Mayor of Cork
1884 - 1920
Tomas McCurtain was born on 20th March 1884 in a farmhouse in Ballyknockane townland,
14 miles north of Cork City. Thomas was the 12th and last child of Patrick Curtin and
Julia Sheehan. He was educated at the Burnfoot National School and later at the North
Monastery School in Cork City.
Tomas MacCurtain, joined the Gaelic League in Blackpool, Cork City in 1901. By 1902
he was the group's Secretary. Tomas had a very attentive memory, loved Irish poetry, music and dancing.
He was very interested in Irish history and archeology and learnt to play the bagpipes.
He was an accomplished violin player and sometimes played in an orchestra.
This brown-haired, blue-eyed Irishman had great determination and business capacity.
Young Tomas MacCurtain
At the age of 13, in 1897 Thomas moved to the city to live with his sister at 68 Great Britain Street
and attended the Christian Brothers North Monastry where he began to learn Irish.
After Tomas left school he worked a a Clerk for the City of Cork Steam Packet Company.
In 1907 he secured work at Marks Mills in Crosses Green and in his spare time he taught
the Gaelic language to those wishing to learn.
By 1911, he was involved in the running of Fianna Eireann, and became a Volunteer in 1914.
He wanted to see a revival of the Irish language and national freedom and for his
cause he served prison terms in 1916 and 1917 in Wakefield, Frongoch and Reading in England.
Tomas met Eilish Walsh, daughter of a Stonemason, John Walsh. She was very active in the
Gaelic League and they married on 28th June 1908. They had 6 children, the first dying
as an infant. Patrick, Siobhan, Sile, Maura, Eilish, and Thomas Jnr. They made their home
at 40 Thomas Davis St, Blackpool, in the northern part of Cork City.
In January 1920, Local Government elections were held in Cork City, and Sinn Fein got the
opportunity of dominating local councils. Tomas was elected by the people of his Ward,
N-W No. 3 and from his elected peers, was selected to be the Lord Mayor of Cork City.
Tomas began implementing changes in the way the Councils were run and was still strong in
his dream of a free Ireland.
Tomas MacCurtain's family
Just after 1 am on Saturday 20th March 1920 men with blackened faces and in semi-disguise
burst into the MacCurtain home. They knew their way to the main bedroom. These men
from the Royal Irish Constabulary shot the Lord Mayor.
In the house at the time were Mrs MacCurtain and her 5 children, plus her brother
(James Walsh) 3 sisters, 2 neices and a nephew, and elderly Mrs Walsh. Tomas died from
shock and haemorrhage caused by bullet wounds, and passed away after receiving the Last
Tomas MacCurtain's stamp
Such was public reaction, that the funeral on Monday 22nd March, from the North Cathedral
was very large. It is said that Tomas was a pioneer of the Gaelic revival movement in
the south, a foundation member of the Irish Volunteers and one of Cork's noblest sons.
He is laid to rest in St Finbarr's Church graveyard, in a plot facing the main gate.