Torched Big Houses - July 1920

Torched Big Houses

By mid 1920 the IRA had turned their attention from raiding country houses for weapons to occupying and burning them.

Using the pretense that the house was soon to be occupied by the military, the IRA torched these ‘Big Houses’. Already a number including those in Offaly, Limerick and Wicklow had been burned. Usually allowing the occupants about fifteen minutes to whatever contents they wished, it was a scene reenacted about 300 times before the end of the Civil War in 1923. The raid on Glendalough House, near Annamoe in county Wicklow then in July 1920 was of a different pattern. The home of Robert Barton MP for West Wicklow who was serving three years in prison was raided by several hundred members of the British military. There they proceeded to ‘ransack’ the house and grounds. During the search barbed wire blocked all the approaches, armoured cars patrolled the avenues and aero planes circled overhead. All that was found in the hour long search was a Sinn Fein flag and an antique gun. The three ladies and their female servants present in the house were said to have been shaken by the ordeal. Over a year later Barton was released from prison and of course would play a major role in the treaty negotiations. Travelling to London with the Irish delegation who included his cousin, Erskine Childers, Barton reluctantly signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921.

Source: Irish Bulletin, 24 July 1920, page 1


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