Monthly Archives: September 2020

  • Cameron Highlanders Reprisals - August 1920

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    On the night of 27-28 August 1920 the military, acting in reprisal for the murder of Constable Hall (the driver) killed during an ambush at Castlemartyr, county Cork in which several members of the Cameron Highlanders were injured, sacked the town of Cobh smashing the windows in more than 100 shops and houses.

     

    Soldiers of the Cameron Highlanders, numbering 25 to 30 men, broke out of the barracks and proceeded with rifles to wreck the town. Some private houses were also attacked and many shops were looted. An ex-soldier, named Walker who was called upon to halt by the Camerons was shot and killed during the rampage. A native of Liverpool, Walker had served in the South African War and the Great War. A detachment of Royal Marines who were sent to prevent further damage to the town. On the following morning, some members of the Highlanders patrolled the town but further damage was reported. A jewellery shop and other premises were looted by soldiers the following morning before the Marines once again took control of the town. The damage inflicted was estimated to have been several thousand pounds as the people of Cobh barricaded themselves in fear of further reprisals.

     

    Source: Irish Independent, August 30, 1920, page 5

     

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  • Saint Ultan Aeridheacht - August 1920

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    One of the features of the Irish War of Independence was the ability of local communities to continue the movement to promote Irish games, language and customs despite the constant harassment from the military, which the organisers and attendees of these events faced.

     

    While the GAA was prominent at promoting these events, in many areas the Gaelic League were drivers. Hosting concerts, or ‘Aeridheacht’ (an open air gathering), the league promoted the Irish language, music and customs. These occasions were also used to promote business and people who supported the ‘Irish-Ireland’ movement, including for example those who sold only Irish produce. In August 1920 an Aeridheacht on a big scale was held at Ardbraccan, county Meath which coincided with the celebration of St Ultan. Starting with the recitation of the rosary in Irish, the occasion revived the old custom of venerating this saint locally. It was followed by procession of bands from Navan to the towns show grounds where the crowds were entertained by football matches (including the then famous O’Tooles Club of Dublin); Gerald Crofts and Andrew Dunne prominent ‘Irish Ireland artistes’, and a ceilidh in the evening. Special trains were laid on for the occasion which attracted a large contingent who travelled from Dublin.

     

    Source: Old Ireland, 28 August 1920, page 465.

     

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  • The Weekly Summary - 1920

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    The publication of the newspapers, The Weekly Summary, in August 1920 was an attempt by the British government and the Dublin Castle officials to take control of the propaganda war which was then perhaps the most influential part of the war of independence.

     

    The IRA and Sinn Fein had shown that they could deftly report on any outrage, arrest or injustice to the benefit of their ideals and with this in mind Dublin Castle struck back. The Summary included details of what was happening from a British perspective, including describing the hunger striker, Michael Conlon who was arrested for the attack on Ahern RIC Barrack and his refusal to take food. The newspaper coldly claimed that he could ‘commit suicide’ if he did not. Moreover, the newspaper describe the Sinn Fein movement as ‘enemies of humanity’ owing to the attacks on Irish coastguard stations which they claimed was having a detrimental effect on shipping and had the potential to claims innocent lives as lighthouses were put out of action. The newspaper also included fascinating detail of the war including the fact that following a raid on Harcourt Street railway station in Dublin, aeroplanes were used in the pursuit of the raiders.

     

    Source: The Weekly Summary 1920-1921, 13.08.1920, page 1

     

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  • Labour Disputes Rumble - August 1920

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    All across Ireland labour disputes rumbled on in August. Undeterred by the action of the military and their employers, workers continued to demand better working condition and rates of pay. It was a feature of the Irish War of Independence which dominated local communities. In Kells, county Meath it was bread van drivers who were demanding better wages; in Roscrea it was builders and tradesmen, as they were in Mullingar. In Lucan, county Dublin 100 men and 200 women struck out from work for over five weeks in the woollen mills. A strike fund was established for the workers and their families. A football match which was organised for this purpose attracted several thousand people to the village who marched through the streets showing their support for the strike. The trade unions saw a huge increase in membership with workers of all categories swelling their ranks. In Virgina, county Cavan one branch could boast thirty-four new recruits in one week alone. Many quickly saw the benefits of union action including the dock workers in the port of Tralee who had their wages increased. There was unrest on big farms and estates in Tipperary and Cavan as workers looked to be afforded the same privileges as workers in towns and villages.

     

    Source: the Watchword of Labour, 21.08.1920, page 7

     

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  • Dublin Mountains Arrests - September 1920

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    On 19 September 1920 more than forty IRA volunteers people were arrested on the Dublin Mountains as they drilled and carried out military maneuvers.

    Surrounded, the men were fired on by the military and one man, Sean Doyle aged 19 was shot dead when he was hit by a volley of bullets. All prisoners it was reported were to be tried before the courts including their leader, Capt Ryan who was described as a company commander. The arrested men refused to recognize the courts or give their names. It was stated that the men were not in possession of arms or ammunition when they were captured. At the inquest and in several newspaper accounts of the incident, it was claimed that Doyle was not armed and was in the process of surrendering when he was shot. Despite previous warnings, the IRA had decided to go ahead with the training camp but came to rue the decision. However, the controversy over the killing of the unarmed Doyle tuned out to be a huge propaganda coup for the IRA and Sinn Fein. Doyle’s funeral on 23 September was a huge display of republican sentiment in Dublin. Several councils and public bodies passed resolutions of sympathy with his family and rejected the manner in which he was killed. Thousands lined the streets to watch a procession volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna Éireann, and members of Dail Eireann including Arthur Griffith.

     

    Source: Ulster Herald 1901-current, 25.09.1920, page 6

     

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  • Limerick Leader Fire - September 1920

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    Turning their attention and ire at the civilian population in an effort to terrify them into subservience, the military also realized that they were losing the propaganda war.

    It was not surprising then that they also turned their attention to newspapers and political pamphlets. On the 2 September 1920 an attempt was made to burn the Limerick Leader newspaper on O’Connell Street, Limerick. Three men returning from work in the General Post Office noticed a flame in the building shortly after 4am and went in search of the manager EB Duggan, who lived over the premises. It was obvious to Duggan and the men in attendance that an attempt had been made to try and burn the building, most likely by members of the British military owing to the republican stanch of the newspaper. A door to the office had been broken open and a tin of petrol sprinkled over the floor. While Duggan and company were there trying to extinguish the flames, a detachment of the Welsh Fusiliers arrived and an officer promised to make inquiries into the outrage. Surprisingly, in subsequent issues of the newspaper they made little mention of the attack, perhaps fearing that the military would revisit the premises if they did so. The Limerick Leader newspaper, first published in 1889, was described as being independent, nationalist and Catholic in nature but were not afraid to report on the injustice that the civilian population were experiencing during the War of Independence. Had it not been for the intervention and quick thinking of the three individuals this very popular provincial paper could have folded 100 years ago this month.

     

    Source: Evening Echo 1896-current, 03.09.1920, page 2

     

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  • Public Shaming - September 1920

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    One of the favoured methods of enacting justice during the War of Independence was to publicly shame a person who was deemed to have committed a crime or ran foul of the IRA for some reason.

    It was also the IRA’s, or the Republican police’s way of dealing with petty criminals who were using the war as a pretext to carry out crimes. This public shaming was meant to embarrass a person before the community and also meant as a deterrent to others from committing similar crimes or misdemeanours. In Carrickmacross, county Monaghan in September 1920 a man was marched before the National bank and tied with a rope to a telephone pole. The man was blindfolded and a card attached to his chest with the following inscription: ‘I am a thief: I stole eggs, this is my punishment’. On the reverse side the name of the man was printed. Within minutes a crowd had gathered to witness the spectacle and so the public shaming commenced. Eventually his sister came to his rescue and took him from the pole but she too was soon placed under arrest. The operation was carried out by the ‘Volunteer police’ who guarded the man for a considerable time. A week earlier a railway engine driver had been tied to a pole in a similar fashion in Talbot Street, Dublin by the IRA and a placard bearing the words ‘SCAB’ placed on his chest.

    Source: Anglo-Celt 1846-current, 18.09.1920, page 1

     

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  • Reign of Terror - September 1920

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    In what the Westmeath Independent newspaper described as a ‘reign of terror’ several violent incidents occurred across the country during the third week of September.

    One of the prevailing stories throughout the month was the increased terror which the military were imposing on the civilian population. No one was safe from this terror which occurred during both isolated instances and reprisals following IRA attacks. As the nights began to get darker in September, the military began to surprise civilians in their homes. A young man named John Moran, aged 19 of Carrowmoneen, near Tuam was one such victim and was taken from his bed in the middle of the night by the military and a brutal attack ensued. Brought in a military lorry, they tired to extract information about local Sinn Feiners. Stripped naked, Moran was beaten with rifles, boxed in the face and kicked around the lorry. He was then placed against a wall and several shots fired at him. Asked if he would consider joining the army for £7 a week to shoot Sinn Feiner, Moran refused. On the same evening two brothers named Dunleary were taken from their homes and beaten by the military. Martin Dunleary was twice thrown into a river, while his brother was told he would be shot and several bullets were fired close to him. The military pinned a picture of Bishop Mannix which they had taken from their home and riddled it with bullets.

     

    Source: Westmeath Independent, 25.09.1920, page 2

     

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  • Kilkeel Old Scores - September 1920

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    Violent acts were committed all across the country and in some instances, old scores were being settled in the midst of the war.

    The violence and intimidation of people knew no bounds during September 1920 as was evident in counties Down and Armagh. In the village of Kilkeel, county Down six armed and masked men kidnapped a Protestant farmer, John McKee, from his house at night. Taken by force, McKee was bound in ropes and taken to a field where he was tarred. The men ordered McKee not to attempt to leave for an hour and threatened to burn him if he attempted to flee, pouring oil over him in preparation. In county Armagh a railway engine driver, John Stutt, employed by the Great Northern Railway Company, was attacked by a number of armed and masked men, informing him that if he did not do as they said he would be riddled with bullets. Taken by a number of men into a nearby field Stutt was stripped and his body tarred from waist to neck. Asked did he know why they were tarring him, Stutt replied ‘I suppose it was from driving objectionable trains’. He was told that the next time he drove soldiers on his train he would be shot. Ordered to remain there for twenty minutes or he would be shot, Stutt reported the matter to the police as soon as his assailants had left.

     

    Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 29.09.1920, page 7

     

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  • Violent Home Invasion - September 1920

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    In Charleville county Cork, yet another attack on a woman was carried out during a robbery on the home of a man named Bennett.

    The raiders knocking on the door claimed that there were military and requested that they be admitted at once. Sensing that they were military, Bennet refused to open the door. Kicking the door in, the raiders claimed that they had carried out a similar raid on a local judge some nights previous. Demanding money they were given £2, but not satisfied with the amount they became increasingly violent. In the ensuing melee Bennett’s daughter was knocked to the ground, dragged by her hair and ill-treated in a merciless fashion. A cloth saturated in liquid was forced down her throat. The men knelt on her chest and threatened to shoot her if she did give them more money. More money was eventually found for the raiders. Miss Bennett, in evidence given after the attack claimed to recognise some of the men present, including one an ex-soldier. During the raid several articles were broken in the house and there was a considerable damage done. Having made their way from Bennett’s they attacked another farmer on the same night. Owing to the Curfew Law, which curtailed the night time movement of people, the Volunteers vigilante committee had been disbanded allowing midnight raids for money to commence. It was obvious that a certain section of the community were making the most from the troubled times albeit running the risk of been intercepted by the military or the IRA.

     

    Source: Irish Examiner 1841-current, 09.09.1920, page 5

     

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