Civil War in Cork

By Pauline Murphy

Shortly before midnight on the eve of St Patrick’s Day 1922, the Parnell Guards Fife and Drum Band were parading around the streets of Cork city. This band was based in Fair Lane on the north side of the city. They were just one of dozens of bands in Cork City at that time. As their name suggests, they were loyal to Parnell and the Home Rule movement and by 1922 their loyalty lay with the pro-treaty side of the Irish Civil War.

On that St Patrick’s eve as the Parnell Guards paraded up Castle Street they were stopped by a patrol of Irish Republican policemen and things got heated. The two rival political groups clashed at the junction of Castle Street and Cornmarket Street. Strong words were exchanged before fists flew, then stones and sticks entered they fray and instruments were used as weapons. The Republican policemen drew their guns and fired shots.

The firing of weapons resulted in a scatter of people but when the dust had settled, the street lights shone down to reveal a few broken instruments and a bandsman lying dead. Patrick Horgan hailed from Wolfe Tone Street, in the Shandon area of the north side. He was a member of the Parnell Guards Fife and Drum Band for a number of years and on that night in Cork city he was shot dead during the scuffle between his band and the Republican police.

The spring of 1922 was fraught with tension as the country was sliding into a bloody Civil War. What happened to the unfortunate Mr Horgan would only be the start of a terrible conflict between one-time comrades.

The event that occurred in Cork city on that St Patrick’s eve in 1922 made headlines in many newspapers, including one in far away Australia. The Barrier Miner Newspaper reported it on its front page: “One man was killed and two were seriously wounded. The band committee has telegraphed Mr Michael Collins, Free State Finance Minister, declaring that the band had been attacked and demand a government inquiry.”

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