Ballingeary Volunteers

This account of I.R.A. activities by the Ballingeary Brigade from 1916 - 1920 was compiled by Donal Cronin, Bawnatoumple from his uncle's account of the period.

1916 - 1917:
After Easter week all the volunteers were on the run for months to escape police raids.  Tomás McCurtain and Terence McSweeney were arrested in May and interned in England.  Both were released with untried prisoners in December 1916.  However both were re-arrested and deported to England until June 1917 when all banishment orders were lifted.  The ban on Sean Hegarty was also lifted and he returned to Cork.  During this period Sean had been acting O.C. of the brigade.  Tomás now resumed command.

The local Company resumed drilling at Keimcorraboula in September 1917 and new members began to join.  They paraded openly at Gougane Barra in September 1917 and also attended a review of volunteers in Macroom by Eamonn DeValera who had won the Clare by-election in July.  (W.T. Cosgrave won a second seat for Sinn Fein in Kilkenny in August).  The Company attended battalion mobilisation and manoeuvres in Renaniree in April and May 1918.

In May 1918 information was received that the R.I.C. intended to occupy
Lowe's Lodge where arms and ammunition were supposed to be stored.  Armed members of the Company raided the place but nothing was found.  A second raid was carried out soon afterwards and a large quantity of lead was captured.  This was used for making slug-shot for filling cartridges and was used afterwards during the attack on Inchigeela Barracks.  The following men took part in the raids on Lowe's Lodge - John C. Cronin,  Dan T. O'Leary,  Patrick Cronin,  Pat Murray, Jerh Shea,  Liam Twomey,  Con Cronin,  Dan Sullivan,  Dan Corcoran,  John McSweeney,  John Moynihan,  Jack Callaghan,  John P. Cronin,  James D. Cronin,  John J. Cronin.

On July 3rd. 1918 Sinn Fein, the Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, the Gaelic League and the G.A.A. were all banned by the British.  Feiseanna and aeríochts were illegal.  It was an offence to have a hurley in public. 

On Sunday July 7th. 1918 a Feis was arranged for Ballyvourney.  A large force of R.I.C. armed with rifles and machine guns took up positions around the field and ordered the crowd to disperse.  The large crowd re-assembled in Coolea and enjoyed the evening without further interference.  On their way home from Ballyvourney two local R.I.C. men - Butler and Bennett were ambushed at the Mouth of the Glen.  When called on to surrender they reached for their guns.  In the ensuing struggle James Butler was shot in the neck and Bennet was knocked unconscious.  Both men recovered from their injuries.  Two rifles and 100 rounds of .303 ammunition were captured.  Those who took part were - John Lynch,  Tadg Twomey,  William Twomey,  and Jerh Shea all from Ballingeary and Jamie Moynihan,  Con O'Reilly and Dan Thade Sweeney from Coolea and Ballyvourney.  All mentioned had to go on the run.  It was the first ambush in the country and the R.I.C. and military carried out widespread searches in the area.  Marshall Law was proclaimed in the area.  Butler received £800 and Bennett £500 for their injuries.  This money was recovered from the local rate payers at the rate of five shillings in the pound.

The Conscription Bill had been passed in April and the British threatened to enforce it.  The Volunteers attended anti-conscription rallies in Macroom and Cork.  They signed the anti-conscription pledge.  Most slept in barns and sheds to avoid being picked up by the R.I.C.  By October the danger had passed as the war was nearing an end.  Company activity was low during late 1918 as most members suffered from the great flu which caused many deaths in the area.  Those who could, canvassed votes for Sinn Fein in the General Election in December 1918.  Terence McSweeney won a seat in Mid Cork.  Sinn Fein won 73 out of 105 seats.  Unionist won 26 and Redmondites 6.

The first Dail met in January even though most of it's members were in jail.  The local company now numbered over eighty men and intelligence, medical and signalling corps were established.  All volunteers received first aid instructions.  Paty Twomey, Currahy attended a communications course in Carriganima and returned to instruct the men in codes, Morse and lamp signals.  Connie Cronin was appointed Lieutenant of Intelligence. Cork County had been divided into three brigades because of the increasing numbers.  No.1 covered Cork city and Mid Cork,  No.2 covered North Cork and No.3 South Cork.  The Brigades were divided into Battalions.  No. 8 Battalion comprised Kilnamartyra, Ballyvourney, Coolea, Ballingeary and Inchigeela companys,  numbered A, B, C, D, and E.  Dr. Pat O'Sullivan was Battalion Commander.  The line of communication to West Cork was through Ballingeary and volunteers collected and delivered dispatches almost daily.

The Volunteers collected names for the Peace Plebiscite.  However when U.S. President Wilson visited Dublin in April he bowed to the British and refused a petition of 200,000 names to promote Ireland's case at the International Peace Conference.  The British banned the Dail and refused to allow the Dail Envoy enter the conference hall.

The Dail met in April and declared British rule and laws illegal.  It took control of the Volunteers and named them the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.).  It ordered a boycott of the R.I.C. and the British courts and legal system.  Sinn Fein Courts and police were created.  Sinn Fein police appointed locally were Dan Corcoran O.C.  Dan Lehane,  Con Cronin,  John P. Cronin.

Since they arrived in 1894 relations between the locals and the R.I.C. were bad.  After the ambush at the Mouth of the Glen the station had been reinforced and their numerous night time raids were resented.  Because of this the local Company had no trouble enforcing a total boycott of the R.I.C.  Tomás McCurtain spent much time in the area on the run and he began to arrange an attack on the local barracks which had been reinforced with steel shutters and coils of barbed wire.  The plan was deferred when he was called to Dublin in December 1919.

On the night of January 3rd 1920 Inchigeela barracks was attacked by men of the 8th Battalion.  Members of  the local Company who took part were   John C. Cronin (Captain),  Dan T.O'Leary,  John P. Cronin,  Liam Twomey,  Jerh McCarthy,  Pat Murray,  and Jack Moynihan.
The following men were guarding the roads to prevent reinforcements from Macroom and Bantry - James Cotter,  Cors. Cronin,  Pat J. Cronin,  Jerh Shea,  John McSweeney,  Dan Sullivan,  James D. Cronin,  Timothy T. Twomey, Dan Lehane and Danny Shea.
  Our arms consisted of four rifles, three revolvers and the rest had shotguns.  The R.I.C. armed with rifles, revolvers, machine guns and grenades resisted the attack which lasted almost two hours.  Connie Creedon (shopkeeper) offered barrels of paraffin oil to burn the building.  The attack ended because of confusion over orders.  Constable Tobin was shot in the stomach but survived.

A second attack was arranged for March 11th and the following men reported and took up positions there - John C. Cronin (Captain),  Dan T. O'Leary,  Liam Twomey,  John Lynch,  John P. Cronin,  Jerh McCarthy,  James Cotter,  Con Cronin,  Pat Cronin,  Jerh Shea, John McSweeney,  Tim T. Twomey,  Dan Sullivan,  James Walsh,  Jack Callaghan,  James D. Cronin,  Cors. Murphy,  John J. Cronin,  Patrick Murray,  Denis Cronin,  Jack Moynihan,  Daniel O'Leary,  Danny Shea,  Patrick Twomey,  Dan Corcoran and Ian Mc Kenzie Kennedy (Scotty).  Some names may be omitted in error.  As the attack was about to commence it was discovered that Sergeant Maunsell's wife and family were visiting him in the Barracks.  The attack was called off.

Volunteers now collected contributions for the National loan.  168 households subscribed and a total of £262 and 10 shillings was collected.  By July 1920 £379,000 had been subscribed nation-wide. 
To add to the heavy responsibilities of the Company, many wanted men frequented the area.  Prominent officers included Tomás Mc Curtain,  Terence Mc Sweeney,  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 McNeilus after his dramatic rescue from Cork Jail.  Members canvassed for Sinn Fein in the local Government elections January 1920. 

Tomás McCurtain and Terence McSweeney were elected to Cork Corporation.  On January 30th Tomás 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 McSweeney was elected Lord Mayor and also O.C. of the 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 Shorten's Bar.  Local volunteers stood by to join in once the attack began.  The R.I.C. under Sergeant Applebey had been reinforced 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 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 and 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 further 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.