Fr. Eugene Coyle Story

Fr. Coyle was a native of Three Mile House, Co. Monaghan, born about 1875; he served as Curate in Pettigo, the parish of Carn from 1901 to 1906. Later while serving in Brookborough he came to prominence when in the town land of Cooneen where a local family were terrorised by a supernatural presence in their home. The incident became know as, ‘The Cooneen Ghost’. Fr. Eugene Coyle had to give spiritual comfort to the family who eventually immigrated to America. A play was written on the story and was broadcast by Radio Eireann. It the early 1920’s Fr. Coyle was appointed to Garrison where be became the Parish Priest. There he became involved in an incident that happened during the troubles of the 1920’s. Amongst the effects of the late Fr. Frank Little, West Port, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal were found documents that gave an account of the Garrison incident. It appears that Fr. Little took this information down in long hand from his informant, a Mr. Frank Flanagan, a native of Garrison then residing in Ballyshannon. The first portion is typed; the second portion is hand written on a school type jotter and so is difficult to read. Neither is dated, but it appears that they were compiled after the death of Fr. Coyle as the statement refers to him as the late Canon Coyle.



Frank Flanagan.


  Maggie Ann Fallon, teacher in Cashel School, 1922, daughter of Mick Flanagan, Rate Collector, Cashel; gives the following.  “On the night of the 1st Friday – April/May/ June? – Maybe – , probably June, a tall stranger called at Mick Flanagan’s house round 11 p.m. Mick had just returned from trout fishing on Latoon Lake: a net full of trout was on the kitchen floor: the stranger asked Mick Flanagan, rate collector, to come with him. The stranger, and show him, the houses in the district. Mick refused: the stranger told Mick, he – the stranger – now knew he – Mick was now (no) mere boy. That was the night Michael McLaughlin was shot in his bed in his house in Cashel by one Johnston – a local Orangeman. There was a closing station in Garrison round this time; all the priests attending the “station” called on McLaughlin – he had not been removed to Manorhamilton yet – the late Cannon Coyle was P.P., the late Peter Connolly was curate. Canon (Fr.) Coyle accused Capt. Beatty of shooting McLaughlin in Fr. Connolly’s presence, Coyle refused to go to McLaughlin’s home; Peter Connolly went; McLaughlin’s sister did not identify Capt. Beatty as the man who shot her brother – he was moved by the boys in the meantime to Manorhamilton Hospital; in the room where McLaughlin was shot, McLaughlin’s sister said to Fr. Peter Connolly. That – Capt. Beatty – is not the man who shot my brother; the man who shot my brother was much taller; he had to stoop down going through the door into the room where my brother was shot. On returning to Garrison, Coyle still maintained that Beatty shot McLaughlin; Capt. Beatty took an action for libel against Coyle, and the Independent; E.P. Rodgers defended Coyle; Rodgers had just arrived from the South-West in Ballyshannon – he was the only sympathetic – Sinn Fein – solicitor in the area then. It took great persuasion to get Coyle to settle a hopeless case out of court in Belfast The man who did shoot McLaughlin was later identified as one red haired Johnston, who had also fired on Peter Connolly. A certain Carson later when drunk in Garrison stated that the tall stranger intended to shoot Mick Flanagan and others.


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   The ambush on the Rossinver road by members of the Sligo I.R.A. in which a Black and Tan was shot. How the body was recovered by Fr. Peter Connolly and the Minister Mr. George O’Keefe. The suspension of Mr. O’Keefe by his bishop; his approach to Fr. Connolly re his reinstatement. In return the handing over of 60 Carson-Orange –rifles via Fr. Connolly, to the local unit of the I.R.A.


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The death of Mrs. O’K; the case the McBrines, Belleek took against Mr. O’K.    Mr. O’K’s retirement by R. Hall Reed, Sol. Ballyshannon to a private mental hospital in Dublin; the return of Mr. O’K to the Hamilton Hotel. His call on Fr. Peter Connolly now in the Orphanage offering to make his – O’K’s (will) – in favour of Fr. P. my very good friend, to whom I owe so much. Peter refused. Ralph Hal Reed got the money – £6,000 -/. The last illness of Mr. O’K. in the Sheil; his reception into the Church by Fr. Connolly; his death the next day. My (Francis Flanagan) meeting with O’K’s nephew from Canada on the Bridge in Ballyshannon during the Erne Scheme. (Late 1950’s)


   The two visits to Canon Coyle by Owen O’Duffy; on the vote on the Treaty/ on the occasion of Dev. Firing O’D. from the Comm. of the Garda sequel – the Blue Shirts. 1933.


Un-typed script.


Frank Flanagan now residing in Bishop Street, Ballyshannon, left Garrison (on the run) April 6th 1922. The Free State/Republican split was budding. April 5th 1922 Constable Plum was shot dead in ambush on the Garrison/Rossinver Rd.  The Ambush was carried out by a group from Sligo area under a _ Glynn. The Garrison unit, under Frank Flanagan, was ignorant of this ambush – Frank Flanagan should have been consulted and the ambush carried out under his orders. The Sligo group it appears were a Republican or Irregular group. It remained in the area in possession of a hill for five days after the ambush. Plums body lay in an evacuated farm house for two or three days. The Black and Tans were appointed to recover his body. They threatened to burn Garrison if his body was not returned within a certain time. Rev. Mr. George O’Keefe, Church of Ireland minister, Garrison with Fr. Peter Connolly learned this from Capt. Bellie in charge of the Black & Tans operation.


Approached, Capt. Bellie was to confine the Black & Tans to Barracks for five hours – Fr. Connolly to proceed ahead alone to the house where the body lay; Mr. O’Keefe to follow with a pony and cart. Fr. Connolly proceeded to look around if any identifiable objects were left behind; he found in the yard of the house – a trench coat and a cap. These he put in the cart. When Mr. O’Keefe arrived he turned his back to where the Republicans were in observation so as not to recognise or identify any of them. With the assistance of a few neighbours who were called to the scene the body was put in the cart, accompanied by an elderly man Mr. O’Keefe proceeded with the body in the cart to Garrison preceded by Fr. Peter Connolly.


Garrison was closed but when the Black & Tans were allowed out they went mad – for drink – the Misses O’Brien refused to serve them – the sisters were taken out to the street & threatened to be shot. With the greatest difficulty Rev. O’Keefe and Capt. Bellie succeeded in calling the Black & Tans off and getting them under control.


After Fr. McCleery P.P. died and before Fr. Coyle succeeded him, the British Military arrived in Garrison. The Parochial house was the only vacant house in the village, so they proceeded at once to occupy it. Fr. Peter Connolly arrived on the scene at the Parochial House and remonstrated with the officer in charge, to no avail. Mr. O’Keefe arrived on the scene and also protested – he offered his residence to the officer; the officer accepted; the troops moved in; the O’Keefe’s moved out. When the troops moved out the O’Keefe residence was in a sorry mess. It is not known if Mr. O’Keefe was compensated later.


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The shooting of M. McLaughlin – Bullets McLaughlin – afterwards was employed by Leitrim County Council.     June 30th – Frank Flanagan in Ballameehan – called in July to see McLaughlin in Manorhamilton Hospital. Capt. Bellie visited Bundoran in later years – he stayed in Saddlers guest house, he was in the Insurance business in Belfast and called to see Fr. Peter Connolly.


The case taken by the McBrine family of Belleek, (they were members of the congregation of the Rev.O’Keefe) was a breach of promise case. When Mrs. O’Keefe died Mr. O’Keefe became friendly with one of the daughters of the McBrine family and probably under duress proposed marriage. There would have been an age difference of about 50 years between the parties. Wiser council prevailed and marriage plans were cancelled, a substantial amount of damages was awarded to the young lady.


Note difference in spelling of the Captains name, in the first portion of the account it is spelt Beatty, in the second it is Bellie. No reference is made to Canon Coyle having been a prisoner in the Crumlin Road jail.