The Irish War of Independence 1919 - 1921
Memoirs Of George Lennon - Officer Commanding West Waterford Flying Column
No One Can Insult Our Flag - Nov 11th 1920 (video)
The period of the early 20's has always been euphemistically referred to as "the time of the trouble", a really fitting term. In the country in general, as an aftermath of the Easter Rising there was a vast increase of support for Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers.
The "The Comeraghs, Refuge of Rebels" by Seán and Síle Murphy, we are told that in January 1918, a Decies Brigade came into existence, Ardmore/Old Parish being one of the four battalions. By 1920 there was a formal staffing arrangement. The Brigade staff for Ardmore/Old Parish consisted of:-
Jim Mansfield O.C.
Willie Doyle O.C.
Paddy Cashel Adjutant
Declan Slattery, Q.M.
Dick Mooney, Engineer
Jerry Fitzgerald, Dispatch
Tom Mooney, Transport
Declan Troy, Training Officer.
Dick Mooney and Tom Mooney were brothers and Tom was father of Tommie and Christy, Clare and Dick.
Sonny Foley had a grocery shop at the end of the village and his sister Lizzie became the owner after his death. She knew Margaret Pearse and visited her more than once. She accompanied Mick Mansfield (posing as his wife) on a gun running trip to Northern Ireland and came back with a case full of guns. She was the principal organiser of Cumann na mBan in the Ardmore area and her neice Anastasia Keating mother of the Mooney's was one of her earlier recruits. Molly Flynn of Chapel Row was one of the members. Her mother, Mag, the Chapel woman, on one occasion, warned the Curragh people of an impending attack by ringing the church bells.
After an attack on British forces in Fermoy in 1918 Liam Lynch, Chief of staff, was wounded and spent a a brief period at Foleys house in Ardmore in being known to be a 'safe house'. During the Black and Tan period, Sonny Foley and Paddy Ormonde (as well as several others in their turns) were among the unwilling passengers in Black and Tan lorries, when the Tans took them as hostages and put them in positions where they were readily visible to any intending attacker.
Early in the Tan war Tommie Mooney was imprisoned in Ballykinlar. The prisoners were taken by ship from Cork, then to Belfast where the loyal dockers gave them a warm welcome. Later on in the Civil War he was captured in Grange by the Free State Army and imprisoned in Ballybricken in Waterford. Mick Morrissey, a well-known former C.I.E bus conductor shared "apartments" with him in Ballybricken Gaol where they had apparently constructed a tunnel, which was discovered when a lorry drove over it and it collapsed.
Cathal Brugha was a director of Lawlors' Candles and in this capacity paid frequent visits Foley's using his job as a cover for Sinn Fein activities, organising and recruiting. He was elected M.P. for Waterford in the general election of 1918. The admonition "Vote No. 1 Brugha" was tarred on the storm wall for quite some time but this was for a later election period.
In the upset climate of the times, quite a few lawless acts took place. The inmates of the big houses had fled, and on one occasion a man pursuing his dog found his way into a hide-out in the glen (below the graveyard) where an amount of china and silver from a local big house, had been stored.
Jamesy Quain was robbed of his salmon, going to the Ferry Point. Willie Bulman's (Farrell's Bakery) van was attacked and robbed when bringing bread to Allens who at that stage had a shop in Ballyquin. The two culprits were arrested by the Sinn Fein police and incarcerated in the Coastguard station, of which they were then in occupation. Jimmy Rooney remembers seeing them through the windows in the second floor of the central tower.
As British law and order had broken down, I.R.A. courts and police were set up by Paddy Ormonde, Police Officer of the Brigade, working in conjunction with transport officer, Eddie Spratt. In August 1920, the Law Society even recognised the courts (The Comeraghs, Refuge of Rebels, Seán and Síle Murphy).
There were local elections and Sonny (John Francie) Foley became Sinn Fein councillor for the area; Moss Keane was co-opted later on.
In Ardmore, Sínn Feín courts were held at various venues. One of the judges was Tom Foley, Ballylane. The ruins at the top of Bóthar na Trínse, from where Micheál Ó Foghlús family had been evicted years before was one venue. The premises were used at a later stage, as a band room and when Pierry Foley and a companion went in one night to light the fire, a strange woman was seated there; she got up and went down to the nearby room and just disappeared. Another venue for the courts was the barn behind the present Youth Hostel. There Jamesy Quain was charged with attacking Jim Drohan and having a row in the boat; he was fined 14/- which he refused to pay.
Jamesy was noted for being outspoken and so got himself into frequent trouble. On more than one occasion (having been previously warned by others "in the know") he had to leave the house and take his boat and row out to sleep in a cave. He was much harried by other locals who disapproved for instance of his continuing friendship with the coastguards, whom he passed every day when going for the cows. That type of behaviour did not come within their terms of reference of patriotism, but Jamesy pursued his independent way. Incidentally, I remember my father saying Jamesy was one of the first subscribers to the National Loan. Myles Harty of Curragh died; he had a son in the R.I.C. and Nick Rooney was apprehended on the strand, returning from the wake, which apparently had been boycotted. Dedication to the national cause was shown in peculiar ways.
The Boat-House, property of the coastguards was burnt down; this was on the site of the present Fire Station and public toilet.
The personnel at the coastguard station had been augmented by twenty-five marines, who were occasionally sniped at, when up and down from the village. My mother recalled an incident when I as a very small toddler was playing outside the door in Tigaluinn, and she ran to take me in, when she heard the sound of gunfire. It seemed to emanate from the Rocky Road from the alcove at the first entrance to Melrose and was directed towards a marine coming from the village. Some of the marines frequented Rooney's pub, so this was boycotted and a notice to this effect placed on the Boathouse door, but some intrepid people ignored it. Jimmie Rooney mentioned Tom Doocey (brother of Mrs Conway, Clarkestown and a well-known athlete), Mike Allen, Jack Corbett, Tom Harty and others.
The boycott was lifted later, and according to Jimmie "his mother was nearly eaten out of house and home" by visiting irregulars. He remembers one night, in the kitchen, when word came that the "Staters" had come and Tommie Quinn went around the kitchen in a frenzy shaking holy water, not realising the holy water was stout.
It must have been at this stage that Jim Pender, Paddy Cashin and Mick Shalloe spent an uncomfortable week in the Putty Hole, in spite of the mattresses purloined from Rock House. The Putty Hole is a rather damp cave to the east of St. Declan's well. Nick (Jimmie's father) brought cigarettes and provisions out there during the period. Jimmie himself remembers doing it on more than one occasion. It was accessible on foot at low tide by a path which used lead down from St. Declan's Well. Later on the inmates were taken over by boat by Jim Drohan to Ballyquin.
Apparently the "Staters" had heard of the refugees in the Putty Hole and they took Johnny Larkin and four or five others as hostages and pushed them into the caves (the caves at the Head were used occasionally too) at the Head, to make first contact with the inmates (who had left). Caves up the glen (at the other side of the graveyard) were used as hide-outs from time to time.
It was previous to this, in August 1920 that the Barracks in Ardmore was attacked. The account in "The Comeraghs, Refuge of Rebels" says "The postman in Ardmore, Patrick Hurton, a volunteer approached the Barracks door with the intention of holding it open for the I.R.A., but they were spotted by a policeman who gave the alarm. The R.I.C. opened fire through the Barracks windows and sent up Verey lights to summon help from the Marines nearby. Other local volunteers kept the Marine Station under fire so that the original attacking group were able to retire. The military arrived from Youghal and took up positions around the Barracks and the Marine Station."
My parents lived in Myrtleville at the time, practically opposite the Barracks and my mother was always apprehensive, fearing that perhaps the house might be temporarily taken over, but they suffered no disturbance, even later on, when the Barracks was burned. The only souvenir was a strong timber mantelpiece, which was found outside their door in the morning. My mother took it in and when they moved to Tigaluinn in 1921, it went with them.
The Piltown Ambush took place in November 1920, and was well-planned. This account is condensed from that of Seán & Síle Murphy. The I.R.A. knew that if Ardmore Barracks was attacked, reinforcements would be quickly on the scene from Youghal, to assist them. The ambush position was selected and a trench dug across the road. The flying column came down from the Knockmealdowns to join the Ardmore battalion. Men were detailed to block the Dungarvan and Cappoquin road. the main body took up their positions at Piltown at 8.30 pm.
At about 9.45 pm column men threw Mills bombs into the Ardmore Barracks and Marine Station.......... The expected Verey lights were sent up from Ardmore and close to midnight, a lorry of military approached. The column opened fire and after a few minutes the military threw down their arms and surrendered. It was found that two men were dead and according to this account, Paky Whelan said an act of contrition into their ears.
The military were given a dray to transport their wounded back to Youghal; twenty-six rifles, two carbines, Mills bombs, revolvers, Verey lights and pistols were captured. The attackers went back by Aglish to the house of Walter Terry.
The episode was commemorated in the following verse by Pat Keating.
At the cross of old Piltown at midnight
We met them with rifle and steel,
The hirelings of Britain who boasted
They'd trample our flag 'neath their heel,
We fought as our fathers before us
We rose at the word of command
To fight for the freedom of Ireland,
In a cause that is holy and grand
I give you the brave I.R.A. boys,
The cream of our race and our God
Whose lives they are willing to give, boys
For the sake of their land and their God.
The roar of the guns, it was glorious
The bullets flew 'round us like hail
From the rifles of cowards and of traitors
'Mid the ranks of the sons of the Gael
And every rebel a hero
From Piltown, Old Parish, Ardmore
And down from the slopes of the Comeraghs
With Dungarvan's true sons to the fore.
After the Burgery Ambush in Dungarvan in March 1921, the Black and Tans came to Ardmore with intentions of burning the village. They weren't exactly sober and one of them went into Flemings (now Reillys), demanded a bottle of whiskey, said Lloyd George would pay and rolled a Mills bomb on the counter. Jimmie Rooney saw one of them flat on the ground, shooting Mrs Johnny Mulcahy's ducks as they emerged (about twenty of them) in military formation from an outhouse in the vicinity of the church, heading for the river. The Tans didn't forget to collect the dead ducks. Jack Eddy later put a large sign on the gable wall of Ivy Lodge in the centre of the village "Hens and ducks, beware of the Tans and Buffs".
An Ardmore man, Jack Eddy (the same Jack Eddy mentioned above) was involved in one of the two spectacular escapes form Spike Island in 1921. Both accounts are recorded n the National Library Kildare St.,
The first escape was on 29th April 1921.
"The second escape took place on 10th November 1921. Seven volunteer officers Maurice Twomey, William Quirke, Tom Crofts, Henry O'Mahony, Dick Barrett, Paddy Buckley and Jack Eddy, got away under cover of darkness, without any assistance, either from outside or from any member of the garrison, the Cameron Highlanders at that time.
There were over five hundred prisoners on the island then, housed in the two-storey A and B blocks. The escapees had to outwit the count at 4 pm; they had to get through or over eight-foot walls topped with barbed wire and having a forty-foot moat between. The tunnel leading to the moat was filled with barbed wire. The prisoners over a period put rubbish of every kind into it, and when they were ready to attempt the escape complained to the authorities that the place was a danger to health. The place was cleaned out and the barbed wire removed in the process. The prisoners had to get into the tunnel, before the sentry came on duty, and had to remain in it until after dark.
To get over the wall, they had tied crosspieces to a beam to make a cat ladder. This they took with them, pulling it up to the top of the wall and using it again on the other side. They hid it so successfully that it was not found until the following morning. Up to that time, the method by which they had got out was a complete mystery. They had to evade the sweeping lights and patrolling sentries and when they had done all that, they were still on the island. They had then to search in the darkness for a boat which was not locked and get it away without encountering the patrol boat with its armed crew, which circled the island continuously.
The boat they used was anchored some distance from the shore. Jack Eddy swam out to it, brought it back and picked up the others. When Jack Eddy was cutting the rope by which the boat was anchored, the knife dropped out of his half frozen hands before he had cut through. He severed the remaining strands with his teeth. The boat had no oars nor rowlocks, but they found oars under the pier and used furze sticks in the one row-lock hole on each side".
It is intriguing to remember that Jack Eddy was a coastguard's son, his father was from Cornwall.
Patsy Hurton and Henry Conway both joined the British Army. On one occasion, when Patsy Hurton was home on furlough, he decided not to return, but the R.I.C. arrested him. Jimmie Rooney saw him coming over the strand under arrest and he finished his term in the army. Later, he became postman in Ardmore and is mentioned in the story of an attack on Ardmore Barracks.
He had joined the I.R.A. and was jailed in Spike Island. When the Truce was declared, he was released, but instead of returning home, he left Cork by train to visit a girl who had worked at Dawsons, (Lacken) and with whom he was friendly. At Thurles station, a Black and Tan lobbed a bomb into the train and he was killed.
He had the most spectacular funeral ever seen in Ardmore, on 18th December 1921. My mother was watching it from the roof of Tigaluinn (it had then a flat roof), as it wound its way up by the sea front on to Coffee Lane. Dawsons Road (now sometimes called the Middle Road), over the New Line and finally to the graveyard. There were of course several bands, so she became very familiar with the air of "Wrap the Green Flag round me." She tells the story of the funeral of the occupant of Mistletoe Castle, Youghal, which was taking place on the same day as Patsy Hurtons'. The mourners had to ask some of those following the first cortege to help carry the coffin in to the graveyard, this was certainly a symbol of the changed times. The National Graves Committee commemorate the death of Patsy Hurton, at Easter every three or four years.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln, T. Mooney, Fritz Hirsch