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'KNIGHTMAYOR' IN CORK: The attempted kidnap of Lt. Gen. Sir Peter Strickland

Updated: Feb 17

Figure 1: Major General Sir Edward Peter Strickland K.C.B. K.B.E. C.M.G. D.S.O.

Continued from

When Terence MacSwiney was incarcerated in England, political power passed to Deputy Lord Mayor Donal O’Callaghan, whilst military command of the First Cork Brigade transferred to the Brigadier Vice Commandant, Sean O’Hegarty. O’Hegarty initially sought to avenge the killing of Tomas MacCurtain, targeting District Inspector Oswald Swanzy, the man believed to have been responsible for MacCurtain’s murder. Swanzy was tracked to Lisburn, County Antrim and was assassinated on the 22 August 1920.

O’Hegarty’s attention now turned to the current Lord Mayor, his intent focused on reversing the inevitable outcome of MacSwiney’s hunger strike. Following a meeting of the Cork Brigade, the Volunteers decided that they would attempt to capture Major General Strickland. and hold him hostage in exchange for the release of the Lord Mayor. Major General Sir Edward Peter Strickland K.C.B. K.B.E. C.M.G. D.S.O., based in Victoria (Collins) Barracks, had command of the Sixth Division in Ireland since 1919, a post he held until the withdrawal of the British troops in 1922.[1]

Strickland frequently went to England, sailing on the SS Bandon which departed from Penrose Wharf. His route generally was via Sydney Hill, Wellington Road, Lower Patrick's Hill and King (MacCurtain) Street. The Volunteers waited over three weeks before they got an opportunity to execute the plan. Whilst the City Volunteers waited for Strickland to appear, an opportunity presented itself for the East Cork Volunteers. Daniel Cashman recalls, that on 20 September 192, he ‘noticed a British staff car with officers at the chemist's shop … in Midleton’ en route to Youghal. When Cashman realised that Strickland was one of the party, he contacted Joseph Aherne, Commandant, Fourth Battalion, First Cork Brigade. Aherne gathered Volunteers from the Midleton Company and they made their way to Carrigtwohill, approximately ten miles east of Cork City. The men prepared to wait for Strickland at a laneway called the Dark Road, ‘about 400 yards east of Carrigtwohill’.[2]

Figure 2: East Cork Flying Column, with Joseph Aherne (front and centre with hands in pocket).

But, as they neared their rendezvous ‘we saw four lorries of military approaching.’ ‘There was a death sentence at the period for anybody found in illegal possession of arms and, fearing a search, we decided to jump for it.’ The military opened fire on the retreating group, ‘bullets were whizzing and cracking about and above us’, but the Volunteers escaped unscathed.[3] It later transpired that Strickland returned to Cork via another route.

Four days after the Carrigtwohill incident, on the 24 September 1920, General Strickland finally surfaced in Cork City. Lookout, Volunteer Michael Kenny observed Strickland’s car proceeding down Wellington Road and signalled to the ‘Grey brothers but failed to attract their attention.’[4] The car then turned left onto the lower section of Saint Patrick’s Hill. Kenny continued to attempt to signal his comrades but to no avail. In desperation he pulled out his revolver and ran after the car. However, he was observed by one of the British party and the car increased speed. The other Volunteers on hearing the gunfire also opened fire. Cork streets ‘presented their usual congested appearance, and when shots suddenly rang out, the startled passers-by hastily took cover, and fled in all directions.’[5] There were a number of injuries but despite their best efforts Strickland and the other British contingent reached King (MacCurtain) Street speeding away and the opportunity was lost.

Figure 3: MacCurtain Street, early 1900s.

On 27 September 1920, Civil Servant, Mark Sturgis noted in his diary that ‘Gen. Strickland was shot at on Friday. Macready thinks that had he been killed the soldiers would have sacked Cork which would probably have resulted in the imposition of Martial Law.’[6] The sacking of Cork may not have taken place in September but the inevitable was to happen three months later when British forces ran amuck in the city, burning and looting. As Sturgis recorded events in his diary that September day, Terence MacSwiney, Cork Lord Mayor had less than a month to live.


Figure 4: Irish Examiner report on the incident.


[1] [2] Witness Statement Daniel Cashman [3] Witness Statement Joseph Aherne [4] Gerry White and Brendan O’Shea, The Burning of Cork (Cork, 2006), p. 51. [5] Irish Examiner, 25 September 1920. [6] Hopkinson, The last days of Dublin Castle: the Mark Sturgis diaries, p. 46.

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