Category Archives: Cork History

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 6 May 2021

1098a. Ballykinlar Internment Camp, Co. Down, 1921 (picture: Cork City Library).
1098a. Ballykinlar Internment Camp, Co. Down, 1921 (picture: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 6 May 2021

Journeys to a Truce: A Corkman at Ballykinlar

Much reference is given in the newspapers of Spring 1921 to Cork Volunteers from across the batalions of the Cork IRA Brigades being rounded up and sent to Ballykinlar Internment Camp in County Down. Monaghan born Frank O’Duffy was interned in Camp II, Ballykinlar from January to December 1921 and acted as Prisoners’ Commandant in that camp from June to December 1921. 

In his witness statement in the Bureau of Military History (WS665), Frank describes that there were two internment camps at Ballykinlar – Camp I and Camp II. Though these two camps adjoined each other for a short distance at one end being separated only by the double fence of barbed wire, which encircled each camp they were isolated from each other, and communication between the prisoners in one camp and those in the other was banned. Frank relates of this latter issue: “This regulation was overcome, however, by the simple plan of throwing messages (attached to a stone) from one camp to the other at the place where the two camps adjoined. To prevent these messages falling into the hands of the British a code of signals was arranged to indicate ‘coast clear’, and safe receipt of the message”.

Each camp was self-contained, apart from the fact that there was only one hospital for sick prisoners. This was located in Camp I, and this fact was availed of for discussions of important issues of policy between the prisoners’ leaders of the two camps: a reliable person from Camp II “went sick” and got transferred to the hospital. It was also availed of to transfer men who were wanted by British crown forces from one camp to the other. Though there was a British medical officer on the staff of the Camps, the medical treatment of the prisoners was left mainly to their own doctors, of whom there were a number among the prisoners. So, names could be changed on documentation.

Each camp contained (when full) 1,000 (one thousand) prisoners. These were divided, for purposes of administration, into four companies (250 men each), and each company was housed in ten huts (25 men to each hut). The companies in Camp I were described as A, B, C, and D, and those in Camp II as E, F, G, and H. In addition to the huts, in which the men slept, the camp buildings included large central huts for use as chapel, dining-hall, recreation (concerts etc.), canteen, cook-house, work-shops, etc. The sanitary arrangements were very primitive with latrines and buckets.

At first no objection was raised to the prisoners’ drilling in the camp, and all (especially the younger men) were drilled for some time each forenoon. A roll was made (and checked, as far as possible) of all prisoners who were Volunteer Officers, and lectures and training. Frank details: “Prisoners who had taken part in ambushes or other military events gave an account of them, and discussions on tactics, etc. took place. After a few weeks, an order was issued by the British forbidding drill in the camp, but military training continued secretly”.

Formal classes in subjects such as Irish maths and surveying also took place. Examinations were held and certificates issued at the end of some of the educational courses. Lectures, debates, and discussions were frequently held. Frank describes that historical anniversaries for Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet, and host of other names were faithfully celebrated. Dramatic performances were also staged frequently. Some of the prisoners devoted all their spare time to the preparations for these performances, (making costumes, scenery, etc.), and the results of their work sometimes reached a high standard.

In his witness statement Frank also compliments the Irish classes section – who have as he notes, “the  most faithful and hard-working of the Irish teachers” – being  Cork’s Cllr Micheál Ó Cuill (of Cork Corporation). Micheál’s obituary in the Cork Examiner on 19 September 1955 describes that he was a native of the Macroom district, he came to Cork circa 1910. He was connected with Countess Markievicz in the founding and organising of Fianna Eireann and a few years later was largely responsible for the formation of Cumann na mBan.

Micheál was one of the Cork volunteers who paraded at Easter 1916 hoping to take part in the Rising. When circumstances prevented Corkmen from playing their part he set out alone for Dublin and had got to the neighbourhood of the city when the surrender took place. He was arrested and deported to Frongoch.

Micheál was a close friend of Terence MacSwiney and TomásMacCurtain and worked closely with them in the Irish Volunteers. He became a member of Sinn Féin’s bench in Cork Corporation in January 1920. It was he who, speaking in Irish, proposed Tomás MacCurtain for the office of Lord Mayor on 30 January. On Terence’s death Micheál was sent to be among the Guard of Honour to the deceased Lord Mayor in London. He also acted tor some time as Deputy Lord Mayor following Terence’s death before Donal Óg O’Callaghan took on the position. In late 1920 he was arrested in Cork City and sent to Ballykinlar.

Micheál was an ardent lover ofIrish and a fluent speaker of it, He was one of theprominent Gaelic League organisers and teachers in the country and later in time became Vice President of a Cork branch of the Conradh na Gaeilge. For many years he conducted classes at An Dún, Queen Street (now Fr Mathew Street). About 1930, he joined the staff of the Cork County Vocational Education Committee as Irish inspector. He became very well-known at the summer courses of Ballingeary, which hesupervised every summer.


1098a. Ballykinlar Internment Camp, Co. Down, 1921 (picture: Cork City Library).

1098b. Internee William Johnson’s sketch looking out from one of the camps in Ballykinlar, 1921 (picture: Down County Museum).

1098b. Internee William Johnson's sketch looking out from one of the camps in Ballykinlar, 1921 (picture: Down County Museum).
1098b. Internee William Johnson’s sketch looking out from one of the camps in Ballykinlar, 1921 (picture: Down County Museum).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 29 April 2021

1097a. SS Ardmore II, c.1930 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 29 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Advent of SS Ardmore II

During the First World War the City of Cork Steam Packet Company lost six vessels, and the company were determined to replace the losses with the construction of new vessels. In particular, the new ships were designed to meet the requirements of the cross-Channel trade, especially the cattle trade. One of the ships replaced was the SS Ardmore, which was hit by a torpedo on 13 November 1917. It was replaced by the SS Ardmore II, which looked very similar in design to the original.

On 28 April 1921 at noon, the SSArdmore II made her maiden visit to Cork with flags flying and decorated with bunting. She was welcomed by the sirens of all the vessels in the river. She was the largest of the fleet of the Steam Packet Company’s cross-channel steamers and was built by the Ardrossan Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company, Ltd North Ayrshire, Scotland. From 1919 for a time, Harland & Wolff Ltd managed the yard on behalf of the Royal Mail Group.

The SS Ardmore II was launched in August 1921 in the presence ofdistinguished company at Ardrossan Port. The Managing Director of the City of Cork Steam Packet Company Sir Alfred Read, at the launching ceremony, was very anxious not only to restore their pre-war position in that trade, but to improve on it, and that they were “contracting for vessels that would give the maximum of service”.

The christening ceremony was performed by Lady Margaret Pirrie. At the event, she was presented with a silver chalice as a souvenir that looked like the Ardagh Chalice. Margaret Pirrie was Belfast’s first woman justice of the peace and the first woman to receive the freedom of that city. Pirrie was also involved in charity work, working as president of the Royal Victoria Hospital. She also served on the Senate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and as president of Harland & Wolff’s, the Belfast shipbuilding firm of which her husband was chair. 

The SS Ardmore II was fitted to carry about 1000 mixed cattle. In addition, she could carry 75 first-class passengers, and also accommodate for steerage passengers. The ship was fitted with five steam cranes for handling cargo. The Cork Examiner described the vessel and its sea route: “She is a beautiful vessel, and most up-to-date in every way, and an idea of her well-appointed accommodation may be gathered from the fact that she cost over a quarter of a million…The Ardmore will ply between Cork and Liverpool, and on her first visit to Cork to visited and inspected by a fairly largenumber of people who greatly admired her beautiful proportions. She leaves or Liverpool to-day at two o’clock”.

Owing to the unfortunate strike of joiners, which began in November 1920, the City of Cork Steam Packet Company was forced tobring the steamer into commission before her saloon and cabin accommodation were properly built.

The SS Ardmore II was to be the first oil-burner to be used by a cross channel company between England and Ireland with a speed of 14 knots. Previously the first steamshiptocross the Atlantic was in 1838 when Cork’s SS Sirius established the record.

The insulation was by the J D Insulating and Refrigerating Company, Ltd, Liverpool, and the cooling system was by the Thermotank Company, Glasgow. The ventilation was through the use of tempering batteries by James Keith Blackman Company, Ltd. and the ventilation arrangement in the cattle spaces was created by the same firm.

Fast forward to 11 November 1940, the SS Ardmore II had on board 500 cattle, about the same number of pigs (which were deck cargo), and a quantity of agricultural produce. The actual crew of the vessel numbered 20 and with them were five cattle or bullockmen. Still owned by the City of Cork Steam Packet Company she was commanded by Captain Thomas Ford of Liverpool. Thomas had been with the City of Cork Steam Packet Company for sixteen years. He was well known in Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Fishguard and other ports through his lifetime at sea. 

 On 11 November 1940, the SS Ardmore II departed Cork for Fishguard with a cargo of livestock. Hours later she was reported missing with her crew. An uneasy vigil was maintained. Air and sea searches proved futile. On 26 November one of her lifeboats, unfilled, was washed ashore on the Welsh coast. The body of Captain Ford was discovered near Aberystwyth on 3 December. Ten days later that of Seaman Frank O’Shea was retrieved from another Welsh beach. His remains were returned to Cork for burial.

What caused the loss of the ship was not verified for nearly sixty years. In February 1998, the wreck of the SS Ardmore II was found by divers three miles south of the Saltee Islands, off the Wexford coast, in 183 feet of water. The hull showed signs of a large explosion from a mine near the engine room. In the Second World War section of the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in Collins Barrack Museum, Dublin there is a model of the SS Ardmore II and a plaque on Cork’s Penrose Quay also remembers the 1940 tragedy.


1097a. SS Ardmore II, c.1930 (source: Cork City Library).

1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1097b. Plaque commemorating the sinking of SS Ardmore II, Penrose Quay, Cork (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 22 April 2021

1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 22 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Ambush of Tadhg O’Sullivan

Targeted round ups of IRA members by the RIC and Black and Tans continued right throughout April 1921. Company Captain within the 2nd Battalion, Cork City No.1 Brigade and Kerry native, Tadhg O’Sullivan was shot on the evening of 19 April 1921. Originally Tadhg was reared on a farm north of the village of Barraduff, County Kerry and was passionate in the study of Irish being inspired by his national school teacher. In his teens, he set off for Cork City, where he was employed on the clerical staff of Messrs Dowdall O’Mahony, butter merchants. Later he transferred to Fords.

Tadhg joined the IRB and enrolled as a Volunteer. He took an interest in the organisation of the Fianna – the youth section of the Volunteer movement. He was active in organising recruitment meetings throughout the county.

Tadhg eventually rose to becoming Captain of C Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade. He was constantly on duty and participated in many major operations in the City. He was one of the two Kerry men on the inquest jury of the murdered Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás MacCurtain. Florence O’Donoghue was the other Kerryman. In the summer of 1920, Tadhg participated in the attack on Farran RIC Barracks and also in the Barrack Street ambush on 9 October 1920. He was again to the fore in the Parnell Bridge ambush, which took place on 5 January 1921. He was also one of the Belfast hungers strikers in 1920. Tadhg was also one of those taken in the big round-up at Cork Union hospital. However, he was released on that occasion.

Michael Murphy, Commandant, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History (WS 1547), describes of Tadhg’s death on 19 April 1921:

“One of my best company captains named Tadhg Sullivan was held up in Douglas Street by two British intelligence officers in mufti. He made a dash to escape and got into a house No. 80 Douglas St. He ran upstairs and got out on the roof through a landing window, closely followed by the two British officers. Sullivan got on to the roof of the adjoining house when the officers appeared at the landing window and shot him dead. He was unarmed”.

The Cork Examiner on 20 April 1921 describes that the tragic occurrence took place in the course of a general roundup in the south and south-west side of the city, which began about 7pm. Numerous parties of police from Union quay and Tuckey street stations visited the district, which they practically enveloped up to Friar’s Walk and Barrack Street.

At 7.30pm pedestrians coming from every point converging on the district were held up, questioned and searched, and about fifteen persons were temporarily detained, one man, Liam Barry, residing in White street, was arrested.

The extensively drawn cordon gradually closed in towards Douglas Streetvicinity. There was quite a large number of passersby, and amongst them, was Tadhg. He was observed by a party of about eight or nine police. They called on him to halt, but instead he started to run away, whereupon the police pursued.

As he ran a short distance along the street Tadhg seems to have escaped the bullets of his pursuers, and then he was seen to suddenly dash into a house. The police by this time were reinforced by a second party of constables, coming from an opposite direction. Tadhg was followed into the house – the hall and stairway of which bore the marks of considerable firing. Cornered as he was, Tadhg made a desperate effort to escape, and rushing into a back room, endeavoured to get away through a back window.

Tadhg was in the act of descending into the yard below, which offered an avenue of escape, when he was overtaken by his pursuers and shot dead. His dead body with several bullet wounds was subsequently found in the yard below. Fr McSweeney, CC, St Finbarr’s South, and Fr Father Nunan, CC, were immediately summoned, but on their arrival Tadhg had already passed away.

Tadhg’s remains were then conveyed to Union Quay Barracks, and afterwards transferred in a military lorry to the Victoria Barracks, where the circumstances of his death were to be the subject of an inquiry.

On the afternoon of 22 April 1921, Tadhg’s funeral took place from the South Chapel to St Finbarr’s Cemetery where they were interred in the Republican plot. The cortege was limited in extent by order of the military and armed soldiers walking on foot at both sides of the hearse, in three lorries, and accompanied by anarmoured car. The order was served on the Administrator of the parish about one hour before the funeral was timed to start was obeyed. Despite the warnings, the streets from the church – over Parliament Bridge, along the South Mall, Grand Parade and Washington Street – were lined with people. The coffin was draped in the tricolour flag.

Have a story of relative to tell involved with the War of Independence in Cork, get in touch with Kieran at


1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).

1096b. House of Tadhg O’Sullivan’s death, second from the right with plaque above front door (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O’Sullivan, St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096a. Portrait of Tadhg O’Sullivan, c.1921 (source: Cork City Library).
1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O'Sullivan, St Finbarr's Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1096c. Gravestone of Tadhg O’Sullivan, St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 15 April 2021

 1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).
1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 15 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Washington Street Ambush

Patrick Murray was Officer in Command of C-Company of the 1st Battalion, Cork No.1 IRA Brigade. In his witness statement for the Bureau of Military History (WS1584), he describes the Spring activity of an active IRA service unit in the city centre.

Patrick outlines that when the active service unit began, it comprised six members from each of the two battalions in the city. The men on the unit were: Danny Healy, Stephen McSwiney, Jim Barrett, Liam O’Callaghan, Seán Twomey and Patrick Murray from the 1st Battalion; and Florrie O’Donoghue, Jim Counihan, Ned Fitzgibbon, George Burke, Jim Fitzgerald, Peter Donovan and one other from the 2nd Battalion. Seán Twomey was put in charge.

There was a special space/ office in the city dealing with the unit’s intelligence and communications. This office was under the control of George Buckley. Only two or three selected couriers were allowed to know where the office was, for fear of anyone being followed into it.

Of the first few weeks that the active service unit was in existence, Patrick notes: “We were actively engaged watching the movements of military and police. The members of the active service unit took turns in taking up positions along routes which were supposed to be taken by the police and military, but as they did not take any particular route with any regularity, it was often found that they would leave a street just when the military or police came into it”.

The unit’s first ambush occurred on 12 April 1921, just after 10am, when bombs were thrown into a lorry in Washington Street at the junction with Little Anne Street. The bombs failed to explode, and the military returned the fire wounding some civilians. The failure of bombs to explode became a serious problem in the city, as it was realised that, if a bomb did not go off, civilians and the Volunteers themselves would suffer heavy casualties through the retaliation of gunfire. Special men connected with the unit were allocated to the work of inspecting all bombs which were to be used in the city.

Michael O’Donoghue, engineer officer with the 2nd Battalion in his witness statement (WS1741) notes that he was present at the Washington Street ambush describes in his witness statement: “My three companions and myself were armed with revolvers. Our instructions were simple – to cover the retreat of a bombing party who were waiting to attack a military patrolling tender, which passed that way fairly regularly in the morning”.

After the ambush, Michael recalls looking east towards Broad Lane church or the then St Francis Church. “I saw one of our bombers limping along slowly and heavily holding his right side and half supported, half dragged along by a companion. Then, as if from nowhere, a side-car appeared and from it jumped down another of the attacking party. The wounded man is then helped up to a seat on the car, his companion sitting beside him and holding him. The jarvey sat on the opposite side with the other Volunteer behind him. The driver whips up his horse and off they trot in the direction of the Mercy Hospital”.

An official and stark proclamation was published in the Cork Examiner announcing that the competent military authority (Major General Strickland) had ordered the destruction of two large resident business premises near the Courthouse because they had been places where as the announcement noted “rebels and other evilly-disposed persons had consorted to levy war against His Majesty, King George V”.

Michael describes that one of the premises was Macari’s Café, a great resort of College students, where ice cream, minerals, fish and chips, peas and various other choice delicacies in fruit, fish and flesh. Macari himself, his wife and teen-age family were Italians who had settled in Cork pre 1914. It was a popular place for Cork youths especially students of all types, and IRA men were in and out casually every day and at, all times. The British wanted to punish Macari for not reporting to them the “comings and goings” of his clientele.

The other house officially condemned to destruction was Murphy’s public house and provision store round the corner of Messrs Dwyer’s stores near Clarke’s Bridge. The Murphys were a prominent Republican family from the Kinsale area of West Cork.

Michael outlines that the British military cordoned off Washington Street between the Courthouse and Wood Street. Macari’s and Murphy’s were entered by armed soldiers who ordered the occupants outside. Macari’s was blown up first. A demolition squad in khaki entered and set some explosives apparently on top floor. They withdrew to the street where they took cover at a safe distance. There then was a series of explosions and the roof was blown out, sending showers of slates and pieces of wood and masonry flying into the air. When the shower of smoke and dust had subsided the demolition squad again entered this time to complete the job by laying explosive charges on the ground floor.

Michael continues his detail: “Out again with them and back to the safety of the cordon. This time three or four tremendous explosions rocked the interior, completely wrecking everything within. Then the military repeated this programme of destruction in like mariner at Murphy’s. Not a solitary item of furniture or goods were permitted to be taken from either house and both buildings were utterly and completely wrecked in this brutal official reprisal”.

Have a story of relative to tell involved with the War of Independence in Cork, get in touch with Kieran at


1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1095a. Present day site of Washington Street ambush (12 April 1921) at the intersection with Little Anne Street, (picture: Kieran McCarthy).

1095b. Washington Street and the Courthouse, c.1910 from Cork City Through Time by Kieran McCarthy and Dan Breen.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town, 8 April 2021

1094a. Glanmire Bridge, c.1910 from Kieran McCarthy and Dan’s Breen’s book, Cork Harbour Through Time.

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 8 April 2021

Journeys to a Truce: Dug Outs and Wire Tapping

Seán Healy was Captain of A-Company of the 1st Battalion of Cork IRA Brigade No. 1 Cork and worked in the Parcels Office at Glanmire Road station (now Kent Station). In his Bureau of Military History account (WS1643) he describes in detail the creation of an arms dump in Glanmire and other reconnaissance work.

In Spring 1921 after exploring various places, A-Company decided on a site located in Knocknahorgan Woods, Glanmire. They approached the owner of the land whom they knew to be a staunch supporter of the IRA movement. He readily gave them permission to use his place and assured them the necessary assistance that he could provide in the nature of tools and digging equipment. The chosen place was about 300 yards from the public road and was strongly wooded. The site was also overgrown with briars and furze bushes, and there was a running stream of fresh water nearby.

After cautious reflection, A-Company decided to commandeer some railway sleepers and wagon covers from the Kilbarry Railway Yard, as they had no money to purchase these requirements. The Volunteers employed on the project, being mostly railway employees, were naturally a bit hesitant to interfere with their employer’s property. Sean notes: “If any of us were caught in the act of seizing the Railway Company’s property and the matter reported to the Company we would lose our employment and the Railway Company would, no doubt, have reported the ‘pilferage’ to the British Military authorities when we would suffer court martial at the hands of these people with a probable sentence of a long number of years of imprisonment”.

A-Company proceeded to Kilbarry, after making arrangements with Mr Duggan of Dublin Pike, to have a horse and cart in waiting near the railway yard. They commandeered about two dozen sleepers and three wagon covers without incident and then transported the material to Knocknahorgan.

Seán describes that it was not the company’s intention to use this dug-out as a permanent hide-out. It was to be used only for emergency purposes, on such occasions as when it would not be safe to sleep in the City, or when a big round-up was taking place. It was also to be used as an auxiliary arms dump. They already had an arms dump at The Fisheries on the Lower Road. The keeping of all their guns and ammunition in one place was unsafe.

As quite a number of A-Company men had now been deprived of their employment, there was no shortage of manual labour. Six men took part in the construction of the arms dump. The work had to be swiftly carried out, as the men had to reach their homes each night before the curfew hour approached.

The work of excavation was difficult as they had to dig into the ground to a depth of about eight feet. When completed, the dugout was about eight feet deep by ten feet wide and ten feet in length. They used the railway sleepers as side walls, placed one wagon sheet on top and another on the base, a third was used to lap over the mouth. To enter and leave, it was only necessary to raise the overlapping wagon cover, which was supported by a frame on the inside. The mouth was well camouflaged with overhanging branches. It took about a week to complete the job and, when it was finished, it was reasonably comfortable and dry and able to accommodate about six men. Candles were used for lighting.

Seán describes that A-Company often passed some hours in this arms dump structure where they censored captured British mails, cleaned and oiled guns, and played cards. It proved a haven of rest on nights when they had to sleep there. He describes: “The ventilation was good as we were fortunate in securing some broken drain pipes as ventilators. No noises from the Curfew lorries disturbed our slumbers; no tramp, tramp, of heavy boots of the marching hordes, and no list of names of the occupants, hung on the door by a landlord…It was a complete change to sleeping in a city house which had to conform to martial law regulations; but, of course, we always slept with one eye open, so to speak, with loaded guns within reach”.

Seán also provides insights into the tapping of telephone lines. Post Office linesman Tom Walsh ran a wire from a telegraph pole on Albert Street, which linked up the lines leading into the Black and Tan Headquarters Barracks at Empress Place on Summer Hill North. The pole was adjacent to the Metropole Laundry, and close to the stables of John Wallis Sons, in Railway Street, Cork.

The staff employed by Messrs Wallis Sons and the caretaker in the Laundry, were all helpful. In order to avoid the vigilance of crown enemy forces, A-Company could only operate after business hours or during weekends. The British authorities were well aware that the IRA had some staunch workers in the ranks of the post office staff, and therefore they were very cautious about sending important messages over the public telephone. A-Company worked at it in pairs, always armed and ready to fight if we were trapped, as there was no back-door for escape.

Seán outlines of the messages; “The service messages sent and received were usually of a routine nature. Calls for reinforcements to be sent to different police stations passed fairly frequently. Loyalists and others used the phone for the purpose of reporting suspicious movements of what appeared to be IRA men”.


1094a. Glanmire Bridge, c.1910 from Kieran McCarthy and Dan’s Breen’s book, Cork Harbour Through Time.

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

1092a.  Pat O'Regan, Vice Chair of Clogheen/ Kerry Pike Community Association, with the Ballycannon Monument, March 2021 (picture: Jim O’Mahony).
1092a.  Pat O’Regan, Vice Chair of Clogheen/ Kerry Pike Community Association, with the Ballycannon Monument, March 2021 (picture: Jim O’Mahony).

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 25 March 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Ballycannon Boys

At Ballycannon, Kerrypike lies a memorial (erected in 1945) to the memory of six young IRA men that were killed near the spot on 23 March 1921. Farmer Cornelius O’Keeffe was witness to the killing of the six men. His detailed affidavit appears in the appendix of the witness statement in the Bureau of Military History of Daniel Healy, C Company, 1st Battalion, Cork IRA Brigade No.1.

Aged 21, Cornelius O’Keeffe had a farm of 105 acres, which was situated on the northern side or the high road leading from Cork to Blarney and was approached by a laneway leading from main road. The farmhouse consisted of a kitchen, parlour and four bedrooms. There were also extensive out-offices, barns, and sheds for cattle, also stables. It was one of the safe houses for the IRA.

In his affidavit, Cornelius remembers that on the night of Tuesday, 22 March 1921 about 11.30pm on that night there was a knock at his door after they had all gone to bed. He asked, “Who is there?” and a voice replied, “There are a couple or us [volunteers] going to sleep down in the stables; give us a call at seven in the morning”. He said “alright” and went to sleep.

About 4am, there was a thundering knock at his door. He leapt out of bed and looked out through the window. He saw the police outside. Before he could say anything, they roared at him to open the door. Cornelius relates:

“Just as I rushed downstairs to open the door it was burst open by the police and they said to me “Why the bloody hell didn’t you open the door”? I explained that the delay was due to the lamp not 1ighting. They then asked me if I had any man in the house. I said there was no win there only myself. They asked me if there were any men in the out-house. I said, ‘I can’t tell but the doors are unlocked’. They ordered me back to bed and searched the buds and the other rooms in the house. They then went outside, and I heard then search the out-houses”.

Cornelius was looking out the window and suddenly saw all the police rush up to where the lads or volunteers were sleeping. He went to bed and ten minutes later the police came in and took him out into the yard. There they charged him with harbouring rebels, which he denied. They then took him about 100 yards away from the out-house and gave him in charge to a sergeant and constable of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

One of the Black and Tans present came up to where he was standing with the other policemen and told them that they could find no arms in the house. He was then asked him to tell them where the arms were, and he said he did not know. As they were speaking to him Cornelius heard one of the boys roaring as if he was being tortured;

“I then saw one of the boys being pushed across the field. It was still somewhat dark, and he was too far away to distinguish who it was. The Black and Tan then returned and said, ‘he is showing where the arms are’. They then carried the same boy over to the ditch and brought him back to the stables again. A few minutes after I heard a shot. Then at intervals there were two or three shots and then a volley of shots”.

Cornelius asked the policeman what the shooting was about, and he replied they were only blank cartridges. A report then came up from the other body of police that some of the lads had escaped and to watch out for them. The police with him then prepared to shoot in case anyone would attempt to escape. There were then volleys fired where the boys were.

Cornelius then knelt and said his prayers as he thought his turn would be next. The police near him began shouting to the others not to shoot in their direction for fear they would be shot themselves. Cornelius was sent up for then and taken down to where the boys were. There two lines of Black and Tans in front of the stables so that he could not see who was there. As he was being taken down the field where the shooting took place, he saw two of the boys stretched out, on the grass. He was then taken over the road and down to Kennedy’s public-house at the nearby crossroads.

“There were five police with me – three old RIC and two Black and Tans. After some conversation, in which they accused me of keeping arms on my premises which I denied, I was brought back to Flaherty’s gate and I then saw five bodies being removed from my farm. They were all covered up in blankets. These bodies were placed in a lorry. They then brought out the sixth of the boys who was then alive and as they were throwing him into the lorry he said “Oh, my leg”. There was a bandage around his forehead”. [The sixth volunteer was subsequently killed].

Cornelius was put into the third lorry. They drove him in by Healy’s Bridge and the Lee Road as far as Gale’s quarry. When they got there the first lorry in which the bodies were want on and I did not see it again. He was taken up to the Military Barracks where he was kept in the Detention Barracks until 17 April 1921, and then he was released without any charge being brought against him.

The six men killed were Daniel Crowley of Blarney Street (aged 22), William Deasy of Mount Desert, Blarney Road (aged 20 years), Thomas Dennehy of Blarney Street (aged 21 years), Daniel Murphy of Orrey Hill (aged 24 years), Jeremiah O’Mullane of Blarney Street (aged 23), and Michael O’Sullivan of Blarney Street (aged 20 years).

This week the local community group of Clogheen/ Kerry Pike Community Association will place a wreath at the monument in Kerry Pike. They have also ordered six benches, which will have plaques dedicated to the six young men who were murdered at the location.  

My thanks to Jim O’Mahony of the Community Association for his help and insights.


1092a.  Pat O’Regan, Vice Chair of Clogheen/ Kerry Pike Community Association, with the Ballycannon Monument, March 2021 (picture: Jim O’Mahony).

Cllr McCarthy: Marking MacCurtain’s murder 101 years on

20 March 2021, “Historian and Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy described the former Lord Mayor as a true ‘colossus in Cork history’. ‘His story is peppered with several aspects – amongst those that shine out are his love of his family, city, country, language, comradeship and hope – all mixed with pure tragedy’, ” Marking MacCurtain’s murder 101 years on, Marking MacCurtain’s murder 101 years on (

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

1091a. Crossbarry memorial, present day (source: Cork City Library)

Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,

Cork Independent, 18 March 2021

Journeys to a Truce: The Victory of Crossbarry

By mid-March 1921, British crown forces invariably operated in West Cork in units of not less than three hundred. Consequently, the 3rd West Cork IRA Brigade flying column under the leadership of Commandant Tom Barry was brought to its greatest possible strength by the addition of every available rifle and the limited ammunition they had. The column had a membership of 104 men. It was also not easy to move, conceal, billet and feed a flying column of that strength over a long period, in an area that was then holding down at least five thousand British troops.

Tom Barry assembled the column into seven sections of fourteen riflemen in each section including the section commander. Those seven sections were commanded respectively by Sean Hales, John Lordan, Mick Crowley, Denis Lordan, Tom Kelleher, Peter Kearney and Christy O’Connell.

Barry in his book Guerilla Days in Ireland (1949) recalls that on the morning of 16 March 2021, information reached him that 300 British soldiers were being sent on the following day from Kinsale to Bandon as reinforcements. That night his flying column marched to ambush them at Shippool, half-way between Kinsale and Bandon. British crown forces had set out as scheduled, but after a mile halted and later returned to barracks.

Barry withdrew the column to Skough, just east of Innishannon. Meanwhile a British reconnaissance plane flying low, zoomed along the valley, searching for the column who laid low. At 1am that evening the column arrived at the house of John O’Leary’s, Ballyhandle, and this house became column headquarters. The son of the house, Paddy, was a member of the column.

Two days later at 1am on the morning of 19 March, four hundred troops left Cork, two hundred from Ballincollig, 300 from Kinsale and 350 from Bandon. Later 120 auxiliaries left from Macroom. Still later, troops left Clonakilty and more left Cork. They proceeded by lorries to four points, approximately four miles north-north-east, south-east and west of Crossbarry. They raided and closely searched every house and out house in the countryside. They took many civilians and some unarmed volunteers as prisoners. One of the eastern columns came to the house three miles north of Crossbarry, where Commandant Charles Hurley was recuperating from a bullet wound arising from the Upton ambush. He was killed fighting as he tried to break through the cordon.

Tom Barry had no doubt that they were out-numbered by ten to one at least. He had to determine without delay whether to fight or to evade action. The decision to fight was made. From observations of enemy movements, it was clear that the British force from the west would reach Crossbarry some time before the other British columns. That would even up the opening fight, and he was confident of being able to defeat it and thus smash one side of the encircling wall of troops. This would leave the flying column free to pass on to the west where it could, according to circumstances.

At 3am, Tom Barry spoke to the flying column, giving them a summary of their situation and the strategy of attack for each of the seven sections. He stressed that no section was to retire from its position without orders, no matter how great the pressure and that no volunteer was, in any circumstances, to show himself until the action started.

The column marched off to Crossbarry at 3.30am, and positions were occupied by 4.30am. Seventy-three officers and men were deployed for an attack. The 31 others were to protect their flanks and rear. By 5.30am all these preparations were completed.

About 8am a long line of lorries carrying British troops came slowly on past Christy O’Connell’s flanking section and into the main ambush positions. Twelve lorries were between Mick Crowley’s section in the centre and Christy O’Connell’s flankers, but many more stretched back along the road. The leading lorry came on, but suddenly it halted and the soldiers started shouting. Unfortunately, despite the strictest orders, a volunteer had shown himself at a raised barn door and was seen. The British started to scramble from their lorries, but Tom Barry had given the order to fire.

Volley after volley was fired, mostly at ranges from five to ten yards, at those soldiers and they broke and scattered, leaving their dead, an amount of arms and their lorries behind them. The survivors fled towards the south.

Helping them now was a man named White of Newcestown, who although was not a volunteer, had been arrested that morning and carried as a hostage in the leading lorry. He had a double lucky escape from death as, after escaping the first volley, he was nearly shot dead until he started shouting that he was an Irishman and a prisoner of the British.

The lorries were then prepared for burning and the British dead pulled away from their vicinity. The first three lorries were burning when heavy rifle fire broke out on their left flank, and all volunteers were ordered back to their original action stations. Another British column of about 200 had advanced from the south-east. They were attacked by Denis Lordan’s section. Peter Kearney’s men were moved up to reinforce Lordan’s, and after heavy fighting the enemy retreated leaving a number of dead.

Tom Barry describes in his book that his men did had not long to await the third phase of the engagement, for shortly afterwards the sounds of rifle fire came from their right flank. Here about a platoon of British tried to come in across country but they were met by Christy O’Connell’s Section.

Ten minutes later the fourth development of the action opened. Still another British column came in on their left rear. Numbering about 200, they had entered an old boreen about a mile back, and, keeping close to the ditch as they crept in, they were unobserved for some time. Tom Kelleher’s riflemen were waiting for them and killed a number of them. The remainder hurriedly retired to cover from where they continued to engage our men but some minutes later withdrew.

It was a victory for Tom Barry’s column at Crossbarry. He records though that three column members lay dead – Peter Monahan, Jeremiah O’Leary, and Con Daly, and several others were wounded. The column retired to billets at Gurranereigh, which were fourteen miles due west of Crossbarry, Flankers would have to travel cross-country for at least twelve miles.


1091a. Crossbarry memorial, present day (source: Cork City Library)

Cllr McCarthy, Nostalgia: St Patrick’s Day in Cork through the decades, 13 March 2021

13 March 2021, “Pictures in The Echo archives underscore the joy of previous St Patrick’s Day parades in Cork, which historian and Independent councillor Kieran McCarthy said may have commenced in 1872, albeit with a different focus”, Nostalgia: St Patrick’s Day in Cork through the decades, Nostalgia: St Patrick’s Day in Cork through the decades (