former Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Main Street,
Castlemartyr is a quiet village located
half way between Midleton and
Killeagh on the main Cork-Youghal road. On February 9,
1920 it's peace was disturbed by revolver fire
during the capture of the local R.I.C. barracks.The barracks was a large strongly built
building, situated on the main street more or less opposite
the Catholic Church. At the time it
housed a garrison of eight men including Sergeants O'Brien and
Earlier that the day, Diarmuid O'Hurley, the officer
commanding Midleton Company, I.R.A., learned that two of the Castlemartyr
R.I.C. men, Sergeant O'Brien and Constable Collins, were on duty at a fair in
Midleton. As part of his plan to capture the barracks O'Hurley decided to
capture them as they returned to Castlemartyr later in the evening. In doing so
he would improve his chances of success by weakening the garrison there by
seizing the two men.
About 5 o'clock, O'Brien and Collins were cycling
homewards at Churchtown, they were suddenly blocked by a farm cart pushed
through a gateway by volunteers under Tadhg Manley. The R.I.C. men had to jump
from their bikes to save themselves from colliding with the cart. Behind the
cart were two of the volunteers, who rushed them with revolvers drawn. The
unarmed policemen were bundled into a nearby farmyard where they were
blindfolded and handcuffed.
One of the volunteers rushed away to inform Diarmuid
O'Hurley that O'Brien and Collins would be taking no part in the defence of the
barrack. On his return he was left in charge of the two prisoners and his two
colleagues moved off to Castlemartyr in the hope of arresting any R.I.C. men
found patrolling there, further reducing the strength of the garrison.
Constable Hanrahan, was pounced upon by the two volunteers
as he emerged from the barracks about 7 p.m., and held captive outside the
town. It was then discovered that Constable Hassett was in his house in the
town, and that yet another constable was on leave. This meant that five members
of the garrison were accounted for.
Communication with O'Hurley in Midleton was now difficult
for the two volunteers, as they had to watch the barrack and, at the same time,
hold Constable Hanrahan. Furthermore, at 8 o'clock, one of them had to cut the
telephone line to Castlemartyr exchange. This was important, as Killeagh
Aerodrome, with a strong military garrison, was less than three miles away.
Meanwhile, the men of the Midleton Company detailed for
the operation, having finished work for the day, set out about 7 p.m., headed by Diarmuid O'Hurley. On
their way they picked up their two R.I.C. prisoners at Churchtown and advanced
to Castlemartyr. Disappointed when they did not find their two comrades in the
vicinity of the R.I.C. barrack, Diarmuid O'Hurley, thinking that something must
have gone awry with the plans immediately knocked at the barrack door.
Constable Lee, sensing danger slightly opened the door which had a running
chain on the inside. He thrust his revolver through the opening and fired.
O'Hurley got his own revolver through the opening also but it failed to fire,
so he struck out at his opponent's head, injuring him with a blow of his
revolver and, at the same time, snapping the chain with a powerful thrust of
his foot. In a moment O'Hurley and his men were in the building. Sergeant
O'Sullivan, realising the futility of resistance, surrendered, and the
volunteers removed all the military equipment from the barracks and without