Ballingeary Volunteers 1920
This account of I.R.A. activities by the Ballingeary Brigade in the year 1920 was compiled by Donal Cronin, Bawnatoumple from his uncle, John Cronins account of that period. The periods 1914 - 1916 and 1916 - 1920 are covered in Journal No. 2 and No. 4.
Volunteers now collected contributions for the national loan which was organised by Michael Collins, Minister for Finance, to fund the newly elected First Dail and aid the struggle for independence. 168 households subscribed and a total of £262 10s 0d was collected. By July 1920 £379,000 had been subscribed nationwide. To add to the heavy responsibilities of the company many wanted men frequented the area. Prominent officers included Tomás McCurtain, Terence McSweeney, Pat Higgins, Pat Hyde, Sean Hyde, Sean Murphy, Sean Hegarty, Tadg Barry etc. and we were responsible for their safety. Assistance had been given to Donncha Mc Neilus after his dramatic rescue from Cork jail. Members canvassed for Sinn Fein in the local government elections, January 1920. Tomás Mc Curtain and Terence McSweeney were elected to Cork Corporation.
On January 30th Tomás McCurtain was elected Lord Mayor of Cork. He immediately fired the High Sheriff of Cork. On the night of March 20th R.I.C. and Military broke into his house and murdered him in front of his wife and family. His death caused great sadness locally and volunteers attended his funeral. Terence Mc Sweeney was elected Lord Mayor and also Officer in Command 1st Brigade, Sean Hegarty moved to Vice O.C.
On Whit Sunday, 23rd May 1920, an attack was planned on the local barracks. On the previous Sunday the R.I.C. had lazed around the yard enjoying the sun, most without their weapons. If they repeated this on the 23rd it was planned to rush the building and take them by surprise. Selected men armed with revolvers from Kilnamartyra and Ballyvourney were brought in to front the attack as the locals were too well known and would arouse suspicion. They mingled with crowds going to the Whitsun and filtered into Shortens Bar. Local volunteers stood by to join in once the attack began.
The R.I.C. under Sergeant Applebey had been reinforced by Black and Tans and now numbered 14 men. After a lengthy wait the door finally opened and a policeman appeared. However he quickly went back inside again and rifles appeared at all the portholes. The plan was abandoned. Five or six naval officers with radio equipment were now sent to further reinforce the barracks. However the threat of attack, the continuing boycott and the serious overcrowding had the desired effect and on the 7th June 1920 the British withdrew. That night the building was thoroughly searched and then burned to prevent re-occupation. The following men reported: John P. Cronin, Liam Twomey, Dan Corcoran, Jerh McCarthy, Timothy Callaghan, Dan T. O'Leary, John P. Cronin, Daniel O'Leary, James O'Leary, Danny Shea, John McSweeney, John Lynch, Tadg Twomey, Tim H. Twomey, Jerh Shea, Denis Cronin, James D. Cronin, Pat Murray, James Cotter, Jack Moynihan, Dan Sullivan and Dan Lehane.
On June 24th the Batt. planned another attack on Inchigeela Barracks. Arrangements had been made to deliver poteen to the garrison beforehand. A lorry was borrowed and driven to Inchigeela to enable the attackers to remove the captured equipment and arms quickly from the area. It was driven by James D. Cronin and the following travelled in it, John C. Cronin, Patrick Cronin, Jerh McCarthy, James Cotter, Danny Shea, Liam Twomey, John P. Cronin. All were armed. The agent failed to deliver the poteen and the plan was called off.
On July 15th. Ballyvourney and Kilnamartyra men inflicted heavy casualties on the British during an attack at the "Geata Bán" near Ballyvourney. No arms were captured and the lorry load of soldiers managed to escape. On July 28th the area west of Macroom was declared a special military area. Among the restrictions imposed was one compelling every homeowner to display a list of the occupants on the door. As this posed a threat to the men on the run, people risked severe penalties and refused to comply.
On the evening of July 27th two heavily laden army lorries passed through Ballingeary en route to Castletownbere. One of the lorries broke down near the lochán at Túirín Dubh. The soldiers in the leading lorry stopped at Keimaneigh to wait for their companions. They pulled into the soft dyke and quickly sank there. Dan Sullivan scouted the area and then alerted the volunteers. As the message was relayed from man to man, they began to assemble near O'Learys in Gurtafluddig. When 13 men had arrived they decided to move off and attack in case a search party arrived for the soldiers. Their arms were one service rifle, one old rifle and 11 shotguns. They took a wide detour to the west and approached the first lorry from the south. The men involved: Danny Shea, Jerh Shea, Christy Lucey, Tadg Twomey, Dan Lehane, Pat Murray, Jack Moynihan, John P. Cronin, Dan T. O'Leary, John Con Cronin, John Mc Sweeney, Connie Cronin, Denis Cronin.
They advanced through Keimaneigh School yard until they were directly over the lorry. The five armed soldiers and the unarmed driver were taken by surprise and immediately surrendered. They were disarmed and held under guard. The next task was to take the armed sentry who patrolled between the two lorries. Dan Lehane and Tadg Twomey confronted him as he passed a gateway some distance to the east. He too surrendered and was held captive. They now approached the eastern lorry. However the six soldiers here refused to surrender and opened fire. Fire was returned and very soon they waved a white cloth attached to a rifle barrel. The driver here was also unarmed. Eleven service rifles and eleven hundred rounds of ammunition were captured. Other volunteers had now arrived on the scene: Patrick Cronin, Liam Twomey, Dan Corcoran, James T. O'Leary, Con D. Cronin, James D. Cronin, Jerh McCarthy, Danny O'Leary, Pat Sweeney, James Cotter, John J. Cronin, Con Cronin, Neilus Kelleher, Ned Sweeney, George Riordan and Paty Twomey.
They helped to remove and hide the weapons and unload the lorries. They were heavily laden with sheets of armour plating, tins of paint, and household goods including ware and cutlery. All these were hidden at Gurtafluddig and the lorries were burned. The captured soldiers were taken to a vacant house south of the road. Some began to cry and plead for mercy as they thought they were about to be shot. They were quickly reassured. A fire was lit in the hearth and they were treated to tea and bread courtesy of Dan Sullivan. When darkness fell they were released and escorted through the village. A short time later they were met by a large search party from Ballincollig.
Two Volunteers arrested:
During widespread follow up searches by R.I.C., Black and Tans and military, our youngest volunteer, Tadg Callaghan, aged 17 years was arrested while working in a field saving hay. A tin of paint found hidden in a nearby field was the only evidence they could produce against him. Sargent Maunsell recognised Dan Sullivan as a volunteer and he was identified by a soldier he had given tea to. They searched his house and ransacked his shop. Both men were interrogated but refused to yield any names or information. They were held in Cork Jail, where they did nine days hunger strike along with other prisoners, claiming they were illegally held by the British. Both were tried by a military court at Ballincollig. Soldiers acted as lawyers for them. Both were convicted and sentenced to prison. They served time on a prison sloop off the coast of France, where they suffered sea-sickness, in Winchester Jail, in Pentonville Prison and in Wormwood Scrubbs. They joined numerous protests and further hunger strikes.
On August 12th Terence Mc Sweeney was arrested and began his long hunger strike. Sean Hegarty was now appointed Brigade O.C. Tadg Barry was Vice O.C. On August 17th Ballyvourney and Kilnamartyra men attacked a British cycle patrol at the "Slippery Rock" near Ballyvourney. British casualties were one killed and four wounded. Eleven rifles were captured.
On the evening of August 23rd Sargent Maunsell was shot dead in Inchigeela. A party of R.I.C. travelled from Bandon to collect his body on the 24th. They were ambushed at Lissarda. This ambush was unsuccessful and there were casualties on both sides.
On August 25th a party of soldiers set up camps at the Mouth of the Glen. As volunteers were assembling to raid them, large numbers of British troops arrived from Macroom, Kenmare, and Bantry. The volunteers quickly left the area and worked throughout the night removing all guns and ammunition from the area. Most volunteers also left. At dawn next morning over two hundred soldiers, R.I.C. and Black and Tans began thorough searches. Particular attention was paid to Keimcoraboula. These searches proved unsuccessful. It became known locally as the Keimcoraboula Round-up. On Sunday 6th September, Liam Hegarty and Michael Lynch were shot dead by Black and Tans at Ballyvourney. Both were unarmed and it caused outrage in the area. Large numbers of local people attended their funerals.
We now received information that secret service men were to visit the area and a guard was mounted at the Pass of Keimaneigh for almost a month. One suspect was captured and held prisoner for a few days. However he proved innocent. He was a British Magistrate named Brady who was touring Ireland on a motor-bike. He was well treated and was released unharmed. The company had now acquired a motor-bike which proved invaluable for delivering dispatches and conveying officers to meetings etc.
Death of Terence NcSweeney:
On October 5th Terence Mc Sweeney died after seventy four days on hunger strike. Around this time a Battalion Flying Column or active service unit (A.S.U.) was formed. It numbered thirty two men, armed with twenty six rifles and six revolvers. It included men from Ballyvourney, Coolea, Kilnamartyra, Inchigeela and twelve men from Ballingeary: John Con Cronin, Cors. Cronin, Danny Shea, John P. Cronin, Jerh Mc Carthy, James Cotter, James Cronin, Liam Twomey, Cal O'Callaghan, John McSweeney, Pat Cronin, and Dan Lehane.
The Black and Tans had arrived in Macroom during March 1920 and occupied Macroom Castle and Mountmassey House. They numbered over sixty. During September a hundred auxiliaries arrived there also. All were now housed in the castle for safety. Thirty six R.I.C. occupied the police station. They carried out widespread raids in the area, often two or three times a week. The local volunteers now numbered over a hundred men and they countered these raids as best they could by trenching roads etc. On successive Sundays in October and November 1920 the Tans cordoned off Ballingeary village as people attended Mass and questioned people at gunpoint as they returned to their homes. On Sunday 15th November, Jerh Shea, Tadg and Liam Twomey came under intense fire as they escaped through the cordon to warn a group of officers holding a meeting at Túirín Dubh.
On Sunday November 7th the newly formed flying column took up ambush positions at the Mouth of the Glen. They were joined there by ten other men from Ballingeary: Dan T. O'Leary, Pat Murray, Jack Moynihan, Jack Callaghan, Danny D. O'Leary, Dan Corcoran, Denis O'Leary Jerh Shea, Con Cronin and Johnny Lynch. All were armed with shotguns and they took up positions on the flanks and as out-posts. We waited in vain. On that Sunday and on successive Sundays the Black and Tans raided south of Macroom and on November 28th they were wiped out at Kilmichael by Tom Barry's men.
Criostóir Ó Luasaigh:
On Wednesday, November 10th Black and Tans again raided Ballingeary. Twenty two year old Christopher Lucey (Section Commander, B. Company, 1st Battalion, Cork City) and late of Pembroke Street, had been on the run in the area all Summer and Autumn. He slept in a "béilic" south of the road, at Túirín Dubh but had his meals in Twomey's of Túirín Dubh. He spotted the approaching lorries and ran to the Twomey house to warn his companions. They had already left and when he ran from the rear of the house, he failed to follow the pre-arranged and often proved escape route. He came under heavy fire and was shot while crossing open ground near Carrig. He was unarmed.
When the Tans returned to Macroom they entered the Market Bar and began to celebrate. They were toasting one man in particular and he described in detail how he had taken aim and fired the fatal shot. The barman, an ex R.I.C. man named Vaughan was able to identify him and he informed the Macroom volunteers. All companies were notified about this man and some time later he was again identified by volunteers in Cork City, when he signed his name to a docket, while ordering military stores. When he returned to collect his order he was taken prisoner and executed.
(Great credit and thanks is due to Donie Cotter, Carrig and his brother in law Pat O'Sullivan, Kealkil for the restoration of the Conchúr Ó Luasaigh monument in Carrig. Míle buíochas).