Civil War victim shot on hotel steps remembered

The Bertie Murphy commemoration guest speaker, Dr. Tim Horgan and the memorial plaque on the wall in Killarney near the site of the murder of Castleisland teenager, Volunteer Bertie Murphy in September 1922.
Picture: John Reidy, Maine Valley Post

One of the first victims of the Civil War in Kerry, a 17-year-old killed at the entrance steps of the Great Southern Hotel in Killarney, is to be remembered to mark the centenary of his death.

Bertie Murphy of Castleisland was shot dead on 19 September 1922 and, to mark the event, a commemoration will be held next Monday evening near a plaque erected in his memory on the wall close to the hotel entrance.

Bertie, born on 4 March 4 1905, to parents Daniel Murphy and Johanna Horan, Bertie was a member of the local Fianna Éireann, the youth body of the Irish Volunteers.

A postcard view of the former Great Southern Hotel in Killarney in the 19th century

The commemoration is being arranged by the National Graves Association of Ireland and the main speaker will be historian Dr Tim Horgan.

In the book Tragedies of Kerry, first published in May 1924, author Dorothy Macardle provided a vivid account of the brutal murder of Bertie Murphy while unarmed, as a prisoner and in the hands of the Free-Staters.

She wrote that during the Black-and-Tan time, Murphy’s mother couldn’t persuade him to stay at school instead of carrying dispatches for the volunteers.

After the outbreak of Civil War, Bertie eluded his enemies for four months but he was apprehended when walking down a bohereen at Dysart, alone with his rifle on his shoulder, when he encountered a Free State patrol.

“His mother was standing at the door of her little shop in Castleisland, when she saw Bertie led up the street. He was pale and disfigured, his face bruised.

“He signed to her with his hand to go in from the doorway. They had threatened, one of the soldiers told her afterwards, to shoot him at his mother’s door,” Macardle wrote.

On Wednesday, September 19 the troops from Castleisland went to Killarney where a friend of Bertie Murphy’s saw him marched through the streets carrying a heavy bag on his back. He was taken to the temporary barracks – the Great Southern Hotel – where a soldier seized Bertie by the throat and struck him before an officer called him out to the steps.

“There is a flight of eight steps in front of the hotel: the officer threw him, head first, down the steps and fired shots into him as he lay below.

Somebody who saw it went for a priest, and Bertie lived until the priest came.  He had been killed, the Free State authorities stated, in the ambush in Brennan’s Glen, Macardle’s book insists.

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