A recent picture
Cross. A number of these houses were destroyed by the Auxiliaries
after the ambush and subsequently rebuilt.
On Saturday, 11th., December, 1920,
day after martial law was proclaimed, a six-man IRA squad from the 1st.
Battalion, consisting of Captain Sean O'Donoghue and Volunteers James O'Mahoney,
Michael Baylor, Augustine O'Leary, Sean Healy and Michael Kenny, ambushed a
convoy from K Company of the Auxiliary Division at Dillonís Cross, not far from
Victoria Barracks in Cork City. British forces sustained casualties of one dead and twelve
wounded, while the IRA squad escaped unharmed.
The usual route taken by military
convoys to or from the barracks took them past Dillonís Cross. There
was an old stone wall roughly 50 yards long running between Balmoral
Terrace and the houses at the corner of the Cross. It was here that the members
of A Company decided to lay their ambush. Behind the wall was a field known as 'O'Callaghan's
Field', leading down to Gouldings Glen, which would provide an excellent escape
route for the ambush party. Due to the proximity of Victoria Barracks - just a
few hundred yards, the action would have to be quick. It was planned to stop
the convoy of Auxiliaries, hurl bombs into the lorries, fire a quick volley of
revolver shots and get away as rapidly as possible.
Kenny waited at the footpath in the foreground
as the British lorries travelled down Old Youghal Road
from Victoria Barracks.
Under cover of darkness, five men
took up positions behind the stone wall, which was
about four feet from the road on which the lorries would pass. Michael Kenny took up position at Harrington Square, on the
opposite side of the road to the ambush party and
within lorry braking distance of the ambush position. Kenny wore a mackintosh
overcoat, scarf and cap to give the impression that he was an off-duty British
soldier. Kenny's task was to act as a lookout and to slow down the lorries as
they approached the ambush position.
At approximately 8p.m. the two lorries, each containing
thirteen Auxiliaries, left the barracks and drove towards Dillonís Cross. As
the leading lorry approached Harrington Square, Michael Kenny stepped out to the
edge of the footpath, put up his hand and signalled the driver to stop. The
driver of the leading lorry started to slow down. As the second lorry passed,
Kenny he gave two blasts on a whistle, signalling to the men behind the wall
that there were two lorries on the road. His task complete, Kenny made his
escape to an IRA hideout in Rathcooney.
Once the whistle was blown
the entire ambush party stood up, hurling bombs at their targets. Michael
Baylor and Augustine O'Leary each threw a bomb towards the first lorry while
James O'Mahony, Sean Healy and Sean O'Donoghue each threw a bomb towards the
second lorry. As the bombs exploded, they then drew their revolvers and
fired a volley of rounds into the Auxiliaries, before making their escape, scattering
in different directions. Augustine O'Leary, Michael Baylor and Sean Healy headed
towards the city, while James O'Mahony and Sean O'Donoghue made their way to
the Delany farm at Dublin Hill. Sean O'Donoghue was carrying the unused bombs
and these were hidden on the Delany land after which the two men split up and
went 'on the run'.
of the wall from behind which the IRA attackers threw
bombs and fired at the lorries carrying the Auxiliaries.
The ambush at Dillonís Cross heralded
a night of arson and terror for the citizens of Cork, culminating in the burning of a
large part of the city centre. The Auxiliaries were enraged by the IRA's
action. Once their wounded com≠rades were brought back to Victoria Barracks
they decided to exact their revenge. A number of lorries carrying heavily armed
members of the garrison left Victoria Barracks for Dillon's Cross. When they
arrived at their destination the troops dismounted, made their way to a number
of houses and forced the occupants on to the street. Once the houses were
empty, the troops set them on fire. Included among the houses singled out for
destruction was the home of Brian Dillon, the prominent Cork Fenian after whom
the crossroads was named. The Auxiliaries stood guard as the houses burned and
anyone who tried to save their property was immediately fired on.
The official British account of the
incident was issued as follows:
Twelve cadets were wounded, and one
has since died of wounds. Bombs are believed to have been thrown from houses at
Dillonís Cross, in the north district of Cork, into lorries containing cadets
as they were leaving Cork military barracks. And it is
suggested that the bombs used were supplied to the assailants from the bomb
factory which was discovered in Dublin, and in connection with which four
men have been arrested. The ambush took place at 8 p.m. ... So far as can be ascertained,
the attackers of the ambushed cadets escaped.