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May 28, 1920. Kilmallock
5.

Memoirs Of George Lennon

5. May 28, 1920. Kilmallock

The West Limerick men picked me up at Newcastle West where we went to confession to Father Hayes. I was already well acquainted with the others but the boy sitting next to me in the car, with a Lee Metford rifle between his knees was new to me. He was whistling quite cheerfully to himself. His nickname was Frost and we took an instant liking to each other.

It was midnight by the time we were in our positions in some houses directly facing Kilmallock police barracks. The barracks was a long, low building and appeared to be only one story high from my place of vantage looking down on it. The house adjoining the barracks was about two stories higher and it was from here that the main attack was directed.

There was a most eerie silence before the attack began as if all the people in the town were lying awake waiting for something awful to begin. The moment the signal light flashed we put our rifle butts through the window glass, knelt down behind the ledge and opened fire. There was an immediate response from our opponents. After the first volley there was a moment of silence and a frightened wail went up from all the houses around. What a strangely satisfying, almost wild, sensation it was to push forward the bolt, feeling the round slide smoothly out of the magazine and into the breach. You snuggled the butt voluptuously into your shoulder, took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The crash of the rifle was orgiastic.

The top and unbroken pane of glass was soon peppered with bullet holes. Owing to the angle of fire, bullets were passing through the windows below and were coming up through the floor behind me. Pieces of plaster came tinkling down from the ceiling. When you fired there was a double and instantaneous bang caused by the shot striking against the steel shutters from which answering fire kept spitting.

The barracks had been unsuccessfully attacked during the Rising of 1867 and at least one Fenian was found lying dead in the street. Now we were going to get our own back with a vengeance.

Resting for a while you could direct your gaze towards the house that adjoined the beleaguered police building. From here heavy weights had been dropped to smash the roof below and kerosene, by the bucket, was being showered down into the aperture made by the weights. Soon that end of the barracks was ablaze. In the confined space of the street the noise was terrific.

At about 2 o'clock in the morning our leader ordered a cease fire and called upon the police garrison to surrender. The answer was a shout of defiance and a renewed outbreak of firing from the building, now quite half consumed by the flames. So it went on all night until all but a small part of the barracks was enveloped in fire. It seemed impossible that any body could remain alive there.

Near daybreak I descended into the street and with a young man named Scully [Liam Scully – Captain East limerick Brigade], stood watching the now almost consumed building. Suddenly my companion dropped to the ground, shot through the throat.

When day began to break we had to withdraw. Frost and I had been running around looking everywhere for each other. We climbed into the back seat of one of the cars happy to be together again. The dead man was on a stretcher in the other car. Black clouds of smoke were going up over the town as we drove off.

Author: George Lennon

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