Timothy Quinlisk

Quinlisk Quinlisk MIC

Timothy Quinlisk was born Wexford 26 Sep 1895 (Oct - Dec 1895, ref vol 4 page 654). He was educated at a Christian Brothers school – apparently “of a R.I.C. stock. Father and grandfather were both in the RIC", certainly the 1911 census shows his father, Denis Joseph Quinlisk, in the RIC as an Acting Sergeant in Waterford. RIC records show Denis J Quinlisk was aged 20, born Wexford and married, when he enlisted in 1886. His grandfather, from RIC records, probably was Timothy Quinlisk, Enlisted, 1859, age 20, Birthplace, Kilkenny, Married, D 1878.

Quinlish is recorded in Brigade papers as a "student" when he joined up. And Zerhusen believed that Quinlisk was a "higher calibre than any other man in the Irish Brigade"

1910 census Living with the family in Castle St, Waterford. His father is an RIC constable

1901 quinlisk census

1911 Census for Waterford, 12 Cathedral Square, for family.who were all -Roman Catholic, could read & write and were born in Co Wexford

Quinlisk Denis Joseph 42 Head of Family R.I.C Act Sergt Married
Quinlisk Alice 37 Wife - Married
Quinlisk Timothy 16 Son Scholar Single
Quinlisk Michael 14 Son Scholar Single
Quinlisk Ellen 12 Daughter Scholar Single
Quinlisk Catherine 10 Daughter Scholar Single
Quinlisk Denis Joseph 7 Son Scholar Single

1911 from his service number Timothy Quinlisk joined the Royal Irish Regiment about May 1911. He had become a Corporal at the start of WW1. His younger brother, only 17 at the time of his death, Private Michael Quinlisk, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regt, who died 15/10/1914,was shot through the heart near La Bassie. Quinlisk saw him killed. His brother was given on CWGC as the son of Son of Denis Joseph Quinlisk, of 15, Lombard St., Waterford, and the late Alice Quinlisk.

He went to France 13 Aug 1914.

Waterford News Report;
Mr Denis Quinlisk, of Ram Street, Wexford, and ex-Sgt of the R. I. C. ( mounted section ) was notified by the War Office during the week that his son, Michael, who was a Private in the 2nd Battalion, 18th( sic ) Royal Irish Regiment, had been killed in action on the 15th October. Mr Quinlisk received correspondence expressing the sympathy of the King, Queen and Lord Kitchener.  The deceased youth, who had been only about 18 months with the colours, was very popular in Wexford, and his end will be learned with sincere regret by a wide circle of friends. His elder brother, Timmy, of the same Regiment, who was promoted in ther field to the rank of Corporal for personal bravery, was taken prisoner on the day prior to that on which he was to receive his promotion. Writing to his father from Hamelin, Hannover, Timothy says; -“I do not know if I can write to you in my usual coherent strain, for I don’t know whether I am a prisoner of war or not, as I am bewildered by the sudden train of events. Anyhow I am now settled down fairly well, and am certainly in Germany.
Mr Dear father-I have a most unwelcome and sad piece of news for you, for which I find very hard in committing to paper. Poor Michael was killed on the 16th October. Poor lad, he died a soldiers death. I am heartbroken now, as I think of him lying alone on the battlefield. I was by his side as he breathed his last; he died very peacefully, with a prayer on his lips. May God have mercy on his soul. My God, it was terrible that day!. Nearly all the chaps that left Davenport with me are now buried in France. Dear Dad do not grieve too much over Michaels death, for someone had to go, and at last one of us is safe, but I would have been quite content to have been killed if I thought that Michael would be saved. We are well treated here and get enough to eat and drink, but I miss the cigarette very much. I was to be promoted still further the day after my capture, but when I return to Ireland after the war, I hope with God’s help to wear the Sergeant’s sash. Don’t fret too much on my account, and try not to think of poor Michael. The Don’t fret too much on my account, and try not to think of poor Michael. The Germans are very good shots with the rifle, although people may say they are not. ”
Another son of Mr Quinlisk’s, a boy of 11 years, is a worthy chip off the old block, and as will be seen elsewhere in our columns, pluckily jumped over the quay to rescue a drowning child during the week. It may be of interest to learn that on the outbreak of war Mr Quinlisk wrote offering his services to the War Office, and was thanked by Sir Neville Chamberlain for his patriotic action.

From the People, 1915; Lance Corporal, T. A. Quinlisk, Son of ex-Sergeant Denis Quinlisk, Wexford, is at present a prisoner of war in Gefangenlagers, Germany. Writing to his father this week he states; - “We got shifted from Limburg, In any case it was rather crowded there. How are you all getting on in dear old Wexford? Well I hope. We are still having very jolly weather here, but the nights are cold. What a difference in my daily life this September. Last September I was in the trenches, the cold, miserable trenches. I have become quite reconciled in my captivity, though as I look out over the barricade and see the vista of green fields studded here and there with peaceful-looking farm houses. I find it hard to think that a horrible war is raging over the world. When do you think this war is going to end?”.

1914 Oct 19. He was as captured at La Bassee. An Allied attack was planned for 19 October 1914. The only success during this attack would lead to tragedy. The 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish captured Le Pilly, a village on Aubers Ridge, but the rest of the advance failed. The Royal Irish were dangerously isolated, but before the order to retreat could reach them they were surrounded by the Germans. Of nearly 900 men only 300 survived to surrender to the Germans. I would assume Quinlisk was part of this group., and eventually ended up in Limburg Camp. Of the 56 men who joined the Irish Brigade, about 16 were from the Royal Irish Regiment.

1914 Dec 6. Quinlisk and McMurrough were the first to volunteer their services to Casement, during Casements initial soundings in Limburg. Quinlisk undertook to talk to other POWs and see who he thought would join the putative Irish Brigade.

1914 Dec 17. Quinlisk writes to Casement asking for more condensed milk and bloaters.

Keogh was in the same regiment prior to capture, and knew Quinlisk from that. Keogh recounts that Quinlsik was known as "Don", describes him as a well educated youth of about 20, who could speak French fluently and had in addition a fair knowledge of Gaelic. Keogh believed that Quinlisk's main failing was "a youthful inconsistency in Irish Ideals", and Keogh on one occasion says he floored Quinlisk with a KO blow during an arguement.

1915 Jan. Quinlisk recalls that because he was known as an Irish Brigade man in camp "my life became hell on earth. Taunts and gibes were flung at me by every low scoundrel in the camp. I had the greatest difficulty sometimes getting my ration of food". His friend was Father Nicholson who arrived in Limburg at end of Jan 1915.

Quinlisk refers to a man who I assume is one of the two civilains released with Chatterton-Hill from Ruhleben Camp. "At this time there was a fellow who was knocking about the camp, who was supposed to do some propaganda work, but disappeared after a couple of weeks. Sir Roger later told me that this man had signified a willingness to to to the USA and convey tidings of Sir Rogers arrival and work. But he got into Holland and from there to England, where he presented his report to the usual quarters" It is probably a Marburg student Bryan A. Kelly, of Irish origin was sent to Ruhleben prison camp after the outbreak of the war, transferred to Limburg with other Irish soldiers, had refused to join the Brigade but convinced Casement that it would be better for him to return to Ireland in order to report the leaders of the Irish movement about Casement’s activities. Casement had obtained a passport for him, but after his arrival in Ireland Kelly made incriminating statements about Casement to the British authorities in Dublin.

1915 Mar 31. Quinlisk says that just before St Patrick's Day he was approached by Keogh to discuss ideas about the Irish Brigade. They wrote to Casement asking him to come to Limburg. And later on 31 March they wrote to Casement again, asking to be removed from the camp, as "relations with the men had grown very strained, to put it mildly"

1915 Apr 21. Quinlisk, Keogh and Dowling go to Berlin. They change into civilian clothes for the train journey and are escorted be two German soldiers. Quinlisk says that they stayed in a very comfortable hotel, with good food, but were there for about a week without any contact from Casement. Eventually Keogh phoned the Hotel Eden where Casement was staying, and was told that Casement was ill, but would be pleased to see them.After two hours walk across Berlin, they got to the Eden, and found Casement in bed suffering from a heavy cold. and looking very pale. This was the first interview of any importance that the three men had had with Casement.

1915 Apr 27. A few days later Quinlisk and Dowling meet Plunkett in Berlin. Quinlisk says of Plunkett "One would never associate the soldiers and burning patriot with the rather sickly looking young man, who looked more like a dreamer and a poet than anything else"

1915 early May. The three men, Keogh, Quinlisk and Dowling, drove to a big tailoring establishment, accompanied by Boehm and Casement, to be measued for their new Irish Brigade uniforms, which were ready for them by the time they returned to Limburg.

1915 May 9. Plunkett arrives at Limburg. Quinlisk and Dowling accompany him on the express train (Keogh had left Berlin earlier to obtain the removal of pro-British elements among the Limburg POWs) Plunkett stays Limburg three and a half weeks. He mentons meeting Keogh (together with Quinlisk and Dowling) 6 times during this period, until he leaves Limburg on 1 June.

1915 Jul. He was moved to Zossen with Kerogh and Dowling, a month after the other Irish Brigade recruits. The three NCOs had remained at Limburg in order to "keep their eyes open for likely recruits"

25 Oct 1915, Colour-Sergeant Keogh sent a letter to Casement in which he says "This morning Quinlisk, Dowling, Collins and Keogh were in Berlin standing trial for the affair of the Algerians money. I was present and the trial was public. They were tried as Irish Prisoners of War, and not having a Consul to plead for them, they were sentenced to a fortnight's imprisonment. Dr Lehmann, the prosecutor said that if we made the customary appeal to the Kaiser, they would perhaps suffer a money fine instead of imprisonment" Casement had a bad tempered exchange of letters with the Germans as a result of them being tried as "prisoners of war" and refused to appeal. A little later he agreed to an appeal, but at that point the matter disappears from his correspondence. Casement was particularly concerned as 2 of them (Keogh and Quinlisk) were under-officers.

Keogh gives the reason for Quinlisk's joining the Irish Brigade was that Quinlisk reported a plot by another soldier to subvert Keogh's plans. The result being that Keogh believed that Quinlsik's life was in danger, and that he would have to be brought out of the Camp. Quinlisk became the number two NCO in the Irish Brigade, as Quarter-Master Sergeant. Not a wonderful explanation by Keogh on why Quinlisk became number two in the Irish Brigade.

Monteith writes of Quinlisk as being tall and well proportioned, decidedly good looking. Burdened and blessed with such gifts, he got into many a scrape - he was a great favoutite with the girls, and he spoke German well.

1916 Mar 30. Quinlisk writes to Casement that Monteith has deliberately left him off the list for Egypt and that he wants put back on

1916 Jun 26. The men were in Danzig on this date. Quinlisk says that "those of the men who wanted to get out of camp volunteered to work with farmers, and exchanged thereby the verminous quarters at Danzig for the cleaner cowbyres of the Polack or the bauer". He says he got a clerical job at Dirschau. "Fifteen members of the Irish Brigade worked at different jobs at Dirschau and seemed to get on well - so well that three or four settles with girls, as if they never intended to leave the country"

1917 Mar 12. Hahn to Gaffney. There are only about 30 men out at work, and there always seem to be about 24 in the camp. He records that Quinlisk is to try working at Dirschau Gas works

1917 Jun 7. Quinlisk to Gaffney asking for money for an engagement ring. Gaffney declines on 25 July and points out that POWs cannot get married. Quinlisk later writes that the girl has left him as he could not get her a ring as a token of his seriousness.

1917 Aug 22. Quinlisk writes to Gaffney asking if Gaffney can send him a old suit that he might have.

Another prisoner said ‘Fifty-six of us eventually joined up, and were marched down to the railway station one afternoon, dressed in khaki. We were led by one of our number playing the Irish pipes. The British, French and Russians prisoners of war, to the number of 3,000, were lined up outside the camp as we marched past. There was a strong guard of German troops, and the officers called the whole camp to attention and saluted us as we went by. At the railway station we were met by Quinlisk and a German staff officer. We entrained for a camp beyond Berlin, and were travelling all day and all night. Eventually we reached Zossen Camp, where there were Mahomedans and Cingalese prisoners of war. Each day we went out on route marches. Quinlisk and another returned after a few days to Limburg to try and secure more recruits.’

There is a diary of Quinlisk's printed in a 1920 newspaper article

quinlisk in Limburg

Quinlisk in QMS uniform of Irish Brigade.

Quinlisk got a job as a clerk in Dirschau. He sias that 15 members of the Irish Brigade worked in or around Dirschau


And at the end of the war, after the armistice he went to Berlin ans he was employed as a clerk in the firm of Tuck’s in Berlin. His comrade (Who is just described as "B", but who I believe to be Burke) met him frequently while in that city, and they just happened to meet on the Wilhelmstrasse when the Spartacist revolution broke out. Quinlisk was then in civilian garb and employment.

1919 Mar 1. he and Burke decided to leave Germany, and to try and get back to Ireland. They went to the British embassy , were given uniforms and left Berlin. They travelled together to Cologne, where both of them were arrested on St. Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1919. Quinlisk reported himself as an ordinary prisoner of war at the British Expeditionary Camp. His identity was discovered and after being brought before the Town Major he and his companion were confined for 14 days in prison, Quinlisk says he spent 4 weeks in prison btween Cologne and Calais. While there three other members of the Irish Brigade were brought in. These men had been for a considerable period in Munich, and had handed themselves up to the British military authorities in Berlin. At the end of 14 days they were marched through the streets of Cologne. Quinlisk and his companions sang German war songs as they were marched along under an armed guard through the streets. At the railway station they were placed on board a special leave train for Calais. Here they were detained for four days in a compound and brought before the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall. They were then released without prejudice and conveyed under escort of a Scottish military officer to Folkestone. From this place Quinlisk left for Dublin. In a letter which he recently wrote to his companion – all the correspondence is in German – Quinlisk suggested that they should make an attempt to return to Germany, and stated that he would try and secure passports. It is of interest to note that he approached a Dublin publishing firm to sell his story of the Casement Brigade, but the negotiations came to nothing.

Discharged 3 Jun 1919 for "misconduct". The file WO 141/9 includes a summary of the evidence compiled by MI5. It suggests that the evidence is strong enough for pay, allowances etc be stopped for 6 men including him.

1919 Sep 12. he asked the German Foreign Office for permission to return to Germany. His request was refused.

About Oct 1919 he was told to report to his depot at Clonmel, but did not go as he feared repercussions from joining the Irish Brigade. In spite of this he appears to have got a discharge, and also to have received 32/6d per week allowance. After discharge, he stayed on in a hotel in Dublin, with the rent apparently being paid by a republican organisation. But after 4 more months this source was discontinued, and he moved into private lodgings and got a job with an insurance company. However he became ill after 2 weeks and could not work, but someone came every week to pay his rent.

There is a story that he got a suit of civilian clothes and a place to live in Miss McCarthy's house at 44 Mountjoy St, Dublin. Collins had a room there too, but rarely stayed there.

An article by military historians Gerry White and Brendan O'Shea entitled "The Execution of Quinlisk" says Quinlisk tried to join the Republican movement through a Republican, Robert Brennan, who knew the Quinlisk family. He ingratiated himself by suggesting schemes to procure arms and by repeatedly trying to get into Michael Collins inner circle. He was viewed with suspicion because of his cavalier attitude and his popularity with the ladies, although it is difficult to see why popularity with ladies should be a reason.. As winter 1919 approached he had failed to get employment and he had failed to gain acceptance into the Republican movement so he decided to switch his allegiance. Then through the various sources at Collins disposal they realised where they stood re Quinlisk.

“But Quinlisk’s brash, indiscreet behaviour disqualified him from Collins’s inner circle, and by November 1919, still unemployed and living hand to mouth, his life was in freefall. Even Collins’s financial assistance had dried up, fuelling Quinlisk’s anger at the Director of Intelligence. With his feather-light principles and loyalties and a proven track record of betrayal, Quinlisk effortlessly executed another somersault. On 11 November 1919 he wrote to the Castle, claiming that ‘since coming home I have been connected with Sinn Fein. I have decided to tell all I know of that organisation and my information would be of use to the authorities. The scoundrel Michael Collins has treated me scurvily and I now am going to wash my hands of the whole business.” From “ Michael Collins’s Intelligence War. The struggle between the British and the IRA 1919 - 1921” by Michael T. Foy

Michael Collins refused his request to join the IRA as a training officer , and Quinlisk then contacted the British Under-Secretary , claiming to have information on Collins and the IRA ; there was a £10,000 reward on offer from the British for information leading to the capture of Collins , and Quinlisk was determined to claim it ...... A meeting was duly arranged at Dublin Castle between the representatives of the British administration in Ireland and Quinlisk - however , the IRA had people working for them in the Castle and were notified immediately that Quinlisk had been in contact with the British Under-Secretary. An IRA investigation into the contacts uncovered a telegram and a copy of a despatch which confirmed that Quinlisk was an informer ; arrangements were made to deal with him . In February 1920, Quinlisk was 'inadvertently' made aware that Michael Collins was staying in Cork , and went there himself to confirm it ; on 18th February , 1920, IRA Volunteers from Ballyphehane in County Cork shot him dead . Thomas McCurtain is stated to be responsible for Quinlisk'd death. There appears to be no death certificate in Quinlisk's name.

Part of his letter to Dublin Castle, auctioned in 2013.

Timothy Quinlisk was shot dead by Mick Murphy and others of "B" Co. 1st Cork Brigade IRA 18 Feb 1920 in townland of Ballyphehane, just outside Cork City. Mick Murphy's statement saying he was responsible was made in 1956. The Council of No1. Cork Brigade, leader Sean O'Hegarty, decided Quinlisk was to be shot. Murphy met Quinlisk by agreement and asked Quinlisk to assemble a Hotchkiss gun and told him that there would be £10 in it for him. Later that night a man named Keyes brought Quinlisk to Curragh Road. Frank Mahony 2nd Battalion Intelligence Officer and Jimmy Walsh, local Captain turned up with Murphy. Keyes was sent home. The others walked through fields in the dark supposedly heading for the cottage where the Hotchkiss was. Murphy stuck his .45 Colt in Quinlisk's back and ordered hands up. They searched him taking letters, cigarette case and newspaper cutting.

"We shot him standing there". As it was approaching curfew the decided to leave but Murphy thought he would check, went back and hit Quinlisk with the butt of his Colt, the body moved, MM turned him over and put a bullet through his forehead. That night following a raid on the mails they found a letter from Quinlisk addressed to the County Inspector, RIC, stating Quinlisk had been in touch with a prominent IRA officer "meaning me, I suppose" who had told him Michael Collins was in Clonakilty Co Cork and this IRA officer was to introduce Collins to Quinlisk. when Collins arrived in Cork City.

Among the documents found on Quinlisk was a letter to the RIC saying Quinlisk had information on Collins and would be in touch again. In his cigarette case was a cutting from a Wexford paper "Daring rescue from the Nore". - a boy had been rescued from the River Nore by a John Quinlisk. All this data was notified to GHQ in Dublin. Word came back that one of Collins's sources in Dublin Castle had found Quinlisk's application for service as an agent of Dublin Castle and also his acceptance as such by the Castle.

His body was found in a field outside Cork with 5 bullets to the forehead. 1 through the eye, one through the heart , one in his chest and one in his back. He has a Special Branch file. Apparently he was wearing a overcoat when shot which had been loaned to him by ex-lieutenant I H Cunningham of 48 Eccles, Dublin. His remains were taken to the County Union initially and interred in the Pauper's Cemetery, Carr's Hill. Some time later Timothy's father, Denis Joseph, claimed his remains and they were taken to either Waterford or Wexford.

Ballyphehane murder - letter and request – A communication purporting to come from the father of the man ‘Quinlisk’ who was murdered recently at Ballyphehane, in the southern suburbs of the city, is to come before the Cork Board of Guardians’ meeting today. The writer signs himself D. J. Quinlisk, residing at 5 Rose Lane, Waterford, and states that he is the father of the victim of the outrage, Timothy A. Quinlisk. The application relates to the obtaining of permission to exhume the remains, which were interred on the 21st February. The letter had been addressed to the Master of the Workhouse, and the writer intimates his intention of having the body removed by motor car to Waterford for re-interment there. In connection with the matter, it will be remembered that at the last meeting of the Cork Board of Guardians, a resolution was passed asking the military authorities to pay the cost of the burial of the murdered man. The letter above referred to cannot yet be taken as genuine, and it may turn out to be a cruel hoax, as an order for exhumation can only be made by the Lord Lieutenant. (CC 12/3/1920) – Cork Union – The Ballyphehane Murder – Meeting of the Guardians - ….. A letter was received from General Higginson, Victoria Barracks, Cork, stating that he was directed by the G.O.C. to acknowledge the receipt of the master’s letter of the 8th inst, and to inform him that he was not aware of the removal by the military authorities of the remains of a man found shot at Ballyphehane. The military authorities are unable to admit any liability in the case. Mr. J. F. McSwiney [Guardian] asked if the body had been exhumed yet. The Master said no. He had written to the father intimating that the Guardians would have no objection to the exhumation of the remains provided the usual legal requirements were complied with. He had received no reply to that letter. The matter then ended.

It seems to be true that Quinlisk was a double agent, and was lured into a trap and shot. Like many of the returning WW1 soldiers, he had no family, and apparently no source of income. According to "Stumbling onto the Haze" a Tom Cullen tipped off a journalist that the man shot was Quinlisk.

“The British began to retaliate by using some of the IRA’s tactics. In Cork during recent weeks, for instance, there had been the killings of Quinlisk and a number of constables, as well as the shooting of District Inspector MacDonagh. The police held Tomas MacCurtain responsible; he was both lord mayor of Cork and commander of the local IRA. On the night of 20 March, following the killing of another constable, a group of men with blackened faces forced their way into MacCurtain’s home and shot him dead in front of his wife and daughter.” From “ Big Fellow, Long Fellow. A Joint Biography of Collins & de Valera” by T. Ryle Dwyer.

Liam de Roiste was a prominent politician in Cork at this time. His diary entry for Feb 21 1920 includes "-- the shooting of an unknown man at a place called Ballyphehane on the southern side of the city. He was apparently shot by a number of men. At the inquest his name was given as Quinn and evidently he was a stranger in Cork. One rumour has it that he was a spy and that his shooting was an execution."

Cork Poor Law Union - Board Of Guardians' Minute Book 152 page 508, March 1920 "I submit letter received on 2nd instant and signed by D.J.Quinlisk, 5 Rose Lane, Waterford, stating that he has applied for permission to exhume the body of his son (Timothy A. Quinlisk) found shot at Ballyphehane on the 18th ult. on order from the Relieving Officer Ryan. He will be grateful for any help that may be given in carrying out the disinterrment. Order;- Permission granted, subject to the usual legal formalities being complied with".

quinlisk death

Recruits to Irish Brigade


Dwyer, . Citing notes by Mulcahy, refers to Byrnes (a British Agent) making arrangements to have Collins arrested a meeting at Batt O'Comor's on 16 January 1920. Bymes was in England at the time. Dwyer's and other accounts wrongly allege Bymes' pre-war service in India, wartime experiences in Germany and possession of a souvenir Iron Cross (given to the Squad). From this it is likely that the man who was taken to tea at Batt O'Comor's was Quinslisk