"The roar of the guns it was glorious
The bullets flew round us like hail
From rifles of cowards and traitors
Mid the ranks of the sons of the Gael.
And every rebel's a hero
From Piltown, Old Parish, Ardmore,
And down from the slopes of the Comeraghs,
With Dungarvan's true sons to the fore".
This is a verse from the song "The Cross of Old Piltown", which was composed by Pat Keating of Killrossanty (and who was later killed in the Burgery Ambush) and it recalls for us the Ambush at Piltown Cross on all Saints Night, 1st November, 1920.
The R.I.C. in Ardmore Barracks and the Marines in the Coastguard Station were attacked simultaneously by a small party of Volunteers. The phone wires were left uncut, so that messages for assistance could be sent from the R.I.C. to the military in Youghal. These were only mock attacks to lure the military and police out from Youghal, as one particular policeman was required. The A.S.U. (Active Service Unit) and local company volunteers had taken up their positions at Piltown Cross, on the Youghal/Ardmore road. The road was trenched, and a tree felled, just at the Cross. When the mock attack in Ardmore commenced, Verey Lights and signals were sent up by the R.I.C. and this brought a combined force of military and R.I.C. out from Youghal, as expected. When they reached the road blockage, the lorry had to stop and the Volunteers opened fire. The driver of the lorry was shot, and others wounded, and an officer jumped over the fence, in an effort to get away, but fell into the hands of the shotgun men. The Volunteers charged the enemy, who very quickly surrendered, due to the surprise element attack.
One policeman who was particularly wanted was captured, but he gave an undertaking to resign from the force, and after being disarmed was released. When the capture was complete, and all arms etc., collected, the lorry could not be re-started so the Volunteers procured some donkeys and carts, and allowed the enemy to take the wounded back to Youghal. The A.S.U. then withdrew towards Clashmore and Cappoquin while the men of the local companies returned home. The arms and ammunition captured in this ambush were a great addition to the A.S.U. and it's "strength" was increased considerably. The policeman who had promised to resign, failed to do so, and as a result he had to be dealt with later on.
Author: Domnall O'Faoláin