Attack on RIC barracks Duncannon

The former RIC Barracks in Duncannon as it looks today (Google Street View)

During the War of Independence in county Wexford Duncannon RIC barrack was one of a handful outside of the towns that remained open. A large two storey building, the barracks was situated on the eastern edge of the village at a junction with the main street. Like other barracks still functioning at the time it had likely become heavily fortified with the addition of sandbags, steel doors, loopholes and possibly barbed wire entanglements. Although situated in a rural fishing village the presence of a costal military fort provided additional protection to its garrison; In early April 1920 the New Ross Standard reported how after lying empty for many years Duncannon Fort was reoccupied by military with soldiers carrying machine guns and other military equipment reportedly seen entering the fort. Additionally the closure of many rural barracks throughout Wexford in 1920 resulted in the augmentation of garrisons in other barraks, including Duncannon.

Despite a larger garrison and a substantial military presence only a stones throw away it didn’t deter the local IRA from undertaking attacks on the RIC barracks. Two such incidents are recorded in the South Wexford brigade activity reports; on the 23rd of April, involving sniping by B (Campile) and C (Ramsgrange) companies 2nd Battalion and on the 10th of May 1921 a 30 minute attack involved members of C and D (Fethard on Sea) company 2nd battalion. Discrepancies are noted however regarding these dates against other sources. The Enniscorthy Guardian, referring to an official report from Dublin Castle, stated that on the 29th of April at 1 a.m. Duncannon barracks was attacked with bombs and rifles by a party of 20 men. The attack lasted 20 minutes and no RIC casualties were reported. This appeared to be part of a regional operation as Foulksmills barracks was also attacked on the same night. Earlier that month the Irish times reported an attack at 10.30 p.m. lasting 30 minutes which involved ‘brisk firing’. Interestingly the author highlights how the attackers withdrew after search lights from a warship docked in Waterford harbor were observed. References are made in the brigade activity reports and bureau of military history witness statements to regular ‘sniping’ on Duncannon barracks. Such activity generally involved occasional shots fired at the building to harass the garrison inside and such incidents may have escaped the weekly news headlines.

Peter Cummins in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History states there was a total of 6 attacks on Duncannon barracks. On one of these occasions a landmine was used. The device exploded but failed to cause any major damage, however he states that unbeknownst to the attackers the garrison inside were ready to surrender. The IRA though had no way of knowing this and also didn’t have any proper arms to push on for a victory. In an interestingly modest comment regarding attacks on Duncannon Barracks Peter stated:

‘It has since been stated by Battalion officers that certain of these attacks on Duncannon barracks were major engagements. This has obviously been done for pension purposes.’

One pension application which references Duncannon is that of Richard Rowe. He describes being involved in attacks on Duncannon barracks on two separate occasions which involved the use of bombs, shotguns and rifles, while the RIC had machine guns.

A detailed sketch plan was provided in the South Wexford brigade activity reports illustrating one attack on the barracks. The plan shows the barrack building with ‘bricked loopholes’ highlighted and a total of 7 sections taking up positions behind walls or boundaries surrounding the barracks to the rear and side. The elevated ground to the rear of the building would have provided a particularly good vantage point for an attack. The former barrack building still stands in the village today as a well kept private residence. The area surrounding has undergone extensive development in the last century to the point where it is no longer situated on the outskirts of the village anymore. No obvious scarring from bullets or explosives are visible on the exterior of the building.

Portion of sketch plan illustrating attack on Duncannon RIC Barraks (Credit: South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports)

Despite the numerous attacks the garrison inside escaped without any reported casualties. However one death is recorded at Duncannon barracks when in February 1921 an RIC constable W. Fennessy was accidentally shot by a bullet from a comrades revolver. The latter had been shooting crows for target practice while returning to the barracks from patrol duty and while attempting to re-holster his gun it slipped from his hand. When he grabbed the weapon it fired and bullet hit constable Fennessy who died two hours later from his wounds.

The attacks on Duncannon barracks seem to be a combination of sniping and large scale attacks with at least one of the latter taking place and involving the use of bombs. The aim of such large attacks was to capture the building and according to Peter Cummins they came close on at least one occasion.

Sources

Bureau of Military History Withness Statement, Peter Cummins #1470

Enniscorthy Guardian, 4th March 1921, p3

Enniscorthy Guardian, 7th May 1921, p4

New Ross Standard, 9th April 1920, p5

The Irish Times, 4th April 1921, p5

Military Pension, Richard Rowe MSP34REF22176

Wexford coastguard Stations burned.

Being a coastal county Wexford has a rich maritime heritage stretching back several centuries. The remnants of former coastguard stations that once dotted its coast form part of this heritage, some of which were targeted during the Irish War of Independence.

Coastguard Stations burned and/or raided during the WOI

History of the Coastguard in Ireland

Established in 1824 the initial purpose of the Coastguard service in Ireland was primarily that of revenue protection. However, by 1856 it was transferred into the Admiralty and effectively became part of the Royal Navy. It undertook a range of duties including sea rescues, the distribution of famine relief, control of smuggling and from the mid 1850s defense of the coasts in times of war or emergency. 200 coastguard stations dotted the Irish coast by 1860. Up to the late 20th century these were generally comprised of a terrace of cottages/houses, a boat house, a watch tower and other ancillary buildings. Senior officers generally had larger houses built separately or at the end of a terrace. From the mid 1800s the board of works (OPW) became responsible for the construction and maintenance of coastguard stations and buildings became more substantial, generally consisting of a terrace of stone or brick built houses, usually two storey with a watch tower located at one end. Some had defensive features such as oriel windows with gun loops, strong exterior doors and iron window shutters. In the 1920s many stations were raided by the IRA for arms and ammunition. 

Raids on coastguards stations

In June 1920 Bar of Lough station, near Carrig on Bannow, was attacked and the coastguards taken captive. They were relived of their revolvers and ammunition together with a quantity of rockets which were used for rescues. Being aware of the importance of the latter though one rocket was left behind in case it was needed for such an emergency. The station was raided again on Sunday the 8th of May 1921 with its doors and windows broken. Canvass candles and bunting was reported stolen with the raid presumably undertaken to procure weapons and ammunition.

On Sunday the 12th of June 1921 Courtown Coastguard station was raided shortly before midnight. Unfortunately for the raiders any arms and ammunition had long since been removed from the premises. Telegraph and telephone wires in the locality were cut as part of the operation.

The terrace of houses comprising Courtown coastguard station (Credit: National Library of Ireland, Lawrence Collection)

Burning of Coastguard Stations

In July of 1921 just before the truce came into place three stations were burned in county Wexford; Kilmichael, Bar of Lough and Morriscastle. The latter two occurred close to the truce on the 11th and may have been deliberate final acts of defiance by the local IRA companies.

Bar Of Lough

The former ruins of Bar of Lough coastguard station (Credit: https://www.coastguardsofyesteryear.org/photogallery.php?photo_id=40)

On July the 10th the coastguard station at Bar of Lough, together with with the officer’s house and boathouse were purposely destroyed by fire. The ruins of the buildings were visible until several years ago before being completely demolished.

Morriscastle

On the 8th of July Morriscastle coastguard station was burned by members of Kilmuckridge and Ballygarret IRA companies. Telephone wires were cut in advance. The station was comprised of a row of terraced houses, similar in appearance to Courtown coastguard station and was described as a ‘fine cut stone building’. The coastguards still occupied it at the time and were ordered out before it was set ablaze. Furniture belonging to five of the coastguards was taken out while that of a sixth, who was on leave, remained in his locked room and was lost to the fire. They remained in Gorey that night, leaving for their homes the following morning. £7000 compensation was later awarded for the stations destruction and a further £300 for lost stores. The monies was awarded to the admiralty, who leased the building from a colonel Loftus Bryan, but on the condition that the former was bound to reconstruct the building. The station today is a private residence.

One of those involved in the burnings, Laurence Redmiond, recounted the event several decades later to the Bureau of Military History:

During the first few days of July, 1921, theBattalion 0/C, Myles Breen, visited Kilmuckridge Company and gave instructions to burn Morriscastle Coastguard Station, and to co-operate with the Ballygarrett Company to carry out the job. It was decided to do the job on the night of the 6th July, 1921. The station was occupied by one officer and five coastguards and their families. Patrick McCreavy, Captain of Ballygarrett, took charge of the men from that Company. Joe Quinsay was in charge of the men from Kilmuckridge Company. There were about fifteen men from both Companies. We cut the telephone wires. We knocked on the doors. Some of the occupants did not answer. It was necessary to fire a few shots in the air to let them know we were determined they should come out. When they were assembled outside, they were told we were going to burn the station. They were given half an hour to take out any private property they might have. We collected a quantity of gun-cotton, detonators and rocket Verey lights. We then put the coastguards and their families in the Rocket House, which we considered vas a safe distance from the main building. We obtained a quantity of hay from an adjoining field, spread it on the floors, sprinkled it with paraffin oil and then set it alight. The station was completely destroyed. The following day a gun boat came to take the coastguards and their families away. I went down to see the last of them. (Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Laurence Redmond #1010 p5 & 6)

Kilmichael

Kilmichael coastguard station was a fine stone built two story building constructed around 1870. Its architecture is characteristic of the period and includes defensive features, being box oriels that protrude from the sides and gables of the building with gun loops visible on their sides. On the 4th of July the building was completely gutted after being set a fire by a group of armed men. The coastguards and their families still resided in the station and before it was set ablaze were removed to neighboring houses by the strangers who were described as being courteous. £5200 compensation was later awarded for its destruction.

Kilmichael Coastguard Station as it looks today

Sources

Coastguard Stations

Mayne, D. (2016). Fortification as an element in the design of Irish coastguard Stations, 1867-1889. The Irish Sword, The Journal of the Military History Society of Ireland (Vol XXX, Number 121), p275.

O’Sullivan, M. and Downey, L. (2013). Coastguard Stations. Archaeology Ireland Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter 2013), p30-33, Wordwell Ltd.

Courtown Coastguard Station Raid

Enniscorthy Guardian 18 June 1921, p5

Bar of Lough Coastguard Station Raids and Burning

Enniscorthy Guardian 16 July 1921, p5 – Burning of Station

New Ross Standard 25 June 1920, p3 – Raid

New Ross Standard  18 November 1921, p8 – Compensation claim

Kilmichael Coastguard Station

Enniscorthy Guardian, 16 July 1921, p5 – Burning of Station
The Irish Times, 12th Nov 1921, p8 – Compensation claim

Morriscastle Coastguard station

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, Laurence Redmond  (#1010) p5-6 Description of Burning the station

Enniscorthy Guardian, 16 July 1921, p5 – Burning of Station
New Ross Standard 18 November 1921, p8 – Compensation Claim

Rosslare RIC Barracks attacked

At two in the morning on Sunday the 15th of May 1921 the nights silence was broken around Rosslare Harbour when the local RIC barracks was attacked by members of the Tagoat company, South Wexford Brigade IRA . The attackers concentrated their rifle fire on the building and the police inside responded with their own. Despite the intensity of the brief conflict no casualties were reported, except one of the police, who received what was described as a splinter. Contemporary newspaper accounts described the attack as daring due to the scarcity of cover near the building. Its isolated position is illustrated on the 1905 ordinance survey map. The barrack building was described as being modern at the time, as well as ‘strong and substantial’. Up to ten years prior it had been in the occupation of the owner, a Mrs. Mary Allen.

1905 Ordinance Survey Map with Ailsa lodged (Barracks) marked.

A year before the attack in June 1920 Mrs Allen had lodged an appeal in court against the possession of her house, known as Ailsa Lodge; the police had taken up residence in February 1918. It was raised against her that the usual right to terminate a tenancy after six months did not apply in this case because the building was utilized as a police barracks rather that a private renting; there was difficulty in obtaining an alternative barrack premises, while it was also located near an important port and coastguard station.

Suspect arrested

Following the attack on the barracks a mixed party of military and police proceeded to the house of Adam Jones who was accused of participating in the attack . Jones had served in the British army previously, including during the War for a period. When they arrived at his home in Mauritiustown he was found in bed and a subsequent inspection of his clothes found they were wet, smelled of sea salt and had sand on them. A single shotgun cartridge was also found in one of his coat pockets. The authorities claimed to have found fresh footprints leading from the sea shore up to Jone’s house.

In the court case that followed Jone’s defendant argued against the evidence stating that the cartridge found was of a regular type which was readily available and could be easily bought by anyone. Meanwhile the tracks it was argued could belong to anyone as no further attempt was taken to record additional details such a shoe size; they could have belonged to someone looking after cattle that where in the same field or someone who was simply crossing it for travel. Furthermore in his defense Jones said his clothes were dirty from tending cattle and he found the cartridge previously in the golf links while walking home from Rosslare.

Following the case he was found not guilty of ‘levying war by taking part in an attack on his majesty’s forces’ but was found guilty regarding procession of ammunition and was sentenced to three years penal servitude.

The old RIC barracks still stands in Rosslare today but is now a private residence. In the South Wexford Brigade Activity reports a sketch plan was provided which illustrates the position the attackers took. The isolated position of the barracks is obvious and the attackers took up position in a line behind the western boundary of the site. Those who took part were named as Patrick Mythen, Adam Jones, John O’ Reilly, Phil O’ Reilly, Dan Walsh, James Rowe and William Barry,

Sketch plan of barrack attack with positions numbered 1-6 (Credit: South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports)

Any further information or images relating to the former barracks would be greatly appreciated and you can contact the page at wexfordwarofindependence@gmail.com

Sources

New Ross Standard, 5th March 1920, p5

Enniscorthy Guardian, 2nd July 1921, p2

New Ross Standard, 15th July 1921, p4

New Ross Standard, 20th May 1921, p4

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Kilmore Quay Barracks Burned

On Thursday morning the 13th of May 1920 the R.I.C Barracks at Kilmore was burned by the Bridgetown company of the I.R.A. The New Ross Standard reported that about 2 a.m. the building was noticed ablaze and the fire was started with the aid of some straw soaked in paraffin. Afterwards only the burned walls remained. The building had been vacated by the police for some time before.

The Barrack building was rented from a Mrs. Francis Roche who was later awarded £680 compensation in the courts (New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920, p6). This was later increased to £850 following an appeal. (The Irish Times, 7th July 1920).

The exact location of the barracks is as of yet unknown, only that is was located near the coastguard station and post office.

Sources

New Ross Standard, 14th May 1920, p5

New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920, p6

The Irish Times, 7th July 1920, p5

Attack on New Ross Barracks

The old RIC barracks (three story building left) on Priory Street in New Ross.

At 10 p.m. Thursday the 31st of March 1921 the evening silence in New Ross was broken when a bomb was dropped into the yard of Mr. D Evoy, situated near the rear of the town’s RIC barracks. The resulting explosion could be heard several miles away and tore a large hole in the yard. Splinters from the bomb damaged the surrounding walls and rear door of Mr. Evoy’s house. This was immediately followed by the sound of gunfire on the barracks and the garrison inside responded with machine gun from the front and rear.

Map showing IRA positions during attack on Barracks (Documenting and Recording Wexford’s War of Independence)

The Attack on New Ross RIC Barracks was undertaken by about 22 men from C company (Cushinstown) together with members of B company (Rathgarogue). Initially plans were set in place for Members of B company to attack a police patrol, while C company were to provide covering fire on the barracks from the high ground in front.

Position between two houses opposite Marsh Lane on South Street were IRA B Company were awaiting to ambush police patrol.
View of RIC barracks from the high ground in front where C company were positioned.

However, the police patrol failed to show and instead B company threw a bomb towards the rear of the RIC barracks. This was the signal for C company to attack and upon hearing the explosion they commenced fire on the building. Two outposts were also set up to prevent B company from becoming surrounded by the police or military. One was located on Henry Street and the other on Cross Lane.

Map from Brigade Activity Reports showing plan IRA positions (Credit: Irish Military Archives)

People had been out walking on the night and upon hearing the gunfire fled in all directions for cover. Some found shelter in the nearest building to them, while others lay prone on the ground. Bullets whizzed in all directions with some houses in Jones Hill and William Street being struck. Others found their way through windows and inside the homes. On the opposite side of the river Barrow people walking along the Waterford road reported hearing bullets passing close overhead with some striking the railway bridge between Rosbercon and Chilcomb. The barrack’s head constable had a lucky escape as shortly after he left his room it’s the light was smashed by a bullet. The gunfire lasted for about half an hour and no injuries were reported on the night. Afterwards the military and police proceeded down South Street and onto North Street, telling people to clear off the street, while men where held up and questioned

Row of houses (left) along Williams Street and Jones Hill which were hit by stray bullets

The old RIC building still stands on Priory street today and gun loops are visible on both gable ends. These would have allowed flanking fire down both sides of the street. Markers are said to have been positioned at set intervals along the roadside to allow the gunners at both ends determine their firing distance.

Gun loop on north gable Gun loop on south Gable

The high ground to the east of the barracks chosen for the attack today contains houses but in 1921 was a green field. Bullet marks can be seen at the rear of No.6, the building opposite the barracks, which would have been in the direct line of fire. This brief attack on the RIC barracks was the first in New Ross during the period. It was a daring operation to attack a barracks in such a large town and would have likely had a demoralizing effect on the garrison ,who up until this point had experienced little resistance there. At a meeting of the New Ross Harbour Board a few days later in April it was noted a new military regulation required people to go by the quay, instead of passing the police barracks from there on.

Bullet holes at the rear of No.6 Priory street, directly opposite the old RIC barracks.

Sources

South Wexford Brigade Activity Files

The Enniscorthy Guardian, 9th April 1921, p5

The New Ross Standard, 8th April 1921, p5

A special thanks to Myles Courtney from New Ross Street Focus for his vast local knowledge while touring the town. Check out the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/newrossstreetfocus/

Bridgetown Barracks Attacked

The former RIC barracks at Bridgetown as it looks today (Google Street View)

On Saturday night the 12th of March 1921 members of the Bridgetown company IRA attacked their local RIC barracks, situated on a staggered crossroads just south of the village. The New Ross Standard reporting on the incident stated that at around midnight many local people were awoken by the sound of gunfire, which lasted for 15 or 20 minutes. Trees had been cut down on most of the approach roads by the company to delay the arrival of any potential reinforcements. A particularly large tree was reported cut down at ‘Sleedagh’, completely blocking the road to all motor traffic.

The military and police undertook numerous raids in the week or so following the attack with some reported in the districts of Baldwinstown, Bridgetown, Kilmore and Murrintown . Two young men from Bridgetown, Joe and Moses Murphy were arrested at Oldhall while two other brothers, named Rowe, were arrested at Killinick. It was noted that the raids appeared to be undertaken in search for someone on the run.

Later that year on the 14th of May the barracks was attacked again at two in the morning. The incident lasted for fifteen minutes and the police reported no casualties.

The attack on Bridgetown RIC barracks was of a type which occurred throughout the War of Independence, consisting of a short period of concentrated gunfire. The aim of such attacks was not to necessarily capture the building but to haras it’s inhabitants. Such incidents are often reffered to as ‘sniping’. By early 1921 Bridgetown barracks was one of only a few still operational within county Wexford. Many others in similar ‘rural’ settings had been burned or sabotaged. It would most likely have been fortified with steel shutters placed on the windows and sandbags and perhaps barbed wire used also. The building today is a private residence and bullet holes are said to be still visible on the exterior walls.

Sources

New Ross Standard, 18th March 1921, p4

New Ross Standard, 25th March 1921, p5

New Ross Standard, 20th May 1921, p4

Ballybrazil Barracks Burned

On the 12th of May 1920 the R.I.C Barracks at Ballybrazil, outisde of New Ross, was burned by the Campile company of the South Wexford I.R.A. The Barracks had been vacated by the police previously on the 14th of November 1919 (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921) but Mrs. Flynn, the wife of Sergeant Flynn, whom was previously assigned to Ballybrazil, still resided in the barracks with their children. The Irish Times reported how on the night 40 masked men took part in the event (Irish Times, 14th May 1920). They were however courteous to Mrs. Flynn and her children and moved them to a neighboring house before setting fire to the barracks. They also removed every article of furniture from the building, to spare it from the fire. Included in this were ‘… 2 hatching hens and their eggs.’ which were ‘… in a small house near the main building and were transferred to a secure place’ (New Ross Standard 21st May 1920 p4). During a court case compensation claim for damages Mrs. Flynn recalled how 40 men were involved in the burning, arriving at 1 a.m. and had brought petrol with them (New Ross Standard25th June 1920).

There had been a barracks in Ballybrazil since 1880 with the building rented from a James Murphy for a yearly fee of £22 (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921). Following the burning James was awarded £420 compensation in the courts. In the same sitting Sergeant Flynn got £80 for damaged furniture and Mrs. Flynn £60 for damaged articles. James Murphy later sought an increase in the compensation he received to £2500, appealing the decision in court (New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920). However he would be unsuccessful in this attempt (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921).

1905 Ordinance Survey map with Ballybrazil Barracks visible

The barracks at Ballybrazil was a two story building constructed of stone with neighboring outhouses and sheds. It would have had enough room to house several constables and possibly the sergeants family also. No attempt was made to rebuild the barracks after it was burned and its ruins can still be seen today.

Sources

The Irish Times 14th May 1920

Freemans Journal, 8th February 1921

New Ross Standard 2st May 1920

New Ross Standard 25th May 1920

New Ross Standard 9th July 1920

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Attack on Foulksmills Barracks (Dec 1920)

At about 2:45 A.M on Saturday the 18th of December 1920 members of the south Wexford brigade IRA launched an attack on the R.I.C Barracks in Foulksmills, a small rural village located about 22km west of Wexford town.

The Barracks

Picture of Foulksmills RIC barracks (right) following the attack. Note the Twomey household to the left of the barracks. (Credit Freemans Journal, 23rd December 1920)

Before describing the attack it is good to get an understanding of the building which was the target. Thomas Howlett of Campile, a member of the south Wexford Brigade IRA, in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History gave the following description of the barracks.

‘Foulksmills R.I.C. barrack was a solidly constructed detached building, with a slated roof. It was about eight or ten feet from the side of the road. Dividing it from the road was a low wall, surmounted by a railing. In the center and projecting from the front of the building was an entrance porch. There were two windows in front, on the ground floor. These, of course, had steel shutters with loopholes. The barrack was of rather unusual design, as there were no front windows on the first floor; there was one window in each gable end, on the first floor. In the ground floor gable ends were loopholes but no windows. At the rear was a lean-to, extending ten to twelve feet from the main building. As part of the defensive arrangements, barbed wire had been placed on all sides of the barrack, from the eaves to the ground, and extending about eight feet from the base of the building. (p5-6)

By December 1920 many rural barracks in Wexford had been vacated by the police and were subsequently either damaged or burned by the IRA so they could not be reoccupied. Additionally, there had been an attack in April on Clonroche Barracks. This increase in hostilities towards the police led to any remaining barracks becoming fortified, as Foulksmills had become, with the addition of barbed wire and steel shutters.

The New Ross Standard reported that on the night of the attack the barracks was occupied by 2 sergeants and 7 constables. It would normally have been occupied by 15 men but on the night of the attack some were on leave or elsewhere. The garrison may have included several black and tans.

The Attack

1905 Ordinance Survey map with IRA positions depicted mentioned below. (Credit: wexfordwarofindependence. com)

The attack itself was carefully planned; to isolate the barracks and delay the arrival of any unwanted reinforcements approach roads into the village were blocked with trees and the telegraph wires cut. Motor cars had be taken for the operation also to transport items and act as getaway vehicles. The New Ross Standard reported around 100 men were involved while the official military report estimated about 70. The IRA were armed with shotguns and revolvers but had no rifles at the time. The objective of the attack was to blow a hole in the roof using a mine. Once this was done grenades and bottles of petrol could be thrown through it into the building, while at the same time constant gunfire would be placed on the barracks. To get the mine onto the roof a rope was to be thrown over the building, one end of which would then be tied onto the explosive device. The other free end would then be pulled, levering the mine onto the roof, where it would then be detonated.

One man was to be given the task of throwing the rope over the barracks. This had to be done on the first go as they could not afford multiply attempts as it could alert the garrison inside the barracks. To ensure success the first time round the man given the task trained throwing a rope over a building in preparation. However, when it came to the night he failed to turn up and could not be located, despite a visit even to his homeplace. Instead, in a change of plan, the barbed wire surrounding the barracks was cut and the mine placed against the rear of the building. Once it exploded the firing began; men armed with shotguns that had taken up position behind a wall across from the barracks opened fire on the building and the police responded with their own. They threw grenades and sent up verey lights to illuminate the night darkness as well, in some attempt to help locate the attackers. Additional bombs were thrown onto the roof together with bottles of petrol. Fortunately for the garrison inside many of these failed to go off. With the failure of the bombs and supplies of ammunition beginning to run short the attack was called off just before 4 A.M.

House Commandeered

The New Ross Standard reported that prior to the attack 3 men knocked on the house of ‘Richard Doyle’, who lived 50 yards from the barracks on the opposite side of the road. The House was commandeered by the men and Mr. Doyle and his wife and family went to the house of a ‘Annie Jones’ where they stayed until the following morning. It was suggested they may have used the upstairs window of the house as a vantage point to fire on the barracks.

The home of a ‘Mr. Twomey’, directly beside the barracks, had an adjoining yard were the IRA also took up position during the attack. Mr. Twomey was in his house together with his wife and six kids on the night of the attack and they had to seek shelter together in a single room.

The Aftermath

No casualties were reported on either side and the following morning the police captured a quantity of bombs, arms and a motor car. Thomas Howlett in his witness statement told how after the attack himself and others returned to their motorcar only to find it hemmed in between two barricades and with the road blocking parties gone home. It then had to be abandoned. Interestingly the New Ross Standard reported that a Mr. Matthew Hart from Campile was arrested and brought by the military to Waterford after his car was found ‘…on the side of the road near Foluksmills on Saturday morning following the attack’. This was the same car that had to be abandoned as Thomas mentioned how prior to the attack they commandeered Hart’s car to transport bombs and bottles of petrol.

The failure to capture the barracks is due to several factors. Firstly the individual trained to throw the rope over the building failed to show up which meant an abrupt change of plan was required. Secondly, many of the bombs used failed to go off and breach the roof. Thirdly and last is the lack of experience as pointed out by Thomas as he said ‘I believe that if we had even one man with experience in barrack attacks we could have captured the barracks that night.’ (p7).

Later Attacks

The Barrack was attacked again in March 1921 while a month later on the 13th of April an RIC constable on the road in front of the barracks was fired upon from behind gorse bushes 600 yards away. Fortunately his attackers missed and the bullets embedded themselves into the barracks walls instead.

Martin Walsh in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History recalled another attack in May of 1921. Its purpose was to force the police to send up Verey light that would alert reinforcements which in turn would be ambushed by a newly formed battalion A.S.U. A landmine was placed against the barrack wall which exploded and was followed by shotgun fire on the fortified building. The police responded with their own fire and flung hand grenades outside. Unfortunately for the A.S.U the reinforcements arrived and left via a different route than the one set for the ambush and therefore they missed their opportunity.

The Site today.

Many of the physical elements associated with that nights attack no longer exist ; the Doyle and Twomey houses no longer remain, neither those the concrete wall which the men hide behind. However the barracks, which is now a private residence, still survives. It remains much the same as it would have looked in 1920. The building retains its gable end loopholes from the period. Bullet holes are also visible on the front wall associated with that nights attack in December 1920.

Foulkmills Barracks (Credit irishConstabulary.com)
Concrete Loophole visible in one of the gable ends. Making it easy to shoot out but difficult to shoot in

Sources

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Martin Walsh (IRA) #1495

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Thomas Howlett (IRA) #1429

New Ross Standard, Friday 24th December 1920, p4

Belfast Newsletter, April 15th 1921, p3

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Attack on Carrig-On-Bannow Barracks results in Civilian Casualty

On Monday evening the 20th of December 1920 members of the South Wexford Brigade IRA arrived in the village of Carrig-On-Bannow, planning to destroy the RIC barracks. During the operation an altercation occurred between an IRA member and a civilian, the latter of whom was shot and killed.

Background to the event

In December 1920 the South Wexford Brigade IRA planned to destroy the RIC Barracks in Carrig-On-Bannow. A shop and pub, belonging to a Mr. James Walsh, was attached to the barracks building. At the time the police had also commandeered the area above these to accommodate additional personal. Francis Carty in his witness statement describes how they had planned to ‘…place a large quantity of gelignite in the public house against the inner wall of the barracks. The charge was calculated to be sufficient to destroy the barracks and its contents completely.’ (p6). A man called Tom Traynor, whom was the county engineer, had calculated the amount of explosives required for the job.

The Barracks Building

The old barracks in Carrig on Bannow as it looked in 2019. The shop and pub owned by Mr. Walsh, with their own separate entrances and signage, was the white building on the right. The police barracks occupied the adjoining building on the right and they additionally commandeered the space directly above the pub and shop in 1920. (Google Street View 2019)

The RIC barracks was located on the northern end of the village, along the main street, The ‘Wicklow People’ on reporting the incident described the barracks as ‘strongly fortified and regarded as impregnable’. By Dec 1920 many rural barracks in Wexford had been sabotaged, burned or attacked. Foulksmills barracks had been attacked just 2 days before the incident in Carrig-on-Bannow. Subsequently as result of these events many had become heavily fortified, including Carrig-On-Bannow barracks. The newspaper report makes reference to ‘… a loophole window’ indicating the barracks possibly had steel shutters with loopholes attached to its windows. Mr. James Walsh, as well as owning the shop and pub, also owned the barracks building, which the police rented from him for a fee.

1905 Ordinance Survey Map of Carrig-On-Bannow Village with location of RIC barracks building marked.

Attempt to blow up barracks

Francis Carty states in his witness statement that 12 men were involved in the operation. Before the operation telegraph wires were cut to stop the police calling for aid and delay the arrival of any potential reinforcements. Explosives had been hidden in a graveyard near the village and were picked up en route on the day. At around 6 in the evening, under the cover of darkness, 2-3 cars arrived and stopped outside the village, having come from Wexford town. The IRA had been informed that Mr. Walsh would not be in the shop at the time and instead there would be a young man assisting him that would not offer any resistance. This was John Walsh, a nephew of James Walsh. A donkey and cart was commandeered from a man outside the village to place the explosives into. This was to be led up to the barracks and the explosives placed inside the adjoining shop. The ‘Wicklow People’ reported how two men, armed with revolvers, approached the owner of the donkey and cart and took it, but reasurred thrm that they would return it after the operation.

The Military Enquiry reported in ‘The Wicklow People’ told how John Walsh left the shop at about 6:45 p.m. after his uncle, James Walsh, had arrived and relieved him. It was unexpected to the IRA that James Walsh would arrive, but they decided to continue with the operation. At about 7 p.m. two men entered the premises. Francis Carty identifies one of these men as ‘Davy Sears’ and how when he attempted to buy cigarettes Mr. James Walsh became suspicious of him. The Enquiry told how after a brief exchange of words a struggle broke out between Davy Sears and James Walsh. The ensuing struggle escalated from the shop to just outside the property when two shots rang out and James was wounded. The IRA decided to abandon the operation and fled the scene, heading northwards out of the village. Meanwhile, upon being awoken by the noise one of the police officers in the adjacent barracks took position upstairs and fired two shots at a wall opposite the building on the other side of the street. Having heard the commotion he likely assumed the barracks was under attack and fired where he thought any attackers may have been positioned. Francis Carty describes how he had been observing the incident nearby and upon hearing the shots from the police intended to fire back with a ‘parrabellum pistol’ he had. However, he mistakenly pressed the magazine release and it with its store of bullets fell to the ground. These were later retrieved by the police.

Following the attackers retreat James Walsh lay wounded outside his store calling for his nephew saying ‘John I’m shot’. Twenty minutes later the parish priest, a Canon Mortimer O Sullivan administered the last rites (Irish Times, 22nd Dec 1920, p5) and within a half hour of the shooting James died (New Ross Standard, 21st Dec 1920, p5), The cause of death was given as a result of two bullet wounds, both shot at close range.

The Victim

Photo of Jim James Walsh (Courtesy of Anne Farrell, Carrig On Bannow)

James, most likely becoming aware of the IRA men and their intention, attempted to interfere and halt their actions. Knowing that the police were nearby he probably anticipated that his struggle would alert them and they would then render assistance. He was aged 50 years at the time of his death and was unmarried with no children. His remains were interned in Ambrosetown Graveyard.

Description of Mr. James Walsh (Wicklow People Newspaper, 23rd December 1920, P5)

Aftermath

Following on from the incident those involved managed to escape before any military cordons were set up on the area. They arrived back in Wexford town, leaving the cars a distance outside from it and walking in via separate roads. The Brigade Activity Reports tell how one telegraph wire was left uncut and the police actually wired for assistance. Fortunately for the IRA though a man named ‘Aidan Cullen’, whom was on duty in Wellingtonbridge post office, intercepted this message and prevented the capture of the men returning to Wexford.

The site today

The building has changed little from the exterior. The portion which served as James Walsh’s shop and pub is now a private residence. The former RIC Barracks was later used as the local Garda Station until the 1970s and in 2019 was used as a takeaway. There is no marker or memorial on the site to indicate that the incident ever occurred.

Sources

Irish Times, 22nd Dec 1920, p5

New Ross Standard, 21st Dec 1920, p5

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

The Wicklow People, 23rd Dec 1920, p5

Cover Photo: Former RIC Barrack (Left) and commercial premises of James Walsh (right) as it looked in 2019.

Ballycanew RIC barracks sabotaged

1905 ordinance survey map of Ballycanew village with location of the barracks visible opposite the school.

In the early morning of the 13th of May 1920 a dwelling house occupied by Henry Tomkins, which was formerly the village’s RIC barracks, was sabotaged. The Irish Times reported that 20 armed men gained entry into the premises, causing much destruction, breaking windows, doors, the stairway, ceilings and roof. A gun found inside was taken away also. Patrick Ronan in his witness statement to the bureau of military history states the Ferns company of the IRA were responsible.

Picture taken of the former barracks after it had been sabotaged. Note the holes in the roof and damage to the windows (Freemans Journal , 20th May, p6)

Ballycanew barracks had been vacated by the police for some time before the 13th of May. It was one of many vacated or closed barracks in the county that were burned or sabotaged so they could not be reoccupied. This reduced the capabilities of the British authorities in those areas, as they had now lost buildings in which they could have placed garrisons of men. It had the opposite effect for the IRA however as it allowed them more freedom to operate without a military or police presence in the area. Although Ballycanew barracks was closed the IRA were likely fearful that it maybe reoccupied by the newly arrived black and tans, brought in to reinforce the RIC.

Late 19th/early 20th century photo of Ballycanew Barracks (middle building with railings). Note the three police officers standing outside and the RIC emblem just visible above the front door. (Credit: National Library of Ireland, Laurence Collection)

The barracks building still stands in Ballycanew today and has remained much the same since the war of independence period.

The former RIC barracks in Ballycanew as it looks today (Google Street View)

Sources

Bureau of Military History Statement, Patrick Ronan #1157

Irish Times, 14th may 1920, p5