Explosives stolen at Tombrick

In late April 1918 a car containing ‘several hundred pounds of gelignite explosives’ together with detonators, was travelling from Wexford town to Bunclody. The consignment was destined for Ryland quarry to be used for rock blasting operations. Four men occupied the car;

Mr. James Sinnott (Owner & Driver)

Mr. W.F. Barry (County Surveyor)

Mr. Thomas Treanor (Assistant County Surveyor)

Mr. Wm. Murphy (quarry overseer for the council)

Early 1900’s OS map with location of Ryland Quarry south of Bunclody. The quarry was operated by Wexford County Council for stone used in road building, repairs etc.

Shortly after 12pm passing through Tombrick, the car was stopped by a group of four men, armed with revolvers and their faces partially covered by handkerchiefs. Mr. Thomas Treanor, had informed the local I.R.A HQ of the planned explosives delivery and subsequently provided them with an opportunity to obtain an important resource. The occupants of the car were ordered to dismount and proceed to Tombrick Wood, where they were kept under guard by two of the masked individuals. Meanwhile, the other two masked culprits made away in the car with the explosives, returning somtime later. Upon their arrival back the car was returned to its owner, Mr. Sinnott , who previously had expressed his concern to the raiders, as the vehicle was his livelihood. The masked men then made their escape on bicycles which had been previously placed. Accounts tell how the explosives were hidden in a tomb at Ballybrennan graveyard, 26km south of Tombrick and to the south-west of Enniscorthy Town. They would later be utilized to manufacture bombs. This is one of the earliest activities undertaken by the I.R.A in the county Wexford.

Ballybrennan graveyard where the gelignite explosives were hidden within a tomb for safe keeping

There are 3 factors to help determine the location of this event. Firstly, it took place in Tombrick. Second, that they were held in ‘Tombrick Wood’ and third that this wood ‘adjoins the road’. The most obvious location is along the road running through ‘Tombrack Wood’. However, this would not have been the primary route between Wexford and Bunclody. Instead that would have been following the route of the modern N80. Noticeably a small wood does exist in Tombrick along this primary route and could be considered the ‘Tombrick wood’ where the men were held. Whichever of the two maybe correct this event was a well planned operation where the men knew the surrounding area and utilized it to perform this ambush.

Map showing two possible locations of event either the road through Tombrack Wood or the other nearest the river Slaney

A year later in 1919 the explosives would be resurrected from the tomb, but were found to be frozen. Interestingly, the fixture for this was thawing, or cooking the gelignite on hot iron plates over an open fire! One of the cooks Joe O’ Brien, a tailor from the Duffry Gate, Enniscorthy, apparently suffered from headaches 35 years on, caused by the fumes of the nitro-glycerin. This particular catch of gelignite was found by some to be ‘undependable’ when used in later operations, perhaps because it was frozen or later ‘cooked’! The list below contains the names of the men who captured the explosives  


Newspaper: The New Ross Standard, Friday 26th April 1918 ‘A Daring Act’ Page 4

Bureau of Military History Withness Statement: Sean Whelan (IRA), St. Senan’s Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford. Document #1294, P13

Bureau of Military History Withness Statement: Michael O Ciardubhain (Kirwan) (IRA), Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford. Document #1175, P8

Note: The image used in the introduction for this post shows a Dublin Metropolitan Police Officer and car not associated with the event and was used purely for illustrative purposes

A Near Miss At Dunanore

In spring 1918, prior to the War of Independence, what maybe considered, the ‘first attempted IRA ambush in Wexford’, occurred in the townland of Dunanore, between Bree and Enniscorthy. The ambush was planned for a party of R.I.C police vacating Galbally Barracks and whom were being driven to Enniscorthy in a ‘long car’.

Galbally R.I.C Barracks (now a private residence) Source: Google Streetview

Twenty three men, armed with ‘shotguns and small arms’, lay in wait along a stretch of road referred to as ‘the Dungeon Road’. This was described as ‘very dark and overhung with rocks with the river Boro on the other side’. After waiting for several hours word arrived that the police had travelled another road and subsequently missed the awaiting ambush. Michael Kirwan in his witness statement was under the impression that the police may have uncovered news of their plans and decided to travel a different route.

Map of ambush showing probable I.R.A position and route of police patrol

Despite the lack of any physical engagement the ambush site is worth studying. Based on the previous given description of the ‘Dungeon road’ a stretch (of road) south of the river Boro between Ballynapierce Bridge and Victoria Bridge can be identified as the probable IRA position (See map). At this point on the map the road becomes enclosed; flanked by the rover Boro on the north and overhanging rock on the south, which would have given the ambush party the higher ground over the police. Additionally, any vehicles approaching this location coming west, from Galbally, would have had to first round a bend in the road, therefore causing a delayed view of any potential dangers ahead. It would have provided an element of surprise for the IRA. The site has changed little today and passing through, over 100 years since the time of the event, you can still get a sense of why those men chose this location.

The Dungeon road as it looks today. Note high rock on one side (Source: Google Streetview)

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