God’s sake I’m dying.’
“It is stated that his legs and hands were broken and he was bleeding from gunshot wounds.
“John O’Connor was carried to a nearby house in Threegneeves, Currow. They propped him in the bed beside the fire.
The Last Sacraments
“Father O’Sullivan, parish priest at the time, arrived to deliver the Last Sacraments and a private motor car then returned from Farranfore.
Father O’Sullivan’s witness statement recalls ‘one person in the house felt someone was at the window.’
“It was a figure clad in the attire of RIC policemen. Three men entered in military uniform.
“They cleared out the occupants of the kitchen. They then sat John O’Connor upright in the bed, already dying of his injuries.
Three Bullets to the Head
“They murdered him by firing three revolver bullets into his head. They left and returned to Farranfore,” said Cora from family lore and her own research.
The murder sparked outrage in the community and the Currow volunteers grew from 41 members to 127, as all young men joined due to the outrage of the unjustified murder.
“Kate O’Connor was left a widow by this brutal act and had to raise seven children on her own,” – Cora continued.
“This incident at the time was such an outrage that it was raised in the House of Commons in the UK.
Innocent and Inoffensive
“An investigation was held and John O’Connor’s body was exhumed to establish the extent of his injuries.
In the hearing he was described as a 45-year-old farmer of 50 acres. He was defined as an ‘innocent’ and inoffensive man.’
“The hearing concluded by the judge stated that ‘he saw no excuse whatsoever for this occurrence.’
“A memorial was erected on the road where he was thrown down from the lorry and fired on. His memory resonates in the community and with his family to this day.”
This article is based on the research and writings of Cora O’Connor, who is a great-great granddaughter of John O’Connor.
Click for Bureau Statements
Thanks to Denny McSweeney you can read witness statements on the John O’Connor murder from page five in the Bureau of Military History. 1913 – 1921 by witness John J. Walsh of Lyre, Farranfore. Please Click on the link below here:
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