Duncormick Barracks sabotaged

R.I.C officers pictured outside of Duncormick Barrack in 1905 (Credit: Picture originally from Sammy Sinnot, converted from glass plate by Michael Kelly and published by Peter Murphy)

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.

Compensation claim for damages to Duncormick Barracks (New Ross Standard 25th June 1920 p7)
Report of damage caused to Duncormick barrack reported in the Irish Times 26th May 1920

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)

The white building on the right is the former RIC Barracks in Duncormick as it looks today. A plaque above the door marks its former use as a barracks. (Google Street View)

Sources

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.

Police Held at Gunpoint at Wexford Town Railway Station

Wexford town railway station as its appears today. In 1920 this was 1 or 2 stations in the town and was known as the ‘North’ station, while another the ‘South’ Station was located on the southern end of the town. (Google Street View)

On Sunday the 12th of September 1920 the New Ross Standard reports that just before the arrival of the afternoon train from Dublin 4 masked men held up 2 police officers in Wexford town’s ‘North Station’ (Now O Hanrahan station). The masked men sought to relieve the officers, a constable Ward and Murphy, of their revolvers and ammunition. However on this particular day they were not armed and the fugitives, who were left empty handed, made their getaway in a motor car which was waiting outside the station.

Francis Carty was one of the men involved and a member of the south Wexford brigade IRA, recalls how they were armed with a Webley revolver and another called a ‘Bulldog’ revolver. Interestingly Francis describes how the incident was his first time handling a firearm.

Sources

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Francis Carty (IRA) #1040

New Ross Standard, 18th September 1920, p5

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Raid on Mail Train at Killurin

In the early 1900s county Wexford was well served by the railways. As well as lines from Rosslare to Waterford and Dublin, a line also ran from Macmine Junction heading west to Palace East, where it branched off towards New Ross and Bagnelstown Co. Carlow via Ballywilliam. There were multiple stops along these routes, some of which are still operational, while others (where the line isn’t closed) the train now runs fast through. One of these former stations was located at Killurin on the Wexford to Dublin line, just below Macmine Junction.

1895 map showing the Wexford’s railways. NOTE the Waterford to Rosslare line was not yet included in this edition. (Credit: British Library)

On Friday the 13th of August 1920 the New Ross Standard reported that just before the 5.30 a.m. train arrived at Killurin station several armed men with revolvers held up the signal man, a Mr. J. Wheeler. The approaching train was stopped and the men enquired was there any steel shutters aboard (likely bound to be installed in a RIC barracks to boost its defense). None were found but 10 bags of ‘official mails’ was stolen instead. However, the private mails were left untouched and the raiders made their escape in a motorcar.

This was the first of about twenty similar raids on the mail trains at Killurin during the war of Independence. They were an important exercise in intelligence gathering, providing valuable information including official reports from various RIC barracks with information on their strength and activities. The home address of many Black and Tans were also obtained and then sent to G.H.Q. This was at a time when the IRA were burning houses in England as reprisals for events in Ireland. Francis Carty in his witness statement tells how the engine drivers ‘…usually stopped the train at Killurin on observing the customary gestures’ (p14), suggesting that the they were regularly cooperative in facilitating the raids. He mentions particularly how many of the letters were opened and rubber stamped with ‘censored IRA’ to give the impression of an extensive intelligence gathering operation. This certainly would have had the desired effect of limiting peoples cooperation with British forces. Especially if they thought any letters they maybe sending were being read by those who they were meant to provide information on. Privacy was respected though and it is mentioned that civilian mail was never read.

Francis recalls the benefit of these operations and of one instance of the variety of information that could be obtained.

‘Letters from Black & Tan members of the R.I.C. in Taghmon Barracks spoke of the dangerous position they were in as a result of barrack attacks. They stated that it was unsafe to venture far from their barracks by day or by night and one of these letters compared conditions to the trench warfare in France during the first World War. A number of the letters spoke of eggs which these Black & Tans were sending to English relatives. They said that there was no limit to the amount of eggs they could send provided they received a supply of egg boxes. The eggs were, of course, being stolen from the farmers. ‘ (p14-15). Similar raids took place at Campile Station and at Rathgarogue Station during the period.

Killurin Train Station Today

Close up taken from a wider photo of Killurin railway line early 1900s.. Killurin station is visible with platforms and signal cabin. (Credit; National Library of Ireland, The Lawrence Collection. Available online)

Killurin station closed to all traffic in 1964 and the train now runs fast through. The original station structure, a two-storey red bricked building built in 1872, still stands and is now a private residence. The platforms are still in place but hidden by vegetation.

Killurin train station as it looks today (Credit: Barntown Heritage Group facebook page)
View back towards station with overgrown platform visible to the right. (Credit: Barntown Heritage Group facebook page)

Throughout the period mails were raided from other stations in Wexford also including Ferns, Campile , Rathgarouge and others. It is noticeable that the more rural stations were preferred to those in the towns.

Sources

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, Francis Carty, (IRA) #1040

New Ross Standard, Friday 20th August 1920, p4.

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Thanks to ‘The Barntown Heritage Group’ for permission to use the photos of Killurin station.

Arthurstown Barrack burned

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.

Arthurstown RIC Barrack dated 1919. (Thanks to Ballyhack and Arthurstown Facebook page for permission.) Notice the metal bars on the downstairs windows.

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.

Ordinance Survey Map from 1905 of Arthurstown with the Barracks location marked as ‘Constby Bk’ meaning Constabulary Barracks.

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 howThe 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

The site of the former barracks in Arthurstown as it looks today. (Google Street View)

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.

Sources

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.

Former Police Barracks at Berkeley burned

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.

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1839 Ordinance Survey Map showing Berkeley House and the location of the police barracks to the lower left

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.

Article from The New Ross Standard, 26th April 1890 on the closing of Berkeley Barrack.

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.

The ruins of the former police barracks at Berkeley (Google Street View)

Source

South Wexford Brigade Activity Report

New Ross Standard, 26th April 1890

New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920

Fethard RIC Barracks Burned

Fethard RIC Barracks visible on the left with two RIC officers outside standing along the street. Taken from a postcard dated circa 1919

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.

1905 Ordinance Survey map of Fethard with Barracks depicted along the main street

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.

Ruins of Fethard RIC Barracks (Google Street View 2019)

Sources

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Michael Conway (IRA), Ballycullane, Co.Wexford. #1509

New Ross Standard, Friday 6th August 1920, p5

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Raid on Pierce’s Foundry Wexford Town

In the early 1900s Pierce’s foundry, once located at the corner of Mill Road and Distillery Road, was one of the largest employers in Wexford town. It was also one of the biggest manufacturers of engineering and agricultural machinery in Ireland, selling its products worldwide to Europe and both South and North America. During World War 1 they manufactured Brass shell cases, without caps or detonators. These were then transported from Wexford via train where they would be then filled with explosives at their next destination and sent off to the front in Europe to be used in the fighting.

Shell cases being manufactured in Pierce’s. Credit : County Wexford in the Rare Oul’ Times, p45, Vol IV by Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes

On the 19th of July 1920 members of the IRA in Wexford town raided the foundry taking between 450 and 500 empty shells. Two lorries were borrowed from outside the town for the operation and brought into the foundry yard where 12 men were waiting to load the shells. While this was ongoing men had been positioned nearby and in the vicinity of the different barracks to watch the movements of the police and military. Wexford Military barracks was situated just about 250m up the road from the foundry and armed IRA men were positioned nearby to engage them if they attempted to interfere with the operation.

Map showing former location of Pierce’s foundry and the military barracks

The shells were removed from the foundry without alerting the police or military and stored at ‘Captain Jordons’s place near adamstown’. Some of the shell cases were later used to make mines with the majorithy though sent to the 1st Southern Division, an area which comprised all of counties Waterford, Kerry, Cork and West Limerick.

Artwork located at the junction of Distillary Road and Mill Road to remember Pierce’s Foundry which once stood on the site, now occupied by Tesco’s.

Today Tesco supermarket occupies the site of the former foundry works at Pierce’s but an art piece depicting various elements of engineering stands to mark the location.

Sources

Cover Photo: ‘Shell cases ready for delivery from Pierces’ in County Wexford in the Rare Oul’ Times, p44, Vol IV by Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Martin Walsh (IRA), New Ross, Co.Wexford. #1495

Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Michael Kirwan (IRA), Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford. #1175

New Ross Standard, 23rd July 1920, p8

Pierces Manufacture Shell Cases, in County Wexford in the Rare Oul’ Times, p44, Vol IV by Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes

South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports

Bar Of Lough Coastguard Station Raided

Map of south Wexford with location of Bar of Lough coastguard station marked by x

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.

1905 ordinance survey map showing Bar of Lough coastguard station and coastguardsmen’s Quarters (the chiefs house).

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.

The coastguardsmen’s quarters or chiefs house as viewed from Bar of Lough station today.

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

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

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.

View of the site site as it looks today looking west. The coastguard station was located where the high ground is visible in the center background with the perimeter wall visible behind. The boathouse and slipway are visible to the left.

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 boathouse at Bar of Lough

The slip in front of the boathouse survives with its neat cobbled surface exposed leading down to the sea shore.

The slipway at Bar of Lough
Cut stones laid along the perimeter of the site facing the sea shore. Note the high wall with the boathouse to the right.

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.

Sources

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

Hay for British Army Set Ablaze

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.

Report of Hay set on fire in New Ross Standard, 18th June 1920, p4

Identifying Farms

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 wexfordwarofindependence@gmail.com or contact the facebook or twitter pages.

Ballywilliam Barrack Bunred

The former barracks at Ballywilliam, as it looks today. (Google Street View 2019)

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.

Sources

Irish Independent, June 8th 1920, p5

South Wexford Brigade Activity reports