this week in history

  • Irish War of Independence - Savage Attack - 13.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence


    In an effort to control the narrative of the war and to snuff out all opposition to the republican movement, on 13 May 1920 an attack was made on the home of Mr Sheehy, a solicitor and editor of the County Eagle newspaper in Skibbereen, county Cork.


    Answering a knock to the door shortly before midnight a number of armed and masked men rushed into the hall. Knocking him down, he was bound in ropes and his body, head and face were smeared with tar. No one witnessed the attack on the quiet Market Street in the town. Ms Sheehy, his sister who was out visiting, made the horrific discovery when she returned and quickly raised the alarm. Attended to by Dr O’Meara, it was said that Sheehy was severely traumatised by the incident. The cause of the outrage was presumed to be the fact that the Eagle newspaper was strongly anti-Sinn Fein in its stance. Within days Sheehy had lodged a claim for compensation for £1,000. Hitting back at the attack on Sheehy, the Eagle responded in its next issue condemning the assault. In addition, it vowed to continue to practice the principles of free speech claiming it would not be intimidated by the Sinn Fein movement. The editorial finished by stating that: ‘So the editor of the Eagle will continue, as ever, to challenge and combat this monstrous many headed enemy of individual freedom’.


    Download Source: Irish Examiner 1841-current, 14.05.1920, page 5; see also Irish Examiner 1841-current, Monday, May 17, 1920; Page: 5; See also Skibbereen Eagle 1882-1922, Saturday, May 22, 1920; Page: 4


    Irish examiner 14 May 1920irish exam 14_05_1920

    Irish Examiner 17 May 1920irish exam 17_05_1920

    skiberean-eagl-_-front-page-skibberean eagle_1920

  • Irish War of Independence - IRA Ambush - 10.May.1920


    Irish War of Independence 10th May 1920

    On the 10 May 1920 an IRA ambush at Timoleague, county Cork resulted in the deaths of three RIC officers and another severely injured. Taking advantage of an agrarian dispute which they knew would draw the RIC to the scene, the IRA opened fire on the unsuspecting police patrol in what was a well prepared ambush.


    The dead included Sergeant John Flynn and Constables Edward Dunne and William Brick, while Constable Grimsdale was badly wounded and transferred to the infirmary. One newspaper account reported that the police men had little chance as the ‘rain of bullets was deadly’. In the days that followed there was widespread condemnation of the killings, particularly in county Cork. In a remarkable outburst the Most Rev Dr Kelly, Bishop of Cork and Ross condemned the shooting at Timolegue which he said ‘mad his flesh creep’. Speaking during the course of mass in Skibbereen, he continued by saying that it was a ‘callous and deliberate murder. It was slaughter. Likewise, speaking in Kanturk the Most Rev Dr Browne, stated that freedom would not be won by murder and called on the young men of the area to examine their consciences. At the funeral of Cosntable Dunne in Laois a few days later the Right Rev Monsignor Murphy spoke of his abhorrence at the murder of the police men, noting that there was ‘deep grief’ felt by the people of Raheen from where Dunne, a Catholic, came from.


    Download Source: Irish Independent, 14 May 1920 page 4 ; see also Leinster Express 1831-current, 15.05.1920, page 3


    Irish War of Independence 10th may 1920irish independant


    Irish war of independenceleinster express

  • Irish War of Independence- Roscommon Outrage - 7.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence

    May 1920 would display the many ways in which the Irish War of Independence would be fought. Perhaps in greater number than before - intimidation, attacks and outrages were committed on the general population as the IRA’s war extended beyond the RIC barrack or the military ambush. In this month’s blog posts we focus on how all sections of society were affected by the ongoing violence and terror


    In the first week of May 1920 a whole host of outrages were reported around the country. At Elphin, county Roscommon a man named Connor who was in the process of joining the RIC was fired at, while in Ballyconnell, county Cavan an armed and masked group called at the house of Thomas Maguaran and forced him to swear that he would not join the police.


    In county Galway two men named Griffen and O’Connell were fired at and wounded near Menlo, while two men named Duddy and Jennings were forcibly removed from their houses near Tuam in the same county and taken away in a motor car, their fate unknown. In Listwoel, county Kerry two men named Brennan and Foley were taken from their house by twelve armed men and severely beaten. In county Roscommon a man was attacked, stripped naked and forced to walk home with no clothes. A few days previously cattle had been driven from his brother’s land and he was threatened with death if he did not surrender his holding. A number of other houses. Threatening letters were sent to the wife of a county Cavan RIC sergeant and those who had refused to subscribe to the Dail Loan. Threatening letters were also sent to people to surrender their farms and to have any dealings with the RIC or to work as servants in their homes.

    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 07.05.1920, page 7




  • Irish War of Independence - Belfast Newsletter - 5th.May.1920

    Irish war of independence

    May 1920 would display the many ways in which the Irish War of Independence would be fought. Perhaps in greater number than before - intimidation, attacks and outrages were committed on the general population as the IRA’s war extended beyond the RIC barrack or the military ambush. In this month’s blog posts we focus on how all sections of society were affected by the ongoing violence and terror.


    In what would become a familiar story of the Irish War of Independence, but one which many wished to forget, the targeting of women.


    In May 1920 a ‘shocking outrage’ was committed near Tuam, county Galway when a group of seven armed and disguised men dragged a girl from a house during the night. The men had threatened to blow up the house unless they got the girl. Taking her from her bed she soon became unconscious with the fright. One of the men then took a pair of shears, and signing ‘we’re out for Ireland Free’ cut off her hair and asked at the same time should he cut her ears too. He sister was threatened with the same fate. Three arrests were subsequently made. Later that month three men were sentenced to six month imprisonment with hard labour for the attack on the girl. According to the evidence given in court the young girl was told ‘that is what you get for going with Tommies’, a reference to her interaction with the military. Describing it as a ‘blackguarding action’, Mr Golding representing the girl stated: ‘god help Ireland if these are the acts of Irishmen, and god help Ireland if these are the men to free her’. The girl was said to have been in a complete state of shock following the attack which was described by the judges as one of the worst cases which ever came before them.

    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 05.05.1920, page 5; See also Westmeath Examiner 1882-current, Saturday, May 15, 1920; Page: 6


    West Meath-thumb

    West Meath Examiner-5th-may-1920

    belfast newsletter-thumb

    Belfast Newsletter-5th-may-1920

  • War of Independence Belfast Newsletter - 02.May.1920

    Irish War of Independence 01.May.1920

    May 1920 would display the many ways in which the Irish War of Independence would be fought. Perhaps in greater number than before - intimidation, attacks and outrages were committed on the general population as the IRA’s war extended beyond the RIC barrack or the military ambush. In this month’s blog posts we focus on how all sections of society were affected by the ongoing violence and terror.

    May 1920 began with a daring and successful raid on military equipment in county Kerry.

    When military equipment arrived in Kerry for the soon to be established camp near Dingle the IRA in the county sent out a clear warning of their intentions and indeed competence. On the night of 1 May the IRA arrived at Tralee railway station and took all of the tents and bedding which had been sent in advance. The equipment was left in trucks at the station, awaiting the arrival of the military on the following morning when the IRA seized the opportunity to destroy it. A large body of men arrived during the night and as no guard had been left to look after the consignment, they took all of the equipment out onto the road and burned it in a large fire. Displaying how the IRA were growing in confidence and the daringness of its volunteers, the fire was lit within 100 yards of the RIC barracks and close to the coastguard station. Later that month the military sought compensation before the Tralee Quarter Sessions for the loss of the equipment but got little sympathy from the court which were overseen by Judge Cusack. The judge was unimpressed and claimed that someone had ‘blundered’ by not sending an escort with the equipment. Even in a time of peace, Cusack maintained, this was the right thing to do. Giving evidence, Michael Slattery, the night watchman at the railway station claimed that he had been held up by an armed gang and that there was little that he could do to prevent the burning of the equipment. Providing compensation for the railway company, Cusack struck out the military claim to be dealt with at the next sessions, claiming that ‘those military men don’t know where they are after a time’.

    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 01.05.1920, page 5; See also Kerry News 1894-1941, Friday, May 28, 1920; Page: 3

    Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, Saturday, May 01, 1920 page 5

  • Timoleague RIC Barracks Attacked - 24 February 1920

    Timoleague RIC Barracks attacked Cork Examiner

    Timoleague RIC Barracks Attacked 24 February 1920 Cork Examiner 27 February 1920

    The targeting of RIC barracks across the country continued in county Cork in late February when the police at Timoleague, occupied by nine constables and two sergeants, were attacked. The attack was alleged came as a surprise owning to the quietness of the area up to that point. However, the RIC were obviously prepared for an attack, using Vesey lights to try and summon help from neighbouring barracks but none was forthcoming. Armed with rifles and hand grenades, the IRA’s attack began at 11.30 pm and lasted more than three hours. Once more the IRA had barricaded most of the roads surrounding the barracks. Located near to the railway station, the IRA commandeered railway wagons and used them as armoured cars.  The operation had been carefully planned and John ‘Flyer’ Nyhan, a member of the local IRA company had scouted the barracks prior to the attack when delivering goods to the policemen. In total, almost 100 men were involved in the attack, the outcome of which could have been much different only bombs failed to explode and was found outside by the police after the affray. The stationmaster’s house was badly damaged during the attack, but no casualties were reported. In the days that followed reports that IRA volunteers had been arrested at the scene were dismissed. Almost simultaneously, an attack was made on the RIC barracks at nearby Mount Pleasant on the same evening lasting over four hours.

    Source: Irish Examiner, 27 February 1920, page 5

    Cork Examiner 27 February 1920


    Irish Examiner 1841-current, Friday, February 27, 1920 PG 5

  • RIC barracks in Ballynahinch Failed Sinn Féin Plot

    RIC barracks in Ballynahinch attack 23 February 1920

    RIC barracks in Ballynahinch Attacked Failed 23 February 1920

    An attempt to blow up the RIC barracks in Ballynahinch, county Down was widely condemned within in February 1920 when as the Belfast Newsletter wrote the ‘operations of Sinn Fein happily failed in its murderous intent’. Ballynahinch was a small garrison of only five policemen and was manned at the time by Sergeant Doherty and Constables Fennell, Barrett, Coyne and Elliot.

    Sinn Fein in Ulster plot failed

    Shortly after 3 am on 23 February one of the RIC men heard a noise outside the barracks and it was discovered that a ‘diabolical’ plan was in place to blow up the building. The IRA on this occasion had managed to make a hole in the wall into which a stick of gelignite had been placed. According to the RIC had it exploded the neighbouring house belonging to a man called Samuel Anderson would also have been destroyed. In advance of the attack, the IRA had managed to cut all of the telegraph wires preventing communication with Belfast and neighbouring towns. Trees were cut down and gates and large stones were used to block the roads. There had been a large number of visitors through the village during the day but nothing untoward was anticipated in what was perceived to have been ‘loyal county Down’. The plot to blow up the barracks was foiled and the IRA retreated.

    Download Source: Belfast Newsletter, 24 Feb 1920, page 5.

    Belfast Newsletter 24 february 1920 Download RIC Barracks attack failed

    Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, Tuesday, February 24, 1920 page 5

  • Prisoners Release Draws Large Crowd - 22.February.1920

    Cattle drive prisoners 22 February 1920

    The release from prison of a man convicted to taking part in cattle drive was enthusiastically welcomed in Queen’s County (Laois) in February 1920. Anthony Monohan of Cappagh, near Borris-in –Ossory was welcomed home by a large crowd who gathered at Ballybrophy train station having served two months in jail for driving cattle off the lands of Thomas Colcough near Borris-in-Ossory. Met by the Knocknaree Pipers Band and the Borris-in-Ossory Fife and Drum Band, Monahan was paraded through the streets, feted as a local hero.

    Navan prisoners welcome home 2

    During his term of imprisonment, Colcough had surrendered the lands on which the cattle drive had taken place, such was the level of animosity towards him and the growing agitation amongst small holders and landless people. In the coming months a number of other estates would be divided up following agitation. There were similar scenes in county Meath when cattle drivers were released from prison including at Navan where the ‘Back to the Land Association’ welcomed prisoners home ‘amid much cheering and singing’. In Navan the tone of the speeches delivered reflected the view that the association was determined to secure land for people in the future. The speeches at Navan also came a number of days after land was targeted by cattle drivers and where a grave and wooden cross were placed on the land, suggesting the outcome for the owner if he did not comply with the agitators.

    Download Source: Nationalist & Leinster times, 28 Feb 1920, page 5; see also Drogheda Independent, 21 Feb 1920; page 4.

    Drogheda Independent 1884-current Saturday February 21 1920                    Drogheda Independent Saturday February 21 1920 page 4

  • By 1920 the GAA had become the most prominent sporting organisation - 21.February.1920

    GAA Organise Games 1920 February

    By 1920 the GAA had become the most prominent sporting organisation across the country and was closely aligned to the political aspirations of Irish nationalists.

    Despite the ongoing troubles in Ireland (and the inclement weather) the GAA continued to organise games during the month of February. The GAA in county Tipperary was said to have delighted when martial law was postponed in February allowing them to organise games and dances in several county towns. Huge crowds attended a gold medal tournament at the Cork Athletic Grounds and in Croke Park where reigning all Ireland champions Kildare took on Wexford. Other matches including Dublin and Kilkenny in a senior hurling challenge were orgainsed for the Motor Strikers Fund in Dublin. The continued motor strike threatened the playing of a match between Cavan and Meath in Oldcastle, but the Cavan county board suggested the novel idea of the players travelling by rail on the previous day and staying overnight to allow the came to be played. In a debate which has resonance with Ireland and the GAA in 2020, the annual convention of the Kerry County Board considered the debt which the board had accrued most of which stemmed from the preparation of the county team. Costing £115 to prepare the Kerry senior team one newspaper reported that ‘it takes some money to train a team for all Ireland honours’. At the same meeting, Austin Stack was unanimously elected as the chairman of the county board underlining the connections between politics and the GAA during this period.

     Download Source: The Liberator (Tralee), 17 Feb 1920, page 3 &  Download Source: The Cork Examiner 19 Feb 1920, page 7;




  • IRA Attack Railway Lines - 20.February.1920

    IRA ATTACK RAILWAYS to prevent RIC Movement February 1920

    IRA Target Railway Lines - February 1920

    As the War of independence progressed, attacks on railway lines and their staff increased as the IRA attempted to prevent the movement of the RIC and the military. Trains that were carrying weapons were also attacked as at Drumcondra, county Dublin in February 1920 (see earlier post this month). In county Donegal, the railway at Burtonport and trains traveling on the line came under attack on a number of occasions in 1920. During one attack in February, big stones were placed on the line forcing the drivers' engine off the track but the carriage remained on the line. Reports from the incident described the danger which railway workers faced and it was luck that there was no loss of life.

    Donegal RAILWAY OUTRAGE February 1920

    Later that month as the train was due at the village of Kincasslagh in Donegal fifteen masked men held up the station master, cut the wires and smashed equipment in his cabin. With the station master held at gunpoint, the train was then ransacked but the IRA retreated without finding any weapons or ammunition on-board. Later in 1920, the Burtonport train was again targeted by the IRA when coming from Derry, the train was held up at a place called Crolly by armed men. Two men were wounded by a shotgun during the raid, while the driver was told to take the train to a ‘lonely spot’ where it was searched, again in vain, for ammunition.

    Download Source: Freemans Journal, 20 February 1920, page 3.

    Freemans JournaL February 20 1920 PG 1

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