Arthustown RIC barracks was located on the eastern side of the town along the main approach road from Ramsgrange. It was still operational by mid 1920, at a time when many other similar rural barracks had been vacated and then burned or sabotaged by the IRA. This left it a prime target for its South Wexford Brigade.
Peter Cummins, from Mersheen Arthurstown, in his witness statement to the Bureau of Mlitary History provides us with detailed accounts of events concerning the Arthurstown barracks. He worked as a carpenter for the local Lord Templemore’s estate and subsequently carried out renovations to both Arthurstown and Duncannon barracks for defense purposes. This allowed him to obtain details that would aid in the planning of operations aimed as those two barracks. In July of 1920 a large scale attack on Arthurstown barracks was planned. Roads were blocked and telegraph wires cut, but the attack was called off due to the arrest of men set to arrive from New Ross. Later that month another attack was planned to rush the barracks on a Sunday morning, when the police were usually seated outside chatting. Everything was in place but the attack was called off the night before.
In August 1920 orders were given to the RIC to vacate Arturstown Barracks. Peter Cummins describes how the garrison ‘…dismantled the steel shutters, removed the sandbags and packed their arms and ammunition,’ ndicating the building, like others in the county, had become fortified. Once the RIC had left orders were given to C company 2nd Battalion, (Ramsgrange) to destroy it. They were hesitant to carry out the orders, thinking the building would be well suited as a Sinn Fein Hall. But HQ thought differently, suggesting that if C company would not carry out the order that B company (Campile) would. C company then stepped aside, allowing B company to undertake the operation, however their attempt failed, just resulting in a 2 foot square hole being burned in the floor upstairs. The New Ross Standard Newspaper reported that on Thursday the 5th of August the barracks was set on fire, but the police from Duncannon, aided by Lord Templemore’s men, were able to extinguish the blaze before the building was destroyed (New Ross Standard, 6th August 1920, p5). This may relate to the failed attempt by B company to burn the barracks. Following on from this A (Gusserane) and C companies took on the task together. Again telegraph wires were cut and a landmine was made especially for the occasion but the operation was called off at the last minute.
After two failed attempts to destroy the barracks they received instructions that it ‘must be destroyed without any more fumbling’. Then on Tuesday the 31st of August 1920 C company undertook the operation to destroy the barracks once and for all. Petrol was sprinkled inside the building and a straw rope known as a ‘Sugaun’ or ‘Súgan’ was made to function as a fuse. It was placed up in the attic, led downstairs and through the wall and outside the building. When this was lit Peter Cummins describes how ‘The whole barracks lit up with a roar and the doors and windows banged shut. I had to run from falling slates and flying glass. The enemy post was shaken to the foundations. The roof fell in and all was burned when the R.I.C and military arrived in the morning.’ (p9 of witness statement) . In the days following the destruction of the barracks people looted everything from the outhouses. The IRA had to act as police and ordered people to return the objects, as they were the property of the landlord. This was done but nobody ever informed the RIC who gave them the order to do so.
The Site Today
Nothing remains of the former barracks and a private residence stands on the site today. Part of the former building may have been incorporated into the fabric of the new or it maybe a new separate build.
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Peter Cummins (IRA) Mersheen Arthurstown, Co.Wexford #1470
New Ross Standard 6th August 1920
South Wexford Brigade IRA
Thanks to ‘Ballyhack and Aurhturstown’ facebook page for permission to use the photo of Aurthurstown RIC barracks.