Monthly Archives: May 2020

  • Irish War of Independence - Threatening Letters - 26.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence

    Throughout May 1920 the outrages and crimes continued. On 22 May Dublin Castle authorities reported that 100 outrages had been committed in Ireland in the previous three days.

    This quantity of crimes highlights the intensity of the IRA campaign, not to mention others who were taking advantage of the times. Two outrages in particular were particularly notable. In county Cork the members of the coroner’s jury who had found a verdict of ‘wilful murder’ against those who had murdered the RIC officers Flynn, Brick and Dunn at Timoleague on 10 May, were threatened as to their actions by the IRA. Each member of the jury was sent typed copies warning them that if they failed to apologise and express sorrow to the ‘Irish Republic’ they would meet with the consequence. This was a serious escalation in the War of Independence whereby anybody seen to have any dealings with British rule in Ireland was deemed to be enemies to the Irish Republic. Elsewhere, in county Louth the threatening notices sent to a Protestant clergyman warning him to ‘prepare for death’ because he was a member of the Irish Unionist Alliance highlighted another phase of the campaign. Prior to this the clergyman’s gates had been daubed with threatening messages. These outrages significantly contributed to the increase in rates which county councils and local authorities were imposing in lieu of compensation claims which were made. In county Cork for example, claims for compensation for the month of May 1920 alone totalled £239,000.


    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 26.05.1920, page 7


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  • Irish War of Independence - Burning of Moorock House - 25.May.1920

     Irish War of Indepedence - Burning of Moorock House - 25.May.1920

    Towards the end of May 1920 the burning of Moorock House, near Ballycumber in county Offaly signalled the beginning of a phase of the destruction  arson of country houses in Offaly.

    Described as a ‘magnificent three storied mansion’ it belong to a Mr Moylett of Tuam county Galway. Rumours prevailed that the house was to be occupied by the military and so in the intervening period the IRA torched the mansion. All across the country this tactic was soon adopted by the IRA and a number of different reasons and motives were given for the torching of mansions and ‘big houses’. By the end of the Civil War almost 300 country houses were burned. The same motive was also used for the burning of Kilbrittain Castle in county Cork in May 1920. Built on an eminence adjacent to the village of Kilbrittain and commanding views of Courtmacsherry, the castle provided an important strategic location for commanding the local countryside. Once the home of the McCarthy Reaghs and the Stawell family, it was later sold to the Cork firm of Reardon and Doyle, but had been vacant for some time. When it was learned that the military intended to commandeer the castle to be used as a barracks, the IRA decided to burn the castle. The damage done was estimated to have been in the region of £30,000. Prior to the burning of the castle there had been a number of reports of agitation for the division of land and timber had been stolen from the demesne, while other quantities had been dumped into the sea. A smouldering heap, people attended from miles around to see the ruins of this once picturesque castle.

    Download Source: Cork County Eagle, 29 May 1920, page 1. See also Irish Examiner 1841-current, 26.05.1920, page 8


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  • Irish War of Independence - Terrorised Girl - 24.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence

    Attacks on women continued during May 1920, with county Galway accounting for a further one before the end of the month.


    On the night of the 23 May about five miles from Tuam at a place called Cuslough, Castlemoyle a party of five men visited a house called Mannions at 11.30pm demanding to know where Anne Devine was. Strangers in the area the men presented themselves in a menacing manner and entered her bedroom after pointing a gun at one of Mannion’s sons. There they produced a latter which was said to have been captured in the mail bags which were stolen between Bantry and Bandon in county Cork. It was addressed to her from an RIC constable named Edward Daly, who hailed from the Tuam area. The men told her that she should have nothing to do with Ireland’s sworn enemies and then proceeded to shear her hair, almost to the skin. These savage attacks on women would continue during the remainder of the war. In June 1920 in county Kerry two girls were dragged from their house and were beaten by a gang of upwards of twenty men who sheared their hair. Not content with this they poured tar over the girls heads. On the following evening two more girls were subjected to the same treatment near Cahirciveen but escaped being tarred. The following month a young woman was taken from her home in Dungarvan county Waterford and her hair sheared from her head because she was deemed to have beeen ‘too friendly’ with soldiers.


    Download Source: Connacht Tribune 1909-current, Saturday, May 22, 1920; Page: 5; See also Leitrim Observer 1904-current, 29.05.1920, page 3



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  • Irish War of Independence - Social Anarchy - 23.May.1920

     Irish War of Independence 23rd of May 1920

    The growing social anarchy and clamour for land reared its head in county Roscommon in May 1920 when a young man named Peter Kenny was murdered at a place called Aghagad, county Roscommon.


    The dispute in question arose when a number of claims were made on Miss McConn who held nine or ten acres of land which had been let for grazing. On a number of occasion stocks of animals were driven off the land and when returned were again driven off. Kelly and a number of other men wanted the land, but had been warned not to go near it by another faction. The matter escalated when a group of about twenty armed and disguised men visited the home of a man named McGlue and made him swear on his knees that he would not interfere in the land. When they visited Kelly they pushed in the door of the house and ‘without a word shot him dead’. No arrests were made and the local community closed rank, and no information was forthcoming to the police. In June Kelly’s father had a claim for £2,000 dismissed at the Roscommon Petty Sessions with the judge claiming that there was not enough evidence that he had met his death by an unlawful association. Cattle driving continued throughout Roscommon during the summer of 1920 and little could be done to prevent people making claim for land and for threatening others in the process.



    Download Source: Freemans Journal 1763-1924, 24.05.1920, page 3; See also Kerry People 1902-1928, Saturday, May 29, 1920; Page: 2

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  • Irish War of Independence - Coordinated Attacks - 22.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    In the month of May 1920 the IRA in south Kildare targeted the town of Athy and its hinterland. First the Customs and Excise Offices in the town were broken into in the middle of the month and all the documents relating to income tax were seized.


    In a well-coordinated attack no other document was touched in the building. In the same week an aged couple called Loughman were raided by masked and armed men who demanded money from the pair. Terrifying the couple they made off with £13. At Grangemellon sheds belonging to a Miss Keating were set on fire, in a week of arson throughout the area. In the Town Hall in Athy where discharged soldiers met and kept an office, it too was raided and documents associated with the soldiers set on fire. Elsewhere in the Kildare substantial claims were made for a variety of arson attacks on public buildings. Of course while the IRA gained the upper hand when buildings such as these were burned, the downside for the local population was that they were heavily taxed for the compensation claims that ensued. These included for the burning of Maynooth Town Hall and courthouse (£2,250); £800 for Donadea RIC barracks; £640 for Leixlip RIC barracks and £500 for the burning of Sallins RIC barracks. In time this extra taxation would be widely resented but also sent a number of county councils towards bankruptcy as the new state emerged.


    Download Source: Leinster Express 1831-current, 22.05.1920, page 4


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  • Irish War of Independence - Murder in Meath - 21.May.1920

     Irish War of Independence


    The murder of Mark Clinton in Meath in May 1920 sent shockwaves through the county and further afield.


    Murdered while ploughing a field belonging to his uncle, Clinton was the victim of a widespread campaign to grab land and re-divide it. In this case of Clinton the perpetrators of the crime were former soldiers who used the anarchy then prevalent to try and seize the land. One of them, William Gordon, was reputedly paid £2 to carry out the murder. The crime was widely condemned. In a letter to Fr John Brogan PP of Moynalty, the Bishop of Meath, Rev Laurence Gaughran informed the priest that he was shocked to read the particulars of the murder and that his parish and Cormeen was now ‘stained’ with blood and sin. Comparing it to the worst deeds committed in Zululand, the refusal to offer the dying man a drink of water was particularly galling to the Bishop and he called on them to organise the Stations of the Cross so that the murders could pray for repentance. Speaking at the funeral of Clinton the Rev Dr Finegan of Kilmore said that the ‘blood of the boy cried for vengeance to God’ and that ‘the man who rejoiced at such a crime was guilty of grievous sin’. Finnegan also appealed for the conversion of those who killed him, but the violence did not end there. Having been released in Navan by the RIC on a charge of possession ammunition, William Gordon was duly arrested by the IRA and executed near Dunboyne for his role in the killing. Others were deported from the country under a heavy IRA guard. For more on the execution of Gordon and the murder of Clinton see the Bureau of Military History Witness Statements.


    Download Source: Drogheda Independent 1884-current, 22.05.1920, page 3; See also Drogheda Independent 1884-current, Saturday, May 22, 1920; Page: 2


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  • Irish War of Independence - Arson - 19.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    May 1920 would see the Irish country house become a prime target of IRA brigades across the country who for months previous had raided such houses in the hope of securing weapons. Now their attention turned to arson.


    The month of May also witnessed an upsurge in the number of raids for arms, which included ‘sporting guns’ as the IRA wished to add to their arsenal. These included In Ballymote, county Sligo a number of houses were raided by a party of IRA who were armed with revolvers and rifles and carried away four guns, and at Cloyne in county Cork. At Clara in King’s County (Offaly) a number of men raided the house of a man called Dillon in a dispute over land. There were also a number of raids threatening families not to allow their children to join the RIC. In county Leitrim, Bridget McCann was attacked by armed and masked men who made her swear to have her son Owen return from the RIC depot. And the month of May was also an opportunistic time for criminals who either posed as the IRA or were presumed to be so by their victims. In Listowel, county Kerry three men were apprehended by the IRA and threatened that they would be shot if they did not return stolen goods. The above gives some indication of the sense of lawlessness which prevailed in the country at the time.


    Download Source: Irish Independent, 19 May 1920, page 6


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  • Irish War of Independence - Lives Lost - 18.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    The shooting of an IRA volunteer in county Kerry in May 1920 resulted in a dramatic speech the following week at Tralee petty sessions.


    As E.M.P. Wynne Resident Magistrate made his way to the village of Causeway in county Kerry on 11 May 1920 he was ambushed by an IRA party led by a man called Mike Nolan. Hoping to apprehend Wynne and take him hostage in an effort to prevent him presiding at the petty sessions, Wynne fired at his would be attackers shooting Nolan dead in the process. The IRA retreated, taking their fallen comrade with them and who was hastily buried nearby. Speaking at the Petty Session in Tralee the following week Wynne noticed his disappointment that the attack had been carried out on him. Asking the press to take note of what he was going to say, Wynne commented that ‘I very much regret to hear of the deaths that have occurred in connection with the attack that was made on me when going to Causeway Petty Sessions last Tuesday’. Wynne it seems was perturbed by the fact that he would be attacked in such a manner noting that ‘I could have been attacked and easily shot any time within the last few years...I trusted the Kerry people and always found them kindly and courteous’. Offering his sincere regret to the families of the bereaved, Wynne was surrounded by armed RIC officers fearing another attempt on his life. He left the country a few days later never to return.


    Download Source: Evening Herald, 18 May 1920, page 1


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  • Irish War of Independence - Brutal Attacks - 17.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    After a weekend of rioting and outrage in Derry, the Evening Herald newspaper described as series of ‘brutal attacks’ carried out by a ‘band of blackguards’ on the night of 17 May 1920.


    While the attacks were in the main perpetrated by nationalist ‘rowdies’, it was also evident that those of the Unionist persuasion also took part in the rioting and general lawlessness throughout the night. Fearing that the building would be attacked, a special guard was placed at the Convent of Mercy. Intermittent shots could be heard throughout the night, but no injuries were reported. A few days later, the Ulster Herald newspaper cautioned against the dangers of sectarianism creeping into Ireland, and warned that was happening in Derry was of no help to the national struggle for independence. In effect, the newspaper commented that the Derry riots were to the complete opposite of what republicanism stood for. After several nights of violence the victims included: Detective Sergeant Moroney, killed; District inspector McDonagh, scalp wound; John McCallon, ex-soldier, bayonet wound to the head; James McCarthy (aged 18), killed on Sunday night having been shot through the ling; Bernard Doherty, ex-soldier, injured, as were three others named Martin, Quiqley and Wray. It was claimed in several quarters that the unionists were well armed with revolvers and rifles. There was confusion in the days that followed over an order to proclaim the city, owing to the fact that the Lord Mayor of the city was a nationalist and had not taken an oath of allegiance to the crown.


    Download Source: Evening Herald, 18 May 1920, page 1. See also Ulster Herald 1901-current, Saturday, May 22, 1920; Page: 5





  • Irish War of Independence - Day of Anarchy - 16.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    In what the Belfast Newsletter referred to as the ‘half century’ there were over fifty outrages reported by Dublin Castle on a single day in mid-May.


    The disused military barracks in Mitchelstown, county Cork was destroyed by a group of twenty men. In counties Cork, Sligo, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Meath, Cavan and Down – eleven in total. In county Down the burning of the RIC barracks at Laurencetown, near Banbridge highlighted the ingenuity of the raiding party who proceeded to raid three adjoining yards of petrol, paraffin oil and a large quantity of hay which they carried to the barrack to use in igniting the building. Such was the ferocity of the fire that a number of adjoining buildings were also damaged. At Bruff in county Limerick threatening notices were posting warning anyone from making compensation claims on the barracks which had been burned noting that they would be ‘marked men’ and would pay an ‘extreme penalty’. Likewise, anyone who dared to carry out repairs on the barracks would meet the same fate. Several cattle drives were reported and in county Tipperary W.R. Hickey of Galtee Castle was threatened that if he did not take his sheep off the Galtee Mountain he would be killed, informing him that British law no longer existed in Ireland. In county Cork a former soldier and then postman was threatneed with death if he did no give up his job as ‘ex-soldier’ were not welcome.


    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 18.05.1920, page 5




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