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Digitized Papers of Joseph Murray, brigadier, fourth brigade, south east Donegal, First Northern division, War of Independence.


Superintendent Joseph Murray Private Papers

In this section you will find the digitised private papers of Joseph Murray, an important figure in the War of Independence in south Donegal. The digitised version of this collection has been divided into 15 pdfs - scroll down to view and download. The catalogue for the collection is the first pdf visible below the summary. To find an item in the collection you will need to first read the catalogue and take note of the reference numbers for each document.


Summary of Collection

The collection of archives relating to the life of Joseph Murray was donated to Donegal County Archives in 2010 by Mr Murray’s son, Patrick. The collection has been given the overall reference number P/183 and has been divided into sections including Accounts of Joseph Murray’s life; Training and Career in Education; War of Independence & Early Truce; Early Civil War; GAA; Personal Life; Tributes; Pension; Pensions of Others; Photographs; Membership of Garda Siochana; Ephemera.


Joseph Murray was born in CountyMonaghan on 15 March 1893, son of Charles and Mary Murray. He attended the local Christian Brothers School in Monaghan until 1909. He trained as a teacher in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. He was awarded a First Grade Certificate of Merit in the college after two years of study, qualifying as a teacher in July 1914. Among the papers in this collection are the original teaching certificates obtained by Murray in 1914 at St Patrick’s College and the memorandum of agreement between himself and the principal of BundoranNationalSchool which employed him as assistant teacher from 1916. (P/183/2/2/3).


 Before being appointed to work in Bundoran he had worked for short periods in Monaghan and Loughrea, Co Galway. In 1923, a former principal of the boys’ school in Bundoran, Reverend Quigley, testified to Murray’s excellence as a resident master with this school in Bundoran stating: ‘during that time he gained the highest esteem by his splendid fidelity to his duty and his kindness and success with his pupils’. (P/183/2/3/3).


For some of this time he lived in the boys’ orphanage in Bundoran. He became involved with the GAA and the Gaelic League, life long interests.


Clearly identified as a man with leadership qualities from a young age, in late 1917 Murray was asked by Ben Maguire, independent TD for Leitrim, to organise a company of the Volunteers in Bundoran. Initially Murray did not take a rank and stayed in the background as an intelligence officer, thus preventing too much attention being drawn to his activities. During the definitive 1918 General Election Murray campaigned for Sinn Fein candidate P J Ward in Killybegs and the surrounding area. (P/183/1/3)


Irish Volunteers companies were organised into battalions in south Donegal by the end of 1919. Bundoran was the No. 1 Battalion, with Companies from Bundoran, Ballyshannon, Belleek, Kinlough, Tullaghan, Ballintra and DonegalTown.


Mid 1920 to mid 1921 saw the greatest level of IRA activity in south Donegal during the War of Independence. Murray became involved in various raids and attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and British forces, including a raid on the Customs office in Ballyshannon on 30 May 1920. Other activities included a raid on the RIC barracks in Belleek in September 1920 (P/183/3). Among the documents in this collection are Murray’s Sinn Fein membership card for 1921 – 1922 (P/183/3/13).



Following the arrest of two important local figures, Thomas McShea and Patrick Johnston in early April 1921, Murray was elected Vice Officer Commanding (O/C) at a meeting of Battalion staff and Company officers. After the murder by the RIC of the father of Captain James Connolly, the captain of Kinlough Company, Murray became more openly active. He left the orphanage where he had been staying and resigned his post there. Shortly after this, he directed a raid on the Bundoran railway station and the destruction of Belfast goods which had been boycotted (P/183/1/3). Raids on post offices and businesses in Bundoran continued until the Truce on 11 July 1921 (P/183/3/6).


Included in the collection are army manuals, memoranda and telegrams and reports on activities from the First Battalion, Fourth Brigade (P/183/3).


A Truce was announced between the British forces and the IRA on 11 July 1921. The richest collection of archival material dates from the period of the Truce to the outbreak of Civil War. Included is correspondence between Colonel Wickham and Eoin O’Duffy, both in Belfast, relating to the theft of a typewriter from Ballintra railway station goods store on the 20th of July- a breach of the Truce (P/183/3/7/1) and other letters relating to a threatening letter (P/183/3/7/3) and the dismantling of the Donegal Vindicator’s printing press (P/183/3/7/2). Activities deemed to be acceptable that took place during the Truce included the continued training of Volunteers and ‘field engineers’, and Battalion and Brigade meetings as the documents in the collection reflect. (P/183/3/8/).


Joseph Murray’s rank during the War of Independence/Truce period varied from ‘Adjutant’ in the Fourth Brigade, First Northern Division, to Officer Commanding (O/C) to Vice Brigadier. Ranks were not established entities at the time, yet it is worth noting that the majority of memoranda in this collection do not refer to the correspondents by name, only by rank.


Memoranda also refer to British prisoners, notably Albert Thompson and Albert Yorke (P/183/4/4/13 - P/183/3/4/14), both of whom were captured by the IRA during the War of Independence.


In spite of the maintenance of a Truce, breaches occurred and one of the worst of these took place from 27th May to the 1st of June, 1922 in Belleek and Pettigo when battles took place between the IRA and the B-Specials. Several documents refer to these crucial events which resulted in the deaths of four members of the IRA and several B Specials (P/183/4/1/1 – P/183/4/1/13); (P/183/4/4/24).


During the Truce even prior to the Civil War individuals were held in prisons and prison camps, as a number of the documents indicate. For example, in a letter written in December 1921 to the Belfast Prison Governor Murray asked for permission to visit two IRA prisoners who were in jail in Derry, charged with the murder of a police officer (P/183/3/8/19). There are also a few letters written from people in prison camps, including one from a Michael O’Loughlin, detained in Finner Camp (probably by Pro-Treaty forces during the early period of the Civil War) for, in his own words, ‘obeying the orders of the man who was above me since the start. If we did not obey them we would be told we were cowards – we got no money out of the whole show only what we lost.’ He asks to be let out on parole though he does say that he ‘can’t complain of our treatment as I could live here for the rest of my life….but I have six acres of meadow to cut …‘.  (P/183/4/3/1).


Other notable documents in this time period include memoranda from Seán MacCumhaill (McCool) to Murray as Vice Brigadier, summoning him to Council meetings (e.g. P/183/4/4/1). Shortly after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921), a memo was issued to Murray which reflected the increasing desperation of the Army to prevent a split during the rapidly brewing political storm. G. Glennon, a Divisional Adjutant, ordered that ‘no volunteer is to take part in any discussion on the present Peace Treaty as a member of the Army. The Army as such is to be kept free from politics and any man wishing to express his views may do so through a Sinn Fein Club. ‘ Aware that the British Army and B Specials were still keeping an unwelcome presence in the locality, an IRA memo warned Murray and other Army personnel to ‘take every precaution for their own safety, keep a vigilant eye on the movements of B Specials, insure all arms are under control, and to take step to prevent any ‘incendiary action by specials’. (P/183/4/4/11).


By March that year the political situation had worsened and the Commandant General at Drumboe Castle noted that an announcement in that day’s Irish Press called for a convention which was ‘prohibited by order of the Dáil Cabinet’ and ordering him to instruct ‘all responsible officers that no delegates are to be allowed to attend any such convention that is to be held on Sunday.’ (P/183/4/4/17).


The Onset of the Civil War and the decisive split in the IRA are flagged in the collection by references in memoranda and despatches to the ‘Executive Forces’ meaning the burgeoning forces of the Anti-Treaty IRA. Examples are in the archival material relating to the Belleek/Pettigo battles in May and June 1922. A 1st Division memo to Murrayreports that the B Specials ‘crossed Lough Erne and took up position in MagheramoreCastle’ and were ‘later…attacked by ‘Executive Forces’ about Belleek and battle ensued.’ (P/183/4/1/6). Another report to Murray on 27 May warns of a greatly increased level of activity from the Executive Forces, and cites numerous raids, especially on motor garages, threats of violence, and arrests made of men alleged to be cattle thieves. The report also states that ‘it has since come to my learning that these men have been handed over to the Dáil troops in Sligo’. (P/183/4/5/3).


Correspondence includes of those like Daniel Harkin, captured by the Pro-Treaty forces. (P/183/4/3/11). This handwritten statement of August 1922 refers to his arrest on the evening of 8 July  outside the chapel in Bundoran and subsequent detention without charge.  Among the original despatches and memoranda are two undated handwritten memos from Seán Mac Cumhaill to Vice-Brigadier Murray, one commanding Murray to preside over brigade council meetings in Ballyshannon training camp and Ballybofey HQ.   (P/183/4/4/1).  


Also included in the collection are a number of newspaper accounts of key events during the Civil War, including the deaths of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith and the first anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (P/183/4/6/1 - P/183/4/6/5).


The collection also includes a file of correspondence mainly between Murray and the Department of Defence relating to Murray’s application for a military pension under the 1924 Military Service Pensions Act (P/183/8/2/1). There are also a number of handwritten letters from fellow former members of the IRA, to Joseph Murray, supporting his application. (P/183/8/2/2 - (P/183/8/2/7). The collection also consists of letters written by men in the 1930s, seeking the support of Murray for their own military service IRA pensions and in many cases supplying details of their participation in the War of Independence and their involvement with Murray (P/183/9/1 - P/183/9/11).


There are a small number of photographs, such as a portrait of a young Joseph Murray in early garda uniform (possibly taken in 1923); a photograph of Murray in army/garda cap and greatcoat, holding a gun (1921-23) and photographs of him in Garda uniform, probably in the 1930s (P/183/10/1 - P/183/10/3). There is also a postcard photograph of 24 young men including Murray during the War of Independence. All are carrying guns (P/183/10/4).


Lastly the collection contains several letters and newspaper cuttings of tributes to Joseph Murray, on leaving particular Garda posts, on retirement and on death. His War of Independence Service Medal is part of the collection (P/183/7/3). One letter written in 1939 on his departure refers to the ‘impartiality, unparalleled consideration, fairness and genuineness with which you always met us as an officer and a comrade,…as a deep and heartfelt regret at your departure from our charge’ (P/183/7/1/4). Another letter praises him for his ‘genius’ in developing the Local Defence Force (LDF) during the Emergency years while he was stationed in Killaloe (P/183/7/1/5).



Lastly a unique handwritten poem by Joseph Murray entitled The Tricolour which begins: ‘Immortal as the ivy plant which clings on wall and tree when autumn leaves have fled…’ The poem is testimony to the strong sense of patriotism felt by Murray which is reflected not just in his own words  but in the actions which are so well documented in these papers. (P/183/11/1/1).


Donegal County Archives and Donegal County Council are delighted to be the recipient of this prestigious collection which is of such military and political historical significance and would particularly like to thank the Murray family, especially Mr Patrick Murray who donated the collection to the Archives.



Joseph Murray



Joseph Murray Catalgoue (List of items)

Joseph Murray Collection file 1

Joseph Murray Collection file 2

Joseph Murray Collection file 3

Joseph Murray Collection file 4

Joseph Murray Collection file 5

Joseph Murray Collection file 6

Joseph Murray Collection file 7

Joseph Murray Collection file 8

Joseph Murray Collection file 9

Joseph Murray Collection file 10

Joseph Murray Collection file 11 a

Joseph Murray Collection file 11 b

Joseph Murray Collection file 12 a

Joseph Murray Collection file 12 b

Joseph Murray Collection file 13