On Thursday morning the 22nd of April 1920, the R.I.C Barracks in Courtown was burned by the IRA. It had been vacated by the police a year previous. The Wicklow People Newspaper reported that thirteen men were estimated to have been involved and armed guards were placed within the village and on the approach roads. These were reported to have disappeared by 2 a.m. and two hours later the structure was burned down with ‘nothing remaining only the bare walls’ thereafter. It was one of many, often rural, barracks burned in Wexford during the period to deny the authorities of their use and therefore allow the I.R.A more freedom to operate. Many of the barracks had been vacated by the police who were moved to more urban stations which were easier to defend. The Barracks was the property of the earl of Courtown whom after was awarded £1000 compensation (Irish Independent, 14th May 1920, p6). He later attempted to appeal this arguing for increased compensation, but the appeal was later withdrawn (Wicklow People, 2nd October 1920, P8). When the appeal was lodged originally in July Mr. Sheehan, the Inspector General, said amidst laughter they had not got enough! (New Ross Standard, 2nd July 1920, p1)
The Site Today
It is not known currently if the former barracks was ever rebuilt or whether it was demolished. The Courtown harbour hotel now stands on the site and the fabric of the original barracks maybe incorporated within this. The hotel has since closed.
In the early hours of Thursday morning the 20th of May 1920 the I.R.A sabotaged the R.I.C Barracks in Duncormick using explosives. Like many rural barracks Duncormick had already been vacated by the police prior to this event. In a compensation claim brought before the court later in June it was reported that a breach in the walls had been made (New Ross Standard 25th June 1920). It further stated a Mrs Margaret Sinnott was owner of the barracks, which was rented by the R.I.C for £18 a year since 1876.
It was one of many such barracks damaged or destroyed in Wexford during the War of Independence to ensure it could not be reoccupied. This left the local IRA more freedom to operate in the area. The south Wexford brigade activity reports state that B (Bridgetown) and C (Broadway) companies of the 3rd South Wexford Battalion were responsible.The barracks building still survives in Duncormick village. It has a galvanized roof and appears not to be lived in considering the blocked up windows. A plaque above the doorway indicates that it was previously an R.I.C Barracks and that it was also used as a Garda Station until 1938.
A previous attempt to demolish the barracks had been made on the 12th of May. The Irish Times reported that holes had been bored in the gable and front wall of the building and explosives placed inside. However, on this occasion they failed to go off and were removed intact when discovered by the police from Bridgetown, who arrived on the scene the following morning (Irish Times. 14th May p 5)
Irish Times. 14th May p 5
Irish Times 26th May 1920
New Ross Standard 25th June 1920
South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports.
A special thanks to Peter Murphy for giving permission to use the picture of Duncormick RIC. This was taken from the Sammy Sinnot collection, converted by Michael Kelly from glass plate and published by Peter Murphy. Also thanks to Paul Byrne for directing me towards the source.
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.
On the 12th of May 1920 the Rathgarogue Company of the South Wexford Brigade I.R.A burned the former police barracks at Berkeley, near New Ross. It was located on the Berkeley House estate and had been closed since 1890, possibly being used as private residence thereafter.
The New Ross Standard newspaper reported an interesting incident which took place between a police officer and the land agent for the Deane family, (who resided in Berkeley house and on whose estate the barracks was situated) when to returning the keys of the barracks to the latter.
Berkeley was one of many rural barracks burned during the war of independence in county Wexford. This was to ensure they could no longer be utilized by the police or army and subsequently allowed more freedom for the I.R.A to operate. Berkeley stands out in comparison to others because it was closed for 30 years before. It was still targeted perhaps because the I.R.A thought it maybe reoccupied; at the time the Black and Tans were arriving to reinforce the police (R.I.C) and the former barracks at Berkeley had the potential to be used as lodging for these extra men. Additionally its’ association with the Berkeley House may have been an added incentive. The then owner of the building, Mrs. Catherine Cecilia Tyndall, sought compensation of £1750 for its burning in the courts. However, she was awarded the lesser sum of £500 (The New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920)
The ruins of the barracks can still be seen adjacent to the public road. It was constructed of stone and possibly a two story building, like most other barracks. Little remains of the structure with only portions of the buildings external walls.
Some time after midnight, on Thursday night, the 5th of August 1920 the New Ross Standard reports that an explosion was heard coming from Fethard RIC barracks which was followed by a blaze. The following morning ‘… it (the barracks) was completely burned down, practically nothing being left but the walls.’ The building had been vacated by the police several weeks before.
Michael Conway, who was a survivor of the Saltmills explosion, described the burning of Fethard barracks in his withness statement to the Bureau of Military History and it offers an explanation for the explosion reported to have been heard in Fethard on the night. He states:
‘We were instructed to destroy R.I.C. Barracks which the police had vacated. The first one we destroyed was at Tintern; the second was at Fethard-on-Sea where we tested our first bombs made out of the boxes of cart-wheels. They proved to be most successful. During this operation I got a bad fright. When we were sprinkling the floors and woodwork of the barracks with petrol I went Into the day-room with two others. Then an explosion took place inside the barracks. The door banged and locked. I had the bombs in my coat pocket. As luck happened, I was able to kick out the door panels with my foot and got out on to the road. The barracks by this time was in flames. I threw off my coat as I felt the heat on my back. I then threw the bombs through the top windows into the blazing barracks. They exploded and blew the roof completely off the barracks.’ (Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Michael Conway (IRA), Ballycullane, Co.Wexford. #1509)
The Site Today
The ruins of Fethard barracks can still be seen along the main street today, in good condition with the walls remaining to full height.
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Michael Conway (IRA), Ballycullane, Co.Wexford. #1509
On Saturday night the 5th of June 1920 the Templeudigan company of the IRA set fire to the police barracks in Ballywilliam, on the same day it had been vacated by the police. This reduced the capacity of the British forces in the area, having lost one of their bases. The decision to vacate the barracks was likely done in light of recent attacks and burning of other rural barracks in the county. Its rural setting would have left it more open to an attack also. It was reduced to an empty shell by the following morning.The barracks had been used as a parish school and dispensary in the 1800s. After the fire it was later fixed and used as a Garda station. Today it is a private residence. Previously in April of the same year the telegraph wires to Ballywillam barracks were cut prior to an attack on Clonroche Barracks to disrupt communication between both and any calls for help from the Clonroche RIC.
On the 13th of May 1920 the R.I.C Barracks in Killurin was burned by members of the I.R.A, Glynn company. It had already been vacated by the police, like so many other rural barracks at the time as they were considered more open to attack and the police were then stationed elsewhere. Burning the building ensured it could not be reoccupied. It was a rented building and during the compensation claim brought before the court it was indicated that paraffin oil was used in the burning. Some time after it was rebuilt and is now a private residence.
On Saturday night the 16th of May 1920 Ballinaboola police barracks was burned. It had been vacated by the police for some time before this. A previous attempt was made to burn the building a few days earlier on Wednesday the 12th of May which resulted in a portion of the roof being damaged. The second attempt however was more successful with the entire structure catching fire. (The New Ross Standard, 21st May 1920). Situated at a fork in the road along the main Wexford to New Ross route it is visible on the 1905 ordinance survey map as the largest and most prominent building in the village. It had been used as a police barracks since at least circa 1839, being visible on the ordinance survey maps from then.
The building like so many other barracks in the county was rented and in July that year it was reported the owner Patrick Byrne appealed the county court decision whereby he was awarded £200 compensation for the burning of the barracks after asking for £2000. (New Ross Standard, 9th July 1920). It was one of many destroyed in 1920 by the I.R.A to ensure it could not be reoccupied and therefore limited British operations in the area. The South Wexford Brigade activity files report that the 1st Company (New Ross) were responsible for the burning. No trace of the barracks remains today
On Saturday morning the 24th of July 1920 the R.I.C barracks in Killinick was burned by the IRA. The ‘New Ross Standard’ newspaper gave the following account of the event.
‘The police left Killinick , some on pensions some transferred to other stations, on Friday evening, (the 23rd of July). They vacated the barrack about 8 p.m. At about 2 a.m. on Saturday morning it was noticed that the barrack was in a blaze and when the people passed to their several business nothing but the smoking ruins were to be seen. On Saturday evening the burning of all inside woodwork was carried out. It was believed that the military were going to take up quarters in the barrack immediatly on its evacuation by the police. Strong colour was lent to this belief when it was found out that the military had comandeered quarters at the residence of Mrs. Burke, Bennertsbridge, not far from Killinick, on Saturday.‘ (New Ross Standard, 30th July 1920)
The Irish Examiner later in November of that same year reported on an incident where a ‘John Sinnott’ of Wexford was being tried by court-martial in Cork after a document ‘purporting to emanate from an officer of an unlawful association.’ was found in his home. This document described the activities of an I.R.A company, one of which included the burning of Killinick barracks. It also gave a good description of the barracks before it was burned which details how well fortified the building was.
‘An inspection of Killinick Barrack gave very useful information. Besides being fortified with steel shutters, sandbags etc. there were various bombing holes prepared, the wall being excavated from inside and just a shell of mortar left on outside. These holes were about two and a half feet by one. This particular barrack was especially strong and there were wire entanglements on the surrounding grounds.’ (Irish Examine, 4th November 1920, page 7)
These ‘bombing holes’ mentioned were to allow those inside to throw grenades and other explosive devices from inside the building at potential attackers on the outside. By July 1920 many barracks in the county had been burned while others, such as Clonroche barracks, had been attacked. Consequently it is no surprise that a rural barrack such as Killinick had become so fortified given the faith of other such buildings. It may also had been done in preparation for the military to occupy it. The barracks was one of many sabotaged by the I.R.A to ensure they could not be reoccupied and therefore reduced the British authorities’ capacity to operate in those areas. The South Wexford Brigade activity reports record that companies A (Murrinstown), B (Bridgetown) and C (Broadway) of the 3rd Battalion were responsible for the burning. Little trace remains today of the former barracks, hidden behind dense overgrowth. A service building is the most noticeable feature today which stands on the site.
On Wednesday night the 12th of May 1920 the R.I.C barracks in Tintern was set afire and burned. Previously in November 1919 orders had been issued to close the barracks and the acting Sergeant, Edmond Larissy, reassigned elsewhere. However, the building was not completely vacated as his wife, Julia Agnes Larrissy, still resided there with their two children. On the night it was burned she and the children were ordered to leave the building and interestingly the families furniture was removed for them by those who set out to burn the barracks. It can be seen on the front lawn of the house in the above photo. The South Wexford Brigade activity files report that A company (Gusserrane) and G company (St. Leonards) of the 2nd Battalion were responsible for the burning.
The barracks was located at a crossroads known as ‘Poundtown’, beside the entrance into Tintern abbey, the home of the Couclough family who were large landowners in the area and also owned the building used for the barracks, which was rented from them. A barracks had stood on the site since around 1839, as one is depicted on the ordinance survey maps from the period. The photo shows it was a large structure, possibly built of stone and with a slated roof. In the 1911 census buildings return it is shown to contain between 7-9 rooms, further indicating its large size. Sergeant Edmond is listed in Tintern with his family also on the 1911 census, therefore by 1920 they had lived in the area for quiet a long time. The courtesy shown to them by the removal of their furniture might suggest they were respected locally and perhaps in good standing within the community. This was not the first instance of an attack on the barracks in its lifetime as an newspaper article from 1833 reports how 3 men were arrested for taking arms and planning to attack it (Belfast Newsletter 1738-1938, 12.03.1833, page 2). No trace of Tintern Barracks remains today and the site is grass covered with some trees planted.