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.
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.
The barracks building still stands in Ballycanew today and has remained much the same since the war of independence period.
Bureau of Military History Statement, Patrick Ronan #1157
On the 21st of August 1920 the RIC barracks in Hollyfort was burned by the Crannford company of the IRA. It had been vacated by the police earlier that month on the 14th and was one of many barracks burned or sabotaged in the county during the period to ensure it could not be reoccupied. This reduced the capacity of the British authorities to operate in the area, while increasing that of the IRA. The building had been let to the RIC for a yearly fee of £28 since 1892. After it was burned the owner was awarded £800 compensation.
On the 14th of August 1920 the RIC barracks in Kilmucridge was burned by the Kilmuckridge company of the IRA. It had been vacated by the police earlier in the month. Laurence Redmond in his withnes statement describes the event as follows;
‘In August, 1920, the R.I.C. evacuated Kilmuckridge barracks. We got orders from Battalion Headquarters to destroy the building. On the 14th August Joe Quinsay, who was in charge, myself and five or six others at about midnight forced an entry into the barracks. We spread hay and anything that would burn and sprinkled it with paraffin oil, and then set fire to it. The barrack was completely destroyed’ (p5)
It was one of may barrcks burned or sabotage in the county to ensure ithey could not be reoccupied and reduced the capacity of the British authorities to operate in many areas, while allowing the IRA more freedom. The barracks was located near to and on the lands of Litterbeg House and the two likley had an association. This is a common theme regarding the location of many barracks at the time. The building was later rebuilt and today is a private residence.
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, Laurence Redmond #1010
On the 12th of May 1920 the Castlebridge company of the IRA sabotaged the RIC Barracks in the village which had been vacated previously by the police on the 14th of November 1919. The Irish Times reported that about midnight a party of men, numbering 20 upwards, entered the building and caused considerable damage; ‘doors and windows were broken, the partitions were demolished and a large portion of the roof was dismantled’ (The Irish Times , 14th May 1920 p5).
The building had been used as a police barracks since at least around 1839, being visible on the ordinance survey maps from then. It was rented from a Mrs. Jump, whom later was awarded £280 compensation in the courts. During the session a sergeant Cullen who gave details of the damage said ‘ The place was generally a wreck.’ (New Ross Standard, 23rd June 1920 p7). Today nothing remains of the former barracks with a petrol station now on the site. A photograph below, taken sometime presumably in the late 20th century, shows the building in a dilapidated state.
The Barrack was one of many sabotaged during the period in Wexford with the aim of ensuring they could not be reoccupied or used by the British authorities, therefore reducing their operational capacity, while increasing that of the IRA. Unlike most barracks Castlebridge was damaged rather then burned. Most likely because it formed part of a row of several buildings along the main street and the chances of a fire spreading to these would have been high. Consequently the barracks was heavily sabotaged instead.
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.