Liam Foley: The war of Independence, Corporal Punishment, Music



Liam Foley: The war of Independence, Corporal Punishment, Music


Life History;


Liam is a musician and he discusses his introduction to playing, as well as talking about his family and his schooldays.
Liam was born in 1940 in Water Lane. His father, John, was a cabinet maker, who also liked to play music, and could play accordion, mandolin and piano.
He didn’t like school, where one teacher used a cane on the pupils; some parents accepted corporal punishment but others attacked some teachers; he tells a story about getting his father to frame a picture to win favour with a teacher who still continued to hit him.
Liam tells a story about his mother avoiding a hand grenade thrown at British soldiers during the War of Independence, and her hearing the shots that killed Tomás MacCurtain [in 1920]. When his father was a young man a barbershop he worked in was raided by the Black and Tans and he had a gun held to his face. He tells the story of an uncle, Eggar Isherwood, who escaped a planned execution.
He talks about picking up music, learning to play the drums by listening to jazz records and taking up the guitar. He sings and plays some brief part on guitar to illustrate musical styles for the interviewer.


05 November 1998




Ireland; Cork; 1900s


Published Material:
Hunter, Stephen (1999), Life Journeys: Living Folklore in Ireland Today, Cork: The Northside Folklore Project


Cork Folklore Project Audio Archive


Cork Folklore Project










47min 44sec


O'Mahony's Square, Blackpool, Cork

Original Format



The following is a short extract from the interview transcript relating to the audio extract above. Copyright of the Cork Folklore Project. If you wish to access further archival material please contact CFP,

S. H: Did you ever hear the phrase ‘‘ lime burners '' applied to the people around Millfield, the Millfield Cottages?

L. F: No.

S. H: I only mentioned that because somebody told me that, that was a name in the twenties and thirties sometimes applied half-jokingly later to people from around that area because apparently

A lot of, quite a few people from that area joined the British forces in the First World War.

L. F: Is that right?

S H: And, yeah so the story went, and then after independence people didn't want much to do

With them, you see because they were “lime burners”, and if somebody's been burning lime there's a horrible stench from them.

L. F: I don't know?

S. H: No I just thought that you know, perhaps you had heard the phrases, it's interesting to see how far these phrases carry.

L. F: The only things I can tell you about the British thing right is, that em, my own mum was nearly killed by a hand grenade in the buildings down here you know Maddens buildings down here, she had just eh, she was in the shop getting messages…

S. H: What shop would that be?

L. F: That would have been, do you know it could have been Murnane’s, just one of the shops down the street here right, it had to have been right, and she had just got in the door right, and there was this unmerciful bang right, just right where she is and it damaged the door even right

S. H: What happened?

L. F: Somebody threw a hand grenade, at one of the Brits I think, maybe one of the rebels, threw it.

S. H: Was anyone hurt?

L. F: No, no one hurt.

S. H: You, can't, she wouldn't remember the year, it would have been 1919 or 1920...

L. F: Well she was living in the buildings at that time so, she wasn't married right so she must have been only a teenager, she must have been em, probably around fourteen or fifteen, but I remember her telling me that story.

S. H: Did she also tell you something about hearing the shots that killed Thomas MacCurtain?

L. F: She did, yeah...

S. H: What could she remember about that?

L. F: The shots, remember, em, remember hearing the bangs at the time of the, and, I, I'm not absolutely sure of the story but I think at the time, she might have been in somebody else’s house near at hand when it happened, and these bangs went around the place, and nobody, people are used to hearing bangs around then as well of course right ... and, or I said there's some shots gone off right, and it's only then did it come out that they were after being shot you know. So she did hear the shots, yeah.

S. H: Did any of them have sort of Nationalist or Republican leanings, your family, or did events more or less pass them by?

L. F: They did pass them by but there was always a close, like that thing like about the bomb now going off right, something similar happened to my father because he was a barber first, right, in his young days, when the British people were ruling completely, right, and they used have these sort of eh, I don't know what you'd call them, I suppose eh, this thing that they'd come in with their guns and search every place, do you know what I mean? So they came into the Barbershop and all hand up in the air immediately right and they searched the place and they gave it a real gruelling over, I mean right down into the pots and pans and whatever it was that they had in the thing looking for bombs and he was only a young fella at the time serving his time, he told me this and em, he eh, he was scared out of his livings, because they'd put the gun in your face and that was it right, and when they went away the guys that were, the other two barbers that were there were laughing about the whole thing, and they put their hand up the chimney and pulled down this box full of soot and opened it and here's two guns inside in it, the box right...

S. H: You could have all been shot maybe yeah...

L. F: Oh, no problem, you know, and he said that was the closest brush that he ever came across.

S. H: Were they Black and Tans or Auxiliaries or Regulars or could he remember?

L. F: The guys that came in were the Black and Tans, right, and the guys that were the rebels, or what we used to call em in those days, what were they? The IRA I suppose, the Old IRA I suppose, you know...

S. H: That's very interesting.


Cork Folklore Project , “Liam Foley: The war of Independence, Corporal Punishment, Music,” accessed August 12, 2022,