Castlemartyr RIC Barracks Captured

(Irish War of Independence - First Cork Brigade)

The former Castlemartyr RIC Barracks

The former Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Main Street, Castlemartyr.

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 O'Sullivan.

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 further opposition.