Irish Newspaper Archive

  • 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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  • RIC Constable Evades Capture - August 1920


    Throughout August 1920 IRA attacks on the military and police took on very different forms, including engaging with large parties such as at Annascaul in county Kerry to ambushing small parties of the police such as at Ballybay in county Monaghan.

    Here RIC Constables Boyd and Sharkey of Ballybay were returning from Newbliss when they were ambushed at a place called Aughadrumken, three miles from Newbliss. About half a dozen shots hit the motor car in which they were travelling and Constable Boyd was injured in the process. Although injured, Boyd returned fire and engaged with his enemy who were located on both sides of the road. He was quickly surrounded by the IRA and overpowered, although he lay on his revolver to avoid its capture. Constable Sharkey was taken from the vehicle, which was quickly dismantled to make it inoperable, and made swear that he would resign the force a tactic of intimidation widely practiced by the IRA. Constable Boyd was later transferred to the Monaghan infirmary for treatment. Scouring the countryside in the aftermath of the attack, the military were aware that one of the ambushing party had been injured and was obviously receiving medical treatment somewhere but no arrests were made.


    Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 11.08.1920, page 6

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  • Annascaul Dangerous Manoeuvre - August 1920


    Described as an exceptionally dangerous manoeuvre, IRA volunteers waited patiently for a part of thirteen military as they made their way to Dingle with provisions.

    Upon their return and near Annascaul the ambushers surprised the military and called halt. When the order was not answered they opened fire on the lorry, injuring four soldiers in the process. The soldiers were quickly surrounded and decided to surrender. Their weapons were seized and the lorry set on fire. Interestingly, given the nature of the campaign to date, a passing motor car was commandeered by the IRA to bring the injured military to Dingle for medical treatment. Other military prisoners it was stated were treated to tea in a nearby farmers house awaiting the return of the commandeered car from Dingle. Other prisoners were brought towards Dingle and released on the road. In Tralee and Dingle rifle could be heard that night but the location could not be discerned. People retired to their homes before the curfew but five youths passing the police barracks in Tralee were arrested. The Annascaul ambush, which involved a considerable number of volunteers and was carefully planned, proved successful for the IRA in capturing arms and also identifying weaknesses in the military’s movements in west Kerry.


    Source: Kerryman 1904-current, 21.08.1920, page 1

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  • Irish Volunteers Winning The War


    As British military and police retaliations and reprisals continued throughout the country with homes and businesses wrecked in the process, An t-Oglach, the newspaper of the Irish Volunteers urged its members to ‘Keep Cool’ as they were winning the war.

    In its front-page memorandum of 7 August the editor encouraged not to bow to the burning of Irish towns which is ‘getting out of hands’. Although such action was almost certain to drive volunteers into a fit of rage, the newspaper urged them to remain calm. As the police withdrew from remote areas the result would be a more effective volunteer organisation who could carry out their duties undetected. The editor of the newspaper urged that:

    It is the duty of volunteers, in face of this outrageous provocation, to go on with the work as coolly and efficiently as ever, with stern discipline, unshaken determination, and even greater energy than before. The enemy’s latest outbreaks of pillage and arson are only symptoms of baffled rage and demoralisation, a proof that he realises he is badly hit. His principal weapon of offence and defence, the RIC is crumbling to pieces in his hands’.

    A striking line in the editorial noted that volunteers should fight in a way and time that suited themselves and not to allow the enemy to provoke them.


    Source: An t-Oglach, 7 August 1920, page 1.

  • British Government White Paper - August 1920

    British Government White Paper

    In early August 1920 the British government released statistics in what was called a ‘White Paper’ on the extent of the conflict in Ireland for the previous two months.

    During May and June 1920 seventeen policemen and nine civilians had been killed. During the same period there had been 727 attacks on property and 415 attacks on persons, which included acts of intimidation. Thirty-two courthouses were destroyed, twelve occupied RIC barracks were attack or destroyed, and 157 unoccupied were also targeted. Ten coastguard stations had been raided, while government buildings had been targeted for arms, petrol and old aged pensions. Numerous post offices had been raided, while incendiary fires and shots fired at dwelling houses also occurred. In a number of engagements with the IRA, policemen had been disarmed and almost forty were wounded. Trains carrying mail was a constant target and during these two months almost fifty mail cars and trains were targeted. The ‘White Paper’ figures may not have reflected damage done by soldiers and policemen on public property as they retaliated to IRA attacks throughout the country. It is likely that these figures were far higher as the civilian population began to bear the brunt of the War of Independence.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 07.08.1920, page 4


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  • Ballyvolane Ambush - August 1920

    Balyvolane Ambush - August 1920

    There were many ambushes in county Cork during the War of Independence where IRA battalions caught the military by surprise.

    One such occasion occurred in August 1920 about four miles from Cork at a place called Ballyvolane, where nine military personnel who were being driven on patrol were ambushed by the IRA. During the attack five soldiers were wounded in what was a carefully executed attack. As the military passed a section of the road a bomb was thrown at the lorry and five soldiers were injured in the blast. The injured soldiers made their way to a field where a Lewis gun opened fire on them. The explosion was returned by the military with rifle and revolver fire. One of the most interesting aspects of this attack was that an aeroplane which was accompanying the lorry hovered overhead. Eventually, the aeroplane returned at full speed to Victoria Barracks and raised the alarm that the military convoy was under attack. Several lorries of military personal, the Staffordshire Regiment were quickly on their way and they carried out an extensive search of the area, but few clues could be found as to who carried out the attack and no arrests were made. Interestingly, in the search that followed five German made revolvers were found amongst other ammunition left at the ambush site.


    Source: Irish Independent 1905-current, 02.08.1920, page 6


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  • Castlerea Destruction - Aug 1920

    Castlerea Destruction - Aug 1920

    The destruction of the town of Castlerea, county Roscommon on the night of 3 August 1920 caused a sensation throughout the county.

    Eight men dressed in waterproof coasts and slouched hats, and without warning attacked three men who were standing on the footpath. Windows were smashed in many of the towns businesses and civilians were assaulted. One of the men assaulted, called Hanley, a shop assistant, were seriously injured. It was assumed that the disguised men belonged to the military or the police. When they reached the premises of a grocer, Joseph Carroll, they fired large stones at the windows, destroying them in the process. Several people sleeping in the premises managed to escape the attack by hiding under their beds. It was believed that the reason for the attack was that some of the shop assistants were members of the Sinn Fein organisation. Two of the men involved in the attack were identified as local RIC constables who were said to have been aggrieved that they were refused service in local shops as the boycotting of the police continued in the local area. The rampage it seems had the desired effect as later in August it was announced that shopkeepers in Castlerea decided to supply provisions to the police.


    Source: Freemans Journal, 3 Aug. 1920, page 3

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  • Two Women Assaulted - Aug 1920

     Two Women Assaulted

    In early August 1920 the people of Navan assembled at the local court.

    Held in the town’s RIC barracks, to hear the case of two young men, James Dalton and Patrick Kane who it was alleged had presented revolvers, threatened and cut of the hair of two girls, Margaret Cooney and Bridget Faulkner.

    Soldiers it was alleged were present at the time of the assault, perhaps suggesting the reason why the girls were targeted in the first place. When they returned to the barracks and reported what had occurred a detachment of the military was sent out to apprehend the culprits but to no avail. During the search one soldier was accidentally shot in the foot. As the Irish War of Independence intensified the IRA prohibited this form of fraternising with the enemy, in particular soldiers, and anyone deemed to have broken that code was dealt with severely. The incident in question occurred on a Saturday evening and the following day there were skirmishes at the towns show grounds as a result of the assault. In the end the defendants were granted bail for £100 each and two sureties were given for them.


    Source: Leinster Leader 1881-1929, 07.08.1920, page 5

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  • Newspaper Photos - Aug 1920

     Newspaper Photos

    One of the features of the Irish newspaper industry at this time was the emergence of photographs, which gradually overtook sketches and cartoons.

    The Irish Examiner newspaper was among a number who regularly carried images in their pages, highlighting an number of important aspects of Irish life in the process. In early August 1920 the Examiner carried images of members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union who enjoyed a boat trip during the conference which took place in Cork, providing faces to many of the important players in the Labour struggle in Ireland in 1920. Likewise, a photograph of the Cork Volunteers Pipers Band (does any other image exist?) highlights an important cultural aspect of the independence movement. The Cove Rowing Club and the Killarney Total Abstinence Society are also pictured highlighting the diverse social world of Ireland in 1920. However, the most interesting image in that edition is that of the volunteers in county Kerry who came to the rescue of Mr JS Taylor and helped repair his house in the Glencar Mountains after it sustained an attack, presumably by the British military. The house, which contained a family (and one in his eighties), was consumed by flames in the middle of the night when the attack commenced. The following day more than 60 volunteers, some of whom are picture, helped to clear the debris and rebuild the house. Such defiance highlighted that military brutality would not break the people.


    Source: Irish Examiner 1841-current, 05.08.1920, page 5


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