Roger McCorley

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2020), Letters, Volume 28

A chara,—A fine article regarding RIC District Inspector Swanzy and the ensuing riots in Lisburn (HI 28.5, Sept./Oct. 2020). One clarification, however, re the assertion that ‘Swanzy was assassinated … by Volunteers of the Cork IRA’. To the best of my research—as substantiated in Richard Abbott’s excellent Police casualties in Ireland 1919–1922 (pp 113–15)—Mick Collins believed that Swanzy had killed Tomás McCurtain, the lord mayor of Cork, and traced him, with the aid of RIC Sergeant Matt McCarthy, to Lisburn. Sent north to identify the DI was Seán Culhane of the First Cork Battalion. Accordingly, Roger McCorley (great-grandson of Presbyterian Roddy/Roger of Toomebridge ballad fame) and ‘a number of Belfast men … left Belfast in a taxi and made their way to Lisburn’. As Swanzy left Christ Church Cathedral, ‘Culhane and McCorley walked up to him, [and] shot him at close range’.

A small point, perhaps, but McCorley is a most interesting figure who later attached himself, somewhat reluctantly, to the Free State forces during the Civil War. In the spring of 1923, bitterly disillusioned by the fierce battle against his fellow republicans, he resigned his command, as had my father, George Lennon, on 1 August 1922.

Parenthetically, he and my father, both born in 1900, shared the honour of being the youngest ASU commanders during the War of Independence—my father in Waterford and McCorley in Belfast, where his unit of some 32 men carried out attacks with or without the approval of the brigade leadership.

In 1936 the two commandants assisted Liam Deasy in the formation of the all-Ireland Old IRA Mens’ Organisation. Deasy served as president, McCorley as vice-president and my father eventually as secretary.—Yours etc.,

Rochester, NY


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