Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Figure 1: Ned Waters
Revolution was rife in Ireland between 1918 and 1922, and particularly in the rebel county, Cork, where in the first quarter of 1921, approximately 182 people lost their lives; civilians, Irish volunteers, soldiers and Royal Irish Constabulary. In Nadd, near Kanturk, on the 10 March 1921, there were four such fatalities. Nadd (Nead an Fhiolair – The Eagle’s Nest) is approximately forty kilometres north-west of Cork City and during the War of Independence provided a safe haven for many Irish Volunteers. Liam Lynch, Commanding Officer of the Second Cork Brigade had his headquarters in the O’Connor’s house overlooking the village.
Figure 2: Map of Nadd ambush.
Last night on earth
On the 9 March 1921, Irish volunteer, John 'Congo' Moloney was on guard duty at Nadd until 6 p.m. At the end of his shift he walked the short distance to David Herlihy’s house which was known as 'The Barracks'. It was here he was billeted with Michael Kiely, Joe Morgan, Ned Waters, Jack Cunningham and Jeremiah Daly. When Moloney arrived at Herlihys, Cunningham and Daly had already left to take part in the burning of Dromagh Castle. Little did three members of the Company realise that this was to be their last night on earth. Morgan, Kiely, Waters, Herlihy and Moloney gathered around a turf fire, eventually retiring to bed about midnight on the 9 March. Moloney, Kiely and Morgan slept on a mattress in a room off the kitchen on the ground floor, whilst Herlihy and Waters slept upstairs.
Figure 3: Dromagh Castle from The Blackwater in Munster by J.R.O`Flanagan. (London, 1844).
Thursday, 10 March 1921 began like many other days in Cork, the weather wet and stormy on the spring day. However, about 7 am, the early morning silence was about to be shattered at the Herlihy house in Nadd. Moloney recalls that he was rudely awoken, by a military officer who cursed at him and then proceeded to offer a few kicks in the ribs to encourage him to get out of bed. The five men of the Company (Waters, Herlihy, Moloney, Kiely and Morgan), half dressed were interrogated about the bombs and guns present at the house and then subsequently dragged outside.
Figure 4: Birth Certificate for Michael Kiely 6 January 1901.
Twelve soldiers surrounded the five men, the officer in charge told the volunteers that they were going to be shot. For the next hour, the soldiers and their commanding officer prepared for the shooting, then they marched the five prisoners to the gable end of the Herlihy house, where they were told to face the firing party. Joe Morgan recalls that Kiely began to ask the officer some questions and while his attention was distracted, he (Morgan) made a dash for it. Moloney darted away at the same time. Both escaped but were shot and injured in the process. Unfortunately the fate of their three colleagues did not fair as well.
Figure 5: 1911 Irish Census, showing David Herlihy, RIP 10 March 1921.
John Winters, an Irish Volunteer, was billed at Riordan’s house, also in Nadd. With him were Mick Coutney and Jim Hayes. The three were awoken by a servant girl in the house who told them she had heart shots in the valley. Adhering to protocol, they made their way to McCarthy’s house which was the Brigade headquarters, and the meeting place in the event of an alarm of this nature. On their way, they came across the wounded Congo Moloney who relayed that both he and Morgan had escaped but the three other volunteers had been shot dead on the spot. The only positive outcome of the horrendous killing was that the source of British intelligence had been discovered. A member of the Kanturk column, was missing. Shields, had been the source of suspicion for a period of time, and the fact that he had disappeared confirmed these suspicions. He was rumoured to have fled to England, later going to America. The brigade had sent a man over to England but Shields was not found at the address which had been obtained.
Figure 6: Plaque close to Michael Kiely's birthplace, Glannaharee.
In a separate situation, Edmond Twomey, also an Irish volunteer was shot dead also in Nadd about the same time the fracas was happening at Herlihys. Twomey, supervisor of Lyre, Banteer Cow-testing Association, was on his way to test milk at a farm in Nadd, when he was overtaken by a party of British soldiers travelling in seven lorries. He was challenged, but it is assumed due to the poor weather, did not hear the request to halt and as a result he was shot dead. In his bag were sample bottles which suggests that although he was a volunteer, he was at that present time engaged with his day to day work.
Figure 7: Death certificate for Edmond Twomey. RIP 10 March 1921.
The four volunteers are remembered both in Nadd and their respective homes with numerous plaques and memorials keeping alive the memories of their contribution to Irish independence.
Figure 8: Michael Kiely's grave, buried with his maternal family, the McCarthys (thanks to Robin Kornmuller for photo)
David Herlihy 15 April 1879 - 10 March 1921, died aged 41.
Michael Kiely January 1901 - 10 March 1921, died aged 19.
Edmond Twomey 12 August 1900 - 10 March 1921, died aged 20.
Edward Waters 15 January 1897 - 10 March 1921, died aged 24.
Figure 9: Plaque commemorating the 10 March 1921.
Cork Examiner, 14 March 1921
Bureau of Military History, witness statement 948 by John Winters
Bureau of Military History, witness statement 1036 by John Moloney
Bureau of Military History, witness statement 1097 by Joseph P. Morgan