The night of
July 9 and 10, 1921 was the eve of the truce and with a cessation of hostilities only hours away, the
military authorities at Cork city's Victoria Barrracks allowed leave to four soldiers to go on the
town for the night. The four young men were Alfred Cannim (20), Albert Powell (20); Harold Daker (28), and Henry Morris (21).
Two were from the
South Staffordshire Regiment and two from
The Royal Engineers based in the city.
wandered up the Western Road, they entered
a shop on the Bandon Road
around 10.30pm. Just
began to spill out from nearby Father O'Leary Hall
where a function had taken place. Amongst them were
four members of the local
brigade. The soldiers were
taken by surprise and were frog-marched in the direction
of the Lough district. Although some of the crowd which
had gathered called for
the release of the prisoners, the arrested men
were led into Ellis' Quarry as darkness
closed in. They were blindfolded and executed.
All the shootings were carried
out by one of
the four IRA men.
The bodies of the four soldiers lie in a field near Ellis' Quarry on the edge of Cork city the morning after their execution.
Connie Neenan, the officer
commanding the volunteers involved in the shooting, wrote of
the tragic event as follows:- 'The night
before the Truce, on July 10th . . . my mother brought
me news about midnight that 4 young British soldiers had just been taken prisoner
by our fellows. I felt alarmed. They were, I suppose, out
for the first time in months with their guard down. One of them had
gone into a shop to buy sweets. I gathered a group and we searched
the fields from here to Togher.
Around 2 am we met some of our lads who told us the news was
bad. I was astounded. Surely no one would shoot anyone
at a time like this? I crept into a house, exhausted and filled with remorse.
We could not sleep. We just hung out there until noon the next day. The Truce had come'.
It is alleged,
however, that Neenan was in the
hall that night and that four ordinary volunteers would not assume so great a responsibility without some nod of approval from a higher authority.
There was widespread
condemnation but also some justification for the shootings.
It was excused in some quarters on the grounds that it was a tit-for-tat
reprisal by men who had suffered a lot of British harassment over a number of years and who could not be expected to lay aside feelings of revenge so
quickly. There had been a
number of brutal killings by the
Staffordshire Regiment about a year earlier. City walls then
carried graffiti which read; 'Murdered by Stafford
Regt. - Will be revenged tonight.'
killing of four young men at Ellis's Quarry was, in
some ways, a tragedy waiting to happen.