Category Archives: Cork History

Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project 2021 concludes with online Awards Ceremony


The conclusion of this school season’s Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project was recently marked by an online awards ceremony and presentation of winning projects. A total of 25 schools in Cork City took part in the 2020-21 edition, which ranged from schools in Ballinlough, Ballintemple, Blackrock to Blarney and Glanmire, and from Ballyphehane to the Shandon area. Circa 1,000 students participated in the process this year with approx 200 project books submitted on all aspects of Cork’s local history & heritage. 

The Discover Cork Schools’ Heritage Project is in its 18th year and is a youth platform for students to do research and write it up in a project book whilst offering their opinions on important decisions being made on their heritage in their locality and how they affect the lives of people locally.  The aim of the project is to allow students to explore, investigate and debate their local heritage in a constructive, active and fun way.

    Co-ordinator and founder of the Project, Cllr Kieran McCarthy noted that: “The Project this year was even more apt this year as we all find ourselves within our localities much more. In particular, this year’s entries focussed on famous buildings of Cork City, historic walkways, public parks and many oral history projects. Again, this year students made fab models and short films on their topics. One could also see the family and friend involvement in projects. Technically with this project for every one student, there are another four people who have been consulted and who are consulted to help with projects. One could argue that over 4,000 people have some input into project books every year”.

“The Schools’ Heritage Project remains focussed about developing new skill sets within young people in thinking about, understanding, appreciating, and making relevant in today’s society the role of our heritage  our landmarks, our stories, our landscapes in our modern world. Ultimately the project focuses on motivating and inspiring young people through them working on a heritage project for several weeks and seeks to build a sense of place and identity amongst younger people”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.

The Project is funded by Cork City Council with further sponsorship offered by the Old Cork Waterworks Experience and Cllr Kieran McCarthy.

 Full results are online on Cllr McCarthy’s local history website, www.corkheritage.ie. There is also a link there to the YouTube award ceremony. On the YouTube video Kieran, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, and Niamh Twomey, City Council Heritage Officer speak about the winning projects for this school season. 

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 25 February 2021

1088a. View from Woodford Bourne street corner, Daunt’s Square, St Patrick’s Street, c.1910, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.
1088a. View from Woodford Bourne street corner, Daunt’s Square, St Patrick’s Street, c.1910, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 25 February 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Revenge in the City

By the last week of February 1921 revenge was the talk of Cork IRA Brigade No. 1 for their fallen comrades of the Dripsey Ambush and the Battle of Clonmult.  On Saturday evening, 26 February, a comrade of Michael O’Donoghue’s whispered to him, “Go to Confession to-night, Mick, and be ready for Monday near St. Augustine’s [Church]”.

In his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS 1741), Michael recalls that the members of A Company, got the mobilisation order on that Monday afternoon, 28 February 1921. By 6.30pm, members had reported at the college tower, at UCC’s quadrangle and had been issued with small firearms and ammunition from the arms dump there. Their instructions were clear – to shoot down at sight, every enemy soldier and policeman in uniform on the streets of Cork City that evening.

Michael outlines that the particular area of operations allocated to ‘A’ Company, was St Patrick’s Street and the adjoining streets between South Mall and the Coal Quay. This was the most dangerous section of the City as it was ringed by a chain of police barracks barely 150 yards apart between the two river channels. On Cornmarket Street was the Bridewell police station and its detention cells, all of which were strongly garrisoned. On Tuckey Street corner, there was another large RIC barracks. These two barracks effectively dominated the approaches to St Patrick’s Street from the west. At its other extremity was the bottleneck of St Patrick’s Bridge. Michael recalls of the event:

“This then was the sector where our University Republican soldiers were to challenge the military might of the Crown Forces and exact bloody revenge for the execution by firing squad of the six Republican prisoners that same morning. Every man of ‘A’ Company who had a gun was in action that night. We operated in small groups of two or three. Zero hour was 7pm by Shandon Church clock. By 6.45pm, we had made our way unobtrusively to Patrick Street and begun to scout along quietly marking down our quarry”.

 Michael’s companion was Dan Barton, a fellow engineering student. They strolled casually up the south side of St Patrick’s Street. No policemen in uniform were anywhere to be seen in the whole section. Civilians, men and women, hurried by, each focused on some vital personal business.

At 6.53pm, Dan and Michael reached St Patrick’s Bridge, meeting Mick Crowley, Connie Lucey and “Nudge” Callanan, three of our lads who had come in from West Cork, where they were with Tom Barry’s Column, to share in the night’s desperate work.

            It was 6.57pm and almost dark when they saw a party of three khaki warriors with bandoliers ahead near Prince’s Street corner. With two minutes to go at least, they ran rapidly down to Oliver Plunkett Street and turned up Prince’s Street intending to get to the soldiers as they emerged on to St Patrick’s Street again. Seven o’clock struck as they swung into Prince’s Street. Michael describes the engagement.

“Loud and clear and ominous the strokes rang out. A few seconds tense silence and then desultory shots to the north. Then shooting seems to break out all over. Three soldiers came running from Patrick St. straight towards us, all scared by the nearby shooting. Our revolvers are drawn and I have the big Colt cocked. Fire! Within eight yards of us, two of the soldiers crash to the ground, the survivor stops, shrieks in panic, turns and flees back”.

Michael raced after him as the survivor ran in through an open shop door:

“I am almost at his heels. It is a fancy shop with a variety of musical goods. The soldier huddles, crying in a corner against the counter. Another shot and he slumps down. I turn on my heels quickly towards the door. I don’t even search the khaki body or glance at it. Then as I reach the door I hear a loud shriek of terror behind me. I look back and see the face of a terrified woman behind the counter. I do not know if she has witnessed the ghastly business, but I am now scared”.

Outside near the corner Dan awaits Michael. The two slain policemen lay motionless on the street. Shooting continued and seems to come from the streets all round. It was now quite dark and the streets are completely deserted. Both chose to escape outside of the ring of police barracks. Curfew time was approaching and it was only minutes until the streets were going to be filled with armoured cars and lorries and machine-guns.

As they emerged from St Patrick’s Street to cross to Castle Street a volley of revolver shots rang out and crash went a plate-glass shop window behind them. They were seen and fired at.  Two dark figures, Black and Tans evidently from Tuckey Street were firing at them from Singer’s Corner about fifty yards away. Crouching low by the van of Woodford Bourne’s. Michael fired three rounds at the two Tans to disconcert them.

Then together Michael and Dan rushed across the street to Castle Street corner. They made it safely and continued down Castle Street. Michael had but one round left in the Colt gun now.

Shooting could still be heard at intervals, now more heavily in the Sunday’s Well and Blarney Street direction. It was almost on curfew hour as they reached the Dyke Parade.  Dan agreed to smuggle Michael into the Honan Hostel where he stayed and to shelter him there for the night. As they reached O’Donovan’s Bridge opposite UCC after crossing over the Western Road. Michael ejected the five spent shells from the Colt end dropped them in the River Lee.

Caption:

1088a. View from Woodford Bourne street corner, Daunt’s Square, St Patrick’s Street, c.1910, from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

1088b. UCC quadrangle tower, A Company’s arms dump, 1920-21 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1088b. UCC quadrangle tower, A Company's arms dump, 1920-21 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1088b. UCC quadrangle tower, A Company’s arms dump, 1920-21 (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Ward Watch – Greenway construction to begin on 22 February on Marina to Mahon Point section of the Old Railway Line:

Press Release:

“Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy has welcomed the beginning of the phase 1 of the Passage Railway Greenway Improvement Scheme on next Monday 22 February. Great credit is due to officials in City Hall of the Infrastructure section; there is great momentum at the moment between drafting plans, gaining the input of the public, amending plans where needs be, and presenting them to the National Transport Authority for funding. There is a deep affection for the old railway line walk and in these COVID times is used regularly by locals”.

“The widening of the footpath is to be welcomed and one which locals have called for. I am personally excited that the old Blackrock Station platform is to get conservation works. It is in a poor state and it would be a shame to lose the platform completely due to neglect. I am also excited by the planting of 60 semi mature trees and over 2,000 saplings along the phase 1 from the Mahon Point to The Marina. It is also welcome that the greenway will be kept open to the greatest possible extent throughout the works”, concluded Cllr McCarthy.

READ MORE: Extensive improvements in the pipeline for Passage Greenway (echolive.ie)

The History & Rehabilitation of Daly’s (Shakey) Bridge, Cork City, 19 February 2021

Press Release by Engineer’s Ireland, Cork:

This presentation outlines the history and recent refurbishment of the iconic ‘Shakey’ Bridge which was originally built under the stewardship of the City Engineer, SW Farrington, who was also the first Chair of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland. Kieran McCarthy, an Independent Councillor in Cork City and a noted local historian with an avid interest in the architectural and industrial heritage of his native city outlines social and economic context of the original construction which opened in 1927 to replace an earlier ferry crossing at the same location. The bridge remains the only suspension bridge in Cork City and is the only surviving bridge of its type in Ireland.

Michael Minehane, Chartered Engineer and Principal Engineer at RPS details the recent rehabilitation of the bridge which re-opened in December 2020, including the special inspection and structural assessment, site investigations and material testing, rehabilitation works, the approach to conservation, structural dynamics and aspects of design and construction.

VIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j52poh2ZfSA&feature=youtu.be

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 18 February 2021

1087a. Former site of the Shamrock Hotel, 31 Grand Parade, Cork City, present day, blue building in the centre (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1087a. Former site of the Shamrock Hotel, 31 Grand Parade, Cork City, present day, blue building in the centre (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 18 February 2021

Journeys to a Truce: An Engineering Student Speaks

Cappoquin born Michael O’Donoghue was a final year student in early 1921, who was studying for his Batchelor of Engineering degree (mechanical and electrical) in UCC. He was Engineer Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Cork IRA Brigade No.1. In his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History (WS1741), he provides insight into his life going between student and IRA member.

At UCC, Michael details that his class was a small one, about eight or so, and only three or four were Volunteers. University College, Cork had at that time great teams competing in the Cork County Senior Championships in hurling and football. In the years 1919-20-21 UCC teams reached the Cork County finals more than once. During January and early February 1921 Michael describes he put in a little hurling practice at UCC’s Gaelic grounds in the Mardyke. Selection of players for the University’s hurling and football championships – the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups – were due for decision. He had not played much in Cork, but he had already competed in the Waterford championships in 1919 and 1920.

Turning up for hurling practice with Michael was Jerome Twohill, medical student, an ex-radio operator of the First World War and IRA member, and who also ‘digged’ in the Shamrock Hotel or lodgings at 31 Grand Parade. Mick Crowley, too, of Kilbrittain, afterwards second-in-command of Tom Barry’s flying column in West Cork, also turned up for hurling practices with John Joe Joyce of Midleton, a good friend of Michael.

Late in January 1921, Michael and volunteer Jack Daly met Raymond Kennedy, who was acting Officer in Command of the 2nd Battalion. They asked him to arrange to have them redeployed to the Brigade flying columns in the county. Raymond told them that the county’s active service unit columns were at full strength and that scores of City Volunteers were offering their services for flying column operations in rural areas.  He told them that we were far more valuable in Cork City where the two city IRA battalions were holding down strong crown forces.

According to Michael, Cork City’s IRA members aimed to keep crown forces occupied and preventing them from being thrown into the campaign against the Flying Columns in areas from West Cork to North Cork to East Cork. As well as that British forces in Cork City hardly knew a single IRA officer either by name or by description.

During January and early February 1921, Michael kept a Colt .45 with ammunition in his lodgings in the Shamrock Hotel at 31 Grand Parade. The Shamrock was located above Miss O’Brien’s Restaurant. Many a night the landlady Mary O’Brien took the gun from him and concealed it herself during the long night hours, handing it over to him in the morning. There were a number of IRA men in the building sharing its 6-8 bedrooms, including her own brother. 

However, the 1921 Martial Law Ordinance decreed that all heads at households had to list the names and occupations of all those residing in their house and that they should hang this list for military inspection on the inside of the front door. Absentees or fresh arrivals or new residents were to be especially noted. The penalty for evasion of this blacklisting decree was all the rigours of a British military court martial. Miss O’Brien had complied, as did every other householder.

One day when Michael was at the university, a British military officer with about ten armed soldiers visited 31, Grand Parade. The officer removed the list of names, questioned Miss O’Brien about the then whereabouts of all the residents – who were out and noted the names of the men who were in. He ordered Miss O’Brien to show him to the rooms of these in turn, leaving his armed soldiers below in the hallway and at the door. He queried each man of those in about his name, age, occupation, and reason for being in, and checked, with particulars on list. Satisfied, he returned the sheet to Miss O’Brien and withdrew with his troops.

That night Michael remembers he kept the gun loaded in his overcoat pocket hanging in the wardrobe of his room. He shared the room with Mick O’Riordan, an IRA man with B-Company, 2nd Battalion, who worked as a draper’s assistant over in the South Main Street.

The night passed without incident and next morning he brought the gun, loaded and all, with him to the Crawford Municipal Technical Institute where he was to do some practical work and study in the electrical laboratory.

Michael’s two IRA class-mates were Bill O’Connor and Ned Enright. During the morning laboratory work Michael did not feel at all at ease, carrying in his trouser pocket the big Colt .45. At lunch break, he decided on going ahead to the University College to hand up his gun to the quartermaster, Jerry Wall, of A Company, and then return to his digs. Enright, who was in digs down the Mardyke Walk, volunteered to accompany him as a scout and look-out. However, on route up College Road, both ran into a group of Black and Tans.

Both passed through a group of Black and Tans with nervousness speaking aloud being late for classes. They reached the College safely and gave the Quartermaster for safe keeping the gun for the company’s arms dump.

Captions:

1087a. Former site of the Shamrock Hotel, 31 Grand Parade, Cork City, present day, blue building in the centre (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Cllr McCarthy: NTA Investments in Marina Area Warmly Welcomed, 15 February 2021

Press Release:

“Last week’s announcements by the National Transport Authority (NTA) are really positive for the Marina area and the Old Railway Line Walk through to Bessboro. Firstly phase 1 of the Greenway has been given funding of e.3.2m to progress construction. It comprises widening of the existing surfaced area along the old railway line path from 3m to 5m, the installation of new public lighting and CCTV, emphasising the heritage of the railway (especially at Blackrock Station) and producing a biodiversity corridor along the railway line. 

Secondly, it is also really great to see funding following the public consultation and its vision for the Marina and the Council’s subsequent vote to pedestrianise the Marina walk full-time.

A total of e.240,000 has received from the NTA to progress preliminary design, planning, design team appointment & detailed design for the Marina Promenade Pedestrian and Cycle facilities project. Many people have complained that is very difficult to walk over certain sections of the Marina’s road plus the need to have a think about public lighting after dark and the counter balance of that with protection of natural habitats around the Atlantic Pond and eastwards. The project will also seek funding for some repairs to the quay wall and some general improvement to the public realm including seating, bike parking etc.

In March/ April this year, the Infrastructure Development Directorate of Cork City Council will be publishing a notice seeking tenders from suitably qualified and experienced Design Consultants for the upgrade and enhancement of the Marina (Centre Park Road to Blackrock Village).

By the end of 2021 City Hall officials aim to present a recommended layout to Council members with construction to follow in early 2022 subject to the necessary consents and funding approval.

Great credit is due to officials in City Hall of the Infrastructure section; there is great momentum at the moment between drafting plans, gaining the input of the public, amending plans where needs be, and presenting them to the National Transport Authority for funding”.  

The Marina, Cork (picture: Cllr Kieran McCarthy)
The Marina, Cork (picture: Cllr Kieran McCarthy)

Talk on the History and Rehabilitation of Daly’s Bridge (The Shakey Bridge) 16 February 2021

On Tuesday, 16 February at 7pm the latest in a series of online talks by Engineer’s Ireland will be available: The History and Rehabilitation of Daly’s Bridge (The Shakey Bridge) presented by Michael Minehane, Chartered Principal Engineer at RPS and Kieran McCarthy, noted local Cork historian.

“As part of the Cork Regional 80th Anniversary celebrations, we are delighted to host this presentation on the history and refurbishment of the iconic “Shakey” Bridge which was originally built under the stewardship of the then City Engineer, SW Farrington, who was also the first Chair of the Cork Region of Engineers Ireland” says Ronan Keane, current Chair.

The presentation will outline the social and economic context of the original construction, first opened in 1927, replacing an earlier ferry crossing at the same location. It remains the only suspension bridge in Cork City and is the only surviving bridge of its type in Ireland.  Michael Minehane says, “I will be giving the second part of the talk which will outline the recent rehabilitation of the bridge which re-opened in December 2020, including the special inspection and structural assessment, site investigations and material testing, rehabilitation works, approach to conservation, structural dynamics and aspects of design and construction.” 

Kieran McCarthy will talk about the history of the bridge “of all the bridges in the city centre island, one can argue that Daly’s Bridge is the one which holds the fascination of the public the most. The removal of the main body of the bridge to deep clean it off site caused a large tinge of public sadness. Its return to the Banks of the Lee in the spring of 2020 heralded hope, and almost a sense that a valued family member had returned. The bridge’s essence has transcended time from a physical bridging point to one of playfulness, one of fun, and one whose shakiness is a key part of Cork’s Cultural Heritage.” 

The History & Rehabilitation of Daly’s (Shakey) Bridge on Tuesday, 16th February at 7pm online via zoom, It’s a FREE event and all are welcome: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_7M2J_bAKQsGsGxKCD4QBaQ

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 11 February 2021

1086a. Munster Arcade pre Burning of Cork, December 1920 from Stratten and Stratten’s Dublin, Cork, and the South of Ireland 1892 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 11 February 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Compensation Claims Begin

This month, one hundred years ago, the Recorder or Chief Magistrate for Cork City, Matthew Bourke, began the municipal hearings for the compensation claims arising out of the Burning of Cork in December 1920. A total of 682 claims were before him and they were to occupy the court for several weeks. A handful were written up in the Cork Examiner and reveal the depth of the damage done but also the early steps being taken to rehabilitate livelihoods and building stock in the city centre.

On 17 February 1921, the first case taken was that of the proprietors of the Munster Arcade – Messrs Robertson, Ledlie, Ferguson and Company, who claimed losses of £405,000. On top of this there was a claim by the landlord of the premises Charles Harvey. The two sets of solicitors present J J Horgan and Messrs Staunton and Sons put forward their respective cases. Mr Horgan described uniformed crown forces, converging on the Munster Arcade in the middle of St Patrick’s Street on 11 December 1920 after setting Grants and Cashes on fire. He continued to detail the blowing in the front windows and the throwing in of explosives. With the front on fire, the five or six employees in the building made their way to the door leading to Elbow Lane.

The employees were met by several uniformed men and held up. Some of the men entered the premises taking with them explosives and tins of petrol and a bag containing some heavy substance. They went upstairs and set fire to the other parts of the premises. Meanwhile, the employees were let go at the door but were met by another party of uniformed men who told them to go back and shots were fired at them. They finally managed to escape into Cook Street and took refuge in a house there.

The Munster Arcade also had premises in Oliver Plunkett Street, where a furniture business was mainly carried on, and these were destroyed completely. With regards to damages, it was estimated that it would cost at least £93,450 5s 1d to rebuild this latter building. They had a cabinet factory at the other side of George’s Street, which would cost £7,774 5s 9d to rebuild. Then there was a laundry and shirt factory held under a yearly tenancy in Robert Street, the contents of which were valued at £583 9s 2d. They were not making a claim for the reconstruction of these premises as they were only yearly tenants, but he understood that a claim had been lodged by the owner.

Then there were the interior fittings and equipment on the St Patrick’s Street site. With regard to the stocks, every single item was destroyed, but fortunately the books were kept in a fireproof room, and they were saved. The company desired that not one halfpenny more that they had lost should be awarded. They wished to make no profit as regards these stocks. Their last stocktaking was on 31 July 1920 and the stock at that time was taken at the cost price, except where the value was less than cost price by reason of certain goods having been a long time in stock. That value was £74,507. Since that date there was added stock at the cost price of £59, 626 5s 10d, which was brought up to £59, 895 11s 1d by freight and carriage charges, making a total stock of £134 402 11s 1d.

Sales in the same period and from 31 July amounted to £45,855 15s 4d. Some goods that were also on approbation at the time of the fire brought the net loss as regards stock-in-trade to £88,146 15s 9d.

In addition, the company had erected temporary buildings, but they felt that the temporary trade pursued in them would only pay its way. They estimated that there was no probability of getting a place of the magnitude of the Munster Arcade into operational order under a period of about three years. The company did not expect in substance to make any profits of the company for three years totalling £37,341 or an average roughly of £12, 447 per year. The auditors considered that the figure would be a very reasonable and moderate claim for the injury done to the business.

The company had also taken a shop at 97 St Patrick’s Street, for which they had to pay £406 subject to a yearly rental of £130 and they had to erect temporary wooden premises costing £3,500. During the cessation of work they had to pay salaries for a month, as well as paying the rent of the destroyed premises for two months.

Evidence was then presented by Patrick Barry who was a dispatch employee, Mrs Gaffney who was a housekeeper at the premises, and Finbarr McAuliffe, who was an apprentice. Mr Robert Walker was also examined. His father, Robert, was the architect of the original Munster Arcade premises and Robert (Junior) presented the original plans of the premises.

Robert had prepared a detailed estimate of the cost of re-constructing the premises as they were before. The Arcade, he said covered three-fifths of an acre, and noted that the cost to rebuild it would be £119, 742 and it would take three years to complete the work. Mr Denis Lucey, Building contractor, Denis O’Sullivan, Furniture Department, Patrick Barry on the cost of plumbing, heating, and gas fitting. John Rezin gave evidence of the value of the claim for customers goods in possession of the company at the time of the fires as well as the employee tools and personal property.

Matthew Bourke, the Recorder, ended the Munster Arcade cases and the following day gave his verdict. He deemed that some of the figures given bordered on excess and gave a compensation figure for £213,647. However, with the British government not set up to give compensation. The Munster Arcade, and the rest of the 681 claims would have to wait until after the treaty was signed in January 1922 before any movement was made on resolving compensation claims. Indeed, reconstruction only began at the Munster Arcade in 1924 it was to be in late 1926 before the new premises was finished.

Captions:

1086a. Munster Arcade pre Burning of Cork, December 1920 from Stratten and Stratten’s Dublin, Cork, and the South of Ireland 1892 (source: Cork City Library).

1086b. The reconstructed Munster Arcade building, present day, now Penneys (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1086b. The reconstructed Munster Arcade building, present day, now Penneys (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1086b. The reconstructed Munster Arcade building, present day, now Penneys (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 4 February 2021

1085a. Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1085a. Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 4 February 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Dripsey Ambush

As the Irish War of Independence progressed in early 1921, the movements of British troops throughout the country were tabulated. Where it was noticed that convoys were maintained on a regular basis between any two points, suitable preparations were then made for an ambush on the route. In this way, it was calculated that a convoy of three lorries of soldiers would proceed from Macroom to Cork on 27 January 1921. It was decided by members of the sixth battalion of the Cork IRA Brigade No.1 to ambush British troops at a bend in the main road between Dripsey and Coachford.

It is almost fourteen years since this column visited the story of the Dripsey Ambush and at that time I referenced Historian P J Feeney’s fine book Glory O, Glory O, Ye Bold Fenian Men, A History of the Sixth Battalion, Cork’s First Brigade, 1913-1921. In it hehighlights the story of the Dripsey Ambush and that the sitehad high firing ground on the near side and its open stretch on the off side would expose the soldiers to the full fire of the attackers.

Positions were taken up on the 27January 1921, but the military did not depart on that day owing to some technical delay at Macroom. The ambushers, anticipating that the convoy would probably proceed within twenty-four hours, decided to remain over night at their posts. For that reason, by 28 January news of the impending attack soon became known amongst the local people, and in due course, information was brought to a local lady named Mrs Lindsay of Leemount House, Coachford whose sympathies were known to be with Crown authorities.

Mrs Lindsay decided to inform the Military at Ballincollig, and without further delay ordered her Chauffeur named Clark to drive her to the local barracks, a distance of about twelve miles. Not far from her house she came upon the local Roman Catholic curate, Rev. E. Shinnick, informed him of her purpose, and requested that he advise the ambushers to abandon their project. Passing through the ambush cordon without hindrance, she safely reached Ballincollig and accurately described the position to the Commanding Officer of the Manchesters who were then stationed there.

Meantime, Father Shinnick approached the attackers, and without stating the source of his information, informed them that the military were now aware of their plans. He suggested that they retire from the spot as quickly as possible. The ambushers, thinking that this was simply a move on the part of Fr Shinnick to have bloodshed avoided, decided to remain at their posts. At Ballincollig, full preparations were made for a surprise attack, and a strong military party arrived at Dripsey Bridge about 3pm. There they divided into two sections, one group advancing along the bye-road towards Peake, whilst the remainder proceeded along the main road to Coachford.

The Peake road party were able to approach the ambushers from the rear, and both sections opened fire simultaneously. The ambushers, now on the defence were armed but were outranged by the service rifles of the military, decided to retire under cover of a rear guard party of six men. In the early stages of the encounter, it was discovered that the military had made one tactical error by not also closing in from the west or Coachford side.

Taking full advantage of this oversight, the main body of the ambushers quickly slipped through the gap, in the attack, and with nightfall approaching, they were soon clear. Their comrades though remained at their posts. However, there came a point where there was no alternative but to surrender. Ten men were arrested. From Dripsey, they were conveyed to Victoria Barracks, Cork City. Crown troops confiscated sixteen shotguns with 101 rounds of ammo, four rifles with 33 rounds of ammo, three revolvers with 86 rounds of ammo and six bombs.

The man heading up the Dripsey ambush was Captain James Barrett. He was born at Killeen, Donoughmore on 29 June 1880. He was employed by the Cork and Muskerry Railway Company and was Station Master at Firmount for nearly two decades before his death. He was Captain of Aghabullogue Football team. He joined the Donoughmore Company of the Irish volunteer movement in 1914. He was Quartermaster within the C Company of the sixth battalion Cork no.1 IRA Brigade. He was wounded in the leg at Dripsey, taken prisoner and brought to Cork Military Barracks. His leg was amputated but died shortly after. He was buried in Donoughmore.

Subsequently Mrs Lindsay was kidnapped by members of the sixth battalion and was used as leverage to free the captives. However, that strategy did not work. On 28 February 1921, five IRA men were executed. They were all members of the Sixth Battalion, Cork no.1 IRA Brigade – Jack Lyons, Timothy McCarthy, Thomas O’Brien, Daniel O’Callaghan andPatrick O’Mahony.

On the captive’s execution,and arising of careful discussion with General Head Quarters in Dublin, and a Brigade meeting at Blarney, the decision was taken to execute Mrs. Lindsay and Clarke, her chauffeur. In early March 1921, they were shot by a firing squad consisting of six volunteers under the command of vice-commandant of the Sixth Battalion, Frank Busteed. In the past decade, Frank Busteed’s memorabilia was donated to the Cork Museum by his grandson, Brian O’Donoghue. It is currently on display with a written up history of Frank’s life and times.

The first Dripsey Ambush memorial was a simple wooden cross, which was erected by friends and relatives of those who died. Anne MacSwiney, a sister of Terence MacSwiney, unveiled it in 1924. A local committee of locals and members of Dripsey Pipe Band was formed to consider a larger memorial. Cork sculptor Seamus Murphy was chosen to create a slender limestone obelisk, at the ambush site, which was unveiled on Easter Sunday in April 1938.

Captions:

1085a. Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1085b. Coachford-Dripsey Road adjacent Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

1085b. Coachford-Dripsey Road adjacent Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
1085b. Coachford-Dripsey Road adjacent Dripsey Ambush Memorial, 2007 (picture: Kieran McCarthy)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 28 January 2021

1084a. Picture of Mary Bowles from non-recorded photographer, January 1921 (source: Cork Examiner).
1084a. Picture of Mary Bowles from non-recorded photographer, January 1921 (source: Cork Examiner).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 28 January 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Clogheen and the tale of Mary Bowles

P J Murphy, Company Commander with Fianna Éireann, in his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS869) recalls that in January 1921 owing to the activity of police and Black and Tans, a number of C-Company of Cork IRA Brigade No.1 could not sleep at home. They were accommodated in the former Cork Lunatic Asylum on the Lee Road. The place was raided several times. A number of arrests were made, including one named Tadhg Barry who was later shot dead on 15 November 1921 by a sentry in Ballykinlar Camp).

P J Murphy’s hideouts with others comprised a number of friendly houses and barns in the Clogheen district (three miles from Blarney). There they made sure that they had sentries posted throughout the night. Flying Columns were now being organised and all necessary arrangements were being made to make sure arms and equipment were protected and in serviceable order. A number of visits had been made by C-Company members to their arms dumps. However, they also had also to contend with informers, who led crown forces to Clogheen.

On 13 January 1921, P J Murphy recalls that the C-Company party included Liam Deasy, Dan Donovan (Sandow), Tom Crofts, Pa Murray, J Dennehy, Mick Bowles, Paddy Connors, Tom Dennehy, Dan Murphy, Mick O’Sullivan, Dan Crowley, Jeremiah Mullane and Jeremiah Deasy.

P J Murphy did the last sentinel duty from 5am to 7am. When they moved out in the morning – some of them to the city to their jobs – P J remained behind with Mick Bowles and Paddy Connors and brought the guns and grenades up to the family home of the Bowles family nearby. At this time, they had the Lewis gun, which was used in the Parnell Bridge Ambush in early January 1921 and had brought it out to show it to Liam Deasy and some of the Brigade officers. They were proud of its possession.

P J Murphy describes that about 11am the place was surrounded by military and Black and Tans. The few of P J’s comrades who remained behind were in a nearby house having a cup of tea when they heard strange voices in the adjoining fields. They picked up their equipment and made their escape. The Lewis gun was lying near a fence covered with a ground sheet. Sixteen-year old Mary Bowles tried to get the gun to a place of safety. She was spotted by the Tans and arrested. Over the ensuing 24 hours, a great deal of the arms equipment, including the Lewis gun, was captured. The arms dump was discovered complete with rifles, revolvers, ammunition, gelignite, gas masks, periscopes, megaphones, and German automatics. Mary was arrested with four men and brought to the Bridewell in the city.

Shandon History Group’s book Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times records that at the Bridewell Mary Bowles was found to be wearing under her blouse steel body armour strapped to her shoulders and fastened at the sides. She was also in possession of a service revolver and an automatic pistol, both loaded in every chamber.  Senior Cork Cumann na mBan members such as Sorcha Duggan, May Conlon and Lil Conlon approached Bishop Cohalan requesting his intervention in seeking her release but were not successful. Mary was moved to the Women’s Prison in Sunday’s Well. On 25 February 1921, she was sentenced to Roman Catholic Reformatory School. Shandon History Group have suggested that the Good Shepherd Convent may have been her detention school.

Meanwhile the capture of the arms led the Black and Tans to become more frequent visitors to the Clogheen area, with the result that C-Company members had to go further afield for sleeping quarters. P J Murphy details that they moved to the Carrignavar area where Company Officers Jerry Dennehy, Mick Bowles, Seán MacSwiney (Terence’s brother) and five or six more were arrested one night in a local house. They were captured with arms and each were sentenced varying from 10 to 15 years imprisonment. The guns were not actually captured in their possession. They were found in another part of the house.

P J Murphy highlights that curfew in Cork City in early 1921 was from 5pm to 3am on Saturdays and Sundays. Martial law was enforced and anyone caught with arms was executed. The military patrolled the streets during curfew hours, and when they withdrew the Black and Tans came out and carried on with their wholesale murders, burnings, and lootings. These activities had a discouraging effect on some of the Volunteers. They feared repercussions on their families and returned their arms to the Unit Quarter Master. P J Murphy describes: “Physically those sleeping out were in a bad way. Scabies was rampant and those who returned home infected their families. Many others contracted TB. People who were friendly to us became afraid that they would be caught harbouring the IRA. No place was safe for more than a few nights”.

As the British campaign intensified it was met by increased activity by the Volunteers. Trees were felled, trenches dug across the roads, bridges blown up and everything done to hamper their communication.

Captions:

1084a. Picture of Mary Bowles from non-recorded photographer, January 1921 (source: Cork Examiner).

1084b. Commemorative plaque in Clogheen, Cork to Mary Bowles, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).


1084b. Commemorative plaque in Clogheen, Cork to Mary Bowles, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).