this month in histroy

  • 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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  • Spy Execution - September 1920


    The sinister nature of the War of Independence was evident in Limerick in the summer of 1920 with the execution of a spy at Drumcollogher, near Newcastle West.

    Remarkably, it took several weeks to identify the man as Patrick Daly, a farm labourer as described by the Belfast Newsletter in September. However, the report on the identification of Daly on 18 September highlights the need to check multiple sources when examining this or any other period of history. The newspaper claimed that Daly had been kidnapped on 30 August and shot on 1 September and found with several bullet wounds and the word spy on him. This may have been a genuine error as it appears from other sources that Daly had been shot on the first of August and the inquest took place a few days later. The body had been discovered by a young man who was delivering milk to the local creamery. He found the man in a ditch, blindfolded and his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot several times. The identification process took a number of weeks. An ITGWU card, dated from 1919 gave the biggest clue as to who the man was. From Ballyvolane, county Cork without anybody to claim the body, Daly was interred in the local workhouse cemetery, another victim of the War of Independence. The newspapers of the time did not elaborate on his supposed crime.


    Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 18.09.1920, page 5



  • Galway Reprisals - September 1920


    By September 1920 the military were well adept at retaliation and reprisal.

    In Ardrahan, county Galway the ambush of six police officers resulted in the burning of a number of house by the military who responded in a terrifying manner. Describing themselves as ‘Black and Tans’, the men arrived on four motor lorries and burst into the home of a man named Patrick Joyce and burned it to the ground. Joyce and his son were also intimidated by the military, and made to run up and down the street for twenty five minutes in their night attire. The Parochial Hall at Lebane, a mile from Ardrahan was also burned. The home of John Burns, a national schoolteacher was also raided and his sons subjected to the same intimidation as the Joyce’s. The nearby dwelling houses of the Burkes and McInerney families were also burned as were the out-offices and a stock of corn. An attempt was made to burn another house belonging to a man named Higgins, while shots were fired through the windows of another. The military fired shots in the air and there was widespread yelling and shouting all of which terrorised the local community. On the following day the parish priest, Fr Carr, denounced the attacks but called on the people to remain calm. The police officers who had been ambushed were protecting Lord Ashtowns caretaker but had escaped from the attack injury free.

    Source: The Liberator (Tralee) 1914-1939, 30.09.1920, page 1


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  • Rineen ambush - Sep 1920


    Between the 20 and 30th of September 1920 the IRA continued to inflict heavy casualties on the RIC and the military.

    The death of two RIC officers took place in county Tipperary, near Templemore. Two Constables, Flood and Noonan were shot dead in an ambush which also saw their colleague Constable Ferris severely wounded. On the same day another daring attack was made on at Drimoleague, county Cork where Sergeant Dee was hit five times. At another ambush at Tipperary town the RIC again received injuries as they did in county Kerry where the police were relieved of seven bicycles, two rifles, six police capes and waterproof clothes. At Cloughjordan, a Sergeant McNamara was kidnapped by the IRA. However, the deadliest attack came on 22 September 1920 six R.I.C. men were killed in an ambush at Drummin Hill, near Rineen in county Clare. A large party of the IRA lay in wait for several hours for the RIC patrol to pass and when they opened fire in merciless fashion. The Crossley Tender was attack with bombs and rifle fire resulting in the deaths of six RIC constables. The six dead men were from Cork, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and London. The Rineen ambush, although it provoked severe reprisals from the military, including the sack of Miltown Malbay significantly bolstered the IRA in Clare. The victory went down in local lore and is remembered in song which includes the lines:

    “And long will be told of the brave and the bold in the ambush of Rineen”.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 30.09.1920, page 5


  • Dublin Mountains Arrests - September 1920


    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



  • Limerick Leader Fire - September 1920


    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


    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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  • Kilkeel Old Scores - September 1920


    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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  • Midnight Reprisals - September 1920


    The tactic of attacking young women who were deemed to have committed a crime or associated in some way with the British military or the police, as we have seen in Frenchpark, county Roscommon occurred in other counties.

    In county Galway a number of women were assaulted in this manner. At Eyre Square, for example in Galway city Miss Evelyn Baker of Baker’s Hotel was set upon by masked men in the hall of the hotel and her hair was sheared with some force. Baker’s crime was that she had recently given evidence at a military enquiry into the death of Constable Krumm on 8 September who had stayed in the premises. On the following night a party of masked and uniformed men in reprisal for the attack on Baker visited the houses of three other young women and cut off their hair. The raiders on this occasion called on a postman to identify the men who had attacked Miss Baker in the hotel but he was unable to help them. They then proceeded to attack girls who were from families known to have republican sympathies. These attacks provide examples of what Professor Linda Connolly describes as the traumatic experience of revolutionary periods when women’s bodies became battlefields in which war was fought. Many of these incidents were not reported for fear of further reprisal and so have been lost to history.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 20.09.1920, page 5



  • Frenchpark Outrage - September 1920


    A month of mayhem and outrage occurred in Ireland 100 years ago in September 1920. There was no end to the cycle of violence, with the civilian population the primary target. The Irish Newspaper Archive & the Radical Newspaper Archive contain numerous accounts of the outrages committed by both sides which included torture, intimidation, reprisal and counter propaganda as the War of Independence entered into its most traumatic phase.

    There were many violent attacks during this phase of the War of Independence and women were frequently the target. Some attacks were carried out for associating with the military or the more serious crime of passing information to the military, which the republican cause. At other times, the crimes for which women were punished could be described as innocuous. One such case occurred in Frenchpark, county Roscommon when an elderly woman was savagely attacked over the sale of milk. As part of her punishment for the continued supply of milk to the military, the women had three pig rings inserted into the bottom part of her body by masked and armed raiders. Despite having been warned by the IRA not to do so the women continued her enterprise. However, newspapers suggested that ‘Irish Volunteers’ arrested three men concerned in the outrage and after being tried before a Republican Court they were sentenced to two years exile and duly left the country. The attack on the women came days after the death of Captain Thomas McDonagh in an ambush between Ballaghdereen and Frenchpark. Two RIC constables were killed in the attack. It was said that the military dragged the body of McDonagh through the streets of Ballaghdereen and put it on public display. A number of businesses and shops were destroyed later that night by the military in reprisal for the ambush.


    Source: Evening Echo 1896-current, 07.09.1920, page 1


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