Irish Newspaper Archive

  • 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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  • Friendly Sinn Fein Coverage - September 1920


    While the Republican movement and Sinn Fein could count on many newspapers for friendly coverage of their activities and goals (not to mention the host of radical newspapers which they promoted) there were others who were not so receptive to their ideals.

    One such newspaper who continued to be a vocal critic of the Sinn Fein party and so by extension the activities of the IRA was the Belfast Newsletter. In September 1920 in an effort to thwart the support and success of the IRA the newspaper published a list of the alleged crimes and outrages which they had committed. In many ways it resembled the propaganda pieces which the radical newspapers were printing in Dublin. Describing a list of murders, attacks and other assaults on both civilians and the military, the newspaper quoted an official Dublin Report that suggested that there had been: 60 courthouses destroyed, 469 RIC vacated barracks destroyed and 113 damaged, 17 occupied RIC barracks destroyed and 40 damaged, 364 raids on mails, 33 raids on coastguard stations and lighthouses, and 1,610 raids for arms. Indeed, in the first week of September 1920 there were an estimated 600 raids for arms. The report also noted that 87 members of the RIC had been killed since the 1 January 1919. In addition, 12 soldiers had been killed and 21 civilians. The statistics laid bare how the War of Independence had escalated over the previous twenty months.


    Source: Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 13.09.1920, page 5


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  • Sack of Trim - September 1920


    In the popular memory of the War of independence in county Meath there were few events which caused such outrage as an event towards the end of September 1920 which became known as ‘The Sack of Trim’.

    The Evening Echo newspaper described the carnage which the military inflicted on the town. Following an attack on Head Constable White who was badly wounded, military lorries entered Trim on Sunday afternoon. Some shots were fired a men as they played hurling and two were wounded. Local priests intervened and sought the officers in charge. When the military were assured that all the inhabitants of the town would be indoors by 8pm the military withdrew. Then at 3am more than 200 soldiers returned, many it was stated were ‘imported’ to cause damage. The mineral water factory of the chairman of Trim Urban Council was broken into and the military shouted for the ‘Sinn Fein’ chairman. They then set fire to the building and a drapery shop where goods valued at £8,000 were damaged. They then set a public house on fire, which belonged to the mother of a member of the urban council. The town hall was also set on fire, and destroyed, which also contained the town records. In total sixteen houses were burned. After two hours the raiders left and threatened to return the following evening. As the Echo correspondent wrote in the hours that followed the War of Independence had visited Trim and it had received its ‘baptism of blood and fire’.


    Source: Evening Echo 1896-current, 28.09.1920, page 2



  • 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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