Monthly Archives: October 2020

  • Frenchpark Attack - October 1920


    There was plenty of activity in Roscommon in October 1920 but an IRA attack on the RIC barracks in the village of Frenchpark ended in failure when the heavily outnumbered police force managed to stave off their attackers.

    The raiders occupied the post office and two houses close to the barrack from which they launched their attack. Again, using a different time and in an effort to catch the RIC by surprise, the barracks was attacked just after 7am. Lasting over a half an hour, some thirty IRA men fired the building but the garrison consisting of two sergeants and twelve constables responded with bombs and rifles. Eventually the raiders were repulsed and the only damage done was to the windows. The roads in the vicinity had been cut in advance of the attack and several large trees felled which blocked the roads. The people of Frenchpark feared for their safety in the aftermath as they awaited the military and their wrath. That reprisal did come and several houses in the Frenchpark area were destroyed as a result. On the night of 3 October lorries filled with police and military steamed into Frenchpark and began to terorrise the local community. They then made their way to the village of Ballinagare where they burned a number of houses, raided others and fired shots indiscriminately at the people. Among the houses burned was that belonging to Daniel O’Rourke, a local national school teacher.

    Source: Connacht Tribune 1909-current, 09.10.1920, page 5; See also Anglo-Celt 1846-current, Saturday, October 23, 1920; Page: 4

  • Dark Autumn Evening - October 1920


    What followed a month of reprisal and intimidation was an upsurge in attacks on the RIC and the military. Aided by the cover of darkness that the autumn evenings provided, the IRA once more upped the ante on the military and met them head on. October 1920 was a month of ambush and shooting recorded in the pages of the Irish Newspaper Archive & the Radical Newspaper Archive.

    Somewhat unfortunately, the newspaper accounts of raids and ambushes do not always provide intimate details of the dead and wounded albeit names and rank and on some occasion place of birth. One of twenty-four police officers or military killed in October 1920 was
    RIC Constable Harry Biggs, roll number 73983, who was born in London, England. Aged just twenty- three, Biggs died on 23 October 1920 while driving in a three lorry convoy which was ambushed in Parkwood on the Kings County (Offaly) and Westmeath border close to the town of Moate. Planned by the Westmeath IRA, the ambush on the military convoy was intended to hit three Crossley tenders who had been noted to travel in the direction very frequently. In total, the ambush party manage to shoot at the convoy which carried nineteen policemen, ten of whom were new recruits. Despite the onslaught of bullets which rained down on the convoy only Biggs, the driver was hit seriously and he was instantly killed. The military returned fire and it was said that some of the IRA ambush party were hit and fell injured.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 23.10.1920, page 5

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  • Four Mile Ambush - October 1920


    While the statistics quoted earlier this month about the success of IRA ambushes and attacks on the police barracks highlighted the failure of some, occasionally the IRA managed to inflict heavy casualty rates on the police and military.

    Three policemen were killed and two others wounded during an ambush near Roscommon town on 12 October 1920. A patrol having left Roscommon was ambushed at Four Mile with shots coming from both sides of the road. Almost instantly Constable Michael Kenny, a native of Mayo, and Constable John Crawford, from the north of Ireland were shot dead. Three others Sergeant Martin O’Connor of Roscommon; Constable Gallaher and Constable O’Rahilly were wounded. Some hours later O’Connor died of his wounds. The police were fired upon by men placed at a number of holes in the stone walls. Surprisingly the driver of the motor lorry escape uninjured. The dead were conveyed to Strokestown and from there the military in Roscommon town were sent for. Once again, locals in the Four Mile district braced themselves for reprisals. Some even abandoned their homes fearing the wrath of the military. That Four Mile ambush was carried out by the 3rd Battalion, South Roscommon Brigade IRA led by Pat Madden and included over seventy volunteers. There are conflicting accounts of the dead with some historians listing that Constable Gallaher also died of his wounds and others were injured.


    Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 13.10.1920, page 6

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  • Orange Districts - October 1920


    The shooting of Michael Kelly in county Monaghan in October 1920 occurred under strange circumstances and the military attempts to prevent an inquest taking place added to the suspicion.


    When a car carrying Kelly and Rev L Murray of Tydavnet from a funeral in Enniskillen crashed, John Kelly of Glaslough Street, Monaghan town, a brother of the deceased answered the call to bring a replacement car and duly made his way to the scene. Returning to Monaghan with the injured pair his car was ambushed at a place called Laragh and about twenty bullets fired at him. Michael Kelly was hit with a bullet and died a few hours later. According to the Irish Independent newspaper it had been reported that loyalists were warned by the Ulster Volunteers not to travel by motor car after nightfall and that instances of cars being fired upon in ‘Orange districts’ were vouched for. When the county coroner, P Whelan opened the inquest, police head constable, accompanied by three or four constables arrived and declared the inquest was illegal and warned them to disperse. Whelan refused to do so saying that he had been notified by the county council to hold an inquest. However, after summoning a jury, and in front of police, no verdict was returned. Michael Kelly was a member of the second battalion Monaghan IRA and was buried in Lathlurcan cemetery with almost 1,000 volunteers present.


    Source: Anglo-Celt 1846-current, Saturday, October 23, 1920; Page: 4


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  • Killkee Coffin - October 1920

    In early October 1920 news of the death of a farmer named John Keane, aged 60, who was wounded during the ambush near Miltown Malbay the previous month was widely lamented in Clare.

    Drawing hay near the scene of the battle, Keane was struck by a bullet to the knee from a machine gun and died a few days later of blood poisoning. His death also coincided with the discovery of a coffin containing the body of Capt AC Lendrum who had been taken in the Miltown Malbay ambush. The coffin, described as ‘rude’ was found on the side of the railway track between Cragganoc and Kilmurray. The coffin was labelled ‘Kilkee’ and contained a notice which read: ‘Capt Lendrum was killed in action, and that there was noting against him personally but that he represented a Hunnish government’. There were two bullet wounds in the head. Lendrum was Resident Magistrate of Kilkee and on 22 September he had travelled from there to Ennistymon alone. Since then nothing was known of his fate. Whether or not he met his death in an ambush on the same day in which six policemen were killed was not known. According to the note which was attached to the coffin his body was been handed back even though they expected reprisals as a result of his death. A native of Tyrone, Lendrum had escaped death in August when his car was fired at near Kilkee.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 02.10.1920, page 5

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  • Shannon Gun Battle - 1920


    Perhaps one of the most daring attacks on the RIC and military occurred near Athlone in county Westmeath and involved a gun battle which was played out on the River Shannon.


    Major Adams DSO was seriously wounded in the attack and was removed to a local hospital and for a time it looked as if he would die. Other injured men were taken to Dublin for treatment. The patrol had gone to some islands on Lough Ree in a search for arms but when they returned to their boat they were fired upon. The steering gear of the boat was broken in the attack, while a machine gun was put out of action. For more than a mile as the military travelled in the boat they were peppered with fire from the IRA which they also returned. The boat was punctured in many places and it was lucky that it did not sink. In total military personal were injured but it was not known if the IRA suffered any casualties. Once more news of the attack caused panic in Athlone as people awaited reprisals. However, an order issued by the military command confined soldiers and their families to the barracks for the night and so it passed off quietly in the town. In the immediate aftermath of the attack however a Sinn Fein and Labour Club at Coosan, near Athlone was burned to the ground in reprisal.


    Source: Evening Echo 1896-current, 19.10.1920, page 4

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  • Irish Front - October 1920


    Reports of the IRA’s attacks on constabulary barracks in October 1920 prompted the Irish Bulletin newspaper to compile and publish a list of all known attacks on police barracks from October 1919 to the end of September 1920.


    According to the Kerry People the total number stood at fifty-eight, of which twelve were captured; two were destroyed and forty four resisted efforts to storm them. The total number of casualties in these attacks was eight police officers killed and thirty-three wounded, while the IRA raiding parties suffered seven deaths and forty-seven casualties. In the twelve barracks captured more than eighty police officers were taken prisoners. These were disarmed and then released uninjured. Seven men who were said to have taken part in the attacks were captured and sentenced to penal servitude. It was little wonder then that RIC garrisons lived in fear of attack. In October 1920 the police at Dunmanway, county Cork believing that they were about to be attacked opened fire and threw explosives, during which one police officer was injured. However, the police garrison in Waterville, county Kerry were not so lucky and were engaged in a two hour gun battle with the IRA. Sergeant Killeen and six constables vigorously held off the attack but Constable English received a shot to the face and was taken for treatment. It was stated that at least three of the attackers were wounded in the affray.


    Source: Kerry People 1902-1928, 09.10.1920, page 2


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  • Fatal Attack on Feakle


    Constable William Stanley was shot dead and Sergeant Doherty was severely wounded during an attack on Feakle barracks in county Clare.

    Commencing at 11.30am, this was attack was different from most in that it was carried out in daylight. A ‘fierce’ exchange of rifle fire was exchanged between the IRA and the police. In the aftermath, a large force of military, with armoured cars, left Ennis for Feakle but there was no trace of the IRA raiding party. In the aftermath of the attack the people of Feakle and the surrounding area braced themselves for a reprisal from the military. On the same day Schull police barracks was captured but the IRA there ordered Sergeant Largan to swear that thee would be no reprisals or they would take him hostage. It was reported that they then took the police to a nearby hotel and ordered the owner to give them accommodation for the night and to treat them well.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 08.10.1920, page 5


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  • The Influenza Flue - Plague 1892

    Influenza Flue 1892 Russian Flue Influenza Flue 1892 Russian Flue

    The Plague of 1889 -

    View this excellent production by Bailey & Blake . The video provides background on the global impact of the Influenza epidemic 1889. The so-called Russian flue claimed the lives of 15,000 Irish people and over a period of 3 years killed 110,000 in the United Kingdom. By 1894 it was estimated to have killed over 1 million people Worldwide.

    The past events in history seem so relevant today when scientists during the pandemic of 1889 suggest isolation as key to survival.

    The Bailey & Blake production used many sources to create this video including the Irish Newspaper Archive resource.

  • Arva Terrific Explosion - October 1920


    The new wave of IRA activity included attacks once again targeted the RIC and their barracks.

    A daring attack on the barrack in the village of Arva, county Cavan once again showed the ingenuity of the IRA. Commandeering a house in the village, the IRA unit cut through the roof and commenced the attack by throwing home made bombs at the barracks which caused ‘terrific explosions’. The barracks, manned by eight constables and two sergeants was then attacked from front and back. Despite being taken by complete surprise the police managed toput up a ‘stubborn’ defence with rifle fire and hand grenades, but they were soon overrun. Placing the garrison in an adjacent outhouse the entire ammunition of the barracks which included rifles and revolvers were loaded into a motor car. Then the barracks was set on fire and completely burned. In advance of the attack all the roads to the village had been blocked by fallen trees and all ammunition cut. It was stated that the sergeant was prepared to surrender after about ten minutes of the affray but his colleagues would not give in. A few minutes later the sergeant again shouted that they were prepared to surrender and one police officer who refused to was carried out by his comrades. The IRA forced the police to stand with their backs to the building and only allowed them to remove personal belongings before it was torched.


    Source: Leitrim Observer 1904-current, 02.10.1920, page 4

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