Denis Spriggs

Photos from Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc

1901 Apr/Jun born Kinsale, Cork

1911 census at Shanakiel Town, St. Mary's, Cork

1921 Jul 8. Denis Spriggs, a member of C Company, was shot dead by British Forces at the convent gate in the top of Blarney St. (WS Witness: P.J. Murphy, Captain Fianna Eireann, Cork, 1912 - 1916 ).

Memorial at Blarney Road, Cork city, where Denis Spriggs of 'C' Company, 1st. Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade IRA was killed by British forces

Denis Spriggs joined the IRA aged only 16. He played an active part in the Tan War and, as result of his activities was forced to go on the run. On the 9th July 1921 he had returned home briefly to visit his mother. His presence in the house was betrayed by a neighbour. That night the house was raided by Crown Forces. Denis Spriggs was seized, taken 100 yards from his home to the top of Blarney Street and shot dead.

British reports said he was "shot trying to escape"

The death of Denis Sprigs from Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc

In Cork city the IRA received word that some members of the British forces were planning a series of reprisals in reaction to the announcement of the Truce. Consequently the IRA Volunteers in the city were warned not to sleep in their own homes.1  A few hours after the Truce had been announced the British military abducted and killed an IRA Volunteer named Dennis Joseph Spriggs. Spriggs a plasterer and slater by trade, was a member of C Company, 1st Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade. He was twenty years old at the time of his death. Sprigg’s family home in Strawberry Hill, on the northern side of Cork city, was raided by the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment about midnight on 8 July. According to the British military inquest into the killing the British army had planned the raid after receiving specific intelligence information, and had launched the operation specifically to capture Spriggs. Spriggs was asleep in his bed when the raid began. He was unarmed, and, upon being confronted, immediately surrendered to the raiders without offering any resistance. The British officer who led the raiding party, 2nd Lieutenant A. d’Ydewalle, told the military inquest that Spriggs had been shot dead whilst attempting to escape:

    ‘On the night of the 8th inst, at about midnight, acting on information, I proceeded to the house of Dennis Sprigg[s] at Strawberry Hill and arrested him on suspicion. He was placed in a Crossley Tender under an escort. When the Crossley had proceeded about 200 yards down Blarney Street, the tail board either fell down or was released by Dennis Spriggs. Spriggs then leaped out of the Crossley and started to run up Blarney Street. The escort on the Crossley opened fire & he fell. He was apparently dead when picked up. Before putting Dennis Spriggs in the Crossley, I  personally warned him that he would be shot if he attempted to escape.’

Accordingly the inquest ruled that Spriggs was killed whilst trying to escape ‘and that the deceased was to blame, in as much as he attempted to escape from Military Custody, after having been warned of the consequences.’
 (PMCILCI on Dennis Spriggs ( NAUK, WO 35/159A ) )

A unique aspect of the War of Independence in Cork is that not a single member of the IRA in Cork City was killed in action fighting against the British forces. In fact all of the 21 IRA members killed by the British forces in Cork were unarmed at the time of their deaths and were either killed in their homes by masked assassins, shot dead on the city streets by British patrols or killed whilst in British custody. Ten of these fatalities were assassinations carried out by disguised members of the British forces adopting the guise of the ‘Anti-Sinn Féin Society’ as a cloak for their activities. Denis Spriggs was the ninth unarmed IRA prisoner killed by the British forces in Cork city whilst allegedly trying to escape. One of the other eight IRA Volunteers killed, only one, Tadhg O’Sullivan had been killed during a genuine escape attempt. Six of the remainder had been killed after surrendering at Kerry Pike, and another Charlie Daly, was arrested and beaten to death by British soldiers at Victoria Barracks just twelve days before Spriggs’s death. The same night that Daly was beaten to death at Victoria Barracks, British soldiers also killed an unarmed civilian named William Horgan. Horgan a twenty year old fireman on the Great Southern & Western Railway was arrested at 2 am in his parent’s home at Dillon’s Cross, and was shot dead a short time later. The British military inquest into Horgan’s death ruled that Horgan had assaulted a British officer who was searching him, and was killed whilst attempting to disarm this officer in an effort to escape.

Apart from the explanation that both men were shot ‘whilst trying to escape’, there is another connection between the killing of Horgan in late June and Spriggs on the night the truce was announced - both were taken prisoner by British soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire regiment who were acting under the direct command of Lieutenant A F d’Ydewalle.  ( Death of William Horgan; 28th June, 1921; Lavitts Quay, Cork. War Office: Army of Ireland: Administrative and Easter Rising Records. IRISH SITUATION, 1914 - 1922. Courts of inquiry in lieu of inquest. Individual cases: HOD... Death of William Horgan; 28th June, 1921; Lavitts Quay, Cork. Held by: The National Archives - War Office, Armed Forces, Judge Advocate General, and related bodies Date: 1921 Reference: WO 35/152/16)

 It is unknown how many other similar killings Lieutenant d’Ydewalle man have been involved in. Given the circumstances of Denis Sprigs arrest, the track-record of the British officer involved and the explanation proffered for the killing, the probability is that Spriggs was summarily executed by the British military because of his republican activities and not because of any resistance, or attempt to escape on his part. 




Cork Executions