Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 29 September 2022
Journeys to a Free State: A City of Rifle Fire
Despite the securing of Cork City by the National Army of the Irish Provisional Government across August 1922, Anti Treaty IRA members continued to pursue their aims, and Civil War was brought to street corners and into buildings. The Cork Examiner outlines several tit-for-tat activities across September 1922.
In the early hours of 2 September 1922, the forces of the National Army stationed in the city in the course of raiding operations, discovered what was a munitions factory in the house at the corner of the South Mall and Queen Street (now Fr Mathew Street). The munitions were discovered in the upstairs portion of the house over 17a South Mall or 1 Queen Street. A gentleman named Mr McGuckin, who resided there has been arrested, and was detained.
The discoveries made by the troops during their search of the premises included: three boxes of bombs, two bags of bombs, about eight rifles, the same number of revolvers (of either Colt or Webley pattern), large quantities of ammunition, mostly of the dum-dum and explosive type, and machinery for the manufacture of bombs and ammunition.
The two bags of bombs were found underneath the flooring in one of the rooms. The machinery, which was of a very elaborate nature, was right at the top of the house. It was in perfect working order and was capable of turning out quantities of bombs and ammunition, while special provision had also been made for the manufacture of dumdum bullets. The ammunition found on the premises was principally of this type, and included bullets for Thompson and Lewis guns, as well as rifles, revolvers, and even pistols.
On 2 September in the morning at 10.15am an attack was made on the soldiers stationed at one of the city’s national army bases at the Cork City Club, Grand Parade at the intersection of the South Mall. Machine gun and rifle fire was opened upon them. One was killed and fourteen injured. The attack was opened on them from the opposite side of the river – Sullivan’s Quay.
A motor bicycle and sidecar were proceeding slowly up the quay from Parliament Bridge in a westerly direction. A machine-gun was mounted in the sidecar attachment and trained on the Grand Parade. As soon as the soldiers came into view of the two men in this vehicle the machine-gun opened fire.
At the same moment two men with rifles were seen to fire on the unarmed soldiers from the roof of a house a little to the Parliament Bridge side of Friary Lane, which turns off Sullivan’s Quay at right angles, almost opposite the National Monument. Two other men opened fire from another low roof on the western side of the corner of Friary Lane. The wounded were all brought to the Mercy Hospital.
In the early hours of 5 September snipers were active and several of the National Army posts in the city were attacked. None of the soldiers was hit. The only casualty was Miss Elizabeth O’Meara, who was wounded while in bed at her residence on the Grand Parade. Firing started in the vicinity of Victoria Barracks about midnight, but seemed at first to be merely an effort to draw the fire of the National soldiers. As the morning advanced, however, the firing developed, and machine-gun fire could be distinctly heard for a long time about daybreak.
About 2am an attack was made on the Metropole Hotel, and the sniping in the vicinity of this building continued for nearly six hours until about 7am. Near dawn, shots were fired at the City Club base, Grand Parade, from all sides, but particularly from the rear and from the south side of the river. Replies of gunfire from the National soldiers had the effect of quickly silencing the snipers. Casualties amongst the IRA, if any, were unknown. All the National Army soldiers escaped unhurt.
The Cork Examiner records that on the morning of 7 September, a series of raids on mails were made in different districts in the city, about 25 postmen (of 47 active postmen that morning), engaged in delivering letters, were held-up and the contents of their bags being appropriated by armed men. In each case the postman was confronted by two or three men, who produced revolvers and forced him to hand over the contents of his post-bag. In many cases the postmen had commenced delivery before being hold-up, but in a few cases all the letters were taken. Some of these were recovered by the Post Office. They were handed by an armed civilian.
About 10pm on 13 September night some eight to ten soldiers – all unarmed – were testing a motor lorry, which had been undergoing repairs at Messrs Johnson and Perrott’s garage in Emmet Place. They took the car for a short trial spin towards St Patrick’s Bridge, and it was while doing so that the bomb was thrown at the lorry. It fell into the car, but, very fortunately, did not explode. The person who threw it escaped into the darkness.
About 9.15pm on 18 September 1922 machine gun fire was opened at the National Army troops posted at Moore’s Hotel on Morrison’s Island. The attack came from the opposite side of the river, where a motor car was believed to have had a machine gun. There were no casualties among the troops, but a Mrs Haines, who was a guest in a house adjoining Moore’s Hotel, received several bullet wounds. She was brought to the Mercy Hospital in a critical condition.
Shortly after 9pm on 28 September a small party of National Army troops were travelling along the Ballvhooly road towards the city. A bomb was thrown at them from inside a gateway, which led to the backs of some houses, and from which an easy escape could be made. Due probably to the aim of the thrower the bomb went well wide of its mark, and none of the troops sustained any injuries. Indeed, beyond a small hole in the road and a few broken panes of glass in the houses in the immediate neighbourhood, no physical damage was done, but the local neighbourhood was highly concerned.
Many thanks to everyone who attended the 2022 season of public historical walking tours.
1170a. National Army soldiers in front of the commandeered Cork City and County Club at the intersection of the Grand Parade and the South Mall, photographed by W D Hogan (source: National Library, Dublin).