Weekly Series on Centenary of Events of 1919 - 1921.
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The Rescue of Seán Hogan in Knocklong Train Station
On the morning of 1th May 1919, I received through the usual channels a dispatch from Michael Collins with a covering note addressed to me personally, telling me that the dispatch was extremely urgent and requesting me to have it forwarded to its destination at once. I have an idea that the dispatch was for Sean Treacy, but of that I am not now quite certain.
I immediately gave it with the covering note to McCormack who took it at once to Mine O'Connell's shop. What transpired in O'Connell's shop, or who besides Mixie O'Connell and McCormack met there, I do not know, but, on his return, McCormack told me that Sean Hogan, who was wanted by the R.I.C. in connection with the Soloheadbeg ambush; had been arrested in the early hours of that morning at Maher' of Annfield and that he (Hogan) was a prisoner in the R.I.C. Barracks in Thurles.
Continuing, McCormack told me it was expected that Hogan would be sent to Cork Prison under escort by some of the trains during the day, that arrangements had been made to watch the barracks, and that if Hogan was being sent to Cork it had been decided that Mixie O'Connell would send a code telegram worded "Greyhound on train" and giving the time of the departure of the train to Shanahan, Coal Stores, Knocklong. McCormack asked my permission to use my name as the sender of the telegram which I readily and willingly gave.
I did not at that time know Shanahan's of Knocklong, nor did it occur to me at the time to suggest to McCormack to use a fictitious name, and I expect in the hurry and with all McCormack and O'Connell had to do that day it did not occur to them either. Throughout the day the barracks was constantly watched by an elderly lady named Mrs. McCarthy, her daughter Margaret and a Miss Maher of Annfield (now Mrs. Frank McGrath of Nenagh) at whose house Hogan had been arrested and who had followed the police into Thurles. They made several efforts to secure a visit to the prisoner but without success. Mrs. McCarthy at different times during the day brought fruit, tea and socks to the barracks for the prisoner, each time pleading to be allowed to see him for a few minutes, but the R.I.C. were definite in their refusal.
These visits, however, provided Mrs. McCarthy with the excuse which she required to remain in the vicinity of the barracks for long intervals. Eventually, that evening Mrs. McCarthy secured the information that Hogan was being taken to Cork by a train which left Thurles round about 6 p.m. and, when she reported this to Mixie O'Connell, Mixie sent what later became the famous telegram. The rescue of Sean Hogan at Knocklong railway station on that evening of 19th May 1919, is now a well known episode of the history of those years, and we in Thurles who were in any way connected with it were, of course, elated at its success. I don't think I was even unduly worried when Mr. O'Carroll, the supervisor in Thurles Post Office, told me that the R.I.C. in the course of their investigations had taken from the post office the original copy of the telegram to Shanahan which bore my name as the sender.
About three weeks later, Tom and Mick Shanahan (owners of the Coal Stores at Knocklong), Patrick Maher, Edmond Foley (both from the Knocklong district), a man named Murphy, who was a porter at Knocklong railway station, and Mixie O'Connell were arrested by the R.I.C. on suspicion of being concerned in the rescue of Sean Hogan. On the morning of Mixie O'Connell's arrest I had a visit from a party of R.I.C. men including District Inspector Hunt, who interrogated me and took a statement from me. He started off by taking down my name and address, but when he questioned me about the telegram I denied all knowledge of it. He then proceeded to question me about Mixie O'Connell and what I knew about his Sinn Fein and Volunteer activities. There was no point in saying that I did not know O'Connell as his shop was only a few yards up the street from Fitzpatrick's, so I told Hunt that I knew him as a neighbour in business, but beyond that I had no idea, good, bad or indifferent, what the man did or what he was interested in. Within a few weeks of his taking that statement from me, District Inspector Hunt was shot dead in Thurles. Meanwhile, the six prisoners were taken to Limerick Prison where they were remanded in custody from time to time.
Nothing further happened so far as I was concerned about the Knocklong affair until the following January (1920). Then I was notified by the R.I.C. that I was to appear on a certain day (the date of which I forget) as a witness in the case when the prisoners were being tried in Limerick. The R.I.C. spoke about sending an escort for me, but when I told them that I would go myself as I would be disgraced if I was seen walking the streets of Thurles with them, they accepted my word for it. When, however, I went to the railway station to entrain for Limerick, a party of R.I.C. were already there and got into the same carriage with me. Arriving in Limerick, they escorted me to William St. R.I.C. barracks. There I was taken to a room where I as interrogated by three British military officers who took a fresh statement from me. Their questions and my answers followed on the same lines as when District Inspector Hunt took the statement and, in this respect, I might mention that before going to Limerick I was well briefed by Jimmy Leahy, the brigade 0/C., and, by John McCormack, to say exactly what I had told Hunt and to add nothing further. Having completed my statement to the three military officers, I was taken to another room, the only occupants of which was a number of R.I.C. men and there I awaited my turn to go to the Courtroom. When called to give evidence I was escorted into the Courtroom by the R.I.C. and, on my way to the witness box, I had to pass by the six prisoners who were seated on a long stool.
As I passed, I remarked to Mixie O'Connell: "Poor show from Ballyhooly" which was a favourite saying of his. This led to some excitement and orders were shouted not to allow the witness to speak to the prisoners. The bench was occupied by three men in civilian clothes, presumably magistrates. In the witness box I was questioned by the Crown solicitor about the telegram and about my knowledge of the prisoners and I maintained that I knew absolutely nothing about the telegram and that I knew none of the prisoners except O'Connell whom I just knew as a business man in Thurles. I was then taken back to the room from which I had been called to give evidence and, in this way, I was prevented from seeing any other witnesses or hearing any other evidence which was given that day.
The decision of this Court was to remand all six prisoners in custody for trial at a later Court. I was held at William St. Barracks until 6 p.m. that evening, when I insisted that I had to call to see a friend in Limerick, and the R.I.C. permitted me to go, on the undertaking that I would be at the railway station in time to catch the 7 p.m. train back to Thurles. I went to the station in time to catch the 9 p.m. train in the hope that the R.I.C. would have left by the earlier train, but they were there awaiting me and I had to endure their company back to Thurles, which was reached about midnight.
The next trial of the six prisoners took place at Armagh Assizes in July 1920, but meanwhile I had an interesting visitor to Thurles in the person of Mrs. Philip Snowden, wife of Sir Philip Snowden, who was later Chancellor of the Exchequer in one of the British labour Governments in England. She had come to Ireland as a member of the British Labour Party's Fact Finding Commission and, when she arrived in Thurles, she had a letter of introduction to me from Cumann na mBan Headquarters in Dublin.
On the night prior to her visit, the R.I.C. and Black and Tans had run amok in Thurles and had done considerable damage to business premises. I showed her around and let her see the havoc wrought by the Crown forces and I took her to visit the relatives of James McCarthy, who had been murdered at his home a short time before by the R.I.C. murder gang. She appeared to be most sympathetic and made notes of all she had seen and heard.
For the Armagh trial of the Knocklong prisoners, as they had come to be known, the R.I.C. served me with a summons to attend as a witness and told me to be in readiness to travel on a certain day. To avoid travelling with them, and without informing them, I left Thurles a few days in advance and went to Armagh via Dublin and Dundalk. In accordance with the instructions on the summons, I called to the Courthouse in Armagh on the day before the trial opened and, after waiting for some hours, I was interviewed by an official who just took my name and address.
Accommodation was provided for me in a hotel with other witnesses. In Armagh the six prisoners were tried by a judge and jury and the trial lasted for two days. I was not called to give evidence until the second day and my evidence was exactly the same as I had given in Limerick and in the statements taken by D.I. Hunt and by the military officers.
I was cross-examined for about 15 or 20 minutes by the Counsel for the Prosecution, but I stuck to my originsl story which, by that time, I could repeat like a parrot. The two Shanahans and Murphy were found not guilty and acquitted, but the jury disagreed in the case of O'Connell, Foley and Maher and the latter three were again remanded in custody to await a new trial which, as far as I can now recollect, was not to take place until March 1921.
Whilst on remand in Mountjoy Prison, Mixie O'Connell secured his release by going on hunger strike. He returned to Thurles but was only a few minutes back in his hone when he learned that he was likely to be re-arrested at any moment and he then left Thurles andwent on the run. Edmund Foley and Patrick Maher did not take part in the hunger strike with O'Connell for, being innocent of the charges which had been preferred against them, they felt confident that they would not be found guilty when their next trial took place.
In January 1921, Commandant Jerry Ryan (now my husband) was arrested in Thurles by the R.I.C. and taken to Limerick Prison. In a letter to me, which he got smuggled out of the prison, he told me to warn Commandant Small not to carry out two ambushes at two paints which were marked on a map which had been captured on him. Having irarned Sma1l, I tore up that portion of the letter but retained the remainder of it as it contained some instructions about money matters which 8. Jerry wanted me to fix up between the quartermaster and the battalion vice-commandant, Shortly aftenards, I went to Limerick to visit him and on my way back I was met at Oola railway station by a Miss McCarthy (daughter of the Mrs. McCarthy to whom I have previously referred) who was teaching in Oola. She told me that she had received instructions from John McCormack to meet me and to prevent me from returning to Thurles as the R.I.C. were searcning for me there. During my absence the R.I.C. had raided my room in Fitzpatrick's and had found in my trunk the portion of the letter from Jerry Ryan which I had retained. I stayed that night in Cola with Miss McCarthy and then went on the run, staying with friends in various places until after the Truce. in the following July.
In February 1921, the two remaining members of the Knocklong prisoners Edmund Foley and Patrick Maher were tried again, this time by courtmartial in Dublin. Before going on my visit to Limerick Prison, I had received the usual notice from the R.I.C. to appear as a witness, but as I was on the run when the courtmartial took place, I did not appear.
Both men were found guilty and sentenced to death and both were executed by hanging in Mountjoy Prison on 30th May 1921.
On the evening of the 13th May,. 1919, I was travelling by train from Galway to Cork.
At the time I was a medical student. In the carriage with me were six other students - William A. Moore, now Medical Officer of Freshford Dispensary District, Co. Kilkenny, Edward P. Lahiffe, now Medical Officer of Portlaw or Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, Gerald Lahiffe, his brother, now in general practice in London, Patrick Moran, now Resident Medical Superintendent, Mental Hospital, Ardee, Co. Louth, my brother Peter, now on the staff of the South of Ireland Asphalt Company, Lower Abbey Street, and another student from Galway whose name I cannot recollect.
We left Galway at about 2 p.m. on that day and travelled to Limerick where we changed for Limerick Junction. At the Junction we changed again to join the Dublin-Cork train. We had one carriage to ourselves on that train. On reaching Emly station, a young man entered our carriage and remained there until we were coming into Knocklong.
We were in a jovial mood and many of our party were singing songs. I asked this young man to sing a song but he replied that he could not, or did not sing at all and, though we pressed him to sing, he refused. I remember clearly saying to him, "You look like a person who has something on your mind', and he just smiled.
He left our carriage just before the train pulled up at Knocklong. Although I did not know at the time, I learned later that this man's job was to indicate to the rescuing party the carriage in which Seah Hogan, the prisoner, was with his R.J.C. escort. Up to that time I was not even aware that the prisoner and R.I.C. escort were on the train.
When the train drew up at Knockiong we heard some commotion in the corridor. On opening the door into the corridor and looking down, I saw at least four, men, who appeared to be armed, endeavouring to enter the second next compartment to ours. At first I thought it was some kind of game but, on hearing shots, we quickly realised that there was something serious afoot. I looked down the corridor again and there appeared to be a good deal of commotion and a policeman was being pushed out through the door on to the platform, with blood streaming from his head. We wondered what we should do.
Apparently some members of the party suggested that we should get out of the carriage on to the railway line, so as to be out of the line of fire. Before we left the carriage, I looked down the corridor once more and saw a policeman (later identified as Constable O'Reilly) with a carbine to his shoulder and he firing at the rescuers of the prisoner at point-blank range as they were getting on to the platform from the corridor. Our party got on to the railway line and stood there for a few moments trying to decide what our next move would be but, at the same time, feeling fairly safe as we were below the line of fire. Suddenly Constable O'Reilly appeared from around the back of the train.
On seeing us, he immediately took up his carbine and fired at us. We raced up the line in the direction of Kilmallock. I feel sure that records were broken by us in our getaway Some distance up the line there was a gate leading from the line into a field. The embankment near the gate gave cover to at least four of our people, that is, Bill Moore, Paddy Moran, Peter Kearney and the Galway student.
The two Lahiffe's and myself continued on until we got behind a hutment, or large tool-box, and took cover there for a while. there we were joined by a friend of ours named Matty (Mat) Murphy who was a passenger on the train. Another man then followed us and joined us for a moment. He had a bullet in his neck from which he was bleeding profusely. We advised him to go back and get his wound dressed, as we were unable to do anything for him because we had nothing with us. He said it was alright and jumped over the fence and went off across the country. Later we learned that he was none other than Set Treacy himself.
Constable O'Reilly was still firing in our direction and one bullet came right through the toolbox and through the pocket-book of Mat Murphy. At this stage we decided that the place was unsafe. The two Lahiffe's and myself got over the hedge and into the field. The Lahiffe's of explaining. I heard Bill Moore shouting that the train was about to leave. So I dashed across the field, got through an opening in a hedge near a railway man's lodge, I think, and over the paling on to the platform. I was pulled into the train as it was moving by Bill Moore and others and I must admit that I felt pretty exhausted.
On the train also was Constable O'Reilly, who had been firing, and he was profuse in his apologies for firing on the students. He told us that they had Sean Hogán as a prisoner, taking him to Cork Jail, and that when the train stopped, the rescue party rushed in and overpowered them, shooting one policeman who attempted to resist. There was one policeman dead in the carriage. Another was dying. A third had escaped through the window when the shooting started and was discovered the following morning some distance away on the line, with nothing but his shirt and trousers on him and a Rosary beads around his neck. We read about this next day in the paper. The train went on then to Kilmaliock where the dead policeman and the dying man were taken from the train with Constable O'Reilly (or Reilly).
The Train then proceeded to Cork. The reports in the papers of the following day contained interviews from passengers who were on the train when the rescue took place. One young lady, who was an assistant in the Post Office in Killmallock, stated that it was the students who had taken part in the shooting of the police. As a result of this lady's statement, the police authorities in Cork made several efforts to interview us following our return to Cork.
We discussed the situation with the I.R.A. authorities, that is, with Raymond Kennedy who was our Company Captain in the College, and he then discussed it with the 2nd Battalion officers. Raymond Kennedy gave us permission to make statements, so long as they did not incriminate anybody. I should have mentioned that I was a member of "A" (College) Company of the 2nd Battalion, Cork No. I Brigade.
In June, 1920, I was approached by Garrett Scanlan, who was then a medical student at University College, Cork, as to whether I would give evidence for the defence at the trial of a number of men who were charged with the murder" of the police escort at Knocklong.
He arranged for me to go down to Knocklong, in order to meet the solicitor for the defence, Mr. J.J. Power, Kilmallock, and the Junior Counsel, Mr. Joseph O'Connor, B.L. (now ex Judge Joseph O'Connor). I met them in knocklong and went over the scene of the rescue. I was called, with Eddie Lahiffe and Matty (Mat) Murphy, to attend the trial at Armagh Assizes in July, 1920.
There were about forty other witnesses for the defence, all from the Knocklong district. On reaching Armagh, we were met by Mr. McMahon who, I was informed, was a brother of the Right Honourable James McMahon. He had arranged accommodation for most of the party. Eddie Lahiffe, Matty Murphy and myself went to make our own arrangements and called at the Beresford Arms Hotel.
When we were waiting at the booking-office, a door from the drawingroom or diningroom opened and Head Constable Cahill appeared. He had been in charge of King Street Barracks in Cork on the night Tomas MacCurtain had been murdered.
On seeing us, particularly Matty Murphy whom he knew, he beat a hasty retreat. The receptionist was called in and, on her return, informed us that she could not put us up. We found accommodation elsewhere. The case was to be tried next morning.
When we' arrived at the courthouse we learned that, according to the newspapers, Constable O'Reilly, Who. was promoted Sergeant the day after the rescue, was alleged to have been kidnapped by the Sinn Féiner's. In any case, he was not present in the Court. The prisoners on whose defence I was called were Maher, Foley, Murphy, an ex Irish Guardsman, and at least two Shanahan's, all from the Knocklong district. The case went before the grand jury. They Found a true bill against Maher, Murphy and Foley; and the two 5hanahan's were released.
When the trial of before a General Court Martial in Dublin Castle. Eddie Lahiffe and myself were again requested to attend as witnesses for the defence. On our arrival in Dublin, we were taken out to Mr. Lynch's residence to be interviewed by him. Mr. Lynch explained to me that the prosecution's case was that Maher took part in the shooting, that, before the train left Knocklong, he ran across the field, went through an opening in the hedge, over the paling and was helped into the train and that my evidence would be very important because I was the person who came by that route. He also remarked, in passing, that I was very like Maher, and I did no feel at all too happy about that situation.
On the next morning an the witnesses proceeded to Dublin Castle. We were put into a room which was surrounded by barbed wire, with British military sentries on duty there. The witnesses were called up to the courtroom one by one and, in due course, I was called. On entering the room, I discovered that the Court consisted of a number of high-ranking British officers. I was shown into the witness box and was examined by Mr. Lynch as to my movements on leaving the railway carriage at Knocklong station, on the question of Sergeant Reilly firing at us, my movements up the line and my subsequent movements until I returned to the train.
The prosecuting Counsel was Mr. W. Wylie, K.C. (later to become Judge Wylie. He is now Director of the Royal Dublin Society.) He only asked me one question which was, did I see any of the attacking party, to which I replied, "No", because in my original statement I had given the same answer and Mr. Lynch. intimated to me that it was very important that I should stick to my original -8- statement. I returned then to the waiting room where the other witnesses were. Very soon afterwards Mr. Power, solicitor, came down from the courtroom to me and told me that he was instructed by Mr. Lynch to inform me to get out of the way as quickly as I could.
Evidently Mr. Lynch was to stress the point that I was the person to join the train at. Knocklong and not the Mr. Maher in the dock. The findings of the Court were promulgated some time later. Murphy was acquitted. Maher and Foley were found guilty and were subsequently executed. I knew then that Foley did not take part in the actual attack, but was a scout on the bridge over the railway line, and that Maher had neither hand, act nor part in it. Maher was employed, I think, in a store in Knocklong. At the time there was a strike of the employees in that store and Maher did not go out on that strike, so that he was more or less ostracised locally.
I learned when the trial was over and Murphy was acquitted, both Maher and Foley stated publicly in the courtroom that they were proud to be called on to die for Ireland.
On 21st January 1919, the Soloheadbeg ambush took place in which two R.I.C. men lost their lives. I had no prior knowledge of it, but, some weeks later, the "Big Four" Seamus Robinson, Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and Sean Hogan who were on the run following the ambush, arrived at my brother Ned's place at Ardrahan, one mile from Galbally, and they remained with him for some weeks. There were only two or three of us "in the know" and we did armed guard at the house and along the road at night.
From there, they went to Lackelly and we escorted them part of the way. Some time later, the "Big Four" returned to our area and, going to the same house in Ardrahan, they discovered it vacant, as Ned had, meantime, moved into the village of Galbally. They made themselves as comfortable as they could. They brought in hay from the barn, but I don't know if they had anything to eat. Next morning, while sweeping out my father's drapery shop, the assistant found an envelope addressed to Ned O'Brien. It was nearly going into the dust-bin.
Inside the envelope was a note from Treacy saying they were "at the old haunt". Ned knew what it meant and he cycled to Ardrahan, taking a share of food in his pockets. He met them and, that night when it got dark, he brought them into Galbally to his own house which was situated about 50 yards from the police barracks, They remained there for a week or so. I remember that Treacy, by sitting at the front window of my brother's house, and with the aid of a mirror, was able to keep the movements of the police under observation. We guarded them while they were there and conveyed them on to their next destination.
The next thing we heard was that Hogan was captured on 10th May. In the early forenoon of 13th May, May Moloney of Lackelly brought to my brother Ned a dispatch from Sean Treacy that may have been when we knew about it first saying that they intended to rescue Hogan, and would he come and bring help. Ned told me about it and asked me would I go. I said I would, of course. Word was sent on to Jimmy Scanlon who had gone to Emly, station with a load of butter, and Jimmy's reply was that he would come back "light", that is, he would return without a load, so that he could get back as fast as possible.
Ned asked me could I get anyone else and I suggested Ned Foley. Ned, Jimmy Scanlon and Sean Lynch cycled together to Lackelly to Danny Moloney's where they met Treacy, Robinson and Breen. I went by another road on a borrowed bicycle to bring along Ned Foley. I was careful not to let Foley's father see me. They were working together near the road. It had started to rain and Ned Foley brought his father's overcoat overcoatand gave me a girl's light trench-coat. I saw that coat again some months afterwards with the mark of a bullet in it.
Ned wore it that evening at Knocklong, as we changed coats before I went to Emly. 9. Myself and Foley arrived in Lackelly where we met. Treacy, Robinson, Breen, Damny Moloney and his sister, May, the girl who brought the dispatch to Ned, my brother. Ned, Jimmy Scanlon and Sean Lynch were also there. We had a short council of war. It was arranged that Lynch, Scanlon, Foley and I should proceed to Emly station, await the train from Thurles, see if the prisoner and his escort were on the train, and, if so, board the train. We did as we were instructed. At Emly station we saw the prisoner and his escort of four R.I.C. men on the train.
We boarded the train, but got no tickets. As we were proceeding along, Jimmy Scanlon called me out on the corridor. I was the only one with a gun. I had a small .25 automatic in my waistcoat pocket. Jimmy said to me: "One of your family is enough to be on this. Give me the gun", but I refused to give it to him. As the train neared Knocklong, which is about four miles from Emly, I was near the door looking out for Treacy.
I opened the door as the train was coming to a halt. We all jumped out on to the platform where Sean Treacy and my brother Ned were waiting for us. A telegram, which had confused the arrangements, had arrived at Shanahan's of Knocklong and had been collected by Ned O'Brien. It said: "Greyhound still in Thurles" which meant that the prisoner was still in Thurles. As a result, of that telegram, Breen and Robinson had left the platform and had gone to Shanahan's coal-yard, about half a mile away, where we were all to meet after coming off the train, Having told us what had happened, Treacy said: "There is nothing doings!" Then we told him that Hogan was on the train, in the next carriage, or in the carriage second from the engine, or something like that. On hearing this, Treacy he was a fine-looking man of six feet, and wore glasses, took off his glasses, put them into the case and said: "Come on, lads!"
We followed him into the train. Treacy led the way along the corridor. The doors leading into the carriages were the sliding-type and Treacy slid open the door of the carriage where the four R.I.C. men and Hogan, the prisoner, were. He called: "Hands up" to the police. The order in which we proceeded along the corridor was: Treacy leading, Ned O'Brien, second they were armed; James Scanlon, unarmed, Sean Lynch, unarmed, and I was fifth, armed with my .25 automatic revolver. There was a silence you would almost hear when Treacy shouted to the police "Hands up". It was too good to last. Then the bullets started to fly.
I could not see all that was happening as I was a few feet away in the corridor. Treacy was in, and Ned O'Brien with him. Enright and another constable were on each side of Hogan who was handcuffed, and two other R.I.C. men were on the opposite seat. Enright clapped his gun against Hogan's temple and shouted that he would shoot if there was any attempt to rescue the prisoner, Ned O'Brien shot Enright twice in the stomach and that policeman lost interest in the proceedings. He died, I would say, instantaneously. We were all in a kind of heap as the carriage was too small for the crowd and I find it difficult to reconstruct the scene.
One of the R.I.C. escort, Sergeant Wallace, was a huge man, about 18-stone weight, and I remember he had Ned O'Brien on the carriage seat with his fingers on Ned's throat. I jammed my little automatic against Wallace's throat and pulled the trigger. There was no report, and I concluded that it was jammed. I ran my finger through the trigger guard and, making a kind of club of the gun, I broke it on Wallace's forehead. I think it was Lynch who hit him also in the same spot, for Lynch was spattered with blood. Sergeant Wallace also received gunshot wounds from which he died, but I am not certain at what stage of the fight he received those wounds.
Apparently, Hogan got out through the window or the door. He was, as I have said, handcuffed, Somebody shouted to him to get out and he did so. one of the policemen, Constable Ring, jumped through a window. Scanlon and Lynch, who were unarmed, were engaged with the fourth policeman, Constable O'Reilly. He had a carbine between his legs and they said to him: "Give us the rifle and you will be all right".
They seized the rifle and clubbed him four or five times with it, He slumped down in the corner of the carriage, to all intents and purposes, out for the count. Treacy and my brother Ned had by that time been wounded, both, I believe, by this Constable O'Reilly. What we did not notice was that there was another carbine under the carriage seat. Leaving O'Reilly slumped in the carriage, we got out on to the platform. Sean Lynch, Ned Foley, who had by the way not been in the carriage, Jimmy Scanlon and myself moved along the platform and had probably got to a point about five yards from the exit when Constable O'Reilly, who had got possession of carbine which was under the seat, started firing again.
The only weapon we had was my broken revolver, so we had to run. In this shooting, Jimmy Scanlon was wounded in the shoulder. Across the road from the exit of the station was Welsh's Stores a hardware and butcher's shop and Hogan and Lynch ran in there, Lynch got a cleaver, put Hogan's handcuffs down on a weight and smashed the handcuffs off. Meanwhile, Breen and Robinson had come along.
Hearing the Sound of the shooting, they had returned to the station, Breen engaged Constable O'Reilly who was then shooting wildly. I next remember four or five of us getting across the gate of a field, just above Walsh's. We were going across country. We had not the wounded with us at the time. We met them later in the field. We got to some house and met somebody or other there.
It was arranged that Ned O'Brien, who was wounded, Jimmy Scanlon and Sean Lynch would go to Ballylanders. Breen and Treacy had gone to Shanahan's of the Hill. These were the people who had got the code telegram previously. It was a farmer's house. Treacy had been picked up in a field, wounded. Foley and I also got to Shanahan's of the Hill. Treacy was in one chair, all blood, bleeding from the neck; Breen was in another chair, bleeding from the breast, and I think he had another wound around his lips. He was wounded in the exchange of fire with Constable O'Reilly. Mick Shanahan got a syringe and soft water, to which he added some Jeyes' fluid, and treated their wounds, which showed they were not too serious although very close to vital points. Hogan was hopping around the kitchen in great form, waving the captured police carbine.
Tom Howard he was killed in action afterwards came along and accompanied Foley and me to Glenbrohane. I had taken a pound note from the till in the shop when leaving home. I gave the pound to Tom Howard and sent him into a shop for a naggin of whiskey. Then I told him to bring the whiskey back to Shanahan's for the boys who were wounded. Foley and I continued on our journey through Ballylanders up to Paddy Maguire's of Glennahoughlih. Jimmy Scanlon, Sean Lynch and Ned O'Brien were already there. Ten or twelve of the Ballylanders Volunteers, including Tadhg Crowley, some of the Crawford boys and Ned Tobin had gathered to meet us.
They were all great lads and were all anxious to help. It was arranged that Tadhg Crowley should go to Dr. Wm. Hennessy and ask him to call to Shanahan's first to see the two boys who were the most badly wounded, that is, Treacy and Breen. When that was done and we had had a bite to eat, it was agreed that those of us who were not wounded should. go to our homes and cover our tracks, as we would hardly be suspected.
We were told to destroy any clothes which showed signs of blood, or anything that would give us away. Foley, Lynch and I struck off for Gaibally by the old road, and arrived there at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. It had been a very bad evening and we were pretty wet. Then Lynch and I had the job of telling Ned's wife that he was not coming back as he was wounded, but not seriously. It was a very awkward job for us.
She had a baby of 6 or 7 months. I went home then and got into bed. When I awoke in the morning, my awakening coincided with the sound of lorries. I jumped quickly out of bed and, looking out the window, saw lorries of military pulling up at the R,I.C. barrack gate, which was only about 2 yards away. I dressed in a dry suit of clothes.
Everything else that I had worn the previous night boots and all I threw into a suitcase. I went downstairs and out by the back way. The schoolyard adjoined the end of my father's back garden. I concealed myself at the school wall, and from there I had a view of the barrack. It was a turret style wall. There was a lot of excitement. I could hear the gate opening and closing, the halldoor of our house being banged and the police were in, raiding.
I heard footsteps again and saw the police moving along the road. I was in the schoolhouse yard looking at it all. Half an hour afterwards, when the police had returned to the barrack, I went back in. There was terrible excitement. "Did you hear the news? Police killed at Knocklong!". Having locked the halldoor, I secured the suitcase of wet clothes suit, boots, leggings and all and brought them to the kitchen and put them into the oven of the range. I was sitting down to a cup of tea and a boiled egg, when a knock came to the door. In came the R.I.C. sergeant and probably a dozen police. The sergeant faced me and asked me: "Where 14. did you sleep last night?". "Upstairs, where I always sleep" I said.
"You were not here this morning when we called". "I was out back looking alter the cattle", I replied. After a couple of more questions, he spun around on his heel and went out the door. I finished my breakfast and, shortly afterwards, went out to the shop. I was not long there when I heard the sound of tramping feet and a guard with fixed bayonets was being posted outside the door. Another sentry with fixed bayonet was placed outside my brother, Ned's, door. After a while I saw Sean Lynch between two policemen, looking very pale, going down to the barracks. When they had passed, I went to the back door of my father's house and there saw another sentry with a rifle and fixed bayonet. The police and military were in complete occupation of Ned's house which was next door, and of Scanlon's. Jimmy Scanlon was missing.
I think he remained away for two days. People who were inside would not be allowed out, and others who wanted to get in would not be allowed to do so. On the next day, the R.I.C. came in for me and I was taken to the barracks. I was brought upstairs where the District Inspector himself questioned me all about time where I was at such a time. By that time I had an alibi fixed fairly well. They read out the statement to me again and asked: "Do you want to make any change?" I said I did not. That happened six or eight times in the course of the next week or two, and the same procedure was adopted with Sean Lynch.
I believe they had brought bloodhounds to Knocklong, but they were of no use to them for tracking as it had rained all day on the day of the rescue. They also made a big round-up at the foot of the Galtees, but they did not capture any of the boys. 15. Within a few weeks, Ned Foley and Paddy Maher were arrested.
The latter was a railwayman and had nothing at all to do with Hogan's rescue. Two years later, both men were sentenced to death for participation in the rescue and were executed together in Mount joy Prison on 7th June 1921. The raids continued on my place. I generally spent the day at home but slipped away to sleep elsewhere at night-time. After Foley and Maher were arrested I went on the run, staying stayingwith friends along the foot of the Galtees in Co. Tipperary. Ned O'Brien, Jimmy Scanlon and Sean Lynch had gone away also. Treacy and Breen were in West Limerick. We kept in touch all the time. I met Ned occasionally while we were on the run and before he and Jimmy Scanlon went to America, but we did not go around together. We just simply kept in touch with one another. During the months that followed, the British forces including the R.I.C. maintained their intensive search for Hogan and his rescuers, but with the sole exception of Ned Foley, failed to capture any of us. In September 1919, Ned and Jimmy Scanlon went to Dublin on the first stage of their journey to America, an event which Ned has covered in his statement W.S. 597). I remained on the run.
Knocklong - We always knew when the 'big four' were coming and had billets arranged for them with friendly farmers, particularly at Michael O'Brien's and Michael Lambe's, both of Kilshinane. About the end of May 1919, they arrived at Kilshinane accompanied by Andy Donnelly of Noddstown. We all stood talking at the gate leading into Eamon Ui Duibhir's house.
Sean Treacy gave me a .45 Webley revolver, b l8. as he thought waiting so long in one place was too risky. reminded that I had promised to have relief guards posted every night. In those early days the 'big four' always preferred to defend themselves during the day. The. result was that the four accepted invitations to the dance. They decided to stay that night at Michael O'Brien's, very much against my wishes, as the house was too wellknown to the R.I.C.
At 7 a.m. next morning, I reported that the guards were going off duty as they had their work to do. I then went to do some work on my father's garden at Faheen Cross with two horses. I was not there very long when I saw four R.I.C. with rifles and revolvers coming from Dundrum direction. I was hoping they would proceed towards Ballydine but they turned in the direction of Michael O'Brien's house at Kilshinane.
I immediately proceeded to O'Brien's house by a circuitous route, and, as I arrived at O'Brien's, the four R.I.C. arrived in the yard. Two of them proceeded into he house, one remained at a small wall in front of the hall door and the other went back on to the road and remained there. The only weapon available to me was a four-prong fork which I brought with me into the cow-house. I stood inside near the door of the cow-house unobserved and within 7 or 8 yards of the R.I.C. who was covering the halldoor.
I expected shooting to start any second and I had my plans ready to slip behind the R.I.C. No.3 and strike him on the head as I had done to the poor soldier at "Tipp" Bridge, disarm him and attack the fellow on the road. Minutes passed that seemed hours and I concluded that they had found the poor boys asleep and taken them unawares.
That I could not imagine two R.I.C. capturing the 'big four' without a fight. Judge my amazement the two R.I.C. appeared at the door intact and apparently unruffled, join the man in front of the door and proceed back 19. to Dundrum. When I had assured myself that they had really gone, I went into O'Brien's house to find the four of them continuin their meal (which had been slightly disturbed by the entrance of the R.I.C.) in the dining room on the left of the halldoor. Mrs. O'Brien said to me:
"Oh, Mick, what would have happened if they opened the door?" to which Sean Treacy replied: "A couple of gallons of hot water, ma'am, would wash away all the blood". The visit of the R.I.C. was to ascertain if the dog licence had been obtained. Mrs. O'Brien searched for the licence on a file. One of the R.I.C. actually leaned against the door leading to the dining room and she, knowing that the lock was faulty and that the door would open easily, immediately drew his attention by asking "Is that it?" holding up some paper which had no connection with the licence.
Finally she discovered it. The door and the division between the drawing-room and dining-room was ordinary sheeting boards, so that the reader can appreciate how near the four most wanted men in the country were to the R.I.C., and how near the R.I.C. were to their graves.
We then decided that it was better to spend the remainder of the week in Glenough area. It was then only Tuesday. and the dance did not take place until the coming Sunday night. As Tadhg Dwyer, Battalion 0/C., and Bill Dwyer, company captain, were then serving sentences in prison, I was virtually in charge of the battalion area.
I notified certain members of each company and certain Cumann na mBan about the coming dance. The Cumann na mBan supplied the food and the dance was 2/- per head. On the Sunday of the dance, when cleaning Eamon Ui Duibhir's empty house in Ballagh, in preparation for the dance, we took the precaution of keeping 20. the door closed. It was customary for a patrol of R.I.C. to come to Cappamurra Bridge each evening and remain for some time, and often they met a patrol from Clonoulty. The house, though situated about 400 yards from the road, was in clear view from the bridge at Cappamurra.
The R.I.C. duly arrived. My great worry was the fact that Con Dwyer, a local farmer and Volunteer, who was bringing water from a well in churns for the dance, would be bringing the water straight to the old house just about this time. But Con, like all his comrades in A/Company, was very much alert, so he deliberately projected the wheels of the cart into an old drain and, much to their (the R.I.C.'s) amusement, the churns fell into the ditch.
When the R.I.C. had disappeared, Con turned back and finished his job. How little the R.I.C. would have enjoyed that scene had they known that the four most wanted men in the country would be drinking tea from the water that Con was bringing. Seamus, Dan, Sean and J.J. and about 70 or 8o couples attended the dance which was under a heavy guard and covered by excellent scouting. The dance continued without incident until 5 a.m. I paid Sean Treacy the 6.l0. for the revolver and had 25/- left for company expenses. I had been keeping company with Mary O'Brien of Rossmore, who was a prominent Cumann na mBan girl for some years, and Sean Hogan was in love with Bridie O'Keeffe of Glenough.
Hogan intimated to me that he was returning with me to I informed Sean Treacy, who warned me: "Don't leave him out of your sight and I will wait for ye at Lacy's Cross" - which was hear Glenough. I pumped Hogan's bike and the four of us proceeded towards the village of Ballagh. 21. When we got there Hogan a sked me for the pump again. I handed it to him; he put it in his pocket and said: "Tell the boys I'll be in Glenough about 4 this evening". I argued with him and told him of my promise to Sean Treacy and tried to get hold of his bike, but he jumped on it shouting "Two is company, three is a crowd". Mary O'Brien and I proceeded to Lacy's Cross.
For the first time in my life, I dreaded meeting Sean to tell him that Hogan had gone away. This was the first time I had seen Sean really vexed. He made no secret of his determination to have disciplinary action taken on Hogan. I convinced Sean that it was not my fault. Sean threatened what he would do when he got his hands on him. Little did he or I think that it was the R.I.C. who would lay hands on him first. "It is not your fault, Mick", said he, "and this is not the first time he did rash things". I will teach him sense when I get hold of him."
I went home without going to bed and went to work in the garden. Some time afterwards, Patrick McCormack, who had been at Soloheadbeg ambush, arrived with a verbal message from Seamus Robinson to proceed immediately to mobilise 25 men, or as many as we could arm, bring them under cover to within striking distance of Goolds Cross railway station.
I carried out this order, mobilised the men at a spot about three miles away from the station. Then I had them billeted in an old shed about l1/2 miles from the station. None of the men had any idea why they were there, but they were told that they would have no option but to fight in a few hours. They were quite happy and I told them that if the fight came off I had arranged for Father Matt Ryan to give them General Absolution. Never at any time did we deny any activity from our great friend Father Matt. 22. The following morning, Pat McCormack arrived at the old shed and informed me that the plans were altered and that Hogan was to be rescued at Emly, not Goolds Cross, and that they needed two gooa bicycles.
I got my brother Paddy's bicycle and my own. I intended to go with them, but I was told that there would be great difficulty in getting contact, and that, if men were wanted, the Galbally battalion would supply them and whatever else was needed. A very fierce raid by R.I.C., and they were very hostile, was the first intimation that the rescue of Sean Hogan had taken place at Knocklong. They searched the house minutely, but they never disclosed ther eason for ther aid. When I heard of the successful rescue at Knocklong, I was surprised, but, needless to say, delighted.
The previous day Seán had shown Mick a .45 revolver "and the price is £6." Mick knew that the Company hadn't six shillings but he was to run a dance in Ballagh on the coming Sunday night, and invited the four of us to go. It meant a long stay in one Battalion area and Treacy thought that would be too long. But I knew we were as safe as could be in Kilnamanagh Battalion, and it was the first visit I had been able to pay to my old Company and Battalion since Soloheadbeg. We stayed. The dance was a great success. Mick Davoren had a few pounds over for the Company funds after paying for the revolver. This taste of the old carefree life was only an appetiser to young Seán Hogan. After dancing all night in Ballagh he went off with a pretty girl from Glenough to another dance in Meagher's of Enfield. I had left the dance in Ballagh early in the night, Seán Treacy a 40. Hogan was with the O'Keeffe girl at the dance in Ballagh, and we expected he'd be late. Sean Treacy had warned Mick Davoren to keep an eye on Hogan and make sure that he'd come straight to O'Keeffe's after the dance. Mick has told the story of how artfully the dodger dodged him. Next morning the three of us were wakened by Paddy Kinane who burst into the room and almost indignantly asked "Do you fellows not know that one of your fellows is arrested" It was no surprise to us to he told that a Volunteer had been arrested. "Who" Excitedly Paddy pointed at us and repeated "One of your chaps". "Is it young Hogan" asked Dan The three of us got up and dressed quickly in silence. The first thing that came to my mind was one of Seán Hogan's dicta: "Ireland will never be free until she can produce a Robert Emmet who doesn't give a damn about women". He evidently didn't think Éire was capable of producing any such thing. There was from the beginning a gentleman's understanding among us, never spoken but as clearly understood as if it had been an oath, that we would all four stand or fall together. There was never a doubt in our minds that we'd rescue Hogan or pass out for good; but we wanted to do it to the best advantage that is, with a clean getaway. Treacy was even jocose about the sensation the rescue would cause, First we thought of cycling or getting a motor car and rushing the R.I.C. barracks at once. This would have been feasible if we were sure they didn't yet know who the prisoner was. Paddy Kinane was able to tell us that they didn't know him yet but that policemen were on their way from Tipperary town to identify him. By the time we would be able to get into Thurles they'd know and be well prepared. We sat down to reason out the problem. I enquired of the older people what was the usual routine for dealing with ordinary criminals There had been so 41. little crime commditted in the district that it was some time before we could get any information. We finally learned that prisoners taken to Thurles could be taken either to Dublin, Cork or Tipperary town nothing very definite to work on! If Hogan were taken to Dublin I knew I could organise between the kimmage Garrison and the Dublin Brigade (men well known to me) sufficient numbers of determined men to storm the Court. If he were brought to Tipperary town it would be a relatively simple matter, but if to Cork - that was terra incognita to us then - well, he must not be allowed to reach it. The first station the train would stop at in South Tipperary area would be Goulds Cross. I sent a despatch to Mick Davoren ordering him to have twenty-five men or as many men as he could arm mobilised under cover not more than half a mile from Goulds Cross, and await further directions. Davoren carried out the order and was a very disappointed man when no further orders arrived. Seán Treacy, who was Vice Commandantand therefore Director of Organisation (than whom there was none better) suggested that it would be better not to attempt the rescue before Limerick Junction to see if Hogan would be brought to Tipperary town where there were more arms, and more Volunteers could be mobilised more easily and quicker. I agreed sorrowfully hut not reluctantly. I would have liked my old Battalion and Company to have had the honour of assisting us. It was then decided to attack the train at Emly or Knocklong. Treacy was deputed to mobilise the a1bally Volunteers whomhe knew to be first class men. His despatches were many and quick. The Thurles Volunteers were asked to display no curiosity or excitement either at the barracks or the railway station. One man was to he casually knocking about in the station and to board it if Hogan were on it. Micksy Connell was the man. 42. Any earlier information was to be sent by wire in code. Treacy, Breen and I went to Danny Maloney's about a mile from Knocklong Station. We watcher! every train from early morning - one man only unobtrusively watching with local Volunteers there 'on business'. When the train with Hogan on it arrived Seán Treacy was on the platform, Breen and I concealed outside at the gate. Word was to be sent to Breen and me immediately it was learned that Hogan was on the train. I think it well to mention that I guessed or surmised after the rescue backed up by other incidents that Seán wanted to carry out some things on his own. It had been arranged that the Galbally Volunteers would board the train at Emly if Hogan were on it. When the train arrived Treacy immediately led the crowd to the carriage where the R.I.C. and Hogan were. He did not send word as ordered to the two of us waiting at. the gate. The first notice we got was the report of firing. Dan Breen seemed to have guessed at once that Hogan was on the train he made a burst thro' the gate. I followed with vengeance in my heart. I thought that as Treacy hadn't sent word that some fool Volunteer had seen a soldier armed and couldn't resist the temptation to seize it. That would have put the 'caoi bais' on our hopes of a surprise attack when the train did arrive In the heat of that awful moment I was determined to shoot off-hand whoever was guilty. As I got to the platform I noticed Micksy O'Connell with the newspaper in his hand and realised that Hogan was on the train. Dan Breen hadn't reached the carriage where the fight had already taken place when Constable O'Reilly started to fire at the already retreating Volunteers. Dan was such a big target that O'Reilly didn't miss him. This constable Bicked at least two others - Had O'Brien and Scanlon. We were soon all outside the gate attending to Breen who got a severe bullet wound below the collarbone. I asked anxiously what on earth had happened .when someone said "Where is Hogan" I dashed into the station and found Hogan smiling 43. with his handcuffs on trying to scale a wall! I led him out. "But where is Seán Treacy-?" I wanted to know. No one knew. "He was in the carriage with us" I was told. As Seán didn't turn up I became very anxious and got the whole crowd to disperse after Hogan's handcuffs were removed. Breen was weak with loss of blood and they hastened him away with Hogan. There was general delight among them all because of the success of the rescue. It didn't occur to any of them that anything could have happened to Treacy. "He must have got out the other side of the train". I thought that was probably true but Seán would have made his way to where the rest of us were. But there was no sign of Seán. I moved along the station outside the hedge up to just beyond the engine where there was another gate. I stood up on the gate and scanned the fields and hedges. I saw two civilians searching the hedge on the other side of the train. They looked like two British officers in civies. With my trench coat, leggings and ny- hand in my pocket I glared in their direction to let them know they were being watched. After a few minutes one of them glanced round and saw me. He at once furtively put his revolver into his pocket and spoke at the same tine (without looking at him to his companion who immediately straightened up, dusted his trousers and the two sauntered back towards the train but keeping close to the or hedge. The fact that these two had been searching the hedge was a good indication that someone had gone that way. I waited till the train started to move off, and then I made my way to Maloney's the only house or people I knew in the whole district. It was a bit nerve-racking as the wires must have been hot with calls for police and military. I had about a mile to go before I could get off the main road and under cover. To add to my discomfort the chain of the bike kept coining off. When I reached Maloney's I found them all hilariously delighted. "J.J. is rescued J.J. is rescued!" ("J.J." stood for John Joe Hogan). When I spoke of my anxiety about seán Treacy they all laughed it off: "Terra, nothing could happen to Sean!" 44. Some little time before this we had been in this area and, noticing a peculiar formation in a mountain, I said "That paicuar shape must be noticeable for miles around." "Yes" Seán had replied, "and there is a great family living at the foot of it, Foley's". "Then if ever we get separated for any reason we could all make towards Foley's", I suggested. We allagreed, not thinking that the occasion would arise so soon. On our second visit to Maloney's we had been so taken up with the need to rescue Hogan that we never thought of fixing a rendevouz in case of necessity. In any case we couldn't imagine the four of us being separated after the coming rescue. When I told Danny Maloney what we had agreed (about making our separate ways to Foley's), Danny said, "That's just where they have taken Dan arid J.J. Hogan." I had to wait till nightfall before anyone could risk going to Foley's. When we arrived there we found that Seán Treacy had male his way there too. Seán had been shot thro' the neck the bullet passing between the windpipe and the jugular vein. He was not bleedin too much. A doctor was got at once. He patched up Breen and started on Seán Treacy, probing to find the passage of the bullet. When the probing instrument came out at last at the other side of the wound the Doctor stepped back with arms akimbo, head to one side admiring his handiwork like a thrush eyeing a worm. He was a clever doctor and, like most really clever people, was quite a simple soul. While still holding his admiring posture he explained the near (?) miraculous passage of the bullet. The Doctor turned up early next morning and went thro' the same routine. He ordered Breen immediate rest; he was not to be removed. Dan was raving by this time. He went through the same operation with Seán. I noticed that Seán's wound must have begun to heal for I could see the effort he was making to show no sign of feeling any pain. That the wound was healing was 45. clear enough to me because the. passage was closing arid it took the Doctor a long time to get the instrument thro'. When he succeeded he went thro' the same posing. When the Dootor came the third time (he was very attentinl he began on Seán again. This time I ventured to ask the Doctor if this probing were necessary. I remembered my very young days when girls had to go thro' the agony of keeping a string or wire ear-ring moving in the lobe of the ear to keep a passage open, and it struck me that Sean's flesh was already knitting as the Doctor was having great trouble trying to get the instrument through and I feared that Seán would be able to wear a necklace thro' his neck instead of round it. The Doctor immediately said "No, it is really not necessary". I then said apologetically that I thought the patient was suffering great pain. He said quite simply "I just wanted to see the passage again". The Doctor, was insistent that Dan Breen should not be removed; but there was no alternative as the Foley's were too well known to risk staying any longer there. By this time I was so fagged from want of three nights' sleep without sitting down except to snatch a meal, that I scarcely remember our leaving Foley's. Dan was in great pain. The pony and trap we took to the road in, was so very jolty on the hilly roads that Dan had to be held from falling forward or backward. We reached West limerick and were brought to a house on a hilly place where we had a Short rest. Sean Treacy's wound did not damp his spirits, he was as full of energy as ever and I don't think he lost a moment's sleep. But I have no doubt that he secretly suffered a lot because he'd turn away suddenly on occasions (pretending he had something urgent to do) with his hand to his throat and a little cough it must have been very painful to cough at all.