Weekly Series on Centenary of Events of 1919 - 1921.
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From the Irish Independent, 18th March 1919
The national Festival was observed in Dublin by Irish services in the churches and by a general closing of business establishments and governments offices. The shamrock was never more generally worn, and many thousands poured out of the city to Baldoyle races, at least 10,000 must have made the journey by tramcar, and to the seaside, the weather conditions being ideal.
The flag sellers in aid of the Irish Language fund were very busy and reaped a rich harvest, the congregations as they left the churches parting feely with their pennies to obtain a miniature flag. The scenes in O’Connell Street after noon were reminiscent of Bank holidays in pre-war days. Football and hockey were also played and there were crowds in the various parks.
Lord Granard, K.P, President, presided at the annual dinner of the Companions of St. Patrick in the Gresham Hotel last night. A fairly large company of ladies and gentlemen were present.
Sir J. Irwin, proposing a toast, created laughter by saying that St. Patrick was an importation and some of the importations we had had in this country were not all as welcome.
St. Patrick had also been deported as a slave, but escaped, as people did sometimes to escape slavery or imprisonment. They were passing through what was the greatest political crisis in our country's history, and it was up to everyone who wanted to do the right thing for Ireland to do their part in affecting a just and satisfactory settlement of the problems confronting them. These matters ought to be settled by Irishmen in Ireland. Englishmen with the best intentions did not understand Irishmen. There must be give and take in Ireland if the country is ever to settle down. No matter how they differed or how extreme some of their countrymen might be each one should to his best to bring all Irishmen together.
St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Waterford were marred by disgraceful scenes. Redmondites and the Corporation abstained as a body from the Procession, which was composed chiefly of Sinn Féiners, Volunteers, the Workers, and Foresters, with Sinn Fein bands from the city and Tramore.
As the Procession passed Castle Street a crowd of women and other made an attack on the leading Volunteers and after a fierce struggle the Volunteers put the opposition to flight.
Later a similar mob attacked with sticks and stones a company of Volunteers escorting the Tramore band to the station and a hot fight ensued, during with there were several casualties on each side.
Eventually the mob was put to flight. The windows in adjoining houses were smashed during the melee. Isolated attacks on individuals occurred in the evening. At a meeting on the mall subsequently Re. Prof. Kelleher criticised the absence of the Corporation from the procession.
From the Irish Independent, 18th March 1919
Mr. Robert Barton, M.P for East Wicklow, made a sensational escape from Mountjoy Jail on the night of Sunday.
Mr. Barton had been detained there for several weeks awaiting court martial in connection, it is understood, with a speech made in Wicklow.
When his cell was opened yesterday morning it was discovered that he was missing, and that a dummy figure had been placed in the bed, apparently to deceive the warder, who flashed a light into the cells at intervals during the night, to see if everything was alright.
A letter was also font addressed to the governor in which Barton stated that;
Owing to the discomfort of the place, he felt compelled to leave, and asked the Governor to keep his baggage safe until he sent for it.
Further examination of the cell disclosed that the window bars had been sawn away.
Patrick Kelly, Dublin Volunteer, gives his account to the Bureau of Military History of Barton’s escape
From Witness Statement of Patrick J. Kelly - http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BM...
On the 16th March 1919 the following members of G Company and I were mobilised for a special job to take place that night: P. Kelly, Joe Dodd, R. Oman, W. Oman, Mick Saunders, Tom Fitzpatrick, P. O'Toole, P. Gilsenan, Sean Brunswick, J. Flanagan, J. McAllister, R. Cox, M. Downs, T. O'Reilly and E. O'Toole.
Peadar Clancy and Rory O'Connor were in charge. They gave us complete outline of the plans on a blackboard, explaining where each of us would be placed and his duties. Each man knew what was expected of him and the risk of a slip up on the part of anyone.
Bob Barton, as he was commonly called, was considered a very important man in the movement. He had been under arrest for some time and imprisoned in Mountjoy Prison. I cannot say what arrangements were made on the inside of the prison except that communication with him was established and a definite time and place fixed for the attempt.
Our part in the plan was to take up positions on the Canal Bank near the north west corner of the prison wall and await the chiming of a public clock in the neighbourhood, on the last stroke of which we would go into action. At this time the prison was patrolled on the inside by Auxiliary police, civilian warders and British troops, and on the outside by D.M.P. whose duties and habits had been carefully noted for some time. Our party were all well armed. Some were placed on guard on the canal lock nearby and others up and down the canal bank to hold up any unexpected police patrols which might come along.
Six of our strongest and tallest men, Dodd Cox, Flanagan, McAllister, Saunders and Gilsenan were armed with stout batons. Their job was to put the D.M.P. men to sleep should they change their usual routine and arrive sooner than expected. They took up positions in the shadows beneath the wall. We had with us a rope ladder and stout rope attached to it, and two strong blankets. In a nearby street we had a car, open tourer type.
I was detailed to take charge at this point. The car was driven by a member of the 3rd Battalion (he was unknown to me), the only man outside my Company taking part. When the clock chimed its last stroke the rope ladder was thrown over the wall. This meant a throw of approximately twenty feet and the task was given to Mick Downs, a Clara man, used to handling ropes, and very strong. Others were to spread the blankets and catch Barton when he jumped from the wall. Downs's first throw was a failure, the ladder only reaching the top but not going inside. His second sent the ladder well over the wall and Downs hung on to the rope attached to take the weight as Barton climbed. No strain came on the rope and we thought the plan on the inside had miscarried. We were wondering what to do next when a small stone was thrown over from the inside to let us know he was there and that something was amiss. Downs shook the rope and eased the ladder in further. Barton was now able to grasp it and climb to the top of the wall, from which he jumped into the blanket.
His weight was too much for the men holding it and he had a bad bump on the ground but escaped injury, and was on his way to the waiting car with Rory and Peadar. Rory O'Connor and R. Barton took their seats in the back of the car and I stepped in beside the driver. The lights on the car were out of order and the driver was afraid of a hold-up by police. We kept our guns drawn and prepared for any emergencies. We drove at a fairly brisk, pace across town and reached our destination, (the corner of Herbert Park) in Donnybrook safely.
Rory and Barton left the car and thanking us walked away. The driver turned the car and headed back to town. We had the rope ladder and blankets in the car. The driver told me he was returning to Camden St. and that the car belonged to Mr. Corrigan the undertaker. We drove to the back entrance of Corrigan's and knocked. The gate was opened by Mr. Corrigan (senior). He asked if we were finished with it. I thanked him and asked permission to leave the ladder and blankets till morning when I would have them collected. He agreed and pointed to a coffin into which I placed them.
Next morning I arranged for a delivery van from Messrs. Henshaw, Christchurch Place, to collect them and bring them to a house near Mountjoy Prison for further use. It was very interesting to read the papers next day with their accounts of the escape and their theories as to the way it was managed, also to meet friends who had information from the inside and on good authority. I agreed with them all. One man told me he, Barton was a spy and was released by order of the British.
From the Sunday Independent, 23rd March, 1919
We received the following from an official communication from Sinn Féin headquarters yesterday;
President de Valera will arrive in Ireland on Wednesday evening next, 26th March, and the Executive of Dáil Éireann will offer him a national welcome.
It is expected that the homecoming of de Valera will be an occasion of national rejoicing, and full arrangements will be made for marshalling the procession. The Lord Mayor of Dublin will receive him at the Gates of the City and will escort him to the Mansion House, where he will deliver a message to all of the Irish people. All organisations and bands wishing to participate in the demonstration should apply to 6 Harcourt Street on Monday.
From the Evening Herald, 20th March 1919
The most daring and sensational raid for arms that has taken place in Ireland occurred at the Collinstown Aerodrome last night.
A guard of eleven soldiers were tied up securely, and over 70 rifles were carried away by the raiders.
The aerodrome is situated about two miles from Ballymun village, beyond Santry, and midway between the Boot Inn and Cloghran, on the Swords Road.
At one time the aerodrome was occupied by Americans.
The raid took place about 2.30am in the morning.
It appears that at that time 8 of the guard were residing in a hut, will 3 men on sentry in the grounds.
All were surprised simultaneously.
They were quickly de-armed and tightly bound with ropes.
A store in which the arms were kept was then visited and cleared of what rifles it contained.
The raiders who were in strong force succeeded in getting clean away.
Before leaving the encampment, the raiders visited all the motor car sheds and treated the machinery of the cars in such a way to render them unfit for use. This obviously was done to avoid pursuit.
The military authorities were apprised of the occurrences soon after and there was considerable activity all over North County Dublin.
It is stated that no aeroplanes are missing.
There are multiple accounts of the Collinstown Aerodrome raid. Here are three of the most interesting from Dublin Volunteers.
From Witness Statement of Patrick McCrea - http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BM...
I think the first action of importance that I took part in was the raid on Collinstown Aerodrome in March 1919.
It was a 1st Battalion assignment, but I was called in on it as being attached to the Brigade Transport, and there were a couple of 2nd Battalion men on it including Mick McDonnell; Paddy Holohan was in charge.
It was personally organised by the Brigadier, Dick McKee, with the assistance of Commandant Paddy Holohan and a few other members of the 1st Battalion who were employees in Collinstown.
On the night of the raid we mobilised in Parnell Square — about 25 strong. The men were to travel there in five cars and three cars were to take them back on completion of the job. Two cars were deputed to take the rifles and ammunition. One did not turn up, hence we were one car short. Four or five of the Volunteers detailed for this raid were dressed in British uniforms. One was George Fitzgerald, who was dressed as a British officer (he works in Industry & Commerce). I think the reason for this arrangement was to get close to the sentries and take them by surprise.
We left for Collinstown about midnight. We had to pinch a car to get there. All the cars went out the Santry road. Two cars went by the Ballymun road and two others the main Swords road, turned left at Cloughran. We met at the cross as one goes down to Collinstown. It was a bright, moonlight night. The reason they selected a certain hour was because they knew when the guard would be changed and there would be no further change for four hours. There were two British soldiers on sentry duty and our men got close to them and held them up. They could not give any alarm. After that they rushed the guardroom where, I think, 12 or 14 were taken by surprise before they could reach for their guns. These were tied up and, as far as I know, they gave no trouble, with one exception, and he got tied by the heels to the rafters. One of them was very unconcerned and asked for a blanket to be thrown over him. I think we were two hours altogether in Collinstown. Seventy—five rifles and about fifteen or sixteen thousand rounds of ammunition were got there. No alarm was given and the stuff was got away. It was placed in two cars and taken away. Mick McDonnell was in charge of the rifles and ammunition.
On the homeward journey Joe Lawless was with me. He was in one of the cars. My car was the last to leave the job and, although it was only an M.T. Ford, we brought twelve men from Collinstown to Dublin, and some of them were big men. Everyone who went on that job was issued with a dagger and Knuckleduster combined. They were to be used instead of guns in case of trouble. I put the car I used back in the garage in Capel St., replacing the key and the boss knew nothing of the affair. We were allowed to keep the daggers. Later on, I gave mine to a Father Walsh who fancied having it.
From Witness Statement of Michael Lynch - http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BM...
One afternoon when returning from my job in the Accounts Office of the Corporation, I overtook Tom Byrne, who was then O/C, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade. He told me, quite confidentially, that there were big things in contemplation by his Battalion during the coming week. I asked him what was in contemplation.
He replied, "A raid on Collinstown Aerodrome for about seventy-five rifles and two thousand rounds of ammunition". I asked did the Brigade know of this, and he said, "No". Acting on my own initiative, I forbade him to go any further with it until he had received authority from Dick McKee.
When I informed Dick of this plan, he approved of it and, with his usual thoroughness, insisted on knowing every single detail, before it was even seriously considered. We had several meetings with the officers concerned in the 1st Battalion Seán Flood, Paddy Holohan and, I think, Peadar Breslin. These men informed us that they were employed, working at their respective trades, in the Aerodrome, and they claimed to know everything about the routine of the British military there at the time. They said there was a guard of, approximately, thirty men always on duty, discipline was very lax, and the chief sentries around the place were two Airedale dogs. These dogs, it appeared, would literally eat up any person in civilian attire approaching after dark, but they were not interested in persons in uniform.
I remember we called in all our veterinary students to know how best to deal with the dogs, and Sean O'Donovan gave us really good advice. He told us to give them a dose of morphine in pieces of raw meat, when the men were knocking off work in the evening, and he guaranteed that the dogs would take no interest in what might take place afterwards. The meat was duly handed to the dogs and, during the whole operation, they slept quite soundly. The job I got was the mobilisation of transport. Assuming that the raid was successful, two cars would have to be allotted to take away the loot, both going into the Fingal area.
There would be, approximately, thirty-five men going on the raid. I felt that I would need to have nine cars, that is, seven to bring home the victorious raiding party and two to carry away the rifles. As usual, numerous difficulties arose. I was at my wits' end to obtain the required number of cars. After having been forced to postpone the job once through lack of sufficient transport, I was coming out of the Municipal Buildings one day and I saw a very trim looking Ford car, newly painted, etc., with one of cur men, Jim Fitzgerald, seated at the wheel.
"Who owns the car, Jimmy?", I asked. "Dr. Kathleen Lynn", he replied. I said to myself, "Good'" I said to Dick McKee, "I have secured another car if anybody knows Dr. Lynn". "Come on, over to Collins", he said.
We went to Michael Collins at his office at 32, Bachelor's Walk. I asked him did he know Dr. Lynn. Collins said, "Yes. What do you want?". "I want a loan of her car for a job. Will you give me a note of introduction?" "What is the job?", he asked. "We both told him, "Collinstown Aerodrome". "When is it on?", he asked. We told him, and he nearly hit the roof.
He jumped from his chair and said, "There will be no raid on Collinstown that night!". "Alright", I said, "you go down, and tell that to the 1st Battalion. I have called it off once already." "Well", he said, "there will be no raid that night. I'll tell you and Dick only. Dev is coming home to Ireland that night" this was after his escape from Lincoln Jail. "He is going out in that area and, if you start a raid on Collinstown, you will have every British soldier and R.I.C. man out around every road at about two in the morning, just when he is passing through. We cannot have Dev. caught, so you better put off your job for another night."
I had to report officially to the Brigadier that I had again failed to secure the transport. However, eventually the raid did take place. The dogs were given the dope. Paddy Holohan, dressed as an immaculate British officer, came through the gateway and walked, rather noisily, over to where the sentry should be. It had been a wet night earlier on, and the sentry, apparently feeling cold and miserable, was not at his post. The dogs were sleeping peacefully. Paddy walked around the hut twice, looking for the sentry. The plan was to walk up to the sentry and, while he was presenting arms, to hit him on the chin, but there was no sentry. Tired of walking around the hut, Paddy said, "Ah! Come on, lads!". His party. in the meantime, had crept up, silently, behind a coal dump. When Paddy said, "come on", they all charged in from both ends of the hut and stuck up the whole guard.
The Corporal was in bed, and the sentry was warming his toes at the stove. The raiding party soon secured seventy-five rifles, the ammunition. and approximately seventy-five sets of equipment.
Then the poor sentry said to them, "For the love of -------, don't leave me here!".
To save his skin, they took him outside, rolled him around in the mud, with his consent, tied his hands and feet behind his back and smeared his face with mud. The men on that job certainly were thorough, but it was all because of the extraordinary knack of foreseeing things that the Brigadier possessed. They all had revolvers, knuckledusters and daggers combined. After each member of the guard was bound and gagged, he was dragged on -his back over to a shelf that ran along the side of the hut, his feet tied together, lifted off the ground and tied to the rack.
Then the raiding party set off. As regards the transport, one car that I had secured, with, of course, the consent of its owner, was a Talbot touring car, the property of Paddy Corrigan or, as we call him politely, "Alderman Paddy Corrigan", the undertaker in Camden Street.
This car was loaded with forty-tine rifles, a pile of equipment, the driver and two men. They were to drive out to a dump at the top of the Nag's Head, on the road towards The Naul, about fourteen or fifteen miles from the city. We had not reckoned for such a huge weight on the car and, unfortunately, one of the tyres burst. Owen Cullen was the driver, and he stuck at it, in spite of the burst tyre, until he met two Fingal Brigade Officers, Michael Rock and Willie Rooney, at the top of the hill, leading to the Nag's Head. There the rifles were taken off and transferred to horses and carts. Owen Cullen and his friends drove off in the Talbot car, with its flat back tyre. They turned to the left, down by ____ off Garristown road, at Springhill. The tyre was in ribbons and the noise the car made would almost waken the dead. So they abandoned the car and set off to walk back to Dublin. They arrived back pretty well footsore and weary, and reported to Dick McKee.
They had taken the precaution to note the sizes of the tyre and wheel of the car, and Dick, with his usual alacrity, procured another wheel and a new tyre. He hired a taxi, and they drove out to try and salvage Alderman Corrigan's car. They found it very well guarded by a few R.I.C. men on the side of the roadway at Springhill. They drove on, and came back to town. Things looked black for poor Alderman Corrigan, but he got out of the trouble in the most ingenious way.
He had arranged, prior to lending us the car, to have it transformed into a motor hearse. As far as I know, Callow's of Westland Row were doing the job. Immediately on receiving information that the R.I.C. had his car, Alderman Pat went down to Callow's and asked to see a new motor hearse body. The management were most anxious to accommodate him, and showed him a beautiful new body. "Have you not put it on the chassis yet?", asked Pat innocently. No, Mr. Corrigan. We will send up for the car to-day." "You have already got it", said Paddy. "You got it yesterday". "Oh! No!", said the man in Callow's. "Oh! Yes!", said Paddy. "One of your men came up. I gave him the switch key, and he drove away the car." "Could you identify him?", Paddy assured him, of course, that he could. The whole staff was lined up, to see if he would recognise the man who was supposed to have taken away the Talbot car. Paddy raised hell when he found the man was not present, and reported the theft of his car to the police. Just as he reported it to one station, the police were waiting for him when he arrived home. So the car was recovered from the R.I.C.
A few days afterwards, I said to Dick McKee, "I suppose you will give it back to him". "Oh! No!", he replied. "It has to do another job yet:" I do not know what the other job was.
From Witness Statement of Joseph Dolan - http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BM...
Peadar Breslin, who was employed in Collinstown as a labourer, got the idea of doing this job. His intention was to get the key of the storeroom in which the rifles were kept. We raised the idea in Columcille Hall in Blackhall Street. At that meeting Tom Byrne suggested the raid and Kit O'Malley laid the plans for it. "A" and "F" Companies were mixed for the job. Paddy Houlihan was in charge and Peadar Breslin was second in charge.
I was in "A" Company at the time. There were two Airedales which were used as watchdogs at the Aerodrome. They knew the British Army men and would not touch them, but any persons in civilian clothes they would attack. The first part of the plan was to poison these two dogs. The men working as labourers were to do this job. The dogs had been poisoned but the poison hadn't taken full effect.
"A" Company were allotted the back of the Aerodrome and "F" Company the front. We walked past the dogs which were not now vicious and when I went in a soldier was asleep lying across the back door. We just stepped over him. As a matter of fact all the guard was asleep. We took the front and the rear of the guardroom disarmed the guard and took their rifles. We got 72 rifles and ammunition.
We tied up the members of the guard. We had cars The cars with the rifles got back to town alright but the one I was in broke down and we had to walk back. This was the first and biggest raid on a military camp for arms. Kit O'Malley was responsible for the organisation of the raid. He worked as a pay clerk in Collinstown at the time. The operation would not have been successful had it not been for Kit.
From The Nationalist & Leinster Times, 22nd March 1919
The National Festival was celebrated as usual throughout the Queen’s County in a benefitting manner, services being conducted in Irish in some of the churches.
In Maryborough, the rosary was recited in Irish at the evening service in St. Peter and Paul’s Church by the Right Rev. Monsignor Murphy who made an appeal for the study of the Irish Language by the young in order to save it - the language of St. Patrick - from extinction.
The chosen leaf was displayed by all, irrespective of creed.
In Maryborough Town Hall on St. Patrick’s Eve a grand ceilidh was given by the Rory O’Moore branch of the Gaelic League, whilst Mountrath was regaled by St. Fintan’s dramatic class with the staging of a Patriotic play before a large and appreciative audience.
Taken from the Nenagh Guardian, 22nd March 1919
Military at Dualla Graveyard
In the afternoon of St. Patrick's Day a lorry full of armed military arrived ut Dualla churchyard, the last resting place of Mr Pierce McCan. F.D.E. Groups were placed at different positions in the vicinity of the churchyard, and prevented some people who wished to visit the grave from entering.
Taken from the Nenagh Guardian, 22nd March 1919
Savage Treatment of Irish Prisoners
According to a statement made by Austin Stack, the Belfast prisoners, without cause, were deprived of all ameliorations, with the result that the men barricaded their doors, which were smashed by the police. The prisoners in some cases were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs. In February all the men were handcuffed for at least three days, and the majority for nearly a week, while a considerable portion of them were handcuffed for 23 days or more.
Dr McCormick, the medical member of the Prisons' Board, in an interview with him, Mr Stack adds, strongly condemned the conditions of the place - bad air, insanitary conditions, etc. Up to March 17th they had been confined to their cells for eight weeks, and there were nine men in improvised hospitals.
Four men had already broken down in health and had been discharged. 5 Were in hospital, 4 were lying in their cells seriously ill and the hospital accommodation, such as it is, is disgraceful. Some men have now been in handcuffs for 4 weeks. On last Saturday 17 men were again put in handcuffs, and are still in that condition.
Taken from the Nenagh Guardian, 22nd March 1919
Arrest in Moneygall,
Mr. Sean Collison, Moneygall, who has been "on the run" for over ten months, was arrested at a house at Island on Saturday night on a charge of illegal drilling, and conveyed to Birr where on Sunday evening he was remanded by Major Bretin. He refused to give bail.
Mr Collison, who belongs to the well-known hurling family of that name, on several occasions successfully evaded arrest. On one occasion when the police had left after an exhaustive search of his mother's house, Mr. Collison coolly appeared at the doorway. Owing to his outwitting of the police on several occasions he is locally known as the "Elusive Collison." His brother, Jer, the well-known hurler, underwent a long term of imprisonment last year for drilling, and was in Belfast Jail during the memorable strike there.