Capt Patrick MacCormack


Capt Patrick J MacCormack, late RAVC murdered 21 Nov 1920. He is not buried in CWGC grave, implying he was not on active service. A web souce states the only son of Patrick and Kate MacCormack who owned the Commercial House, a large drapery and millinery store, in Main Street, Castlebar. MacCormack was a noted amateur jockey and qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon. It looks as if his father was in fact Samuel MacCormack born 1844, married 1876, died 1890. And the drapery store was in Market St.

Educated at Castleknock, Dublin University, and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

1877 Born Castlebar, Co Mayo. Patrick Joseph McCormack (sic) born Castlebar 1877 vol 9, p 128

1901 census maccormack

1901 There is a Kate MacCormack, a Draper, listed as a widow of 54 years of age, and her son Patrick is there as a Draper. Living at Market St, Castlebar. Patrick MacCormack is listed as a draper in 1901 but is a veterinary surgeon by 1911.

maccormack rcvs

1909 Dec Passed Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons examination with honours. Worked with Agricultural Committee at Castlebar after thay. Townsfolk were apparently shocked that he had been "one of the chief English spies" as he had played a prominent part in the social life of Castlebar and had appeared regularly at many local entertainments in the Town Hall.

1911 census, living at Gurteendrunagh (Market Street), Castlebar with his mother Kate

1911 census

When he was killed, his father was already dead and his mother had moved to Dublin to live. He was the nephew of the Rev Dr, MacCormack, Bishop of Achonry and later of Galway, Charles and Thomas MacCormack, Castlebar and Patrick Feeney, Castlebar. He was a cousin of Miss Madge Feeney, The Marsh, Castlebar, Mrs. Coughlan, National Bank House, Castlebar and Mrs. Dr. Moran, Westport.

Newbridge Barracks

1917 During the war accepted a commission in 1917 and joined the RAVC, being stationed at Newbridge ( permanent barracks for the Cavalry, called Newbridge Barracks, County Kildare), subsequently going to Egypt. Service in Veterinary Corps at the Curragh and in Egypt.

1918 He was sent to Egypt at some point. and connected with Remount Department in Egypt

July, 1917-Oct., 1918, over 63,000 horses, mules or donkeys, and 31,000 camels were received into veterinary hospitals in Egypt, while the number of less serious casualties attended to in the field greatly exceeded these figures. The percentage of animals returned from hospitals to the Remount Department as fit for re-issue to the service was eighty per cent in the case of horses, and seventy per cent in the case of camels.

Veterinary hospitals were established at centres where rail connection and the possibility of obtaining green fodder combined to make transit easy and the forage supply suitable for sick animals. In these line of communication establishments Egyptians were employed as much as possible in order to economise British personnel. Field veterinary units with divisions were brought to a uniform establishment and equipped

The continuous work demanded from all animals of the army during the summer and autumn of 1918 was such as to keep veterinary hospitals full; and although they were organized and prepared to deal with a further increase had it been necessary as a result of the operations, viz. the advance from Haifa to Aleppo. Though considerable casualties were sustained during this advance they were the unavoidable outcome of war, out of all proportion small, when compared with the results achieved, and the general health of animals remains good

The movement of supplies, reinforcements, and remounts was seriously interrupted both by rail and road, as owing to the heavy floods during November and December, the railway track was repeatedly breached in the low-lying coastal plain, and this made the movement of all forms of transport impossible for days together.

Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

1919 June 1. temp. Lts. to be temp. Capt. P. J. MacCormack. Gazette

1919 Nov 27 Army List. Royal Veterinary Corps. Temporary Captain MacCormack P J. 1 June 1919

1919 Oct his medal card shows correspondence with Egypt about his medals

Egyptian gazette
  Connaught Telegraph 1920 Apr 3.

1919 Prof Townshend's paper tells us that MacCormack was demobilised (9 to 12 months before his murder) and appointed official starter at the Alexandria Turf Club and was engaged in the purchase of horses there. His mother's letter to Collins which is available in Collins Papers, shows that McCormack came to Dublin in the employ of a Mr Montessian with a mission to purchase horses from Mr J. J. Parkinson. In a 51-year career that began in 1896, Senator J J Parkinson amassed an Irish record total of 2,577 winners. Montessian had cabled £1,200, of which McCormack had spent nearly £700 on ’Hotel Bills etc. and on the necessary outfits for his wife and child whom he intended taking back with him to Alexandria. It was only because of problems in arranging berthage for his family and horses that he had not been able to sail back to Egypt as originally planned on 16 October.’

1920 Aug Arrives in Ireland from Egypt

So was MacCormack in intellegence?

Captain MacCormack’s mother wrote to Richard Mulcahy in 1922 asking if someone would admit that the shooting of her son was a mistake. She did not want people thinking he was a traitor ; she was related to Michael Davitt after all. There is a copy of this letter from Kate MacCormack to Richard Mulcahy, 23 Mar. 1922, NLI Michael Collins’s papers, A/0535X.

Mulcahy and Collins both accepted Mrs McCormack's views. Indeed Collins, in a confidential note to Mulcahy, went a much further, and set down what must now be seen as astonishing admissions about the planning of the Bloody Sunday attacks.

With reference to this case, you will remember that I stated on a former occasion that we had no evidence that he was a Secret Service Agent. You will also remember that several of the 21 st November cases were just regular officers. Some of the names were put on by the Dublin Brigade. So far as I remember McCormack’s name was one of these.

He advised his Defence Minister to tell Mrs McCormack that ’there was no particular charge against her son, but just that he was an enemy soldier. Perhaps the most revelatory part of this note is the offhand remark that a number of the victims were selected by the Dublin Brigade, an ordinary fighting unit without a specialized intelligence section. Thus purely military targets, not necessarily connected in any way with secret intelligence work, and not known to Collins’s own organization, were brought into the operation.

A paper by a Dr Bowden "Bloody Sunday, a reappraisal", shows that he believed that McCormack was undercover intellegence, but Dr Bowden does not appear to have read the relevant Collins papers. Bowden damns MacCormack because he had been posted to Egypt "at that time the focal point of special intelligence operations", and that be in "a veterinary surgeon and an Irishman he had excellent natural cover for intellegence work in a rural community". Bowen also floats his theory that "there is the added possibility that he ws in Irland to assess the threatened use of germ warfare in Ireland by the IRA ....The intention of the IRA would appear to be to spread glanders among the horses ann typhiod among the troops....Of McCormack there is no record in the quarterlu or monthly Army Lists.... The Gresham Hotel where he was shot was one of Dublin's finest and certainly an expensive place for an ex-captain in RAVC". Dr Bowden is wrong all the way down the line. There is a London Gazette entry showing the promoton of Capt MacCormack to Captain in 1919 in RAVC. There is a medal card for him showing he was in Egypt in RAVC. You cannot damn a man for being posted to Egypt. And of the men shot on Nov 21, MacCormack was the only one who had served any time in Egypt.

His murder

The IRA unit gained access to the rooms of MacCormack and Wilde by pretending to be British soldiers with important dispatches. When the men opened their doors they were shot and killed. Captain MacCormack was having breakfast in his bedroom in the Gresham Hotel and reading The Irish Field. Lt. L. Wilde was in another room in the hotel and he was also murdered. Patrick MacCormack was shot through the head, in the neck, in the wrist, and in the groin. The racing paper was still in his hand; the blankets were singed from the closeness of the firing.

James Doyle, manager of the Gresham Hotel at the time, gave his statement on what he saw. "At about nine o'clock on the morning of Bloody Sunday," Doyle said, "I was in bed in my room and awakened by noise. It was a muffled kind of thing like the beating of a carpet. The porter called up to my room afterwards and I asked him what the noise I had heard was. He said that Captain MacCormack , who was occupying a room quite close to me, had been shot dead. I got out of bed and entered Captain McCormack's room and I saw that he was then dead. The worker also told me that another man had been shot dead in a room on the next floor over Captain McCormack's. I went to this room also and saw the dead man. His surname was Wilde. I was totally ignorant of what took place or why these men were shot at the time. I questioned the porter and he told me that a number of armed men had entered the hotel and asked to be shown to the rooms occupied by these two men."The Gresham's manager said that McCormack had been staying in the hotel since September and had been buying race horses: "He had booked his passage back to Egypt for December on the Holt Line. Although he had been a veterinary surgeon with the British Army there would appear tohave been grave doubt as to his being associated with British intelligence. While he was here I never saw him receiving any guests. He slept well into the afternoon and only got up early when a race meeting was on. When I found him shot in his room, the Irish Field was lying beside him."

A group of 15 to 20 IRA men under Paddy Moran raided the Gresham Hotel. The raid as a whole is discussed under the Gresham Hotel. Probably because of the fact that Collins acknowledged that MacCormack was not in Intellegence, and was not on Collin's original list, there have been few men after event who have wanted to admit they took part,

The amount of blood in the rooms at the Gresham Hotel was said to be particularly shocking. J. P. Swindlehurst, a British soldier who had seen his share of the Great War’s horrors, was appalled by the walls and carpets bespattered with blood’.

Hansard reports. Gresham Hotel, Sackville Street. Two murders. Here a party of fifteen to twenty men entered the open door of the hotel, held up the boots and the head-porter with revolvers and forced the latter, Hugh Callaghan, to lead them to rooms occupied by Ex-Captain Patrick MacCormack, formerly a captain in the Army Veterinary Corps, and Lieutenant L. E. Wilde. The party, one of whom carried a huge hammer, knocked first at Room 14 occupied by Mr. Wilde. He opened the door and asked, "What do you want?" By way of answer three shots were fired into his chest simultaneously. The party then moved to Room 24, which they entered and found Mr. MacCormack sitting in bed reading the paper. Without any communication five shots were fired into his body and head as he sat there. The bed was saturated, and the body, especially the head, was horribly disfigured. It is possible that the hammer was used as well as revolver shots to finish off the victim.

1920 Nov 24. Buried at Glasnevin Cemetery following mass in the pro-cathedral.

Cairo Gang

I still have to read. Service record of MacCormack, P J , Royal Army Veterinary Corps Lieutenant , Catalogue reference WO 372/12

And also WO 35/159B. Proceedings of a court of inquiry in lieu of inquest on Captain P. McCormick (sic) and Mr L. A. Wilde, London Evidence of the medical examiner (this file was closed till 2003) On my list of things to look up there next time I visit!