Bloody Sunday 1920

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 4 (Winter 2003), Letters, Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 11

Sir,—The purpose of this letter is to add some more facts to the article on Bloody Sunday 1920 by Tim Carey and Marcus de Burca (HI 11.2, Summer 2003). The following is an account of events that happened to my father on that day.
My father was Charlie Murphy (b. 29 July 1900, d. 13 January 1963), ex-member of F Coy, 2nd Batt., Dublin Brigade, IRA, from approximately 1918 to August 1923, when he emigrated to New York. On the day in question he was one of Michael Collins’s squad who executed two British officers, one of whom was unfortunately not a member of the secret service but was on holiday from Egypt and was staying with a friend who was on the death list. I believe they were sharing a room in the Gresham Hotel or in the Shelbourne; my memory is somewhat hazy on this. The fact concerning the officer from Egypt did not emerge ’till about 1934 when my mother, who was then working in the foreign office of the Hospitals Trust, was talking to a Mrs Knight, who knew this officer and was never able to consider the IRA as other than murderers because of this event.
Another apparently little-known fact is that Collins had issued instructions to either his squad or to the Dublin Brigade in general to refrain from going to Croke Park on that day. However, my father ignored this instruction so he was present during the whole period in question. According to him, the field was surrounded by the auxiliary forces in the RIC, who, if my memory is accurate, opened fire from both the canal end and from the railway. As one might expect, the crowd in its panic rushed the exits. Hoping to be safer, my father took what shelter he could till the crowd thinned out, when he went to the Jones’s Road gate at which he was set upon by the Auxies and badly beaten before being allowed to go on his way. As he was approaching the road he was again stopped, this time by regular troops, who searched him. On looking through his wallet they saw a photo of my mother and a couple of love letters. The officer laughed and sent him on his way on the assumption that, in his state, he must have already been searched by the Auxies, who were not highly regarded by the regular troops. It was as well that he did because my father had some documents that would certainly have incriminated both him and others. He went from Croke Park and took shelter in the shop, a general grocery at the corner of Fitzgibbon Street and the North Circular Road, in which my mother was then living. This was, at that time, owned and run by Edie Foley. At no stage was my father aware of any firing by members of the ‘Irregulars’, as the lRA were then known. Naturally he would not then have known of the contentions of the Auxies as described in the article by Carey and de Burca. He would certainly have regarded this as highly unlikely, particularly in the light of Collins’s instructions.
—Yours etc.,
RODERICK P. MURPHY,
Carlow.

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