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Herbert Mitchell (IRA General Commandant)

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Herbert Mitchell
File:Herbert Mitchell Commandant Portrait.jpg
Birth nameHerbert James Mitchell
Nickname(s)Sean Mitchell
Born26 February 1891
Died17 July 1971
St.Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork
Allegiance Irish Republic
Irish Volunteers
Republic of Ireland Irish Republican Army
RankGeneral Commandant
Commands heldCork No.1 Brigade
Battles/warsIrish War of Independence, Irish Civil War
Spouse(s)Maud Mitchell
RelationsBertha Mulvihill (sister-in-law)

Herbert Mitchell, (26 February 1891 - 17 July 1971) also known as Sean Mitchell, was an IRA General Commandant. He was a member of the Cork No.1 Brigade of the IRA. Originally baptised in the Church of Ireland, he converted to Roman Catholicism. The Offaly Independent has credited Mitchell with playing a "distinguished part in the independence struggle".[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Mitchell was born on 26 February 1891 in County Offaly. He was christened Herbert James. When he became a Roman Catholic, he took the name Ignatius and upon joining the IRA in Cork, he adopted the name Sean. His mother, Dorothy Lowe, was a church going Protestant and played the organ at the local Protestant church. His father, Robert, also a Protestant, was a Fenian an played the uilleann pipes. Mitchell is described as having grown up in the privileged environment of "Protestant planter stock" and attended hunting and fishing parties. Mitchell attended a Convent School, before attending an academy in Tullamore. From the age of 16 it is said that he had a precocious knowledge of wool and wool grading and had an "uncanny genius" in absorbing all there was to know about matters in which he was interested in. He later joined his uncle's wool firm in Athlone, County Westmeath. Mitchell joined the Gaelic League in Athlone and was influenced in his religious beliefs by the local Jesuit College. Becoming deeply interested in the works of Cardinal Newman, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1915. He married Maud Mitchell (nee Mulvihill) on 8 September 1915 in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.[1][2][3][4][5]

In later years, he was a sheep judge at agricultural shows.[6]


'Tan War' 1919-1921[edit]

Mitchell moved to Kerry Pike, County Cork circa 1918. He was elected Captain of 'G' Company in Cork by Dick Mulcahy. He became a General Commandant and was commander of the Cork No.1 Brigade.[7][4][not in citation given] In 2008, Coolacrease - The True Story of the Pearson Executions, a book by Paddy Heaney, Pat Muldowney, Philip O'Connor and Dr. Brian P Murphy was published in response to an RTÉ Hidden History documentary called The Killings at Coolacrease, portraying Offaly people as having committed a sectarian atrocity in murdering innocent farmers in 1921 in order to grab their land during the War of Independence. However, the book claimed that the allegations in the RTÉ programme were untrue and that "vital evidence" was suppressed.[1]

Irish Civil War & Aftermath[edit]

In 1921, at a meeting in Moore's Hotel, Cork, Michael Collins offered Mitchell Command of the Southern Division of the Irish Free State Army. Mitchell angrily rejected the offer. An account of the exchange is described as follows;

"You mean to split the Army?" - Mitchell

"To hell with the Army!" - Collins

"Well, to hell with you!" - Mitchell

— Maud Mitchell, The Man with the Long Hair, Chapter IX: The Civil War

During the Irish Civil War, he was imprisoned in Limerick Prison, the Female Prison at Sunday's Well, Cork and Newbridge Camp. In 1928, he was sentenced to 12 months penal labour by the 1927 Coercion Act, which was implemented by the Irish Free State Government. His conviction took place in an empty courthouse, which was partly attributed to the Jury Act, which closed court cases from the public. Mitchell allegedly 'ignored' the court.[7][8]

In Legends of the IRA & Their Weaponry by Diarmuid O'Ceallaigh, it is claimed that Mitchell was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Bishop Daniel Cohalan of Cork and never received an IRA pension.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "New book aims to clear name of Coolacrease civil war men". Offaly Independent. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mitchell, Maud (1993). The Man with the Long Hair. Cork, Ireland: Glenwood Publications. pp. 113–116. Search this book on [better source needed]
  3. "Books". Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Association, Togher Historical (2020-03-17). "Togher Historical Association: The Laurels - Hegarty Family - Part 01 - 1885 ~ 1932". Togher Historical Association. Retrieved 2020-11-28.[better source needed]
  5. Heaney, Paddy (2008). Coolacrease - The True Story of the Pearson Executions'. Aubane Historical Society. ISBN 978-1-903-49748-7. Search this book on
  6. McCarthy, Kieran (2011). Munster Agricultural Society: The Story of the Cork Showgrounds. Search this book on
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mitchell, Maud (1993). The Man with the Long Hair. Cork, Ireland: Glenwood Publications. Search this book on [better source needed]
  8. O’Sullivan, John L. (1997). Cork City Gaol: A Story of Patriotism, Loyalty, Idealism, Courage, Hardship, Suffering, Determination, Martyrdom, Inspiration. pp. 90, 120. Search this book on
  9. O'Ceallaigh, Diarmuid (2020). Legends of the IRA & Their Weaponry. ISBN 978-1-716-38576-6. Search this book on

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