Óglach Thomas Murphy, aged 22.
Murdered in his bed by Black and Tans at ‘The Hotel’, Foxrock Village, on this day 1921.
At the time of his death, Thomas or ‘Tommy’ Murphy, a popular young uilleann-piper, was one of a number of young men active with the local IRA company, a unit made up of men from the Deansgrange, Cornelscourt, Cabinteely and Foxrock districts. By the summer of 1921, several of it’s members had been forced ‘on the run’ and began operating as a full-time ‘flying column’, sleeping rough in stables and sheds and harassing crown forces at any opportunity that presented itself.
Attacks on the local RIC barracks at Cabinteely were numerous. In the dead of night, Volunteers, acting under cover of darkness, would make their way to the village, where they would creep along the empty streets, taking up positions before subjecting the barracks to a sustained attack using rifles and home-made bombs. Just weeks before his death, Thomas Murphy, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform in order to give the appearance of a British officer, had driven a car at top speed past the barracks while the car’s other two occupants lobbed bombs at the Black and Tan sentries posted outside.
On May 13th, local Volunteer Charles ‘Rodney’ Murphy (no relation) of Deansgrange, scaled a tree in the Brennanstown Road area, using his elevated position overlooking the barracks to snipe at two Black and Tans tending to the gardens in the yard out back. Constable Albert Edward Skeats, a Black and Tan recruit from London, was hit behind the ear and rushed to a hospital in the city, where he lay critically ill. He eventually succumbed to his injuries on May 28th. The night after his death, a party of Tans and RIC returning to their barracks were ambushed at Monaloe cross-roads by Volunteers Jackie Nolan, John Merriman and Billy Fitzgibbon. During a brisk gunfight, one constable was wounded before the Volunteers made their escape across fields.
With one of their number dead and another now seriously injured, tensions inside Cabinteely barracks had reached boiling point. Just before three o’clock in the morning, a party of five Tans, faces blackened with shoe polish, made their way along Brennanstown Road to Foxrock, where they stopped at ‘The Hotel’, a large tenement building that once stood in the centre of the village. It was here that Volunteer Thomas Murphy resided along with his widowed mother and four sisters. As the building was home to several families, the front door was left open, enabling the Tans to make their way inside unnoticed. They then quietly made their way to Thomas’ room before bursting through his bedroom door, waking the startled man from his sleep. One of the intruders asked if he was Thomas Murphy, and when he replied that he was, a shot was fired, hitting the young man through his head, the bullet passing through the wall into the adjacent room. As the intruders left, Thomas’ mother and sisters rushed into the room to find their son in a collapsed state. Despite the best efforts of a local doctor, Thomas died where he lay several hours later.
On June 1st, Thomas’ remains were buried at Deansgrange Cemetery following a military enquiry. In a large funeral cortege, members of the Dublin and South Eastern Railway Company, where Thomas worked as a porter, marched in a body after the hearse. Numerous wreaths were placed over the coffin, which was wrapped in a tricolour flag. Thomas’ IRA comrades supplied a guard of honour and firing party. Three volleys of shots were fired as the coffin was lowered into the grave, before men and arms managed to get safely out of the cemetery through a cordon of British military.
With many thanks to: Sean Larkin, South Derry.