The Dundalk Examiner and Louth Advertiser (September 1928)
BURNING OF BLACKROCK R.I.C. BARRACKS
AN I.R.A. EXPLOIT IN
(As told by Joseph
Mary Cotter, O.C, Blackrock I.R.A.)
[It must be
clearly understood by readers of this memoir that I am not writing an
account of the growth of Sinn Fein and Republicanism in Haggardstown.
Neither am I placing on record the strength, equipment, or efficiency of the
I.R.A., in Blackrock from September, 1920, onwards. I am dealing solely with
the capture and burning of the Blackrock Police Barracks on the 4th
August, 1920. - J.M.C.]
On the night of
August 4th, 1920, while I was attending a branch meeting of the
Haggardstown Sinn Fein Club, two men interviewed me and produced an I.R.A.
map of County Louth showing the areas in which were established groups of
I.R.A. men. Haggardstown, they pointed out, was blank on the map, and I was
asked to organise a group - even a small one - to keep the flag of
Independence flying in our home area. I agreed to try it. We arranged to
have elementary drill on the following night, and about fifteen young men
enlisted. All these young men turned up at the appointed place and we were
put through elementary drill by the organiser - Fall in! Attention!
Stand-at-ease! Form fours! Attention! Dismiss!
On the following
night we were put through our drill by the same organiser and just before
the command "Dismiss!" I was authorised to take charge. with the title of
O.C., Blackrock I.R.A. On the command "Dismiss!" one of my men asked me when
were we going to be supplied with rifles. I enquired from the Organiser, who
said, "You will be equipped later on, but for the present you must raid for
arms and war material." Turning towards the company I said: "Gentlemen, we
will be supplied with equipment later on, for the present, should we want
anything in the way of rifles, revolvers, daggers, aeroplanes or tanks, all
we have to do is take them from those who have them. No collections
necessary. Turn up same time and same place tomorrow evening for drill.
Deserters will be shot. Dismiss!"
The next night as
the organiser was unable to attend, I took charge and all thoroughly enjoyed
the drill. On giving the "Dismiss!" two of the patriots headed across the
fields towards home. The main body, however, bore down on the village, where
we were interrupted by an I.R.A. boy scout, who notified us that the police
were suspected of evacuating, or being about to evacuate, the Blackrock
Barracks, and that rumour said the military were coming to take possession.
We looked at one another and said, "This thing shall not be. We will burn
the barracks to-night." Hip, hip, hurrah! Up the rebels!
We arranged to
meet at 11.30 p.m. at a corner of a field beside an old tree stump used as
part of a wire fence, all men to keep in shadow of the bushes and maintain
silence. It was not necessary for us to study out coming battleground. We
knew that the barrack was a handsome two-storied brick structure, situate in
a. pretty garden near the road, with a lovely tea rose bloom climbing up the
We passed the
time in the Sinn Fein Hall, Sandy Lane, participating in the dancing and
keeping the fun going until almost 11 o'clock. Then we told the couples that
English soldiers were patrolling the roads, and to quickly and quietly
disperse. This was done. The I.R.A. men who had bicycles lighted their
lamps, called out "Good night all," and, going in different directions,
concealed their machines.
On coming towards
the trysting place I could not see any of the boys, so I knew they were
keeping under cover, but I could see the tree stump clearly. On coming
closer I saw that one of the warriors was sitting on the stump. I said "Keep
in cover. He still sat on the tree stump. I then asked, "Are all here?" and
was told that Michael Conlon and Patrick Murphy were getting paraffin oil
for the job. While waiting I said we could gather a few sticks to help the
blaze. The 'Rock fellows tittered at this. You see, we had not as yet the
iron discipline so marked in the Prussian Army. I intended to get my own
back, so I commanded with a sibilant hiss, "Fall in!" This manoeuvre was not
successful, to judge from the ejaculations, such as "D_____ your self."
"There are bars and bomb netting on the windows, and most likely the door
will be shut."
enter the village and return bringing a crowbar and a sledge hammer." Very
quickly I was presented with a small, light poker about a foot in length,
and a mallet with a six-inch handle. Forward! March! Out through the hedge
on Wallace's Road we arrived without any casualties, and at the corner
halted and held another military conference. "If we had only arms," said
someone. Michael White said that he had a wooden toy revolver, and who would
know the difference at night? This statement caused brainwaves everywhere.
The men sprung at the trees, tore down branches, stripped off the leaves
and, thus armed with modern rifles, we marched determinedly to the attack.
Nearing our prey,
in silence I said an Act of Contrition, halted and proceeded to post the
men. Two men were posted to guard us against a surprise attack from the
enemies coming by Wallace's Road, or Cockle Hill. Three men I ordered to
push their "rifles" through the laurels over the road wall of the houses
which line the side of the road near to and on opposite side to the
barracks. I told each man to cover a door and an upper window with his
"rifle," and to cry "Halt! Go back or Iíll fire."
Two of these men
had their rifles pointed towards the houses, wit their heads sideways
looking at me, I stepped back to the centre of the road to look for the
third man. Two men twisted their heads to see what I was doing. I saw the
third man crouching low under the wall, his gun pointed towards the
constellation of Orion. I whispered, "Is that you?" He promptly yelled,
"Halt! Go back or Iíll fire!" I said gently, "Now then, donít use any
unnecessary violence." The other two men were still looking at me.
these desperados in position, I wended my way towards my other comrades in
crime and was addressed by Michael White thus: "Are the arrangements yet
are almost complete. The barrack is surrounded on three sides. They canít
escape. It will be necessary to cover the Dundalk Road. Let you patrol from
here to Wallís tea rooms. Protect our flank from the rear. Hold up and
disarm all military and police that come this way, and, lastly, remove women
and children to safety. Go, I have spoken." White stood to attention,
saluted, did a right-about turn, stamped his left foot and marched to his
A BLAZING SUCCESS
strategic points well under control, I approached with extreme caution
towards the gable end of the barrack, tapped the window and asked: "Is there
anybody in?" The reply being in the negative, I called up Conlon to bring up
the paraffin, and, taking the poker, started to prise back the bars. I
almost shouted with glee, something gave way, but horror, it was the poker.
In dismay I asked, "What can we do? " Murphy, being small, said he would
squeeze through over the bar tops. So, with the broken poker, I smashed the
window, pushed back the bolt, the window falling with a splintering noise of
glass. With the mallet I attacked the bomb netting, and it ripped like a
cloth. Murphy was already over the top, Conlon handing in the paraffin. I
called, "See can you open the door." '''No, it is padlocked and chained."
Conlon was also in. I squeezed through like the others and we went up the
stairs, fire in our eyes and matches in our pockets. "Open all doors to see
there is no sleeping guard." Conlon was already slashing the paraffin into a
dark recess. What's there? A cell. Holy horrors, a cement floor. I
screeched, "Halt Murphy, how many drops of paraffin are left?" He counted
sixteen, "It must do," I said.
outside are becoming impatient and calling, "Come out, yous are long enough
in." All is over, the staircase is roaring in fames. The atmosphere is
filled with smoke and bursting sparks. I ordered Conlon and Murphy to leave.
Getting out was even more difficult than getting in. My overcoat caught in
the bars. "Iím stuck," I cried, "I canít get out." The boys soon had me on
the road again.
We waited until
we knew the barrack was doomed, knocked up the neighbours, and parted for
home, supper and happy dreams.
1922 The Bombing of
Dundalk Democrat, July 29th 1922
JAIL BOMBED AND PRISONERS RELEASED
Many Chased and Recaptured: National Troops Ambushed.
Dundalk jail was damaged by a gelignite bomb exploded (sic.) on Thursday
morning, and practically every political prisoner dashed through the breach
The bomb was placed against the side wall and its explosion created much
havoc, smashing every window within a wide radius.
Prominent Republicans were among those escaping. All day on Thursday and
yesterday the escaped men were being pursued. It is announced that 50 have
Every road was blocked at the time of the jail attack and National troops
were ambushed at Castletown Cross and Barrack Street Bridge. Two Free State
soldiers were under treatment for bullet wounds received in these attacks.
One of these died yesterday morning.
One hundred and five prisoners were liberated from the county jail at
Dundalk at a quarter past seven on Thursday morning under circumstances
which made the incident the most thrilling and dramatic of all the strange
occurrences which have taken place in Dundalk even within recent times.
Briefly the facts were that a hole was breached in the jail wall by a bomb,
the prisoners filed out through the aperture and on foot made for the
surrounding country. In a chase afterwards some of them were recaptured.
The sensational news came just when talk of the sensational bank raid had
died down. People had expended all their pet theories, given all their vivid
descriptions of Saturdays happenings, when the awful crash which shook the
jail walls and the houses about made them sit up and take notice. The escape
from the jail was certainly one which made a big noise. Nothing like the
explosion has been heard here before - it dented the stout masonry and made
a big gap in the wall, smashed the glass in the windows of the Crescent
dwelling houses to smithereens, did the same with the windows of the County
Infirmary, and some of those in St. Malachy's Priory, cast huge boulders
into the air as if they were pebbles from a shingly beach, reduced the door
of the tuberculosis hospital to matchwood and injured a warder on the knee.
It happened at just a quarter past seven. A big contingent of men were
noticed to concentrate in the vicinity of the jail. That is not an unusual
sight on a road over which hundreds of railwaymen pass every day. But these
were not railwaymen. Somebody placed a bomb on the ground along the jail
wall just midway between the jail gate on the Ardee Road and the end of the
prison. An electric wire was taken from a pole and connected to the bomb,
which had been placed in position by planks. Then the bomb went off with an
awful noise. Right through the thick wall went the contents of the bomb,
casting the stones and cement on one side, and leaving a big hole in the
People who were not engaged in the operations wandered what had happened.
People living in the Crescent felt their houses shake as if an earthquake
had suddenly come to life in Vincent Avenue. Immediately glass began to
crash and window frames to fly, and the very foundations of their houses
seemed to shiver. Over in the hospital the patients had a terrifying
experience. Windows, front and back, went bang, and the noise was
deafening. Fortunately no person was injured by the flying fragments, but
the experience was dreadful, the more particular for the poor patients in
The prisoners must have been at large from their cells at the time, because
almost immediately the explosion had died away they came trooping out
through the hole which had been thoughtfully provided for their escape. It
is stated that before the bursting of the bomb, hand grenades were thrown
into the prison yard. Darting through the breach, the prisoners ran through
the streets nearby. In all 105 had escaped.
For a fortnight past Dundalk jail had been reserved for political prisoners.
The ordinary civilian offenders against law and order had been removed from
Dundalk some time ago and their places filled by these parties, who had been
despatched, most of them, by special train, from Dublin. The place had been
guarded by National troops - there was, in fact, a Thompson gun, in the
front main window - and the tri-colour had been floating over the prison. It
was expected that the place would be in charge of a military governor, but
he had not arrived up to Thursday morning, and the old staff was on duty.
During Thursday it was rumoured that among those escaping were several very
prominent Republican leaders. No confirmation could be obtained of this, but
it was learned on good authority that the majority of the prisoners were
natives of the County Meath.
Following the extraordinary occurrence there was great military activity in
the town. Troops came along on motors, and immediately a guard was placed
along the breach. People passing were held up and searched. Then a chase
through the country after the escaped prisoners ensued, and in this
considerable energy was displayed. Shots were heard at several points round
the town, but whether this had anything to do with the chase is not
There were some peculiar rumours in the town concerning the affair. One was
that the bulk of the men who had been responsible for the exploding of the
bomb arrived at the place on a tender and wearing uniform. Another was that
there had been a trial explosion of a gelignite bomb the previous day.
Certain it is that at about 8 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon a bomb was
exploded very close to Dundalk.
Plans had been well laid for the coup, which was proved to be the biggest
made by the Irregulers in Dundalk There was continual firing practically
through the night. On Thursday morning too, an attempt was made to ambush
troops coming from the Military Barracks. This attempt was made at the
Barrack Street bridge, from which shots were discharged at National troops
passing up town in a motor car. Many civilians were concerned in this
attempt. It was also attempted to prevent the troops coming through Quay
street. An engine was taken from the running shed and taken down the line a
considerable distance, the object being to block the Barrack street gates
and so prevent troops coming in that way. The plan did not succeed. In a
roundup of the district the military arrested nine youths and men in the
timber yard of the GNR in St Alphonsus Road. Some of these were stated to be
mere boys who are alleged to have prominent membership of the Fianna.
At Castletown Cross also an attempted ambush of National troops took place.
In this area there was a sustained firing from both sides of the road. There
were casualties here. Those among the attackers are not known. To the Louth
Infirmary subsequently two National soldiers were taken in for treatment.
One was Colonel Commandant Mason, who was injured by a bullet wound in the
foot, and whose condition is not serious. The other is Volunteer McCaffrey,
a young man who was severely wounded in the thigh, and who expired on Friday
morning at 3 o'clock.
During the shooting at Barrack street a woman fainted.
The explosion of the bomb, which was probably filled with gelignite, was
heard as far away as Ravensdale on the one side and Castlebellingham on the
Photographers anxious to get a "snap" of the hole made in the jail wall were
refused permission to do so by the soldiers on guard.
It was learned yesterday that amongst those who had escaped from the
barracks and had not been re-arrested was Mr. Ridgway, an organiser for the
Transport Union, who had been arrested last Monday week. In connection with
the detention of Mr. Ridgway a one-day county strike was threatened for
Wednesday last, this decision having been reached at a delegate labour
meeting held in Kilsaran on Sunday last. The strike was to have taken place
on Wednesday, if by Tuesday mid-day word was not received that the organiser
was not released or brought to trial. The strike was postponed on the papers
in connection with the case having been sent to military headquarters in
Dublin, with a promise of an immediate investigation of the matter.
Many Belfast refugees cleared out of Dundalk early this week.
Inquiries went to show that up to last night about 50 prisoners had been
retaken. Some of appear to have got a considerable distance from the jail,
for arrests are reported from Drogheda, and other districts of South Louth.
The chase continues and probably will for some days to come.
In all twenty arrests have been made within the past two days of people who
were alleged to be concerned in the jail release or in the ambushes on the
National troops. The most notable is John M'Coy, Mullabawn, who was a
brigadier in the barracks here before the National troops took command. Last
night some of the prisoners were taken to the jail. They include H.
Johnston, a rate collector for the County Council; - Duffy, Parnell Park; -
Cunningham, John street.
Dundalk Democrat, July 29th 1922 - About Town
As we know nothing about explosives, we don't know whether it was necessary
to make so confoundly loud a noise in blowing a hole in the jail wall big
enough for one prisoner at a time to make his escape through. We have seen
far more damage done in a quarry with a blasting-charge that didn't frighten
the young horses in the next field. This explosion shook the town. It blew
in every pane of glass in the Crescent. It did far more damage to the County
Infirmary than to the jail. It frightened hundreds of timid women and
children to the verge of hysterics. There are other aspects of the affair
that are much discussed in town: but we will not refer to these now. Let us
go on to tell of one of the "ambushes", so much commended to young lads as
an easy way of downing "the enemy". This one took place close to the town.
There was a woman living in the house close by who was about to give birth
to a baby. The nurse was in the house when the ambushers took up their
posts. She told them of the circumstances and begged them to go elsewhere
and not risk two innocent lives. They refused. "Acting on orders", we
suppose: the usual thing! The baby was born amidst the hellish rattle of
gunfire. It lived long enough to be baptised: no longer. The poor mother
lies at death's door. That is a true tale. The incident occurred close to
Dundalk on Thursday morning. And that is what this "war", about which so
much blatherskite is talked and written by fools, means to the civilian
population who are the greatest - almost the only - sufferers by it.
Dundalk Democrat, August 12th 1922
For more than an hour on Sunday morning sleep was impossible in Dundalk
owing to a resumption of the night firing which had characterised operations
in the town a week previously. Just on the stroke of midnight a few rifle
shots were discharged, and then came replying shots and the bringing into
action of a machine gun from an armoured car which turned out and patrolled
the town. This shooting lasted for an hour. It appears that on Saturday
night, an attack was made on the Guard at the Anne street barracks, the
shots being directed from the Demesne, which runs at the rere of the barrack
premises. The firing was quickly replied to, and later the machine gun
opened fire in the direction from which the attack was made. During the
night, a Free State soldier, John M'Cabe, a native of Newbliss, who had been
one of the guard at Anne street, was wounded in the thigh by a bullet. It is
stated that the wounding of Mr. M'Cabe was accidental. He was removed to the
County Infirmary where he was detained. He is progressing favourably. There
were persistent rumours that one of the Irregular attackers had been wounded
in the firing, but this could not be confirmed.
SEQUEL TO DUNDALK BANK RAIDS
It was learned in Dundalk yesterday that £600 had been returned, divided
equally among the four banks robbed a fortnight ago in Dundalk. No
information could be obtained as to the manner in which the return was made.
Dundalk Democrat, October
It is stated that the prisoners in Dundalk jail have, in
company with the prisoners in other jails, gone on hunger strike for
unconditional release. Confirmation was lent to this by the fact that on
Thursday night, three hundred people, most of them women and girls, marched
through some of the streets of the town, and outside the jail recited the
Rosary for the benefit of those inside. The demonstration caused but little
is not known if the other part of the decision of the Ard Fheis - to picket
places of amusement - will be carried out locally. For the past two days no
move in this direction was made in town.
Dundalk Democrat, October
PRISONERS ON HUNGER STRIKE
Demonstrations in Dundalk.
is wonderful how history repeats itself in this country. A few years ago we
had nightly demonstrations for the release of the prisoners then on hunger
strike in Dundalk jail, and as a protest against their imprisonment by the
then governing power - the English Government. We had protests by the
Councils, the recitation of the Rosary and the singing of hymns by many of
the people of the town, who used assemble outside the jail and try to cheer
those outside(sic.). At the biggest of these Austin Stack was a prisoner
here - was leader of the prisoners, in fact - and was one of those who came
to an agreement in Dundalk jail with the representatives of the British
Government as to the status and conditions of those imprisoned.
There has been a change in the Government, and the forces
of the Free State have taken command. But there are still prisoners on
hunger strike, and the old tactics, which must have annoyed the British
Government considerably, are now being employed against the forces of the
But this hunger strike is different from the others that
we have known. There are no complaints against the treatment of the
prisoners, or if there are, they are not deemed of sufficient importance to
mention. The Republicans say that there is now no war in this country; that
their leaders have declared against force, and that there is now no reason
for keeping thousands of men inside prison walls and the barbed wire of the
internment camps. So they have all gone on hunger strike for unconditional
release. It is the biggest strike ever known in the history of the country,
involving anything between 8,000 and 12,000 prisoners, including almost one
hundred women and girls.
In Dundalk jail at the moment there are something over
200 prisoners, and, while no official report is issued, it is learned that
these went on hunger strike at midnight on Saturday. They have made the same
resolution as those in the other jails - continue the strike or be released
There has been no word yet as to how the men on strike
are faring, though there are scores of rumours floating about as to the
illness of some of them. The great majority of the men imprisoned in Dundalk
are natives of the southern end of the County Louth, of Monaghan and Cavan.
About half a dozen are belonging to Dundalk. Most of the other Dundalk men
who have been arrested are on the Curragh and in the Dublin jails.
A start was made with the demonstration last Thursday
night, when a goodly crowd, principally women and girls, assembled outside
the jail and recited the Rosary and sang hymns. The same was gone through on
Friday night. There was excitement that night, because the soldiers made
four arrests of men who were near the jail. They were names Nugent, Lennon,
Quigly and Flood. All four were taken in custody and were so kept until
Monday morning. No charge appears to have been made against the men.
There was nothing of note in the demonstrations until
Thursday night, when a novel way of dispersing the crowd was taken. It
appears that a hose was turned on the people assembled, and these, after
many of them had been drenched, cleared off as quickly as they could. In the
dispersing some girls received slight injuries. A rumour was current that
one girl had been injured in the side by a bayonet stab.
There was no demonstration outside the jail on Wednesday
night, but it was stated that the Rosary had been offered up in all churches
of the town for the political prisoners in Dundalk jail.
Inquiries made yesterday elicit that of the 200 prisoners
who have been on hunger strike in Dundalk jail since midnight on Saturday
last, twelve are in hospital for the past two days and that three of them
are reported seriously ill. One of the latter is a native of Drogheda, and
the others are not from Louth County.
Dundalk Democrat, November
Since the majority of prisoners here went off hunger
striking there has been little of note to record in connection with the
recent campaign of demonstrations which kept Dundalk in a state of
excitement for a little while. It is now learned that all the prisoners who
were in Dundalk jail, with the exception of a dozen, have been removed.
Some few Dundalk prisoners who had been in Southern jails
were released during the week. Friends of others believe they will be at
liberty almost immediately.
Dundalk Democrat, December
DUNDALK PRISONERS HOME
Practically all the Dundalk men who have been in jails or
internment camps for months past were released during the week. The biggest
batches arrived here on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Most of the men
look well, their terms of imprisonment showing little signs. Naturally they
are all delighted to be at home for Christmas.
DUNDALK DEMOCRAT, October 18, 1924
THE EXECUTED MEN
In yesterday's papers it was announced that the Government had decided to
hand over the bodies of the men executed during the civil strife in 1922-23.
The intimation to the relatives stated that if they did not notify their
intention of claiming the remains before Monday next, the military
authorities would have them buried in sanctified ground.
Almost eighty executions took place altogether, and six of these were in
Dundalk. At the County Jail on the morning of January , 13th 1922 three
young men, Thos. McKeown, Piedmont, Bellurgan ; John McNulty, Carromannon,
Balleeks, Co. Armagh, and Thomas Murray, Kilcarn, Navan, were shot on a
charge of being in possession of firearms. Little over a week later (Jan.
22nd), three more also paid the supreme penalty at the Military Barracks.
They were Jas. Melia, Bridge Street, Dundalk; Thomas Lennon, Dowdallshill
and Joseph Ferguson, Gyles' Quay. The two former had been captured with arms
at Dowdallshill on 7th January, and Ferguson was found in possession of a
revolver at Lordship Hall on the same date.
It is understood that application has been made for the bodies of all six.
It was reported yesterday that the bodies in the Military Barracks had been
exhumed, but on enquiry from the military last evening it was learned that
so far no move had been made locally in the matter, and it was intimated
that all applications would have to go to General Headquarters in Dublin.
DUNDALK DEMOCRAT, Saturday, November 1, 1924
EXTRAORDINARY GRAVEYARD SCENES IN DUNDALK
Military and Civilians "Blaze Away" Over Dead Bodies.
Hundreds of Shots Fired in Cemetery
The Burial of the Executed Louthmen
St. Patrick's Cemetery, Dowdallshill, was on Thursday afternoon the scene of
the most extraordinary occurrence to which Dundalk was ever treated, and
when we consider the many strange happenings which have taken place in this
town during the last five years, that is saying much.
The occasion for this latest and greatest sensation was the re-internment of
six young men who had been executed here in January 1922.
When the coffins had been laid in the graves six young men proceeded to fire
three volleys from revolvers. Military, who were on duty inside and outside
the cemetery, rushed in with fixed bayonets towards the men.
Hundreds of shots were exchanged between the soldiers and the armed
Many hundreds of people who were in the cemetery at the time became panic
stricken at the extraordinary happening. Women and children shrieked and all
made a mad rush for shelter. Lucky ones got behind tombstones, while others,
heedless of the rain, stretched themselves on the wet grass. Wreaths were
broken and graves trampled on in a scramble to get out of the way of the
Many people were injured in the panic. One young man was brought to hospital
seriously wounded by a bullet wound in his abdomen.
Last Thursday was the occasion of an remarkable public funeral in Dundalk,
when the bodies of six young men who were executed here were laid to rest in
the Republican Plot in St. Patrick's cemetery. Though the afternoon was wet
and unpleasant, there was a remarkable assemblage of people to pay a last
tribute to the young lads whose executions caused such widespread sorrow in
the town and the surrounding districts. perhaps the most poignant feature of
the executions at the time was that three of the lads were barely out of
their teens. Besides, all of them had been extremely popular and their
deaths under such circumstances, saddened everybody no matter what their
political views were.
Recently the Government came to the decision to hand over the remains to the
relatives of the deceased, and on Tuesday the formal handing over of the six
executed here took place. At the Military Barracks three bodies were handed
over - these being the remains of the men executed here on Saturday, January
13th. 1923. An hour later the remains of the other three men were taken from
the jail. The men executed were:
John McNulty, Carrowmanon.
Thomas McKeown, Piedmont.
Thomas Murray, Navan.
James Melia, Bridge Street.
Thomas Lennon, Dowdallshill.
Joseph Ferguson, Gyles' Quay.
The last three had been shot in Dundalk barracks on Jan. 22, 1923. Melia and
Lennon were very young lads, both of them very pleasant and popular with
their companions. the other - Jim Ferguson - was a very popular Cooley
The remains of Murray were taken on Thursday to Navan. On Wednesday the body
of Sylvester Heany, Dillonstown was conveyed to Dundalk, and the young man
was amongst the number accorded a public funeral on Thursday.
A fine tribute was paid to the memory of the men in town this week. Hardly
ever has there been such a throng as that which assembled in St. Patrick's
Church on Thursday to meet the remains and to escort them to St. Patrick's
cemetery. The bodies had been placed in the Labourers' Hall on Tuesday
afternoon and from then until Thursday constant streams of people had
visited there to pray for the souls of the lads. On Thursday morning Mass
was offered up in St. Patrick's and there was a very large congregation.
In the afternoon the procession took half an hour to pass a given point. In
addition to the thousands who took part in the procession - and one noticed
people from all parts of Ireland marching behind the remains - thousands
more were on the footpaths.
The Emmet Band followed a small company of volunteers in marching order.
Then came a Drogheda Pipers' Band, the pipers being in uniform. On a float
there reposed the bodies of three of the men. The coffins were adorned with
a mourning tri-colour and many floral tributes were laid on the flag.
Relatives marched next . Then came another float bearing the other three
deceased. Their coffins were similarly draped and wreaths in profusion were
placed on the coffins. Another conveyance followed and it was filled with
Six motor cars carried the female relatives of the executed men, and after
them came long lines of marching men. Most of these represented various
football clubs in the town, the marchers sporting rosettes of their club
colours. A big contingent of Quay workers also marched and a company of
members of the Cumann na mBan also took part in the procession.
Thousands of people lined the side-walks of the town, and as the remains
passed through Dundalk the bells of the Chapels tolled. There were many
priests walking in the procession.
AT THE GRAVEYARD THE EXTRAORDINARY HAPPENING
Scenes that will never be forgotten by those who were present took place in
the cemetery just as the graves of the six young men were about to be closed
The procession reached the cemetery at 3.30 and before it came to
Dowdallshill a large number of young men fell out from the ranks and marched
in military formation to the cemetery gate, where, after going through a few
evolutions, formed cordons across the road so as to prevent the people
rushing into the cemetery . A short distance up the Newry Road two Crossley
tenders were pulled up, and a number of armed soldiers paced up and down
beside them. They did not, however, interfere with those who were drilling.
The six coffins were then carried from the lorries to the Republican Plot,
which is situate in the centre of the cemetery. The coffin containing the
remains of Joseph Ferguson came first, the n the coffins of James Melia,
Thomas Lennon, Syl. Heany, John Mc Nulty and Thomas McKeown. As they were
being borne to the graves the Emmet Band played in the cemetery. Two large
graves had been opened and in each were placed three coffins.
Despite the cordon of young men at the gate a large crowd burst into the
cemetery before the remains were taken in, but were prevented from getting
near the graves, as there was another cord on formed round the entire
Republican Plot. Only relatives and the clergy, of whom there were several,
were at first allowed into this enclosure. When the coffins were laid in the
grave, there must have been a thousand people in the cemetery.
Rev. father Hurson, Adm. recited the prayers, assisted by the other clergy
present and they were just about to withdraw from the gravesides when
terrible scenes were enacted. A number of young men took up positions near
the graves, and producing revolvers fired three volleys. Just as the last
volley rang out a number of men in civilian attire, Free State soldiers,
whipped out revolvers and rushed towards the graves. A number of uniformed
and fully-equipped soldiers who had been in positions further out in the
cemetery and in adjoining fields, also rushed up, with fixed bayonets. Soon
the cemetery was the scene of indescribable confusion. The civilians who
fired the first volleys appeared to have continued the firing as the
military advanced and the soldiers replied with rifles and revolvers from
different parts of the cemetery, and shots were also fired in the direction
of the road. But this was only the beginning of a terrible five minutes.
When the first shots between the civilians and the military were fired, the
people fled terror stricken towards the road . They ran helter skelter,
tripping over railings, breaking wreaths and tripping one another down in an
endeavour to get from the danger zone. A big part of the crowd was composed
of women and children and several of the former fainted and all shrieked
hysterically. Several men raised cries of "Lie down" and "Keep down", and
soon nearly everybody obeyed the command and stretched themselves on the wet
graves or crouched behind tombstones. A torrential downpour of rain was
falling and several had to be in muddy pools on the pathways. After a few
minutes the firing grew more intense. The sharp crack of the revolver, and
the louder report of the Lee Enfield was deafening, and for five minutes
that seemed like so many hours, and while women and children cried and
prayed, the rifles and revolvers blazed away. Then as suddenly as it
commenced it ceased. The frightened people breathed a sigh of relief and
rising from their places of safety among the tombstones, rushed frantically
for the gate, and the soldiers followed one section with fixed bayonets
urging them on. When the firing had stopped nearly everybody had asked "
How many are shot?" thinking that many of the bullets had found billets .
The casualties, however, were, fortunately, not heavy, but one young man
was badly shot. It appears that he was running in the direction of the
Protestant cemetery as the firing was at its height, when he was noticed to
stagger and fall. father Johnston, P.P. Dromiskin and other clergy and
civilians rushed to his aid, and it was found that he had been caught by a
bullet which entered his abdomen. He appeared to be suffering great pain,
and after a short time was removed by motor to the Louth Infirmary. It was
stated that his condition was very serious. The victim is a young man named
Joseph Hughes from Scotland, who was spending a holiday with some friends
who reside at Seatown. Another young girl named Roddy from Barrack Street,
was also injured, but not from bullets. While no other serious casualties
could be traced, several other people, especially women and children, must
have received minor injuries from falling against headstones and railings in
the wild stampede.
Among those in the cemetery at the time of the shooting were some Civic
Guards, who were also obliged to seek shelter from flying bullets. In a few
minutes after the cessation of the shooting the graveyard was practically
cleared. The rush to the gates was almost as "panicky" as the stampede when
the shooting began. Many who were unable to get through flung themselves
over the walls and railings and fled as quickly as they could from
The military, after the greater majority of the people had left, rounded up
a number of young men and women and searched them. It was stated that two
young men were found in possession of revolvers. Several young men were
taken into custody and removed in Crossleys to the military barracks.
Amongst them were Ivor Monaghan, Tom Rogers, John Toal, and others names
Clifford, Bailie, Goodfellow etc. All were released on Thursday night except
Monaghan and Goodfellow.
The dreadful occurrence was the sole topic of discussion in the town during
the evening, and the action of the military in visiting the cemetery was
generally condemned. many people had marvellous escapes from being shot. A
bullet smashed a wreath near where a young man was lying, and several
declared that they could hear the bullets whizzing above them where they
lay. It is, however, apparent that the greater number of shots were fired
into the air, for had this not been so, the casuality (sic) list would
undoubtedly be heavy owing to the people being crowded so closely together.
There was considerable military activity in Dundalk in the afternoon, and
Crossley tenders on the streets were much in evidence.
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25 January 2010