Execution of elderly Protestant woman a basis for pension claim

IRA’s Frank Busteed involved in killing of Mary Lindsay in Cork during War of Independence

Volunteers training in Carlow 1920-1921. Photograph: Military Archive

A leading figure in the War of Independence in Cork cited his role in the killing of an elderly Protestant woman and her driver as part of his claim for a State pension. In a pension claim detailing his IRA activities, Frank Busteed of Turner's Cross in Cork outlined his role in the killing of Mrs Mary Lindsay and her chauffeur James Clarke in early 1921.

“In 1921 we captured, arrested Mrs Lindsay and her driver as being spies. Both were executed later. We burned Mrs Lindsay’s house. At this period the military came in thousands into our area in search of the spies. The result was it gave our column all they could do to keep out of the rings around us,” he wrote.

The episode was one of the most controversial events in the War of Independence and features in the debate over whether elements of the IRA in Cork followed a policy of attacking Protestants. It developed after Mrs Lindsay informed the military authorities that the IRA was planning an ambush in an area known as Godfrey’s Cross, located about half way between the villages of Coachford and Dripsey.

Parish priest

She also informed the local parish priest who went to the IRA unit and asked them to call off the ambush. In the event the IRA column refused to move but the military arrived on the scene and captured a number of the men. Five of them were sentenced to death by a military tribunal.


Mrs Lindsay and her driver were taken by Busteed and his men and held as hostages for the lives of the IRA men under sentence of death. When the army went ahead with the executions and Mrs Lindsay and the driver were killed. The Lindsay home was burned for good measure.

Busteed also referred in his statement to his role in the capture and killing of a British officer who was also claimed to be a spy. “In November 1920 we took a British IO [intelligence officer] off the train at Blarney and executed him,” is all he said about the incident.

Busteed has been associated with many more killings in the 2010 book The Year of Disappearances: political killings in Cork, 1921-1922 which was published four years' ago. Another pension claimant, Edward Moloney of Glanmire, Co Cork, detailed how he was in charge of a notorious local IRA prison at Knockraha which became known as Sing Sing. He said he had about 23 British military prisoners and about 50 people described as spies from all over Cork who were detained in the prison.

The actual place where the prisoners were detained he described as: “A big place, a place for putting coffins in long ago and an iron gate outside. There was a gate out from it and a lock that gave no bother.”

‘Black and Tan’

He said at one stage he “had a Black and Tan for three weeks and was present at his execution”. He also described how four British officers were taken away and said he was also present at their execution.

His superior officer, Martin Corry, later a long-serving Fianna Fáil TD, who put Moloney in charge of the prison, gave details of many more "executions" in a letter to the pensions advisory committee.

“Some 27 ennemy (sic) spies and intelligence officers were captured and duly executed by” by E company of the 1st Cork brigade at Knockraha, he said in an incomplete and undated note on Dáil letterhead.

In a separate letter in support for Moloney’s pension claim Corry made no reference to the executions but praised Moloney saying he had looked after 150 prisoners over the period and “not one prisoner escaped from his custody”.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times