The War of Independence Commences in Clare

From Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1,540. T.S McDonagh, Clare Volunteer

The next incident to which I will refer occurred at a place locally known as "81 Cross". It is situated on a byroad about four or five miles south west of Ennistymon. There, one day shortly after the attack on Kilmaley, Martin Devitt, "Tosser" Neylon and Seamus Connolly attacked Sergeant Riordan and Constable Murphy from the R.I.C. protection hut at Derrymore with a view to disarming them. In the ensuing struggle the sergeant and the constable were killed and Martin Devitt was wounded in his right side. That evening, Pake Lahan (the battalion adjutant) came for me and I drove with him to Dr. Pearson's house in Lisdoonvarna where Devitt was, and where his wound had been dressed by the doctor. How he got there from "81 Cross" I do not Know. I drove him to a friendly house at Spancil Hill, near Ennis, and we (Lahan and myself) then went to the dare Hotel in Ennis and reported what had happened to the brothers Frank and Joe Barrett, both of whom were brigade officers. Riordan and Murphy were the first members of the R.I.C. to be killed in Co. Clare during the War of Independence and I cannot recall any action of the enemy forces by way of reprisal following their deaths.

From Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 976. Seamus Connelly, Clare Volunteer

In the evening of the 5th August, 1919, John Joe (Tosser) Neylon and Martin Devitt called at my house. The latter was "on the run" at the time. They told me that Sergeant Riordan and Constable Murphy had cycled that day from their Barracks in Islandbaun to Ennistymon and suggested that we should disarm them on their way back. I agreed to go with them. Sergeant Riordan had been doing a lot of boasting around the locality about what he would do with any "bloody Sinn Feiner" whoattempted to disarm him. We chose a crossroads, known locally as the "81" cross, as the site for the attack. The attached sketch marked Appendix "A" will give an idea of the position. The police came along cycling abreast about 8 p.m. I had a long Martin Henri rifle and a .45 revolver. Devitt had a .45 revolver and Neylon had a police carbine. When the police were about five yards from the crossroads we jumped on to the road from beside some sally bushes which had screened us from the view of the police until they were almost right in front of us, and gave the order "Hands Up." The constable, a young recruit from the Depot, jumped off his bike on top of me. He tried to draw his revolver from its pouch at his waist but I gripped his hand and prevented him. 13. We began to struggle and both of us fell into the ditch. In the meantime the Sergeant had badly wounded Devitt, shooting him through the breast. He also fired three shots at Neylon who had taken cover inside the fence near the sally bushes. I and the Constable had got on our feet when I saw the Sergeant taking aim at me. I swung the Constable in front of me to give me protection. This caused the Sergeant to withhold his fire. Almost simultaneously I jumped over the fence to cover. Neylon had started firing by this time and he shot the Constable dead and wounded the Sergeant so badly that he died in the course of an hour or so. We collected the two revolvers with which they were armed and left the police lying on the road. After Devitt was wounded he crawled away making for the direction of Ennistymon. I overtook him, and finding him in a very exhausted condition having lost a lot of blood, I helped him along and got him to my own home. The bleeding at this time had stopped so I delayed sending for a Doctor until I had brought him to some place where I felt he would be safer. I waited until after nightfall, about 11 o'clock, wishing to conceal the fact that he had been wounded from everybody. I then removed him to John (Priest) Rynne's house in Russia, Cloonagh, taking him the whole distance about 3 miles, on my back. Remaining with him until about 2 o'clock next morning I then left him in the care of the Rynnes where he was cared for until he had recovered sufficiently well to be removed to Tuam hospital for examination and further treatment. I had nothing to do with him after leaving him in Rynne's house but after a month or so he was about and as active as ever. Widespread searches and raids were made by the R.I.C. in the Ennistymon and Cloonagh districts after this attack. My house was visited by them next day but I was not at home. No arrests were made 14. and though several people in the locality saw us going to and coming from the scene of the attack I am satisfied that the police never got any information regarding the identity of the attackers. However, both Neylon and Devitt and myself were very careful of our movements from this onward

From Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1,042. John ‘Tosser’ Neylor, Clare Volunteer

The next operation in which I became involved was at a place called "81 Cross" at Ballyvanneen, Islandbaun, three miles south east of Ennistymoh on the road to Lavoreen. It occurred on August Monday of 1919. It was a Bank Holiday and Martin Devitt was home for the day from his place of employment, Griffin's of Ennis, where he had some time previously taken up employment as a draper's assistant. The two of us were standing at the corner of the Square in Ennistymon when two R.I.C. men came cycling into the town. We recognised them as being belonging to one of the outside stations and knew that they would be going home later on in the evening. Both men were armed with revolvers. Devitt suggested that this was an easy chance of getting two guns and I agreed. He had a bike and, as I was without one at the time, I borrowed one from Seamus Barry, a Volunteer, who was belonging to the Cloonagh district. Devitt 11. and myself then cycled out to Seamus Conneally's place and told Seamus what we had in mind. He agreed to go with us and was also able to provide for the job a police carbine, a Martini-Henry rifle and a Webley revolver. However, he had only 6 rounds of .303 ammunition and, as this did not fit the revolver, Devitt said he would use the empty revolver. He gave the Martini rifle and one round of ammunition to Conneally and gave me the carbine with 5 rounds of ammunition. The three of us cycled on to 'Eighty One Cross' and there waited the return of the two policemen. It was arranged that Devitt and Conneally would take on one policeman and that I would deal with the other one. It was approaching dusk when the policemen came along. They were cycling abreast and when they were a few yards from the "Cross" Devitt gave the order "Hands up". At this stage we were facing the police in the middle of the road. Instead of putting up their hands the police pulled their guns and opened fire. The sergeant (O'Riordan) hit Devitt in the first few shots, wounding him through the breast. Devitt disappeared over the fence. Conneally fired one shot and then dropped his rifle and made off. I began firing as soon as the police did and shot the two of them - the constable died almost immediately while the sergeant lived for a few hours. In all 17 shots were fired in this engagement; the police fired 11 and we fired 6. There was only one round in the two revolvers which we collected from the police after I had shot the two of them. Seeing none of my comrades around I cycled back to Conneally's house. There I found Seamus Conneally in a bad way. He was most depressed, particularly as he thought Devitt was killed. We were talking outside his house which is situated on the side of a hill about 200 yards from the main road when we heard a good deal of clattering. The next thing we found Devitt coming along with his own bike, the two policemen's bikes 12. and the rifle which Conneally had thrown a way. .Another Volunteer Sean Flaherty of Cloonagh, who had heard the shooting, had joined us at Conneally's and, though Devitt was not in too bad a condition, he had a flesh wound in the breast. Flaherty and myself decided to go into Ennistymon for Dr. Tom Curran, who came out immediately. While we were away, Devitt had been taken to "Priest" Rynne's in Cloonagh and there he was attended by Dr. Curran. Later that night he was removed in a motor car which came from Kilfenora to Con Kearney's of Caherhem, where he remained for a few weeks until he got all right.

From Nenagh Guardian, 9th August 1919


The Chief Secretary has telegraphed the deepest sympathy of the Irish Government with the relatives of Constable Murphy, “who was brutally murdered in the loyal and courageous discharge of his duty."

Sergeant John Riordan died on Tuesday evening at Ennistymon Union Hospital. From the first only the faintest hope of his recovery were entertained, as at least two bullets had entered the body in vital places. It is stated that the deceased sergeant made a statement that he saw one of his assailants, and discharged his revolver at him.

The body of Constable Murphy was found some distance from the sergeant, and was removed in a, farmer's cart to the police hut. It is alleged that some bloodstains were found on the top of the road ditch. The revolvers and the ammunition, which the two men carried, and Constable Murphy's bicycle were taken.

It is also alleged that there were some finger-marks on the dead constable's throat. Sir John Byrne, I.G., R.I.C., and Mr Flower, Assistant I.G., visited the scene of the crime. The spot is within 300 yards of the place where the two constables were waylaid, beaten, and deprived of their arms, in February, 1918. Sergeant Riordan was a native of Macroom, and had been in the district for some years; while Constable Murphy was a native of Leitrim. A large force of military and police are engaged in making an exhaustive search of the houses and fields in the district, but so far no arrests have been made.


The inquest on the remains of Constable Murphy was opened at Illaunbaun protection post by Dr Counihan, Ennis, Deputy Coroner. The evidence shed little light on the details of the occurrence. Constable P. Dolan said the deceased and Sergeant Riordan left on bicycles about 8 o'clock on Sunday. They carried revolvers only. He next saw deceased dead at 5.45 a.m. His revolver had been removed.

Thomas Doherty, Ballyvrimeen, Ennistymon, deposed that when going to Ennistymon on Sunday evening the Sergeant and deceased passed him. On his returning home he heard a few whistles and roars, as of a person in pain. With his father he went in the direction of the sounds, and found the sergeant lying on a heap of stones, He asked them to go for the priest and doctor, and said he was shot. Witness asked where the other man was, and the sergeant replied he was " dead somewhere up there."

Witness found a bicycle a few yards away, and cycled until he met two boys, who went for the priest and doctor. Dr D. J. Keane described the injuries. The wounds were inflicted from a range of from 10 to 20 yards, The bullet found was in three parts. The inquest was adjourned to Wednesday, when Mr F. F. Cullinan, O.S, appeared for the authorities and applied for a further adjournment, as there were certain things that required to be cleared up by the police.

The Second Victim.

The inquest on Sergeant Riordan was subsequently opened by Dr Counihan at Ennistymon.

Evidence of identification was given that deceased was 45, a widower, with no children.

Evidence of deceased's injuries was given by Dr Keane. There was a bullet wound on the right loin, and a second on the left side of the abdomen.


A party of masked men raided Newmarket-on-Fergus R.I.C. barracks early on Tuesday morning and carried off 10 rifle, 5 revolvers and ammunition, as well as other articles. No personal injury to the police is reported. No arrests have been made.


An Ennistymon message states that on Saturday night a man named Edward Hynes, of Cloncool, was fired at and badly wounded while walking along the public road. One eye was shattered, and he sustained severe facial injuries. The greater part of the charge lodged in the chest and neck. He was removed to Ennistymon hospital.


News reached Nenagh yesterday that on Thursday night the police hut recently erected at Moynoe, Scariff, for the protection of Dr Sampson, was attacked by an armed force of between thirty and forty men, who opened violent rifle and revolver fire at it.

The men in the hut, four constables, in charge of Sergeant Burke, who has been there but a shot time, replied vigorously to the fire, and the siege lasted for about an hour and a quarter. None of the police were hit, but it is believed on very good grounds that two at least of the attacking party were injured. Considerable damage was done to the hut.

Sergeant Porter, in charge of the barracks at Newmarket, which was raided by armed and disguised men on Tuesday morning was found with his throat cut yesterday morning. It is stated that he may recover. A proclamation, signed by Brigadier General C. J. Griffin, Commanding No. 1 Sub-District, and competent Military Authority, was posted at Ennis yesterday prohibiting from to-day the holding of all meetings and assemblies, including fairs and markets, within the administrative county of Clare. Last night police and soldiers _searched a number of houses in the Dromineer district. Yesterday the police at Killaloe interrogated a number of young men as to their movements on the previous night.