During the War of Independence Hook Lighthouse was raided on two separate occasions. The lighthouse was of interest to the I.R.A as it contained large quantities of detonators and an explosive called Tonite which was used to warn ships during fog. It was a white chalk like substance that came in 6 inch lengths with a 5 inch circumference.
The first raid took place on Monday night the 31st of May 1920 with a large quantity of detonators and explosives taken. The lighthouse keepers were said to have offered little resistance and to transport the explosives a car belonging to a priest from coolfancy, Fr. Walsh was used. Interesting it was ‘on lend’ to them for the night. The phone was dismantled before the raiders left and the lighthouse keepers told not to move for two hours. Conscious that the tonite was used for to warn ships the raiders left enough for a 12 hour fog horn. The explosives were then brought back to Antwerp in Enniscorthy for storage. Some of the Tonite was later taken and stored in an unoccupied house at Saltmills used for bomb making. Later in October several men would be killed and injured after an accidental explosion in this house.
The second raid took place on the Friday morning the 24th of September that year. Thirteen men raided the lightouse with 821 ounce charges of guncotton, 2165 detonators and 2 telescopes taken. The I.R.A knew of the existence of the explosives through intelligence gathered. Edward Balde in his witness statement describes the event however there are differences in the accuracy of what was taken compared to that reported in newspapers from above.
‘One Sunday in the afternoon I was spending a few hours on Rosslare Strand and happenedto meet Dr. Ryan with another gentleman named O’Sullivan who, I understand, afterwards was qualified in the same profession. They gave me information concerning Hook Head Lighthouse and the kind of material that would be found there. I passed on the information and the following night, the boys, having secured two lorries, were off to the lighthouse where they took away about 15 cwt. of Tonite and 5000 electric detonators. A large box of this Tonite was sent by rail to Waterford. The box was damaged in transit and the consignee had to gather some of the contents which had fallen out at the Railway Goods Store.(pages 9 & 10)
Belfast News Letter – Monday 27th September 1920
Edward Balfe, Enniscorthy, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement #1373
New Ross Standard – Friday st October 1920
North Wexford Brigade Activity Files
Stewart Whelan, Enniscorthy, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement #1294