TRAUMA AT THE BURGERY
By : IVAN LENNON
Domnail O’Faolain, son of West Waterford Brigade Commanding Officer (O/C) Pax Whelan, noted in a 1966 lecture the difficulty in getting members of Oglaigh na hEireann (I.R.A.) in the Deise area of County Waterford to talk of the War of Independence period:
Situated as they were at the time, it was difficult for them to keep records of any description, as they were subject to raids and sear-ches, and, as a result, they did not commit much to paper. Some other areas seemed to have been fortunate in having amongst its Volunteer personnel someone of a literary turn, who was able to write up the various things that happened and put them down on record. We were not so lucky. (1)
Even in later years, those relatively few men who were on active service in West Waterford were generally not ones to dwell on the events of 1919-1923. Fortunately, in the early 1980’s, Sean and Sile Murphy took statements, from a number of the aging men of the West Waterford I.R.A. (The Comeraghs, Refuge of Rebels). Notably and perhaps understandably absent were the writings of the individual who commanded
these men. This was to be rectified by the 2003 release of an enlarged version of the Murphy work (The Comeraghs: Gunfire and Civil War: The Story of the Deise Brigade IRA 1914-24). Included, at that time, were the writings of George Lennon, O/C of the men on active service (flying column), who had been hailed by East Waterford
Commandant Paddy Paul as “the number one man in Waterford”. (2)
In this treatment of the events of the night and morning of 18 –19 March 1921, I have relied on the following source materials:
Trauma in Time: An Irish Itinerary by George Lennon (unpublished, 1970’s)
Down by the Glen Side by George Lennon (unpublished, 1962)
Bureau of Military History: Witness Statements of Mick Mansfield, Jack O’Mara, James Prendergast, Mick Shalloe and Paddy Paul
Death certificate of Sergeant Hickey
Survivors (“Pax O Faolain”) by Uinseann MacEoin.
“The Keatings of Comeragh” by Lena Keating (unpublished)
1921 newspaper accounts: The Waterford News and Munster Express
The Comeraghs: Gunfire and Civil War by Sean and Sile Murphy
Illustrated History of Dungarvan by Edmond Keohan
The Waterford News, “The Burgery Ambush” (September 5, 1924)
by “an officer who took part in the combat” (George Plunkett)
Personal correspondences: Tom Mooney of Ardmore, Fr. O’Mahony of St. Mary’s, Dungarvan and the daughter of Sergeant Hickey’s fiancée
Deserving of further investigation are the following documents:
British Military Report
Royal Irish Constabulary Report
George Plunkett’s Report to Dublin G.H.Q.
Of Waterford families involved in the physical force Republican movement and the events of mid March 1921, none were more active than the Mansfields of Old Parish and the Keatings of Comeragh. Mick Mansfield’s witness statement is readily available. Missing, of course, are the statements of slain brothers Pat and Tom Keating (1923). I was, therefore, most fortunate to obtain, from the late Maureen Kent of Kilmacthomas (daughter of nurse Katie Cullinan Kent), a copy of the remembrances of Lena Keating. Her family’s tribulations and friendships with the most active of the column men, including my father, gave Lena a unique perspective from which to record her observations. Particularly moving is her account of the trauma of finding a final resting place for Pat at what is today the Republican Plot in Kilrossanty.
Lennon never spoke of the events of that night and morning, even when his son prompted him by mentioning the bullet scarred gate at the Burgery site, which had so impressed him in 1950 and 1954 when he and his mother visited the Mansfields at their Burgery home. As noted in Lennon’s Dungarvan Leader obituary:
When the engagement was over and backs were being slapped, George would quietly slip away, for he had no time for such frivolities. There were other jobs to be done. (3)
He saw no need to respond to the Bureau of Military History when it began to compile statements from veterans of the War of Independence. He had, in his own words, relegated the matter of “our tuppence ha’penny” revolution to “the dustbin of history”; describing what little had been written of the period as largely “lies”. As to the identification of these, perhaps unwitting, writers of what he perceived to be mistruths, one can only speculate. (4)
In the early 1960’s he completed a play, entitled Down by the Glen Side, which dealt with issues raised when a captured enemy combatant is to be shot in reprisal. The later memoir, Trauma in Time, dealt with many of the ambushes in Waterford as well as earlier engagements in Limerick and Cork. The title refers to the effect that the 1913 – 1923 period, most specifically the events at the Burgery, had upon him.
With respect to the Burgery, he noted simply that “we destroyed the two enemy vehicles and took some prisoners whom we released. All but one”. He did, however, include in the memoir a brief one act play entitled I and Thou. The “thou” being the “all but one”: a Dungarvan childhood police acquaintance shot by men from his flying column. In keeping with his unwillingness to draw attention to himself, the participants are listed as a partisan officer, a subordinate partisan officer, a constabulary sergeant, a priest, and a firing squad. (5)
These individuals, clearly, were Lennon (partisan officer), Pat Keating or Mick Mans-field (subordinate officer), Michael Joseph Hickey (R.I.C. sergeant), and Father Tom Power (priest) of Kilgobnet. A reference to “Stackpoole” is to Dublin G.H.Q. Staff Captain George Plunkett who, during his inspection tour of the Deise Brigade, insisted on being referred to as “Captain Murphy”.
Although I did not have access to Plunkett’s report to Dublin G.H.Q., it would be in agreement with the most detailed description available of the encounter. This may be found in an unsigned letter to The Waterford News, some two and one half years after the ambush. The editor simply noted that it was “written by an officer who took part in the ambush”. Those most familiar with the Burgery events and the character of its participants are in agreement that this officer was clearly George Plunkett. (6)
With the approach of St. Patrick’s Day 1921, Whelan and Lennon could look back on a very active, and generally successful, period of revolutionary activity in the Deise. However, guerrilla insurgency involving men “on the run”, away from their homes, is inherently stressful, both emotionally and physically.
These men were, for the most part, idealistic and Roman Catholic educated; in some cases schooled by the County Waterford founded Irish Christian Brothers. The possible spiritual cost of their actions was not an irrelevancy. The human costs must have weighed heavily. Deaths to March of 1921, where men of the Deise were involved, had included engagements at Kilmallock, Bruree, Kildorrery, Fermoy, Piltown, Cappo-quin, Pickardstown, and Durrow. These fatalities included native Irishmen, Black and Tans and British soldiers.
Of immediate and practical daily concern was the overriding necessity of securing weaponry and ammunition. This was forcefully demonstrated earlier in March at the Durrow train station and Co-op, when the I.R.A. Volunteers were forced to prematurely withdraw from the engagement when ammunition ran low. A guerrilla force, by definition, cannot depend on a central storehouse, but must rely upon its acumen to supply itself with foodstuffs, clothing and military equipment. Primary reliance was placed upon the generally supportive native populace and, for military supplies, seizures were forcibly made from the enemy. In Mao Tse-tung’s words, the guerrilla revolutionary is “like a fish swimming in the sea”.
This constant need to re-supply was to have dire consequence at the Burgery. Native Irishmen were to have their lives tragically intersect. For George Lennon, the arguably unnecessary deaths of men under his command were to cause him to ultimately question his philosophical and political underpinnings while remaining sympathetic to nationalist aspirations directed against fascist or foreign foes.
There are no police heroes of the Irish Revolution – at least none as defined by songs, statues, memorials, or collective memory. At best, a few have acquired the sort of posthumous notoriety that comes with Michael Collins having ordered your death. This anonymity has been…harmful to our understanding of what happened between 1916 and 1923…. (7)
The Royal Irish Constabulary had been placed in an untenable position: on the one hand, attempting to provide a necessary police function and, on the other, acting as the representative of a 750 year foreign presence. In the words of writer and revolutionary Ernie O’Malley:
The R.I.C. had ceased to be a police force; they pointed out houses, localities and short cuts to the Tans and soldiers; they identified wanted men from arrested suspects and they guided punitive ex-peditions. Some of the older R.I.C. were nearing their retiring pensionable age. If they retired before their pension they would lose it. In divided mind they remained on. Police had to give a month’s notice before they resigned; a few who had left the force had been killed or beaten up by Tans. (8)
For reasons of security and discipline, police policy dictated that constables be stationed in barracks away from their home counties. Nonetheless, the R.I.C. was not generally resented as an alien body, except during periodic outbreaks of political or agrarian tension. Like their countrymen, the majority of the R.I.C., excepting the highest ranks of the force, were arguably, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, nationalists (albeit largely constitutional). It, however, became an organisation under intense pressure by the I.R.A. physical force movement, which identified the policeman as its principal enemy during the initial phase of the guerrilla war. (9)
Even in the modern Ireland of the “Celtic Tiger”, to use certain terms reveals an implicit bias. In some quarters, the neutral sounding “Anglo- Irish War” has come in to favour; yet Irishmen fought and died as members of the Royal Irish Constabulary. In the early stages of the struggle, the British relied chiefly upon this armed native police force to quell the “criminal” I.R.A. Lacking sufficient native recruits, the R.I.C. was augmented, in March of 1920, by the Black and Tans. Shortly thereafter, a group of former British military officers, known as Auxiliaries, were introduced.
The initial period, beginning in January of 1919, in addition to being an early twentieth century colonial guerrilla war, arguably had, at British insistence, elements of a civil war. The internecine nature of the conflict and the later Free State – I.R.A. struggle (1922-1923) were responsible for many of the divisions to be found in Irish society for the rest of the twentieth century. For some, in Dungarvan, it remains a pal-pable presence. (10)
In early twentieth century Ireland, members of the police force quite naturally, formed friendships with their countrymen in the communities they patrolled. Limerick born (18 March 1885) Michael Joseph Hickey was engaged to a Dungarvan girl, and, early on in his posting at the local barracks, had befriended, as had Constable Neery, a gorsoon who was to become the O/C of the Deise Flying Column and Vice O/C of the I.R.A. Deise Brigade. By some accounts, Hickey was “very popular” and, with an impending marriage, no doubt entertained thoughts on this, the day of his 36th birthday, of raising a family in his adopted community. (11)
The newly promoted Sergeant Hickey, the son of a R.I.C. father, was a fifteen-year veteran of the police force. The role of a sergeant was an important one involving substantial prestige and authority. He was in charge of the constables and the barracks on a day-to-day basis and the symbol (“Royal” since 1867) of the government in his district.
According to Sean Moylan, who was Lennon’s counterpart with the North Cork Flying Column (1920 -1921) and O/C Cork No. 2 Brigade (April 1921), men of the R.I.C.
…were of the people, were inter-married with the people, and were generally men of exemplary lives and of a high level of intelligence. They did their oftimes unpleasant duty without rancor and oftimes with a maximum of tact; therefore, they had friends everywhere who sought the avoidance of trouble for them. (12)
However, this was not always possible. For example, in August of 1920 Hickey and a number of constables had been disarmed while accompanying a mail delivery at the railway station in Dungarvan. According to Mick Mansfield, “the Sergeant showed a reluctance to surrender and only did so on being threatened to be shot.” Subsequently, he was “warned on a number of occasions to refrain from certain activities and he failed to do so.”(13)
No doubt he was aware of his precarious position. He had to have known of the deaths in the area of other R.I.C. constables most notably Maurice Prendiville (or Prenderville) who had reneged on his promise to quit the force after the Piltown ambush. Other R.I.C.
deaths in Waterford were in Kilmacthomas (Sergeant Morgan), Cappoquin (Constables Rea and Quirk) and Scartacrooks (Constable Duddy). The two Cappoquin shootings involved at least four Deise men – Lennon, Mick Mansfield, Pat Keating and Nipper McCarthy – who were with the column at the Burgery. (14)
As to Hickey’s nationalist beliefs, one can only speculate. The reported presence of a green, white and orange tricolour, sewn to the inside of his tunic, was indicative of, at least, constitutional nationalist sympathies. (15)
Regarding a conflicted R.I.C., Sean Moylan observed:
Even if they understood and sympathised with the motives of the I.R.A. it would have been most difficult for them to realise that any success would attend the efforts of the handful of men putting their puny strength against the might of Empire. It was expecting too much of them to expect that they would resign…. (16)
Lennon later intimated that Hickey might very well have been torn when he wrote of a fictional – albeit married – “Sergeant Dunne of the Constabulary” who initially refused to guide a British force and declared:
I must look after my family. What do you think I am wearing this uniform for? I am wearing it only because it gives…a living, not for any love of it! (17)
A newcomer to the area was Constable Sydney Redman, a thirty five year old single man from Kent, England. He only had two months police service, having been a motor driver and a British soldier. His motivation for crossing to “John Bull’s Other Island” as a Black and Tan was, in all probability, the same as that of many English ex service men who saw an opportunity to better their lives economically. Reportedly, for some there was the added incentive of putting in their place the Irish Volunteers who had actively opposed any Irish support for Great Britain in the Great War of 1914-1918.
Irish Volunteer, athlete and poet Pat Keating of Comeragh, according to younger sister Lena, “had a simple and homely manner that endeared him to all … and was a great favourite wherever he went”. George Lennon related an incident in which he and Pat
were walking along a road somewhere in West Waterford. George said to Pat, “Where will we stay tonight?” and Pat pointed to a light in a house upon a hill and said, “We will go there”. They arrived at the house and when they went in the family were saying the rosary. George and Pat knelt down and Pat said the next decade. The people in the house were in no way frightened and made them more than welcome, chatting about farming and other matters of interest. This was just one example of Pat’s friendly approach. (18)
He was a lover of all things Irish. He was a member of the Gaelic Athletic Association
and represented the County Waterford team. According to Pax Whelan:
I never knew a more diligent footballer…I saw him star for Kilrossanty on many occasions… a forward of outstanding merit, rarely beaten for a ball in the air and with a great aptitude for exploiting the open spaces. He was one of the most prominent players in the Kilrossanty team that won the 1919 Waterford senior football title defeating Ballymacaw in the final. (19)
He was also a member of Connra na Gaeilge and a full time organiser and Secretary for Sinn Fein. “On the run” as a founding member of the flying column, he was wanted “dead or alive” with a four hundred pound reward for his capture, per the police publication Hue and Cry (a.k.a. The Police Gazette). (20)
He felt a personal responsibility for all aspects of the lives of the men of the column and worried about reprisals against his family as a result of his fight for Irish freedom. Pat attended to the men’s spiritual needs by arranging with Father Sheehy of Kilrossanty “to regularly hear their confessions at John Power’s farmhouse in Coumahon and especially before going into battle”. (21)
His humanity also extended to his employers at the Durrow Co-op. As a wanted man, he knew that if the authorities were to learn of his employment, reprisals would have followed and “the store would have been burned to the ground”. He, accordingly, resigned from his position. (22)
The Keatings of Comeragh were totally involved in the struggle. Pat’s father, Michael (1857 – 1931) and uncle John did dispatch work. Sisters Margaret and Marcella took charge of the laundry for many of the men in the column. Mother Margaret mended their socks and “looked after the repair of their shoes, taking them to Tom McGrath in Kilmacthomas” who “carried out all the repairs free of charge saying that it was his contribution to the cause”. Brother Willie participated in the Durrow train ambush and another brother, Tom, was to die as leader of one of the three Waterford columns organised during the Civil War. Some have also mentioned a reputed attraction between younger sister Lena and George Lennon, the young column leader. (23)
Pat was imbued with a revolutionary idealism, which was reflected in his poetry. With thoughts of emigrated Comeragh friends, including John (Sean) Fitzgerald, he penned the following in his poem Comeragh’s Rugged Hills:
It’s long years since I bade farewell
For it is my sad fate
Our land oppressed by tyrant laws
I had to emigrate…
When on my pillow I recline
On a foreign land to rest
The thoughts of my dear native home
Still throbs within my heart
When silence overcomes me
My dreams they seem to fill
Of my dear native happy home
Nigh Comeragh’s rugged hills (24)
Less well known than other men with longer active service was Sean Fitzgerald. Lena Keating remembered that” in his youth he was a very quiet unassuming fellow who was never one to seek the limelight”. Like close school friend Pat, he joined the Volunteers but, due to scarcity of work, he was forced to emigrate to England.
Being a good letter writer he kept in touch with the people of the Deise. He was well aware of how the fight was progressing and “longed to return to give a helping hand”. Erroneously informed of Pat’s death at the Pickardstown ambush his response was prophetic:
I was saddened to hear of Pat Keating’s death and I’m sorry I was not alongside him. (25)
Relieved to hear, upon returning home, that the rumour was false, he joined Pat with the flying column and took a very active part in the prolonged engagement at Durrow Station and the adjoining Co-op.
Other individual Volunteers of note among the column men that night were Mick and Jim Mansfield, Ned Kirby, Paddy Joe Power, Nipper McCarthy, Mick Shalloe, Kelly Donovan, and returned U.S. Army soldier Jack O’Mara. In overall command was G.H.Q officer George Plunkett along with Pax Whelan and George Lennon.
If anyone could be said to have an Irish Republican pedigree it was Plunkett, a son of George Nobel Plunkett, the Papal Count. He had been in Waterford “a lot”, coming “first in 1917 to help re-organise Sinn Fein”. (26) With his brother, slain Easter Week martyr and poet Joseph Mary Plunkett (Irish Review), he had fought with distinction during Easter Week and, along with another brother, had been sentenced to death. The home of his parents had been ransacked and they had been locked up in different prisons awaiting deportation.
Plunkett was reckoned by Lennon to be a “thoroughly conscientious man”. His humanity was in evidence during Easter Week, 1916 when he dashed out of the Dublin G.P.O. to go to the assistance of a wounded British officer. A stickler for detail, he was the “personification of military efficiency”. In the words of the Brigade O/C, he “was very punctilious, always insisting that every rank in the company be filled, on paper anyway”. He did not countenance sloppy habits. As a believer in military protocol, he was not one to enquire as to the nature of Lennon’s just completed trip to confer with Liam Lynch at Ballyhooly, County Cork. It was not unusual, however, for there to be suspicion between G.H.Q. officers sent out from Dublin to rural units. Lennon remarked upon
a wearing tension between the two of us and there were times when we circled politely around each other while seething inwardly. (27)
Plunkett’ professional appraisal of the Deise Brigade was less than laudatory. He viewed it to be “in a really poor state of organisation” and the flying column, “in its present condition…not fit to go into action for a long time to come.” (28)
Pax Whelan, second in command, was a man with deep O’Faolain roots in the Deise. He was born to native Irish speakers in 1893 and his wife to be, Cait Fraher, attended Padraig Pearse’s St. Ita’s. Her brother, Maurice, was the first boarder at St. Enda’s at the Oakley Road, Renelagh locale. Part of the “element of opposition to Parliamentarianism around Dungarvan”, Pax was an early member, in the autumn of 1913, of the Volunteers and a member of the physical force Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was well acquainted with members of the Dublin G.H.Q. staff and other leaders throughout the country. Included in this group were Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Gearoid O’Sullivan, Harry Boland, Liam Lynch and Cathal Brugha. He noted “particular friend” George Plunkett and “a strong friendship” with Mick Collins. During Easter Week 1916 he and the fifteen-year-old Lennon had blocked the railroad line just outside Dungarvan in a futile search for “war material”. January of 1918 found the two men “remanded to the jail in Waterford” for “taking a rifle from a soldier”. (29)
George Lennon, third in command, was the youngest flying column leader in the War of Independence and, most likely, one of the youngest to serve as Brigade Vice O/C. Dungarvan born, he was proud of his Ulster Crolly ancestors of a “military caste” who had been aligned with Owen Roe and later with Niall O’Neill at the Battle of the Boyne. Perhaps of greater significance, in light of his eventual philosophical and religious outlook, were the more numerous family members of a “priestly caste”, including Dr William Crolly, a nineteenth century Archbishop Primate of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.
Seeking to keep active the “unfit” A.S.U., Plunkett and the column O/C acceded to a request by “the O/C, Dungarvan Company that the column should afford protection for a party of local I.R.A. men engaged in demolishing Tarr’s Bridge”, also known as Old
Pike Bridge. It was felt by doing so it would serve to disrupt communications between the military post at Cloncoskoran and Dungarvan as the bridge “was in constant use by troops coming east from Fermoy or Cappoquin”. Perhaps more importantly, “its demolition would force the enemy to use bye-roads, thus leaving them open to constant ambushing”. (30)
The column duly left Ballymulalla just north of the Drum Hills and proceeded to Carriglea, Ballymacmaque, and then moved east on the Cappoquin Road to Ballycoe House to rendezvous with the local demolition squad from Abbeyside. The local company was to “provide twelve pick and crowbar men and eight shotgun men for its protecting party. In case of unforeseen trouble, the curate’s (Father Tom Power of Kilgobnet) house, two miles back was to be a rendezvous”. (31)
While “the demolition operation may not appear to have warranted cover from the column”, Mick Shalloe noted “that those engaged would be open to attack from (1) a British garrison stationed half a mile away to the north-east at Cloncookerine (sic) in the house of Charles Nugent Humble, a pronounced loyalist, (2) the military in Dun-garvan… and (3) the Marines in Ballinacourty coastguard station, three miles to the east”(32)
Earlier that day, members of the A.S.U. had gone to Dungarvan “to have a crack at a military patrol if it was out.” Meeting a group of some “twelve to fifteen strong”, shots were exchanged and the men, as had previously been arranged, left to take “up positions on the Ballycoe road, adjacent to Tarr’s Bridge”. (33)
After arriving about midnight the Volunteers found the bridge
to be a tougher proposition than we had bargained for and we had no explosives. The working party failed to make any appreciable dent in the solid structure, which must have been over a hundred years old and very solidly built. The headlights of a night raiding party were now observed coming towards us from the direction of the town…. (34)
These vehicles were headed east at about 8 P.M., reportedly to Clonea on the Ballyvoile road to make an arrest of John Murphy. Mick Mansfield noted “two lorry loads of military accompanied by a private car”. Other accounts only mention two vehicles – a car and a Crossley Tender. In the motorcar, to identify the Murphy residence, was Sergeant Hickey. (35)
The Volunteers informed Plunkett that, upon returning, the vehicles could return to Dungarvan by one of two routes once they passed Tarr’s Bridge. It was the custom, in such circumstances, for R.I.C./British forces not to return by the same route.
After a conference among the officers (Plunkett, Whelan, Lennon and Mick Mansfield):
It was decided to attack the British on their return to Dungarvan and to divide the column into two groups. One, under Plunkett, was to cover the Ballycoe road, which leaves the main Waterford road at Tarr’s Bridge. (36)
In this group, near Mrs. Dunlea’s at the crossroads, were Mick Mansfield, Shalloe, O’Mara, Keating “and 8 or 9 others of the column”. Included also was the demolition party, with tools and no arms. The balance of the men, some 10 in number under Len-non, took up positions at the Burgery on the main Waterford – Dungarvan road. (37)
Meanwhile, having taken Murphy into custody, the motorcar, followed by the tender containing the soldiers guarding the prisoner, set out for Dungarvan via Cloncoskoran.
Crossley Tender with Tans and R.I.C.
Jim Prendergast recalled the attack on the second vehicle:
We were armed with rifles and I had, in addition, one Mills grenade. About 11:30 on the night 18th March 1921, the first British lorry came along… Lennon, Kirby and Paddy Joe Power opened up on it with rifles and I threw the grenade, which failed to explode. The military drove on for about three hundred yards in the direction of Dungarvan and then stopped. The soldiers then got out and came back (on) the road towards us. We…opened rifle fire on them. (38)
In position, for about an hour, were the men on the seemingly more likely return route on the Cappoquin (Ballycoe) road when they
heard a bomb explosion and rifle fire coming from the direction of the Burgery. We knew then that Lennon’s party was in contact with the British. We struck across country towards the Burgery. (39)
In the lead Ford car, in addition to Hickey, was at least one soldier, Lieutenant Griffiths, and, in command of the force, Captain Thomas, O/C of the Buffs Regiment stationed in Dungarvan, Hearing the shots directed at the lorry by Lennon et. al., the motor car pulled up at the Burgery and Thomas instructed the Lieutenant to proceed to Dungar-van for reinforcements while his group returned to assist the men in the ambushed military lorry near Mr. Fives’ public house.
The Mansfield party from Ballycoe “came under heavy fire from the enemy” as they crossed the fields “to get out on to the road at the Burgery”. Before reaching the Dungarvan – Waterford road they “met Lennon and some of his lads”. Others in this reconstituted group included Plunkett, Shalloe, Prendergast, O’Mara, Fitzgerald and Keating. Hearing the noise of men walking on the road, they were ordered to “halt”. A man with an English accent replied that it was Captain Thomas. (40)
Ignoring the request to surrender, the enemy sought to retreat back to the car in the Dungarvan direction. The Volunteers gave chase with “Captain Thomas…captured and
taken prisoner by Plunkett and Lennon”. (41)
According to Shalloe:
Thomas was searched and any documents on him taken. I was strongly in favour of shooting this fellow whom I knew to be a bitter opponent of ours, but Plunkett wouldn’t hear of it. He, Plunkett, extracted a promise from Captain Thomas that, if released, no reprisals would be carried out by the troops under his command. Thomas, too glad to escape the fate he deserved, gave the understanding. (42)
Also captured were Hickey and at least one private from the Buffs regiment. Ambush participant O’Mara believed there to have been two captured privates of the Buffs; while Prendergast believed there to have been five. All witness accounts are in agree-ment, however, that Thomas did not escape. In the words of Brigade O/C Whelan: “We let them all go, except the policeman”. O’Mara’s witness statement notes bringing the captured enemy “to a nearby cottage” where “they were ordered to remain…until daylight, while Sergeant Hickey was taken away by us.” (43)
With the captured Hickey in tow the men moved off in the direction of Dungarvan along
the Burgery road. Finding a box of grenades on the front seat of the abandoned motorcar, Pat Keating used one to destroy the vehicle.
Meanwhile, Mansfield “and 5 or 6 of the boys”, when they got out on the Burgery road, had “moved after Lennon, Plunkett, O’Meara (sic)” and the others. They only had “gone a short distance down the road” when they “came under fire from British military who had got off the road and were in behind a hedge”. Eventually, the enemy ceased firing “and made their escape in the darkness”. In this group was the prisoner Murphy who was taken to the barracks and, ultimately, Spike Island, County Cork. (44)
“Scattered all over the place” were the unarmed Abbeyside, Dungarvan Company, who had been involved in the demolition work. Rounded up by Mansfield, they were ordered
“to disperse to their homes”. (45)
In the darkness “intermittent firing was going on” and it was difficult “to pick out friends from foe as the British Tommies had left their lorries on being attacked and were running helter-skelter through the fields”. (46)
Shooting was going on all over the district. The British were running here and there like cornered rats, shouting and yelling in terror, while our lads “flaked” into them for all they were worth. (47)
In the words of the column O/C:
Impromptu night engagements are likely to have unforeseen results and this one proved to be no exception. In the general melee that followed most of our lads panicked and scattered. The main body of the military lost contact with their officers and retreated in the opposite direction.
The night action has been indecisive on all sides. Both the partisans and the enemy soldiers …got mixed up in the night’s darkness and have scattered in all directions. (48)
The men returned to Ballycoe with “a few rifles, some ammunition, a quantity of Mills bombs and a couple of revolvers…captured from the British”. There, Plunkett directed Nipper McCarthy, Kelly Donovan and Fox Greany to return and burn the Crossley Tender, which had been abandoned by the retreating British. (49)
The lorry burnt, the men, including Plunkett, Lennon, Keating, O’Mara and others re-assembled to the northwest at the agreed upon rendezvous at Father Power’s in Kilgobnet. Arriving at that locale at “about 2 or 3 A.M.” were the men under Mick Mansfield. The remainder of the column, it was subsequently learned “had moved further to the west into the hilly country in the neighbourhood of Bohadoon”. (50)
What followed next was a scene that has occurred numerous times when Irish rebels were faced with the question of what to do with an informer. Irish history and literature are replete with references to this scourge of failed rebellions. Liam O’ Flaherty’s character, Gypo Nolan, betrayed his former comrade in The Informer. An eerily similar situation to that of Sergeant Hickey was described by Frank O’Connor in his acclaimed short story,” Guests of the Nation”. More recently, the matter was dealt with, in the award winning film “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”.
Volunteer O’Mara stated that after the capture of the sergeant:
Our party consisted of ten or twelve men, halted at Kilgobnet, where the officers held a council of war to decide the fate of Ser-geant Hickey…The time was now very early on the morning of March 19, 1921. (51)
A court martial ensued and “because of his activities in assisting the British to hunt down I.R.A. men he was sentenced to be shot…” Specifically, Mansfield noted that Hickey “had, apparently, been acting as a spotter for the British raiding party the previous night.” (52)
An account written in 1924 noted simply: “Sergeant Hickey was taken away by others up the boreen… and was never afterwards seen alive”. (53) Lennon’s memoir noted “a sharp turn in the by road”. (54) Even more specific was the Deise Brigade engagement report, which pinpointed the shooting of an R.I.C. man
at a point in a field at the “full stop” after CAS. Over Kilgobnet. 10. E. (55)
An ordnance survey map reveals such a “full stop” intersection at Carrowncashlane or Castlequarter. This area is immediately east of Kilgobnet adjacent to the castle (CAS).
Save for what was written by the column O/C, there are, to the best of my research, no accounts of what actually transpired at the court martial or the firing squad execution. The larger question of the moral dilemma involved in the ultimate fate of a captured enemy was dealt with in the Lennon play, completed circa 1962. (56)
Without directly naming the participants in the later memoir, he noted that the “partisan officer” (Lennon) anxiously awaited, outside the priest’s (Fr. Power) house, the arrival of his flying column men. When they arrived with the “constabulary sergeant” (Hickey) a “glance of recognition” was exchanged between the two and the officer, perhaps hopefully, stated that “it would be hard for us to release him?” This was a quite understandable response in that Lennon had known the sergeant since childhood days. Moreover, it had only been days earlier, at the Cappagh train station, that Lennon had narrowly avoided capture. An escape made possible by another childhood R.I.C. acquaintance (Constable Neery) who chose to hurriedly look the other way as the rebel leader exited the first class compartment of a train containing British military. (57)
A “subordinate officer” replied to the possibility of releasing the prisoner in the following words:
Of course not, it would be the end of us all and our homes. (58)
In light of Pat Keating’s oft expressed concern regarding possible reprisals, it may very well have been Pat, or even Jack O’Mara, rather than column vice O/C Mick Mansfield, who so forcefully stated the need to execute the just turned thirty six year old sergeant. Nonetheless, life was not to be taken lightly as had been evidenced some two weeks earlier, at the Durrow train ambush, when Mansfield had persuasively argued for the release of British sympathiser Charlie Nugent Humble, a civilian. But Hickey was not a civilian or a member of the British military. He was viewed as an Irish traitor by the I.R.A. and as a likely informer who could bring down arrest upon the column men and reprisals on their families and others who were sympathetic to them.
The experience after the Piltown ambush, when freed Constable Prendiville failed to abide by his pledge to leave the R.I.C., made it unlikely that such an opportunity would be afforded Hickey. Earlier shootings of R.I.C. men had demonstrated the willingness of the I.R.A. to move beyond securing promises.
That Hickey was aware of his fate if captured was later suggested in Lennon’s play, in which a “Constable Sergeant Dunne” responded to a British officer:
If they take you, they will treat you like an officer and gentleman, but if they capture me they will shoot me like a dog – like the police spy I am! (59)
His appearance was described:
The police sergeant is a powerfully built man but he seems to have shrunk into his bottle green uniform. He looks by no means ill natured but his face now has a sallow, yellow tinged and his lips are white. He has a look of the deepest sadness, if not despair. (60)
Called upon by Lennon, Father Power opened his door “with a frightened look” and came “out into the forbidding morning wearing a stole and carrying a prayer book”. Instructed to give the sergeant a “full glass of whiskey”, he re-entered the house and returned with the spirits. (61)
Lennon then, “not unkindly”, said:
Drink this. The police sergeant takes the glass unsteadily and gets the liquid down in a number of gulps. Then the priest takes him gently by the arm and leads him to his doorstep where they both sit down. The priest places his hand affectionately on the sergeant’s arm and hears his confession. When they have finished the others wait uneasily for the moments are pregnant. The officer makes a sign and the priest takes the prisoner’s arm to assist him up.
As they pass the officer, the prisoner looks appealingly at him but the officer averts his eyes. They all force themselves into motion. The clergyman is holding the prisoner’s arm and he is speaking words of consolation into his ear. They walk back to the boreen with the partisan officer bringing up the rear. He is very disturbed but he conceals his unhappiness.
A sharp turn in the by road. A gateway leading into a field. The partisan officer goes ahead, opens the rusty gate and they all file in. The officer leads the prisoner out into the field and affixes a label on to the front of his tunic. Written on the label are the words “police spy”. (62)
Pleadingly, the prisoner stated: “George, I knew you as a child, you used to play with the
head constable’s children in the barracks… You are the one person in the world that can save me.” The O/C replied: “I would give anything, anything in the world to save you, but I cannot….” (63)
A “glance of understanding and deep affection passes between them”. The sergeant
“squared his shoulders” as a bandage is tied over his eyes. The officer
steps back, drops his arm and calls “fire”. The morning silence of the glen is shattered. The dead man sways on his feet an instant, slowly inclines and falls rigidly on his left side, his head amongst the ferns. (64)
Drawing his Luger, Lennon approached the prostrate man, looked down “at the erst-while enemy who is now an enemy no more” and fired into the man’s temple.
The priest (Fr. Power) claps his hands before his face and runs back towards his house, his shoulders shaking with sobs. (65)
At sometime around 6 A.M. (19 March) the column O/C made “a sign to his men and they go quickly off”, while “the police sergeant lies peacefully amongst the withered ferns”. (66)
Front: Tommy Boyle, George Lennon, Michael
Rear: John Power, Fr. Tom Power, Dr. Joe Walsh
On the morning of the 19th, Plunkett, no doubt aware of the withdrawal from Durrow and other engagements due to want of ammunition, recommended a return to the ambush site to secure supplies possibly left from the night action.
As it was now getting light, “all of the officers were very much against this proposal”. It was argued that the British would be out in strength and that it was simply asking for
trouble to approach the Burgery ambush position again. Nonetheless, “Plunkett was determined to go ahead with the idea”. (67)
He set off from Kilgobnet with a party of men which, based on the individual witness statements, included the brigade O/C, the column O/C, Pat Keating, Mick Mansfield, Nipper McCarthy, Sean Fitzgerald, Jim Mansfield, Mick Shalloe, Kelly Donovan, and Jack O’Mara.
As the men crossed an open field, about 8 A.M., towards the Burgery road, a small group, including Whelan and O’Mara, were “placed in position behind a ditch along by this field”. Another group of men, with Plunkett in charge, advanced.
It soon became obvious that the enemy had seen our men advancing, because when our boys were about midway in the field, heavy rifle fire was opened on them by troops lining the ditch on the Burgery road. (68)
Fitzgerald was shot and Keating, per Plunkett, ”only concerned for his good friend” (69), went to his assistance. As stated in the poem which begins “down from the Comeragh hills he came”:
At dawn in the morning Fitzgerald fell
Never to stand on his feet again
Brave Pat went out to bring him back
But a British bullet found its mark (70)
Reportedly, per one later account, Keating “dashed back under cover but returned a second time to get Fitzgerald. He was shot again”. While the witness statements were silent with respect to the matter, such heroism would certainly have been in character for the rebel poet in light of Fitzgerald having returned to Comeragh to join the column upon hearing of the rumour of Pat’s death. (71)
Having run out of ammunition, Plunkett secured some from the prostrate Keating and “just as he got a round into the breech and the bolt home”, he saw movement “at the side of the gate-post”. Aiming carefully, “perhaps a bit high in the rush – and fired”. The Black and Tan Redman “dropped”. (72)
Firing continued for ten minutes or so, when our lads began to retreat as their position was most dangerous. They eventually got back to where we were stationed.
Plunkett then called for Volunteers to bring back Pat Keating, but Jim Mansfield objected and said it was suicide to attempt to rescue Keating. We pulled out then but Plunkett and another man, whose name I cannot recall stayed behind to see what could be done for Keating. (73)
The column O/C later “confess(ed) that I did not conduct myself with any great show of bravery”. As to Plunkett, he “behaved with amazing coolness and courage”. He “took over” and, under heavy fire, “crawled over to where Pat Keating lay and carried him on his back to the cover of a fence”. His conduct was reminiscent of his heroism at the Dublin G.P.O. during Easter Week, 1916. Plunkett, at this point, “had no option but to carry out a …retreat, …returning to Kilgobnet….” The retreating men “held their fire all this time so as not to betray our position.”(74)
The injured Pat, while fully conscious, was carried away by Plunkett and another man of the column. Arriving at the home of an elderly man named Maurice Morrissey, Cumann na mBan member “Birdie” Hanley of Gliddane was contacted and came immediately to the house.
The body of Sean Fitzgerald lay where he had been shot. His body to be taken, in an ass and cart by the British military, to the town square where it was exhibited before being taken to the barracks. The body of Redman was removed at sometime between 9 and 10 A.M of the same day, the 19th of March.
Pat Keating and Sean Fitzgerald Burgery Memorial
In retrospect, many years later, Lennon maintained that it was not a mistake to go back “as we badly needed what munitions might have been left behind by the military when they fled.” The error was his, he felt, for not having reconnoitered prior to returning. (75)
Retreating “sadly across the grey fields” and “unable to face the fact that Pat Keating was dead”, Lennon fell behind the main body of column men. He “was weary, unspeakably unhappy and quite dispirited”. He was approached by Plunkett, who slipped his arms into his as they and the column moved off to the hilly country around Kilbrien, just north of Bohadoon. (76)
Lennon wrote that soon afterwards, Plunkett
left us to return to G.H.Q. with his report. As he was fixing his bicycle clips he said coldly that he was recommending that I take responsibility for all activities in the county. As we were still a bit stiff with each other we did not offer to shake hands. He rode away and soon disappeared around a bend in the road. (77)
Regarding the discovery of the slain sergeant, it was written by Keohan in 1924 that “for two days British military forces scoured the countryside to find him, and it was Mr. Beresford on whose land the body lay that (sic) discovered it lying in the glen” at Castle-quarter. (78)
It was noted in an earlier 1921 newspaper account that
…the body of Sergeant Hickey R.I.C. has been found. On Saturday evening (the 19th) acting on information received, a lorry of military proceeded to a district called Castlequarter, some two miles from the scene of the ambush and there in a bog they found the dead body of the missing sergeant. On his breast was a card bearing the word “Executed”. His body was riddled with bullets, no less than 14 bullet wounds being counted, some through the back and others through the chest. (79)
The bullets “through the back” observation was subsequently retracted. In dispute are the date the body was located and the inscription on the card which was noted by the column O/C as the more likely “police spy”.
Confusion may also exist in the minds of some as to the location of the execution and where the body was found. Keohan’s 1924 book and 1921 newspaper accounts mention Castlequarter, while I.R.A. eyewitnesses mention a Kilgobnet field. This is readily explained in that Castlequarter is a townland located astride the Dungarvan –Kilgobnet border and is shown on contemporary maps as Carrowncashlane or the “quarter (catharun) of the castle (caislean)”. The Castlequarter/Carrowncashlane area includes the area immediately east of Kilgobnet between Ballyknock Upper and Ballyknock Lower. In this area is the “point in a field at the full stop after CAS”. The CAS in the I.R.A. engagement report referring, in all probability, to the adjacent castle. Apparent incontrovertible corroboration is that 231 acres of Carrowncashlane land were, per the listing of County Waterford landowners, in the possession of the Beresfords. (80)
The authorities took Hickey’s remains to the Dungarvan R.I.C. Barracks where the body of Sean Fitzgerald lay. He was duly conveyed, on Tuesday the 22nd, to the new section of the cemetery at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Dungarvan. No civilians, except for Hickey’s brother from Limerick, accompanied the cortege of soldiers and R.I.C. men.
Among the latter was his R.I.C. father. An order that all shops be closed during the funeral was observed.
Gravediggers initially refused to perform their task. It was only at the instigation of
“one of the Catholic Curates” that the grave was dug. The body was interred at St. Mary’s thanks to the generosity and concern of Hickey’s fiancée. To this day, his remains lie unmonumented in that family plot; nor is his presence noted on the church office’s schematic drawing of the burial sites. Knowledge of the exact locale of his grave remains known but to a few. According to a local member of the Waterford Museum in Dungar-van, memories of such troubled times “still linger on in little pockets in Ireland in families….” (81)
Also not noted on the schematic, anecdotal and newspaper accounts to the contrary, are the whereabouts of parish members George Crolly Lennon and Ellen Shanahan Lennon, the parents of the column O/C. The parish priest maintains, “no records of burials were kept”. (82)
Reportedly, Hickey’s fiancée never “ever forgave in connection with (his) death”. Ironically, her eventual husband, a former R.I.C. constable, became, in later years, a “great friend” of Mick Mansfield. (83)
Having been “removed… with great caution” by the military from in front of the bullet scarred gate, the body of Black and Tan Redman was subsequently returned to Kent, England for burial. (84)
Although the family of slain Volunteer Sean Fitzgerald made application for his remains, they were not given up until after the Hickey funeral. Regulations, not always adhered to, limited to forty the number of mourners. Later, when his coffin was removed from St. Mary’s, soldiers with bayonets were posted to keep the crowds back. On the way to Kilrossanty on Wednesday:
The remains were carried on the shoulders of young men from the town, who bore it all the way to the church. They were followed by members of Cumann na mBan, who carried several wreaths of natural flowers. No military or police took part in the funeral. On reaching the church there was an immense gathering of persons.
The regulation that only forty persons would be allowed to follow the remains of Fitzgerald was not rigidly enforced. (85)
In light of the “wanted dead or alive” status of Pat Keating, the path taken by the mortally wounded Volunteer took a rather indirect route to his ultimate repository in, what is today, the Republican plot in Kilrossanty. Shortly after he had been conveyed to the Morrissey home, Keating had asked if he could be taken to Whyte’s of Monarud. Assisted by Mike Heafy, “Birdie” Hanley put Pat into a horse and cart
covering him with hay. If they were stopped, the story was they were going to feed cattle. Pat directed them the whole way even describing the house as being newly plastered on the road side. (86)
Together with Dr. Hackett of Dungarvan, “the Whytes were most kind to him and did everything they could to make him comfortable”. Always most solicitous of others, Pat
… spoke about his father and mother and of how heartbroken they would be at the news of his death. He spoke of the bravery of the men of the column and of the great battle that morning and finally to tell Mary Cullinan that he was thinking of her.
…Pat knew that he was dying, he asked the Whytes not to let the Black and Tans get his body…If Pat’s body was found in the house, severe repercussions would have followed for the Whyte family. (87)
Sean Moylan, North Cork Commandant, echoed the likelihood of such reprisals:
The capture of a wanted man in any house meant imprisonment or worse for all the male members of the household. It meant the destruction of home and property, the unbridled licence of un-disciplined gangsterdom. (88)
“Owing to the extent of his wounds and loss of blood, nothing could be done for him” and last rites were administered by Father Power. Death came “at five o’clock that same
evening.” Upon his death, per his wishes, the body was moved to a field across the road.
For the Keating family:
To find the body in the corner of a field was a heart breaking experience…. Then there was the panic of not knowing what to do with the body before the Tans arrived and took it away as they surely would knowing of the reward for his capture dead or alive. (89)
The body was laid on a cart for the journey to Kilrossanty school and, for “safety reasons”, it was decided to bury the body that night. His blood stained uniform was removed and the body was placed in a coffin by Dr. Walsh and nurse Katie Cullinan (“Mother Kent”) of Kilmacthomas. On Saturday night the 19th of March, the doctor took the remains in his car to Newtown cemetery where a grave had been dug in the Cullinan plot. However, by Monday, news of the death and burial had reached Kilmac and it was
decided to have the body removed from Newtown and re-interred in a ploughed field on John Power’s farm in Coumahon. This was a quiet place and the grave would not be noticeable in a freshly ploughed field…. The body was taken out of the coffin and Katie Cullinan put on a habit, which had been specially made by the sisters in the Convent of Mercy, Kilmacthomas. The body was then taken to Coumahon and buried that same night. (90)
In the words of the poem:
When Patrick fell he was taken back
To the hills and valleys he loved so well (91)
Prior to the firing squad death of Hickey, there appear to have been few reprisals for I.R.A. ambushes – with the notable exception of the Hampshires running amok in Youghal after the November 1920 Piltown Cross engagement. This may very well have been attributable to the general chivalry displayed by Lennon’s column. Ironically, the killing of Hickey to avoid enemy reprisals may have been the breaking of an unspoken covenant between the I.R.A. and Crown forces in Dungarvan.
Reprisals were undertaken near the initial I.R.A staging position, some one half mile from the ambush, at Dunlea’s of Ballycoe. The widow Dunlea and her daughters were evicted and the soldiers then set about destroying the house and its contents. On the walls of the partially demolished home was written:
Hickey and Redmond (sic)
Up the Buffs
God save the King
Virtually destroyed, near the actual Burgery ambush site, was a thatched cottage belonging to Mrs. Morrissey. A similar fate was afforded Miss English’s house at Abbeyside (92)
Not unlike Constable Prendiville, the released Captain Thomas was, in the words of Mick Shalloe, to prove “his untrustworthiness”. In this case “by burning and looting shops and houses in Dungarvan the following night.” In tandem with the Tans, the British military broke up furniture of the Moloneys of Bridge Street, Boyles of O’Connell Street and Fuges of Mary Street. In cases where levies had been imposed, owners escaped reprisals by paying the fines. April the 12th witnessed the Tans running amok by torching Fahey’s of Abbeyside and the Strand Hotel. (93)
The ambush at the Burgery was not to go unnoticed at Dublin G.H.Q. where the release of Captain Thomas was not viewed kindly. Pax Whelan reportedly was threatened with a court martial for “allowing” Captain Thomas to go free after being captured.
You bloody fool, Collins said to me afterwards in Dublin. You should not have let them go. You are a disgrace to the movement. Don’t blame me, I said. It was the decision of George Plunkett. (94)
Whelan observed, “everyone knew George was very humane”. This was in reference to his chivalrous conduct at the G.P.O., the heroism he displayed upon his return to the ambush site and his release of Thomas based on a no reprisals pledge.
Cork O/C Sean Moylan referenced this unwritten policy:
No British prisoner falling into the hands of the I.R.A. anywhere was ill-treated. Irishmen with arms in their hands captured by the British were always executed. The British soldiers so captured had always been freed. (95)
Dublin G.H.Q took no further action against Whelan.
Leaving a sour taste, no doubt, was when, on the 28 April 1921,“Captain Donald Victor Thomas, the Buffs” was awarded the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) “in recognition of gallant conduct in the performance of military duties”. The gallantry most likely may have occurred at Durrow or on the frontline during the Great War. (96)
Reportedly, at that time, it was possible for officers to nominate themselves for the award. Due to downsizing, he was compulsorily retired, in early 1922, from the British Army. Leaving, it has been reported, without paying his officers mess bill. He was also pursued by Merry’s of Dungarvan for a drinks bill of five pounds. Emigrated to South Africa, he died there, circa 1930.
In mid May, Jack O’Mara, left his rifle and revolver with the column before he set off for a change of clothes at his Knockboy home not knowing
that there was…a raiding party of troops from Dungarvan…hidden in a graveyard opposite my house. As I entered my home I was immediately taken prisoner…The house was searched most carefully and a Volunteer membership card of mine discovered. I was taken in to Dungarvan barracks, where I was kept for two days, during which time I was closely examined as to my Volunteer activities.
Taken to the military barracks in Waterford, he was “examined” by an officer who
was notorious for his ill treatment of Republican prisoners. This man hurled abuse at me for being, as he said, concerned in the murder of a decent man, Sergeant Hickey of Dungarvan. This blackguard, Yeo, then preceded to beat me savagely with a stick on the head, face, neck, back and arms. Following the beating, I was thrown into a cell, where I had to lie on the floor on my stomach, it being impossible for me to lie on my back because of the beating I had received.
He was informed that he was to be held at Ballybricken gaol in anticipation of the arrival of a military witness who would testify as to his presence at the time when Hickey was captured and taken away to be executed. Before the witness turned up, the Truce of 11 July 1921 was signed. Some five months later at Christmas, 1921, O’Mara was released. (97)
Two months after the ambush at the Burgery, on the 18th of May, the body of Pat Keating was dis-interred, at the request of the family, for burial in Kilrossanty.
Lena Keating remembered:
My father, Willie, Thomas and Michael, accompanied by members of the Old I.R.A., Mick Mansfield, George Lennon, Ned and Paddy Joe Power and local Volunteers, took up the remains which they carried across the Mahon river, through Crough Wood and on to the Crough road where Fr. Sheehy C.C., Marcella, Bridget, Margaret, my mother, Willie’s wife Mary, Tom Cunningham and myself were waiting. (98)
The mourners reached Kilrossanty where the grave had been already prepared in a new plot.
Fr. Sheehy blessed the coffin and led the prayers for the dead. The grave was then covered over with gravel so that it could not be distinguished from the surrounding gravel paths. Finally, a volley of shots was fired over Pat Keating’s last resting place by members of the Old I.R.A. …The family went back home to Comeragh that night a little happier that Pat was safely back home”(99)
The family had fulfilled the stated wish of Pat’s childhood friend, Sean Fitzgerald to be “alongside” him. The two Comeragh rebels were now, in the words of Pat’s poem, joined forever at “the village Church close by…Comeragh’s rugged hills”. (100)
Kilrossanty Republican Plot
The two month effort to maintain secrecy regarding the location of Pat’s remains must surely have reminded Lennon of the death, a year earlier, at Kilmallock, of Liam Scully who had also been struck down in his presence and secretly buried at midnight. (101)
As described by Mick Mansfield, the burial, however, did not signal the end of this long ordeal:
Immediately after the interment, we got word that one of our men belonging to the Kilmacthomas Coy. had been shot in the village. George Lennon, Paddy Joe Power and I decided to go to Kilmacthomas to investigate the occurrence. We travelled in a pony trap with two Cumann na mBan girls named Cullinan (sisters) from Kilmacthomas. Lennon, Power and myself carried rifles. (102)
Aware of a British presence in the area, four unarmed scouts on bicycles were sent ahead. Unknown to the main party, the scouts had run into the enemy and been captured. The Mansfield party, approached to within two miles of Kilmacthomas at Faha Bridge (Grawn) and
drove right into a column of British soldiers, about 200 strong, who were advancing in file along the road from Kilmacthomas…The military surrounded the trap with bayonets fixed and, realising our predicament, we “made a break for it”. (103)
Mansfield, followed by Lennon, jumped out of the trap and over a fence. Initially taking Lennon for a pursuer, Mansfield only narrowly avoided shooting his friend. He then “clubbed a soldier with … (his) rifle butt and made off in the darkness into a boggy field” where he was soon up to his waist in bog-water. At that point
The soldiers seemed to be panic stricken and commenced firing wildly in the darkness. Lennon and I waded through the bog until we reached the railway line about 200 yards inland from the road. Meanwhile, the soldiers tried following us through the bog, having failed, they doubled around and up to the railway line hoping to cut us off. However we succeeded in escaping them in the darkness. (104)
Power was not so lucky as he “got stuck in the bog on the far side and was captured”. A prior neck wound, sustained at Ballylynch, was re-opened when “he was brutally beaten up.” Reportedly sentenced to death, he developed a fever which “strangely enough
saved his life” because he was placed in a British military hospital to recuperate. Mary Cullinan was caught in the pony and trap with a rifle hidden under her coat and arrested, along with her sister Katie, Ned Power, Willie Keating and his wife and Tom Cunningham. Mary was sentenced to six months imprisonment and the others were released after being held for approximately a week. (105)
In that Paddy Joe and the others were being held in Paddy Paul’s Brigade area, Lennon summoned Paul to Cutteen House, at the base of the Comeraghs, to ask him to organise a rescue attempt. Paul promised to do what he could but noted, “until I had examined the possibilities I could not say how we would operate”. Once he had established “a means of communication with the prisoners inside”, the East Waterford men were informed of the times allotted to the prisoners for exercise. Based on this information, a plan was formulated to throw a rope over the prison wall at a designated time. But “something had gone wrong on the inside” and after “having waited a reasonable time” the men on the outside “had to go away as…their activities in daylight would be observed….” (106)
Paul, many years later, referred to “this incident as another example of co-operation between the two Waterford Brigades….” Tellingly, he further commented that “even though it was unsuccessful, it showed that we were willing to co-operate as far as we could”. (Italics added). (107)
Due, in part, to the perception that Brigade #1 “hasn’t done much…”, the 2 Waterford Brigades were combined, as part of the First Southern Division, effective sometime after the 11 July 1921 Truce. To the four West Waterford Battalions of Dungarvan (#1), Lismore (#2), Ardmore/Old Parish (#3), and Kilrossanty (#4), were added the three East Waterford Battalions of Kilmeadan/Ballyduff/Portlaw (#5), Gaultier/Dunmore East/Passage (#6), and Sliabh Gua (#7). The combined Brigade had a definite Dungarvan leadership bias with O/C Whelan, Vice O/C Lennon, and Adjutant Phil O’Donnell. Jack O’Mara was appointed to head the Seventh Battalion (Sliabh Gua) and Paul was appointed County Waterford Deputy I.R.A Liaison Officer under Lennon. (108)
Earlier, most likely in June, in accordance with Plunkett’s recommendation, (109) the flying column, under Lennon, was augmented by approximately a dozen men from East Waterford, including “training officer” Paul.
In conjunction with other factors, the reorganisation, with its demotion of East Water-ford officers, was to have repercussions when, as noted by Lennon:
Early in 1922, after the elapse of 750 years, it was our proud privilege to enter the city with native troops and take it back for the Irish nation. (110)
By : IVAN LENNON
1. Domnail O’Faolain, “The Struggle For Freedom In West Waterford”
(Dungarvan Lecture, 1966).
2. Letter from Paddy Paul to Florrie O’Donoghue (circa 1953).
3. Brian Coulter, “George Lennon: A Quiet Warrior” Dungarvan Leader
(5 April 1921).
4. Author’s conversation with George Lennon (circa 1985).
5. George Lennon, Trauma in Time: An Irish Itinerary (unpublished, 1970’s), p.44.
6. The Waterford News, “The Burgery Ambush” (September 5, 1924).
7. Richard Abbott, Police Casualties in Ireland 1919 – 1922 (Dublin: Mercier Press,
2000), Foreword by Peter Hart, p.9.
8. Ernie O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound (Dublin: Anvil Books, 1936), p. 162.
Sean Moylan, Sean Moylan in His Own Words (Aubane: Aubane Historical
Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence (Montreal: McGill – Queens
University Press, 2002).
10. Personal correspondence of Ivan Lennon (2007).
Lennon, op.cit., pp. 43, 46.
12. Moylan, op. cit., p.28.
13. Mick Mansfield Witness Statement 1188 (Rathmines: Cathal Brugha Barracks, 14
June 1955), p.11.
O’Faolain, op. cit.
14. Mansfield, op. cit., p.15.
15. Personal Correspondence of Ivan Lennon (2007).
16. Moylan, op. cit., p. 31.
17. George Lennon, Down by the Glen Side (unpublished, 1962), p. 50.
18. Lena Keating, “The Keatings of Comeragh” (unpublished).
19. Pax Whelan, “Pat Keating, Comeragh: A Tribute” (unpublished).
20. Keating, op. cit.
Lennon, Trauma in Time, pp. 67 – 68.
Lennon, Down by the Glen Side, p. 27.
24. Keating, op. cit.
26. Uinseann MacEoin, Survivors (Dublin: Argenta Publications, 1980), p. 137.
27. Ibid., p. 138.
Lennon, Trauma in Time, pp. 34 ff.
28. Ibid., p. 34.
29. MacEoin, op. cit., pp. 135 – 137.
30. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p.43.
32. Michael Shalloe Witness Statement 1241 (Rathmines: Cathal Brugha
Barracks, 31 August 1955), p. 12.
33. Ibid., pp. 12 – 13.
34. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p. 44.
35. Edmond Keohan, Illustrated History of Dungarvan (Waterford: Waterford
News Limited, 1924), p. 32.
Shalloe, op. cit., p. 13.
Mansfield, op. cit., p.22.
James Prendergast Witness Statement 1655 (Rathmines: Cathal Brugha
Barracks, 24 July 1957), p. 11.
Jack O’Mara Witness Statement 1305 (Rathmines: Cathal Brugha
Barracks, 6 December 1955), p. 22.
36. Mansfield, op. cit., pp. 22 – 23.
38. Prendergast, op. cit., p. 11.
39. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 23.
42. Shalloe, op. cit., p. 14.
43. MacEoin, op. cit., p.138.
O’Mara, op. cit., p.5.
Mansfield, op. cit., p. 24.
Prendergast, op. cit., p. 11.
44. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 23.
45. Ibid., p. 24.
47. Shalloe, op. cit., p.14.
48. Lennon, Trauma in Time. p. 44.
49. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 25.
50. Ibid., p. 24.
O’Mara, op. cit., p. 6.
51. O’Mara, op, cit., p. 6.
52. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 24.
53. Edmond Keohan, op. cit., p. 34.
54. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p. 46.
55. Sean and Sile Murphy, The Comeraghs, Gunfire and Civil War
(Kilmacthomas: Comeragh Publications, 2003), p. 188.
56. Lennon, Down by the Glen Side, p. 49.
57. Lennon, Trauma in Time, pp. 43, 45.
59. Lennon, Down by the Glen Side, p. 49.
60. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p. 45.
62. Ibid., pp. 45 – 46.
67. Mansfield, op. cit., p.25.
68. O’Mara, op. cit., pp. 6 – 7.
69. The Waterford News, “The Burgery Ambush” (September 5, 1924).
70. Keating, op. cit.
71. Murphy, op. cit., p.82.
Keohan, op. cit., pp. 34 – 35.
72. The Waterford News, op. cit.
73. O’Mara, op. cit., p. 7.
74. Lennon, Trauma in Time, pp. 46 – 47.
Shalloe, op. cit., p. 17.
Prendergast, op. cit., p. 12
Mansfield, op. cit., p. 25.
75. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p. 46.
76. Ibid., p.47.
78. Keohan, op. cit., p. 37.
79. The Waterford News, “Dungarvan Ambush” (Thursday, March 24, 1921).
80. Property Owners of County Waterford. www.cmcrp.net/Waterford/Landowner
1html. (circa 1870).
81. Munster Express, “Another Day of Tension in Dungarvan” (Saturday,
March 26, 1921).
Personal correspondence of Ivan Lennon (2007).
82. Personal correspondence with Fr. Nicholas O’Mahony (24 April 2005).
83. Personal correspondence of Ivan Lennon (2007).
84. Murphy, op. cit., p. 189.
85. Munster Express, op. cit.
86. Keating, op. cit.
88. Moylan, op. cit., p. 83.
89. Keating, op. cit.
92. Murphy, op. cit., pp. 91 – 92.
Shalloe, op. cit., p.14.
94. MacEoin, op. cit., p. 138.
95. Moylan, op. cit., p. 136.
96. The London Gazette, “Central Chancery of
the Orders of Knighthood” (Tuesday, the 31st of May, 1921).
97. O’Mara, op. cit., pp. 8 – 9.
98. Keating, op. cit.
101. Lennon, Trauma in Time, p. 23.
102. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 26.
104. Ibid., pp. 26 – 27.
Murphy, op. cit., p. 103.
105. Mansfield, op. cit., p. 27.
Murphy, op. cit., p. 103.
106. Paddy Paul Witness Statement 877 (Rathmines: Cathal Brugha
Barracks, 13 July 1953), pp. 30 – 31.
107. Ibid., p. 32.
108. Murphy, op. cit., pp. 105 – 106.
O’Malley, op. cit., p. 212.
109. Lennon, Trauma in Time. p. 47.
110. Ibid., pp. 50 – 53.
Murphy, op. cit., p. 106.