Irish Newspaper Archive

  • 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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  • 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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  • Civilian Targets - September 1920


    As already highlighted in this month’s posts civilians became a target as the War of Independence dragged on.

    In September a man named Patrick Gill was murdered by the military as he walked along a public road near Drumsna, county Leitrim. Accompanied by his sister and woman named Netley, Gill was bayonetted after he had fallen to the ground. A coroners jury subsequently found that Gill had been murdered without provocation. Three days later another Leitrim man, James Connolly, aged seventy, was murdered at Kinlough when police came to search his home. Looking for his son, the military shot Connolly who being deaf failed to hear the call to put up his hands. In county Galway two men, John Mulvoy and James Quirke, were murdered in a similar manner. Acting in reprisal for murder of Constable Krumm, the military rounded on Mulvoy and Quirke. The latter in particular received a painful death. Taken to Galway docks, Quirke was tied to a lamppost and shot nine times in the stomach. He did not die instantly but was left to die in agony. On the same night attmepts were made to murder John Broderick and Joseph Cummins. As Broderick’s house was set on fire he escaped and although fired at on several occasion he was unwounded. Cummins feigned death after receiving one bullet and so was left by the military who decided not to fire anymore shots.


    Source: The Irish Bulletin 1918-1921, Saturday, September 18, 1920, page 12

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  • Political Turmoil - September 1920


    In the midst of the political turmoil and ongoing war being fought in every town and village in the country, the cause of labour continued to dominate Ireland in September 1920 as people looked for both security in their employment but also better wages.

    The radical newspaper, The Watchword of Labour, continued to be at the forefront of publicizing union activity across the country. In Dublin, in September 1920, those employed in Tea & Wine sought protection and help, as did those employed in the various picture houses (cinemas) across the capital. Others who were asked to improve the condition of workers include the auctioneers, James Adam & Son, while ‘Ireland’s National Newspaper’, the Freeman’s Journal was criticized for no considering the rights of its office cleaners. In the provinces there were a variety of disputes but in Clonmel, county Tipperary workers on the Perry estate were granted a 40s rate and time and a half for work on a Sunday. In Killala, county Mayo the ITGWU organizer named Reilly succeeded in better wages for town workers, while a similar requirement was argued for in Dungarvan, county Waterford. In other areas such as Limerick and Tralee it was the bacon factory workers who were mustering for support in their claims. However, in some areas unions were not as affective and The Watchword was not afraid to give them a ‘gee up’ or call out that their actions had been ineffective.



    Source: The Watchword of Labour 1919-1920, Saturday, September 25, 1920, page 7


  • James Connolly Labour College - September 1920


    One hundred years ago this month the ITGWU and other unions publicised the fact that their numbers were swelling and across nearly every sector of Irish industry they could claim members.


    In fact, reports from September 1920 suggested that the their membership was well in excess of 100,000 people. Newspapers such as The Watchword of Labour (available through the Irish Newspaper Archive) reveal this growing interest in the cause of labour right across the country. In September 1920 the newspaper advertised the ‘James Connolly Labour College’ which was located at 42 North Great George’s Street, Dublin. For the winter session the college was offering five lectures on ‘Tools and the man’ and eight lectures on ‘The World and its Wealth’. The lectures were to be delivered by M.M. McDonnell and RJP Morishead. In addition to these lectures in Dublin, classes were also held in Bray and Dun Laoghaire. Offering classes on the history of Irish industry, attendees would also receive tuition in public speaking. Ahead of their times and similar to what is happening today during the Covid19 Pandemic, the college were also offering classes by long distance, or correspondence. Offering three courses by distance, the idea was certainly to provide the platform for people to take on the cause of labour in their areas, an again part of the emphasis was on learning the ‘art of public speaking’. Priced at two shillings six pence per lesson, readers were encouraged to seize the opportunity.


    Source: The Watchword of Labour 1919-1920, Saturday, September 25, 1920, page 6


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  • Tubbercury Church Burnt - September 1920



    There were a number of outrages perpetrated against civilians during the month of September 1920. In county Sligo, an attempt was made to burn the protestant church in Tubbercurry.


    The Volunteers subsequently arrested three men who pleaded guilty of the attack and who were forced to pay fines of £5 and £1 each. The money was handed to the rector of the church. In the same month, an attempt was made to burn the home of a family named Murray who lived near Clones, county Monaghan. Frank Murray and his two daughters were in residence at the time, when one of the girls was awoken by the smell of smoke. Reacting to this type of violence and in particular that which was inflicted upon Catholics in Belfast, the Protestant people of Dundalk, county Louth led by Rev Canon Hamilton and others denounced the Ulster outrages and called for people to remain calm. Appealing to protestants to abstain from any acts which would further the violence in Ireland, the group believed that they could help in promoting better feeling between all parties. Speaking to the meeting, Arthur Coulter, a solicitor believed that it was possible for Catholics and Protestants to live side by side ‘as men’ and not as ‘beasts’. His sentiments were widely applauded as the group urged people in Belfast and Lisburn in particular to take heed of their advice.



    Source: The Liberator (Tralee) 1914-1939, 28.09.1920, page 1; See also Freemans Journal 1763-1924, 01.09.1920, page 3

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