Part 2: Witnesses to the murders of Tierney and O’Carroll

Witness Number 2 – John Tierney

The second witness to give evidence to this court was John Tierney who was Patrick’s father. He stated that; ‘I live in Tisdale Street Ardee with my wife and family. About 02.00 hours 30. 11. 20., someone knocked on my door which was then forced in by some men some of whom wore caps and some hats and some wore black overcoats and some knap cloth coats. Some of the men I saw had Khaki clothes. I cannot say who they were. They came into the house and got my two sons to come down. I now saw that some men had black caps like policemen’s caps but they were not policemen. I am sure they were not policemen. They brought my son Patrick out into the street. I heard two or three shots. Some hours afterwards I went out and found my son lying dead on the street about fifty yards from my house. This was my son Patrick’.

Witness Number 3 – Julia Lynch

The third witness was Julia Lynch whose house Sean O’Carroll lodged in. Julia was actually present at the erection of the memorial in 1955.
Julia, being duly sworn, stated; ‘I reside in Market Street Ardee. John O’Carroll resided in my house as a lodger. About 01.15 hours on 30th November 1920 someone came to my house. They knocked and I opened the door and I saw about 20 men in uniform. One of the men asked if John O’Carroll was in the house and I then brought them, at their request, to his room. I think that he was dressed. I saw no more of what occurred as I was put into a room with my mother and sister. I saw O’Carroll in about an hour and a half time afterwards. He was then in Doctor Steen’s house dying. John O’Carroll was about 24 years of age. The men who came to the house wore long black overcoats but I cannot say what kind of headgear they wore. I cannot say for certain whether the men wore belts or not’.

Witness 4 – Meredith Egan RIC

The fourth witness was Meredith Egan a District Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary based out of Drogheda.
‘In consequence of instructions received I visited Ardee at midnight 29th to 30th November 1920 as I feared an attack on Ardee Police Barracks. Previous to my arrival a military party had come to Ardee and left. I had a party of three officers and about 30 men from Gormanstown camp. The officers and party were under my command and they did not leave the vicinity of the Police Barracks while we were in Ardee. I left Ardee at 02.30 hours this morning for Drogheda No incident of any sort took place up to the time I left Ardee except that one man, James Murphy, was arrested. He lives ten yards from the Police Barracks’.

Court Conclusion

The Court then concluded with the following opinion;
‘The Court having viewed the dead bodies and, having carefully considered the above evidence, are of opinion that Patrick Tierney and John O’Carroll, both of Ardee in the County of Louth, met their deaths between the hours of 02.00 hours and 04.30 hours on the morning of 30th November; and that death in both cases was due to shock and haemorrhage caused by bullet wounds inflicted by some person or persons unknown’.

A shocking but not unsurprising deliberation from the enquiry whose aim was clearly to whitewash the events that occurred in the town that very night. The first three witness’s statements seems to have been discarded in favour of the District Inspector who succeeded in covering up the events by indicating that his men did not leave the vicinity of the Police Station in Irish Street until they departed the town that night.

Statement from Joseph O’Higgins, 1951

The reason the Crown Forces were in Ardee that night were later made clear when a local volunteer, Joseph O’Higgins, leader of the South Louth IRA Brigade, made a statement to the Bureau of Military History in 1951. (Bureau of Military History WS 507 page 9).

In about September 1920 attempts were made to capture Ardee R.I.C Barracks. A Volunteer named Sean O’Carroll, who then lived in Ardee, was in touch with a friendly R.I.C. man stationed in the Barracks called Grant who expressed his willingness to assist the Volunteers in the attempt to raid the Barracks. On the day fixed for the attempt on the barracks the operation was called off by the Battalion OC. This fiasco had a demoralising effect on the Volunteers in both Ardee and Drogheda. I was later informed that a leakage of information about the proposed attack on the Ardee Barracks took place which connected Sean O’Carroll with the affair. Sean O Carroll and a Michael (sic) Tierney were taken from their lodgings in October (sic) 1920 and murdered by Crown Forces’.

Perhaps the intended raid on the Police Barracks was not the only reason that the Crown Forces went in search of Patrick Tierney that night. When his brother Michael later made an application to have a Service (1917-1921) Medal awarded to Patrick the subsequent investigation throws up an interesting statement made by Owen O’Doherty, one of Patrick’s Commanding Officers in Ardee, who deposed ‘it was … alleged that he (Patrick) took part in the shooting of enemy spies in Dublin on Bloody Sunday’.

This particular Bloody Sunday was so-called after Crown Forces entered Croke Park, during a GAA match, and opened fire on the crowd with machine guns from an Armoured Car. They had done so in retaliation for events earlier that day when Michael Collins sent out a squad, known as the ‘Twelve Apostles’, to execute a number of British Intelligence Officers who had been sent over to Dublin to locate Collins. Whereas Patrick was not a member of Collin’s hit squad he may have acted in a supporting role. I cannot. However, find any further proof that Patrick took part in those actions in Dublin, a few days before he was murdered. But there may, however, be some substance to this claim because his particular file in the Military Archives is still marked as ‘partly closed’ under the data protection act.

Patrick’s service was later examined and certified by the newly established Irish Government and, as he was ‘found to have ‘met his death at the hands of Crown Forces’, a medal with Bar was issued posthumously to his mother, Bridget Tierney on 31st March 1954’. Bridget later applied for a pension under the Army Pensions Act of 1932 but this was denied to her because she had previously received compensation by a decree under the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act, 1919 -1920 from Louth County Council. A second reason cited at the time was because she was Patrick’s Step-Mother and, therefore, not entitled to claim as a dependant.

Sean O’Carroll with his mother Ellen and Julia Lynch

Similarly Ellen O’Carroll Smith, Sean O’Carroll’s mother, from 12 Gibson Street, Belfast made an application for a military pension. She too was denied the pension on the grounds that she had already received £288 pounds compensation from Louth County Council on 19th December 1923.
It is perhaps fitting to leave the final words to Patrick Tierney’s sister Delia who, on 30th July 1991, aged 90, wrote down this Memoir at the instigation of an eminent Ardonian, the late Senator Bernard Markey. It was signed Delia Spillane (nee Tierney), Tierney Street, Ardee. 30th July 1991.
Delia deposed that ‘Around midnight on the 30th November 1920, the whole family was in bed in the house where I now live in Tierney Street (then Tisdale Street). We heard a loud banging on the front door and almost immediately the door was broken down and several Black and Tans rushed in and searched all the rooms in the house. After a short while they took my brothers Pat and Martin outside the front door. Then they put Martin back into the house and told us not to come outside or we would be shot dead.
Soon afterwards we heard shots outside and when my father went out sometime later he found my brother Pat dead a short distance away on the far side of the road. He had been shot through the head. His arms and legs were broken and his stomach had been ripped open with a bayonet. His brains were scattered on the grass margin and my father had to use a large spoon to put them in a biscuit tin so that they could be put into the coffin to be buried with him.

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2 thoughts on “Part 2: Witnesses to the murders of Tierney and O’Carroll”

  1. Hello and thank you for collating the tragic details surrounding Sean O’Carroll and Patrick Tierney’s murder. This is of personal importance to me as I am Patrick’s great great niece, Tracy Jean Tierney, living in the United States. Patrick’s older brother John (born 1885?, Ardee County Louth) who immigrated to New York in the early 1900’s is my great grandfather. John’s only son, James John Tierney (born 1908? Brooklyn, NY), is my grandfather. His son, James Patrick Tierney (born Brooklyn, NY 1942) is my father. After leaving Ireland, John returned only once to Ardee with his son James (about 11 years old at the time) following the murder of his brother Patrick.
    I grew up knowing my father was named Patrick for an Irish relative, but I never knew more than that. My father visited Ardee in 2003 to learn more about the Tierney family history and with hopes of finding a living relative. Thanks to a friendly barkeep in town, he discovered the statue dedicated to Patrick Tierney and Sean O’Carroll. He figured Tierney Street was an appropriate place to find kin, so he randomly knocked on doors asking if anyone knew a “Tierney” living in town. Unfortunately he came up empty. Although my father left Ardee with no more information than what was inscribed on memorial statue, he felt connected and proud knowing of his great uncle’s courage. With the information from this article, I have a deeper understanding of my family history and the sacrifices they made. I look forward to connecting with relatives in Ardee.
    Thank you.
    Tracy Jean Tierney Louis-Marie
    Grand Junction, Colorado

    1. Hi Tracy
      I stumbled across this tonight. I am Alan Tierney. My Father was Jack Tierney (John) Tierney. John snr was my Grandfather and Patrick Tierney was his brother. We live in Dublin. We also have family in New York and North Caroline also oregon. Would love to hear from you guys.

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