Abbeyfeale murders - 19 Sep 1920

Memoirs of John Regan, a Catholic Office in the RIC - On page 162 he refers to a Black and Tan whom he names as ‘Wellarly’ and describes as ‘a public school type of fine physique and excellent manners’. Wellarly was his cover name for RIC constable Thomas Huckerby.

1920 Aug 26. He was posted to Foynes. Thomas Darrell Huckerby and Const William Hall were at Dr Con Nolan's dispensary in Shanagolden where they were captured by 8 armed volunteers under Captain Timothy Madigan, who were hoping to capture their weapons, but they had none. The two RIC men stripped of their uniforms (which were burnt by the volunteers) and marched through the village and told to walk back to Foynes without uniforms

The result of this was 2 lorries of Black and Tans returned to the village that night, burnt the creamery and other buildings. A number of men found playing cards in a house were driven some miles out of the village, stripped of their boots and clothing and forced to walk home in a manner similar to the policemen that morning. Additionally, a 60-year-old man, John Hynes, was fired on and killed. The shooting of John Hynes was blamed on Thomas Huckerby. Huckerby was transferred to Abbeyfeale around this date.

1920 Sep 19. The IRA set an ambush for the curfew patrol on the outskirts of Abbeyfeale. The purpose of the ambush apparently was to shoot Thomas Huckerby. Two policemen, Constables James O’Donoghue and O’Mahoney, were killed in the ambush; Huckerby, the target of the action, escaped because he had not been rostered for the patrol.

1920 Sep 19 . A detachment of Green Howards and a group of ADRIC under OWRG Latimer were rushed to Abbeyfeale from Newcastle West

1920 Sep 21. Huckerby shot two young men, named Healy and Hartnett, on their way home from work at about 7pm. He told the British inquiry that he saluted them and they failed to respond, so he thought they were up to no good. He followed them and when they looked back , he says they started to run and he shot them. Firing only 3 shots to do so. He the told Latimer what he had done. There is no doubt that he accepted that he had shot the two men. Neither of them had any involvement with the IRA. The death certificates were issued by a military court of inquiry, the cause of death was put down as ‘Shot by revolver shots fired by T.D. Huckerby’ instead of the usual terms used in police shootings: ‘justifiable homicide’, ‘shot while trying to escape’, etc. Regan’s reaction was to transfer Huckerby to Limerick City ‘in order that he would be under our eye’.

1920 Nov 27. Two ex-British soldiers named Michael Blake and James O’Neill were stopped and shot dead while traveling from Dublin to Limerick. James O’Neill and Patrick Blake, Michael Blake’s brother, had earlier been found not guilty of the shooting of Constable Walter Oakley at a court martial in Dublin. They had been released following their trial but they were stopped and murdered at the Cross of Grange about six miles from Limerick City. Again, neither Blake nor O’Neill had any involvement with the IRA. They came from families that, between them, had contributed ten sons to the Munster Fusiliers. Both men had ‘recognised the court’ and they had stayed apart from IRA prisoners while on remand. From the evidence at the court of inquiry, much of it given by British soldiers, it emerged that a group of about eight masked men had carried out the killings.

The leader of the party was a very tall man who spoke with a distinctly English accent. While there is no definite evidence to tie Huckerby to the shootings at the Cross of Grange, but one needs to note that it was on the Thursday following these shootings that Country Inspector Regan transferred Huckerby to Limerick City. Regan does not refer to these shootings in his memoirs. He refers to Huckerby, or ‘Wellarly’ as he calls him, as ‘undoubtedly the most extraordinary man I had met’. It is impossible to know if Huckerby shot these two men or not- it seems to be just his reputation that links him