Collins’s cap

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2011), Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 19

The cap with jagged tear, minus badge and diamond, now located (but not on display) in the National Museum, Dublin, is the cap that Michael Collins wore when he was shot. It was sent there ‘from Mr Cosgrave’s office’ on 27 January 1923 ‘as being that worn by Collins at the time of his death’. But how did the cap find its way from a hole in the ground at Béal na Bláth to W.T. Cosgrave’s office? Some days after it was buried in 1922, Jim Murray, the owner of the field, knowing it was Collins’s cap, dug it up because he feared that pigs or cattle would nose it from the ground. He washed it and put it on the fence under the August sun to dry. When dry, his father put it in a closet under the stairs, where it remained for a few weeks. Towards the end of September ‘the Stations’ (celebration of Mass) were being held in Murray’s. Jim Murray, who disliked having Collins’s cap in the house, asked Fr Jermiah Coakley to take it. Fr Coakley asked his housekeeper to take it to National Army HQ at Bandon. She met officer Liam Daly and General Seán Hales TD and informed both men of the circumstance in which Seán’s brother, Tom (Republican side), had buried the cap. Seán took it to Dublin and ‘handed it over to the authorities’ who had taken Collins’s coat. W.T. Cosgrave was informed of the details. After Seán Hales was shot on 7 December 1922, the cap was sent to the National Museum ‘on 27 January 1923’.

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