Elizabeth Foley was born in 1888 in Ardmore, Co. Waterford. Her parents were Shopkeepers in the village. Her brother John F. "Sonny" Foley became a founder and President of the local branch of Sinn Féin, shortly after that party spread to this county. Cathal Brugha, Sales Director of Messers Lawlors' Candles of Dublin, was a regular visitor to their shop in those early days of Sinn Féin and was often kept by them, overnight. Brugha was regularly in the county on business and had sworn-in many members to the IRB during his travels and his friend and host John F. Foley was one.
After the reorganisation of the Irish Volunteers in 1917 when the prisoners had been released after the Easter Rising, the Commanding Officer of the "Deise" Battalion, "Pax" Whelan of Dungarvan, and the Old Parish/Ardmore 3rd Battalion OC, Jim Mansfield of Crobally, began to encourage their women friends in the district to form branches of Cumann na mBan. This "League of Women" had been founded in Dublin in April 1914. "Lizzy" as she was better known, took up their challenge and Miss Harris of Youghal mentored the early organisational work of the Ardmore branch. Lizzy Foley was elected Captain of the Ardmore Coy and Miss Jane Barron, Upper Curragh became Vice Captain. They also quickly recruited several local women, including neighbour, Molly Flynn and Mary Ellen Burke plus Bridie Troy, Lizzie Grady and Katie Gee. She also brought along her 17 year old niece, Anastasia Keating, although the latter was not living fulltime in Ardmore at that time.
Having convinced "Pax" Whelan of her commitment and determination, Lizzie was chosen, in July 1919, as "escort" to Mick Mansfield, Crobally, Vice Brigadier of the 2nd Waterford Brigade, on a mission to Dublin to procure some small arms. They were to meet Sean McMahon, the QMG, of the IRA, at a Dublin Hotel. Having purchased some new under garments, Lizzie carefully secreted the guns among these "unmentionables". The pair arrived back in Dungarvan on the train, to find the platform being scrutinised by local RIC and British Military and she was obliged to carry the bag back, by hackney car, to Ardmore. The weapons were hidden in her home for some time before later collection.
By Sept 1919, the branch, like all others, had yet to come under any really intrusive police surveillance and, in fact, the Foley's relations with the local RIC were quite cordial. Then came the attack on the British soldiers at a Church Parade in Fermoy where one soldier was shot dead. Liam Lynch, OC of the attacking force of Irish Volunteers was wounded in the exchanges and was hurried away from the town by motor car, to Youghal. The following day he was taken to Ardmore, en route for Dungarvan and Foley's residence above the shop was selected as a "safe house" where the weakened Lynch would rest and get food. He was royally catered for and the available Cumann girls kept surveillance on the Ardmore RIC Barracks, and its occupants, a mere two hundred yards from the shop.
But any idea that she might have had, that no one knew of her activities, were shattered one night in July 1920 when someone, probably a drunken, off duty Marine leaving the pub by the rear exit, fired a revolver shot through an upstairs rear window of Foley's from the road near the strand. The bullet lodged in the ceiling of the room where Lizzy's niece, Anastasia and two friends, were preparing to attend a "Pattern" function in Halla Deaglán, Ardmore.
The following month a party of Black & Tans from Dungarvan who were raiding in the countryside and village, came hammering on Foley's door. When the occupants of the house were tardy in opening up, one of the raiders kicked in the narrow double doors beside the shop entrance. They stormed upstairs and Lizzy's brother John was punched and threatened with a gun to his face as the 'Tans sought information about local Volunteers. When they were not satisfied with their answers John was dragged out and tied to the Crossley's seats. He was told that in the event of any kind of ambush he would be shot out of hand. He was retained overnight by the raiders and told that they would use him again, in this fashion, when and if they required similar "insurance". Lizzy herself was very roughly treated and verbally abused. Much personal property as well as a quantity of cigarettes and cash was also taken by the British intruders. "Sonny" Foley never completely recovered from his ordeal and died a few short years later in 1924. Lizzy withdrew her commitment, somewhat, from Cumann na mBan when the Civil War commenced, disgusted and bewildered, as were so many others, by this turn of events. Her Command was taken up by Lizzie Grady of Upper Curragh, Ardmore, a woman of equal courage and determination.
Source: Tommy Mooney, Ardmore, Co Waterford
Author: Chrissy O'Connor Knight & Eddie Cantwell