On Tuesday the 10th of May 1921 the nights silence was broken in the town of Enniscorthy by the sudden and unexpected sound of gunfire. At approximately 10:30p.m. the town’s RIC barracks located in the Abbey Square came under fire. Contemporary newspaper accounts reported that few people were on the street at the time, but those who were quickly sought refuge in premises nearest to them. Those inside their own homes were equally scared about the possibility of a stray bullet finding its way inside and many sought refuge in their back kitchens.
The gunfire was directed at the barracks from the ‘Turrent Rocks’, a high point upon a rocky eminence on the opposite side of the river Slaney. The police were inside the barracks at the time and upon hearing the sound of bullets ricocheting off the buildings wall quickly returned fire. Meanwhile, soldiers stationed in the town’s courthouse came to the aid of the police upon hearing of the attack, directing machine gun fire on their attackers position which was visible due to the fire from their guns. The entire incident lasted for about 15 minutes and ceased shortly after the machine gun fire began. Following the incident there was increased police and military activity in the area. Bullet holes were visible on neighboring buildings the following morning, as well as the wall which the attackers were supposed to have taken cover behind.
The operation was under taken by 12 members of F (Shannon) Company of the 2nd Battalion, North Wexford Brigade IRA. Incidents such as this were common during the period and were known as ‘sniping’, involving a brief or sort period of gunfire concentrated on a building, usually police barracks. The aim was not so much to capture the building but to harras it’s inhabitants, with the potential to inflict injury also.
Enniscorthy RIC Barracks
The former RIC barracks in Enniscorthy was the most easterly building on the southern side of the Abbey Square. From contemporary photos it can seen as a strong built three story structure with windows to the front and side of the building. During the time of the attack is was most likely fortified with sandbags and steel window shutters. The building was demolished sometime later in the 20th century and the site is today used as a car park.
On Thursday the 30th of December 1920 Cushenstown Hall was partially wrecked by fire and an explosion. The Enniscorthy Guardian reported that at about 8 o clock people in the locality heard a loud explosion. Earlier that night a motor car with 4 or 5 passengers was seen at the hall and a fire was noticed inside shortly after it left. Fortunately, it was extinguished before it could spread. The fire had already caught onto the gallery floor and stage. Afterwards it was noticed that the floor had been sprinkled with petrol and there was a hole in it caused by the bomb. The explosion shook the whole building, smashed the windows, displaced some of the doors, damaged seats and perforated the ceiling.
Cushenstown hall was one of the largest of its kind built in Ireland at the time and one of the first six co-operative halls built in Ireland in 1909. This was done under a grant given by the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society for the six parishes that had done the most work. The Cushenstown Co-operative society had given use of the hall for a school since the areas National School was burned several years before. It was still used as a school at the time of this incident and the school books inside were saved from the fire.
Circumstances surrounding the event.
This incident was reported in the Enniscorthy Guardian and although the article doesn’t mention who may have been responsible it does say that the hall had been raided by the military on a couple of occasions during the last few months. This indicates that it was targeted by the British authorities before, likely as it may have been associated with republican activity in some form or another. It would be unlikely that the damage was caused by any republican element as it was a focal point for the local community and was also being used as a school. Therefore it was most likely an incidence of sabotage secretively undertaken by the Black and Tans or Auxiliaries, perhaps as a reprisal for something done to them or the police.
The Site Today
Nothing survives of Cushenstown Hall today except the concrete foundations of the building. The stone wall and piers which are visible at the front of the building in the photo from 1921 still survive.
In the early 1900s County Wexford being a sea bordering county had several coastguard stations dotted along it’s coast. One of these was located just south west of Duncormick, at the entrance to a small inlet along the Ballyteigh burrow called Bar of Lough. A station had existed here since around 1839, being visible on the ordinance survey maps from then. At around midnight on Saturday the 19th of June 1920 members of the south Wexford brigade IRA, estimated to number about 50, surrounded the residence of the chief of the coastguards, located about 550m from the station.
One of the coastguards who was leaving the Bar of Lough station was captured and brought to the chiefs house to seek entry. However, upon knocking on the door the chief became suspicious and fired several shots at those outside. The raiders replied with their own gunfire and after a firefight lasting about 20 minutes the chief was told his building had been mined and unless he surrendered it would be blown up. Meanwhile a number of coastguards from the station, upon hearing the gunfire, proceeded towards their chiefs residence, aiming to provide help. However, they were taken by surprise while on route and captured. Following this incident the raiders searched both buildings and took 5 Webley revolvers and a quantity of ammunition away with them. They were also proceeding to take several rockets which were used with the saving apparatus, but upon learning of this use they took only one.
Despite the ordeal the newspaper reports compliment the raiders; ‘Private property was not interfered with and one of the raiders informed a coastguard that any man found pilfering would be shot. The raiders treated the wifes and children of the coastguards with the greatest courtesy and the chief and men at the station praised the gentlemanly manner in which the raid was carried out. They state the attacking party were most considerate’. (New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920). The operation was not sporadic but done with detailed planning. Before the raid telegraph wires were cut and outposts set up nearby in case of any unwelcomed arrivals. Several people who happened upon them were held up by armed men, questioned and then escorted back to their homes. In total an estimated 150 men were thought to have taken part in the operation. On Sunday morning after the raid men could be heard marching back through Duncormick and Carrig.
This would not be the final time Bar of Lough coastguard station gained attention during the period. It was raided again on Sunday the 8th of May 1921 with doors and windows broken. Canvass candles and bunting was reported stolen with the raid presumably undertaken to procure weapons and ammunition (New Ross Standard 18th November 1921). Two months later on the 10th of July the coastguard station along with the officers house and boathouse was destroyed by fire (Enniscorthy Guardian 16th July 1921).
The Site Today
Nothing remains of the coastguard station at Bar of Lough today. After it was burned in 1921 the stations ruins remained standing up until about 2001 when it was demolished and the stone taken away for use elsewhere. Although nothing remains of the station other elements of the site survive.
A high stone wall marking the site boundary to the south and west survives. Its height would have provided protection from the sea winds. The most notable features on site are the boathouse with its slipway. The boathouse is depicted on the ordinance survey maps from 1905 and survives today as a stone built rectangular structure with a concrete roof.
The slip in front of the boathouse survives with its neat cobbled surface exposed leading down to the sea shore.
Cut stones are laid along the southern end of the site exposed to the sea. The ground here slopes gently upwards from the shore towards the seawall with the stones laid flat on top. Both elements designed to reduce erosion of the shore line. The coastguardsmen’s quarters still survives today and is a private residence.
Enniscorthy Guardian 16th July 1921
New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920
New Ross Standard 18th November 1921
South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports
Cover Photo: Bar of Lough coastguard stations boathouse and slipway
As well as undertaking ambushes and attacks on British forces the IRA conducted intelligence operations and sabotaged infrastructure and supplies to disrupt their ability to operate. One such incident of sabotage was reported in June 1920 when large quantities of hay baled for the British Army was destroyed in a single day on Tuesday the 15th. The IRA brigade activity reports state the south Wexford Brigade of the IRA was responsible.
Part of this project involves the identification of the locations and mapping of the various events that took place in the county. If anybody could offer help as to the possible locations of these farms please contact the page at email@example.com or contact the facebook or twitter pages.
The New Ross Standard reported that on midnight, Wednesday the 26th of May 1920, a wealthy protestant farmer named Joseph Y Jeffares and his eldest son aged 20 were taken away from their home in Rochestown Co. Kilkenny (About 4 miles from New Ross) by unknown men . Mr Jeffares had been awoken by a number of men banging on his door and upon asking who was there he was told to get up and open it. He and he son were ordered to get dressed and they were blindfolded and led outside to a waiting motorcar. During the ordeal a younger son of Mr. Jeffares attempted to leave via the rear door but was stopped from doing so. It was reported the intruders wore no masks and others kept guard outside the home.
The incident reported on that night was later retold by Liam O Leary in his witness statement. He says how the operation was undertaken on orders from GHQ in Dublin who were acting on information that the R.I.C officers, who murdered the republican Lord Mayor of Cork Tomas MacCurtain earlier in March of that year, were being harbored there. The murder of MacCurtain sparked an international outcry as he was an elected official and was shot in front of his wife and kids by the R.I.C. Liam says three officers were sent down from Dublin IRA HQ to help in the operation. In contrast Michael Kirwan in his witness statement says there were instead just two, but names them as Frank Thornton and Eamon Fleming. Frank Thornton is known to have been a member of Michael Collin’s intelligence staff.
On the night of the operation Liam describes how between 24 to 30 men set off from Enniscorthy on bicycles in three groups. They cycled to designated meeting points where they met local scouts who knew the area. Liam’s group made their way to a place called Dysart and proceeded to head to the Jeffares home. Once Mr Jeffares and his son were in the car they were then taken to the home of Martin Kelly of Tombrick, Ballycarney and kept there for several days. The Ballycarney Company of the I.R.A kept guard and watch throughout this. The Dublin officers interrogated Mr Jeffares and his son before eventually releasing them on a back road near Camolin.
Two cars were used on the night. The first was obtained from a Dr Kelly, a dispensary doctor in Killanne who when asked is said to have ‘cheerfully’ obliged. Dr kelly provided medical assistance to the I.R.A in wexford on many occasions throughout the war of independence. The second car was got from a Ms M. O’ Neill of Ballingale, who offered to even drive it herself ‘no matter to where’ such was her enthusiasm, but her offer had to be declined and just the car taken instead. Liam mentions that they raided another house and took two people called Sullivan also but no account of this could be found elsewhere.
This operation is a good example of the intelligence gathering capabilities of the I.R.A who were aware that they needed to know their enemy just as well as they knew them. Intelligence played an important role in the war of independence and was crucial in undertaking operations to understand the enemies strength and weaknesses to help keep ahead of them as much as they could.
Liam O Leary, Bureau of Military History witness statement #1276
Michael Kirwan, Bureau of Military History witness statement #1175
On the night of Sunday morning, the 4th of April 1920, Mr. Eugene O Connor whom was an income tax collector, was awoken by three men at his window whom inquired as to if he indeed was the tax collector. He answered that he was, upon which the strangers asked him to hand over his income tax books. He refused and the men tried to gain entry through the window and front door. Mr O Connor, upon seeing that they were armed with revolvers, decided to let them in and he was held at gun point while his wife retrieved the books . A search was made of the house also by the raiders whom interestingly chose not to wear masks.
The raiders were reported to have been well mannered as after getting what they came for apologized to the couple for the late night disturbance and that they had to carryout the mission and that they hoped to ‘meet them at a later date under more favorable circumstances’. They then made their get away in a motor car waiting near the railway station. The operation was a well planned event and involved more then just the three individuals as Mr O’ Connor reported observing other men around the house and street that night, keeping watch while the raiders gained entry into the building. Newspaper reports state that some residents who went outside to see what all the noise was about were ordered back into their homes. Mr O Connor estimated there could have been 20 men involved in the operation.
The raiders were members of the Wexford I.R.A and this was one of many aimed at disrupting the British governments operations and rule in Ireland. The Street remains much the same as it did in 1920