The Irish Government took witness statements from almost 1,800 participants in the Irish War of Independence, during the years 1947 to 1957, some 25 to 30 years after the events had unfolded. The statements are available online at the Irish Bureau of Military history, and were only made available to the public in 2003, following the death of the last witness. Even then, and to date, certain sections are blanked out lest they cause distress or danger to living persons or might lead to an action for damages or defamation. History lives long in the memory, etc. But regardless, they make totally fascinating and addictive reading.
Last week, MB quoted from the statement of one James Moloney, an IRA member from Bruff village, a very short distance from HX. This week he does so again.
It’s difficult to be a military rebel if you don’t have a gun. The hunt for guns and ammunition occupied the minds of Moloney & others, as they started to organise their active resistance against British rule. They had no outside sources of supply or donation, and funds to purchase weaponry were non-existent.
It’s only a few weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the (Irish) Easter Rising of 1916, which kick-started this particular period of Irish history. Up to that anniversary date, MB will have a few more tales to tell.
“In Bruff battalion area where lands were rich there were more than the due share of “Great Houses”. Our intelligence penetrated these houses and we learned where there were good stocks of arms and ammunition. Bruff company was well organised and with aid from Grange company we raided the house of Count De Salis, Lough Gur, in 1919. There we got a goodly supply of .303 and revolver ammunition, a couple of double-barrel shotguns, a rifle, revolvers, and a big game gun which carried a 12 bore charge of solid lead. Among the members of the Battalion Staff who took part in this raid for arms were Sean Wall, N. O’Dwyer, D Cremins and myself, together with Martin Conway, Edward Neary and others from Grange Company.”
“In the summer of 1919 we raided Kilballyowen House, the residence of “The O’Grady”. He had been a Colonel in the British army and was expected to fight. One of the staff, Miss Catherine O’Neill, left a window open. We surprised O’Grady and seized some rifles, revolvers and 1,000 rounds of .303 ammunition. Partiicipants in that raid were: Sean Wall, Liam Purcell, D Cremins, James Mortell, Michael Hogan, William Hogan, Edward Moloney, and Denis Mortell.”
“We went into the Second Battalion area and raided Kilfrush House, owned by the Gubbins family. We met opposition there but procured more rifles and ammunition together with revolvers and shotguns. To the best of my knowledge, only one man from Hospital Company – Thomas Walsh – was engaged in this raid. Among those of Bruff company who took part were Sean Wall, Nicholas O’Dwyer, Liam Purcell – whose car took away the booty – James P O’Connor, David Cremins, myself, Edward Moloney (Grange) and Thomas Malone (Séan Ford). The arms were dumped at O’Donnells in Ballyinculoo. “Scholar Jack” was the name of Liam Purcell’s horse who invariably accompanied us in raids to bring back the arms. He survived to win a few Point-to-Point races after the War of Independence.”
“There again the lack of arms, especially rifles, was the snag. O’Malley had stated that rifles could be bought at GHQ. We discussed several ideas which might produce funds. We thought strongly of a levy, but as we had no permission from higher-ups this form of getting funds didn’t come till later. That we eventually decided on running a dance – as if there was no war on – looks fantastic, but we knew it would appeal. There had been no public dance for quite a while and it would give the youth attached to the movement a chance to meet again under pleasant conditions. By inviting only “safe” people the secret would be preserved and the actual site, or rendezvous, was known only to a few. We hoped at a charge of 4/- per head, to get about 40 pounds, which would procure us 9 or 10 rifles. We chose Caherguillamore House, which was not occupied, and was situated about three miles north of Bruff, thirteen miles south of Limerick, eight miles east of Croom. It was the residence of the Viscount Guillamore (O’Gradys) for generations. Beside it was Rockbarton House, owned by Nigel Baring, whose wife was a daughter of Lord Fermoy (Roaches). Mrs Baring’s mother was a sister of of Viscount Guillamore.
Thomas O’Donoghue was caretaker of Caherguillamore and his son, Patrick, was a prominent member of Bruff Company, so we had no trouble about securing entry a week beforehand. To the general body of the IRA we told the dance would be in Herbertstown, three miles east of Caherguillamore. To anyone invited they were told to go to such and such a crossroads, such as the Pike, Bruff, Kilcullane, Herbertstown, Grange Cross, Holycross, where they would be further directed. The only IRA man to know the actual destination was posted at Caherguillamore main entrance. Yet the information as to the actual destination got into the possession of the British…………..
We had discussed the possibility of having what guns we had near at hand to fight our way out if surprised. Approximately 200 attended the dance on the 26th/27th December 1920. About 12.30am I got a message via Thomas Hourigan, Holycross, that Martin Conway wanted me on the Caher road. He mentioned a shot having gone off. James (Benny) Moloney, Edward Moloney, John Moroney, all good shots, accompanied me out. There we met Dr Michael O’Brien coming in. He told us it was a false alarm. The British, hidden in the woods, had watched us go out and back again, and as we reached the courtyard hell was let loose………………..
Five of our men were killed at Caherguillamore. They were: Martin Conway, Lieutennant John Quinlan, Volunteers Edward Moloney, Daniel Sheehan and Henry Wade.
During the night the Tans, RIC and military, true to British Custom, showed no mercy to their prisoners. Rifle and revolver butts were freely used until nearly every man was wounded, some very seriously. Next morning the girls and youths under 15 were released, and the remainder of us were piled into lorries, and under heavy guard, conveyed to the new barracks (now Sarsfield barracks), Limerick. We cut a very sorry sight, covered as we were with blood and with our clothes stained and torn by bayonets………………
We were tried by courtmartial, which court we refused to recognise, and sentenced in some cases to ten years penal servitude. The courtmartial was presided over by Major General Eastwood. We were taken by a small minesweeper from Limerick on 20th January 1921, via Cobh to Portland prison, England. In England we were treated as convicts, only more ruthlessly.”
Lough Gur House, the home of Count De Salis in 1919, when raided by Mololey and fellow volunteers in their search for weapons. Shot taken by MB about two Summers back.
There is a much more detailed account of the Caherguillamore House story included in the Grange Book, which MB has referred to in other recent posts. Available at all good HX bookstores!