this week in history

  • Night-time Raiders - October 1920


    What followed a month of reprisal and intimidation in September 1920 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.


    Some crimes committed during the War of Independence may well be ascribed to petty criminals who used the uncertainty of the times and also the cloak of the IRA or the military to carry out robberies and other crimes, safe in the knowledge that their misdemeanors would likely go unchallenged. An extraordinary attack on a woman in Bray, county Wicklow occurred in October 1920 during which she had her hair cut by two men who broke into her home. Also taken on the night was £13 in notes and her wedding ring. The raiders fired bullets through the picture of Oliver Plunket, the martyred archbishop of Armagh. At a about 2am Mr and Mrs Patrick Fox were woken by two me who had broken into the house. Demanding money Fox gave them 4 pence but they were obviously aware there was more money in the house. Mrs Fox fainted and was gagged and tied to a chair. A portion of her hair was cut during the ordeal and the rings taken from her fingers. Throughout the attack on Mrs Fox, the men kept revolvers pointed on her husband. No motive was assigned for the attack other than robbery and the victims could not identify their assailants. It was likely that the men were using the chaos of the time to carry out such raids for money during the night.


    Source: The Liberator, 9 Oct 1920, page 1

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  • Reign of Terror - September 1920


    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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  • Violent Home Invasion - September 1920


    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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  • Irish war of Independence - Violent Reprisals - 29.June.1920

    Irish War of Independence

    June 1920 ends with violent reprisals from the British military all across Ireland.


    Once again the radical newspaper, Irish Bulletin, provides an account of raids and assaults which occurred throughout Ireland in the final week of June. In Limerick city the military fired a number of shots into business and residences after midnight in a night of terror across the country. At Kilcommon, county Tipperary the homes of prominent republicans were ‘attacked’ and women and children present were severely harassed. In the same county, at Ballynonty, the military were said to have ‘shot up’ the village. At a place called Katesbridge in county Down young men returning from a sports day were fired on by a machine gun during a search on the road by the military. In Shillelagh, county Wicklow it was claimed that the fever hospital was taken over the military, denying it to the local community as a means of providing medical care for local people. The same was reported to have occurred in Kenmare, county Kerry where a detachment of the East Lancashire Regiment took over the building. These were all means of controlling the people and the countryside.


    Source: The Irish Bulletin 1918-1921, Tuesday, June 29, 1920, page 3


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  • Irish War of independence - The ‘sack of Fermoy’ - 29.June.1920


    The daring capture of Brigadier General Lucas in Fermoy county Cork during late June 1920 was captured in the pages of the Irish Bulletin.


    Described by the newspaper as the ‘Commanding Officer of the British Army of Occupation’ in the Fermoy area, the military carried out a frenzied search for him using armoured cars and even aeroplanes as large parts of Munster were scoured for evidence. It was estimated that the number of houses which were searched as a result amounted to more than 1,000. The military responded by sacking the town of Fermoy. Leaving their barrack just after midnight, over 500 soldiers proceeded to wreck the town. Over 70 business premises and homes were forcibly entered and whiskey stores consumed. The drunken soldiers then roamed the town firing shorts in the air and into dwelling houses. Many, claimed the Irish Bulletin, were seriously injured, while women and children were ‘terror stricken’. Over £40,000 worth of damage was done. On the same night soldiers in Lismore, county Waterford went on a similar rampage throughout the town, and likewise in Newcastle West, county Limerick. Lucas was released after a number of weeks. Recently letters written by him to his wife have been made publically available suggesting that he was on good terms with his captors.



    Source: The Irish Bulletin 1918-1921, Tuesday, June 29, 1920, page 1

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  • Irish War of Independence - Cycle of Violence - June.1920


    The continued violence by all sides during the War of Independence and the lawlessness that prevailed generated considerable interest in the international press, with many sending correspondents to witness events at first hand.

    In Britain, there were varying reports about the cycle of violence and in June radical newspapers such as the Irish Bulletin published extracts from some. The excerpts gave an insight into popular opinion about the progress of the war and also about the conduct of the military. The London Daily Herald claimed that ‘British rule there (Ireland) is a stark regime of oppression’, that the military were ‘running amok’ in Ireland and doing so with ‘viciousness’. The Manchester Guardian believed that Ireland wanted to restore here ‘dignity and her full prosperity’; while the London Globe claimed, that Sinn Fein was winning the war everywhere. Newspapers such as the London New Witness went as far as claiming that ‘the union is broken: England can never govern Ireland again’. They also quoted British politicians who were also of the same opinion including, for example, Philip Snowden, an MP was quoted as saying that Ireland was being ruled ‘like a conquered province’.


    Source: The Irish Bulletin,28th June 1920, page 1+2


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  • Irish War of Independence - Derry Riots - 25.June.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    The ongoing riots in Derry City continued to generate interest throughout the month of June.


    Described by the Freeman’s Journal as being on the verge of destruction, tensions ran high after Catholics were attacked coming from Mass. Catholic houses were attacked in the Waterside and families were forced to leave their homes. In a night of terror on 19 June five men were killed. The fighting continued over the course of the next few days and on 21 June a further four were killed. Reacting to the deaths and the ongoing rioting Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein, launched an astonishing attack on the British government with regard to the Derry riots claiming that they were being organised to incite sectarianism in the city. Using the platform of the Irish Bulletin newspaper Griffith claimed that the riots were being ‘engineered by persons of prominence in England’. The claim was denied in a response by Dublin Castle on 24th June, who also stated that they had no reason to anticipate the rioting. It was also claimed that weapons had been delivered to Unionists in Derry from other counties in Ulster and that they were being guarded by the RIC.



    Source: The Irish Bulletin 1918-1921, Friday, June 25, 1920, page 2.



  • Irish Radical Newspapers - Old Ireland - 19.June.1920

    Old Ireland

    Another radical newspaper in circulation in 1920 was Old Ireland a paper which provided commentary and debate on all of the leading issues of the day.


    In an edition published in June 1920 in the wake of the county council elections, the editor of Old Ireland declared that the result was ‘a defeat for Carson’ and victory for republicanism. Amongst the contributors to Old Ireland was Maud Gonne McBride who in 1920 wrote about Irish socialism in an international context. The newspaper also avidly supported the cause of labour in June 1920 espoused the rights of railway workers. Socialism, according to Aodh de Blacam was fast becoming the most important issue in Ireland. In a somewhat humorous take on ‘Ireland and America’, Kevin Stroma Dorbene believed that events in Ireland were somewhat amusing to readers across the Atlantic. ‘John Bull’ had been put in his place, according to Dorbene and if the British tried to portray that another Easter Rising was imminent in Ireland they would have face the wrath of the American Congress. The victory in the local elections the paper believed gave de Valera credibility in America, which would be of major significance as the War of Independence played out.


    Download Source: Old Ireland 1919-1921, Saturday, June 19, 1920, various



  • Irish War of Independence - Military up the ante - 18.June.1920


    Radical newspapers continued to report on the activity of the military who, very much on the back foot, up the ante in terms of targeting suspected republicans and their homes.


    The backlash also coincided with the upsurge in activity of the republican police and in many areas, incidents were directly related. In Lismore, county Waterford the military fired into the home of J. Geary; in Ardmore in the same county six houses were raided for suspects, while Patrick Grace, a farmer, and said to be incident of any charge was fired at in his home in county Kilkenny. At Killmallock, members of the Republican police were fired at when carrying out their duties and one of the party seriously wounded. In Stradbally, county Laois (Queen’s County) the military fired without warning on members of the Republican Fife and Drum band which was parading through the town. At Cappawhite, county Tipperary as many as eighteen houses were raided on one night and several gardens dug up in an attempt to uncover weapons. In the same week twelve house in Belmullet, Mayo were raided by the military.


    Download Source: The Irish Bulletin 1918-1921, Friday, June 18, 1920, page 6.


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  • Irish War of Independence - Republican Police Justice - 14.June.1920


    By June 1920 Republican Police were in control of many towns and villages across the country and began to hand out their own justice.


    One of the areas they were most concerned with preventing was petty crime and larceny. A celebrated case in Millstreet, county Cork displayed how the local Republican police reacted to the robbery of the bank at Ballydaly Cross carried out by individuals who were not connected to the IRA. Some of the men involved in the robbery were arrested but two remained at large- Hugh and Daniel O’Brien of Banteer. Issuing public descriptions of the men- ‘Wanted Posters- the IRA in Millstreet ordered that the men should be arrested on sight and brought before the Republican Courts for justice. The Irish Bulletin provides a fascinating insight into the affair including the descriptions of the two men including Hugh O’Brien who was described as ‘athletic and well built, has all the appearance of a well-drilled man. Eyes sparkling and of a restless disposition’. All caution was warned when trying to apprehend the men. Perhaps readers of the blog might be able to suggest what became of the O’Brien’s or were they apprehended by the Republican police?


    Download Source: Irish Bulletin, 14 June 1920, page 4.


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