Former British Intelligence Officer and Would-Be Barrister Drowns at North Wall, 1921

The scene of Mr Morrison’s death, via Dublin Port

From the Belfast Telegraph, 11 August 1921:


We regret to announce the death of Mr Frederick W Morrison, a native of Belfast, which took place under sad circumstances through drowning in Dublin. The deceased was a fine specimen of manhood, six feet high, and as clever as he was brave. In his eighteenth year, Mr Morrison was appointed to a commission from the service of the Bank of Ireland in Sligo.  He was soon transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and lost his left arm at Messines in 1916. 

After the war he decided to become a barrister and went to Dublin to study. The desperate deeds of Bloody Sunday in the metropolis made a profound impression on him, because he was acquainted with several of the victims and had been speaking to them the day before they were murdered. He remarked at the time that it would take very little to make him join the Auxiliaries, and he did so a short time later.  During the present year he was appointed Intelligence Officer in Dublin – a most hazardous post- and it was finally thought necessary for his own safety to transfer him to Co Roscommon, where he was ambushed several times. 

After three’ months service he took up duty again in Dublin.  Last May he was examining Sinn Féin  letters captured in a raid, and the first one he opened contained the following: ‘One-Armed Morrison back in Dublin. Seen in Grafton Street yesterday at 2.30 p.m.’ He did not communicate this to his parents at the time, but he knew he was a marked man. 

Eventually he retired to resume his studies. Last Thursday he returned to Dublin for a final ‘grind’ before the examination for the Bar and both on Saturday and Monday. His parents had cheery letters from him. on the Monday evening he met his death, and the circumstances seem inexplicable because he was in the best of spirits leaving home and his last letter of Sunday was very bright.  He was looking forward eagerly to qualifying for the Bar, and his mysterious death has come as a terrible blow to his friends. At the inquest in Dublin on Wednesday a verdict of suicide while temporarily insane was recorded.”

Reports from Dublin newspapers disclose that Mr Morrison was last seen entering the water at the North Wall, Dublin in the vicinity of its famous 100-ton electric crane above. Two boys nearby raised the alarm, and rescue operations were immediately undertaken by the S.S. Rebecca, but it was not possible to save him in time.

It sounds like Mr Morrison had a lot on his plate – law exams are bad enough without trying to evade assassination at the same time! And one suspects he may have been suffering from PTSD as well… though the tone of the report above leaves open the possibility that witnesses may not have been telling the full truth about the final moments of of the young man who New Zealand’s Paihatua Herald, reporting on the incident, saw fit to describe as ‘Sinn Féin’s most hated foe.’

Mr Morrison was not the only person with links to the legal profession to die mysteriously in 1921 – the sad and now apparently almost entirely forgotten story of the assassination of eminent Dublin KC William McGrath is covered at 10.39-14.40 and 28.48-36.47 of the slidecast below. Dangerous and divisive times!

Photo of Mr Morrison here:

North Wall photo from

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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