Sean Moylan Leads Newmarket Column at Tureengarriffe Ambush
On January 28th, 1921 Major-General Philip Armstrong Holmes, Divisional Commissioner of the RIC for the counties of Cork and Kerry, escorted by a sergeant and five constables was ambushed by the Newmarket battalion column and a number of East Kerry Volunteers at Tureengarriffe, on the Castleisland road two miles west of Ballydesmond.

In January 1921, the Newmarket column was based at Kiskeam, a village about four miles east of the Kerry border. The column, which was lead by Commandant Sean Moylan, was comprised of about twenty men drawn from the different companies in the battalion. Its armament consisted of about five rifles, a Hotchkiss light machine-gun, and a number of revolvers and shotguns. 

During the last week in January, two large touring cars were seen passing through Kiskeam and taking the Ballydesmond road into Kerry. High ranking British officers normally used this type of transport, a fact which was noted by Sean Moylan. He decided to prepare an ambush hoping that the British would return by the same route.

The area chosen was at Tureengarriffe Glen, in County Kerry, about two miles west of the Cork border. A trench was dug across the roadway, and about thirty yards north-east of it were posted the rifle and shotgun-men, positioned along a fence facing west. North-west of the trench Mount Falvey commanded a large stretch of the road to Scartaglen and Castleisland. On that vantage point the Column's Signal Section was posted. South of the trench and more or less parallel with the fence, the ground rose steeply to a rocky outcrop where the Hotchkiss gun was placed. This was also used as Commandant Moylan's his command post.

On January 27 the column moved into position, but that day passed without a sign of the enemy. Around noon on the following day the approach of the touring cars was signalled and the waiting I.R.A. men made ready for them. The element of surprise was a big advantage to the attackers as was the choice of ground.  Such favourable circumstances were necessary as ammunition was scarce, and because the Hotchkiss was an unreliable weapon with a tendency to jam. This gun was trained on the trench as the column awaited the approaching cars. Behind the hotchkiss were Bill Moylan of Newmarket, with Sean Healy, Kilcorney and Denis Galvin of Clonbanin. The other volunteers included Captain Dan Vaughan, Ballydesmond and Captain Danny Guiney of Knocknanaugh, near Kiskeam.

As soon as the first car drove into the trench Moylan called upon the British to surrender. They immediately reacted by jumping out of the cars and blazing at Moylan's position from the side of the road. The volunteers replied and the sides of the touring cars were soon peppered by shotgun, rifle and machine gun fire. The battle raged for some time until the cease fire order was again given by Commandant Moylan, but his call for surrender was answered by a defiant intensification of fire. The I.R.A. responded and the fight continued. A half-an-hour went by and the British were given another opportunity to surrender; but as before, they stubbornly fought on. Eventually their position became so desperate that they had no alternative but surrender. They raised their hands and intimated that they were ready to give in.

When the I.R.A. approached them it was found that one of the British had been killed outright, and the rest of the ambushed party had been wounded, Divisional Commissioner Holmes very seriously. The dead policeman, Constable T. Myles, had fallen at the first I.R.A. volley. Amongst other injuries suffered, Holmes had a bullet wound in the head and a fractured arm and leg. Of the other members of his escort, Sergeant A. Charman had an arm fractured by a bullet; Constable J. H. Andrews was wounded in the face, right arm and leg. Constables J. Hoare and F. D. Calder were slightly wounded. Holmes would not authorise a surrender until the ammunition of his party had given out. He asked for the I.R.A. commandant to be brought to him, and Sean Moylan made the badly wounded Major General as comfortable as possible on the roadside.

Meanwhile, the other British wounded were being given first-aid, and many of them expressed their appreciation of the chivalrous way they had been treated.  A passing car was stopped and returned to Tralee with the D.C. Holmes and the more seriously wounded British. A party of British military travelling from Killeagh to Tralee picked up the other members of the ambushed escort and the body of Constable Myles. Early next morning two Cork city surgeons travelled to Tralee to attend to Holmes. He was transferred to Cork city but died in the military hospital there on the following morning. Forty-five years of age, he was a native of Cork city. He had joined the R.I.C. as a cadet in 1898, and during his career had received many police awards. During the war he served with the Royal Irish Regiment, being wounded and gassed at the front. Holmes' predecessor in office, the infamous Colonel G. V. B. Smyth, had been shot dead by I.R.A. men in the County Club in Cork city on July 17, 1920.

The I.R.A. had captured three service rifles, one Winchester shotgun and seven revolvers at the scene of the ambush. On the days following the ambush R.I.C. and Black and Tans swooped upon the villages of Knocknagree and Ballydesmond. Children playing in a field near Knocknagree were brutally machine-gunned. A fourteen year old boy was killed, and two others, aged nine and eleven, were wounded. In Ballydesmond police bombed and burned the houses of Timothy Vaughan and William McAuliffe as well as other homes and business premises in the village.