Newmarket-On-Fergus Barracks 5-8-1920

Late in July, Patrick Buckley, an R.I.C. Constable from north Kerry stationed at Newmarket On Fergus, began making efforts to contact the I.R.A. Buckley had decided to resign from the R.I.C. in protest at British atrocities in Ireland when he  realised that he could strike a far greater blow for the Irish Republic if he could help the I.R.A. to capture his barracks. Pat Reidy, an I.R.A. Volunteer with the Mid Clare Brigade, met Buckley while he was on patrol in New Market on Fergus. Buckley told Reidy how badly the barracks was defended and how easily it could be captured. Reidy passed this information on to I.R.A. intelligence and Michael Brennan arranged to meet Buckley to discuss the possibility of raiding the barracks for arms. Brennan convinced Buckley to help the I.R.A. capture the barracks by leaving the window over the front door open when he was on duty. Michael Brennan’s first attempt to capture the building was a failure, when by chance one of the R.I.C. men inside the Barracks noticed locked the window that Buckley had opened.
On the 5th of August the I.R.A. made another attempt to capture the barracks. This time Buckley had arranged to leave the front door of the barracks unlocked. At midnight the I.R.A met at Convent Cross, a mile from Sixmilebridge. Sentries were posted on all roads leading to the village. The I.R.A. Volunteers removed their boots and crept towards the Barracks door with their revolvers drawn. Pat Reidy guarded the door of the barracks while Micheal Brennan lifted the latch and entered the barracks, followed by the other I.R.A. Volunteers.  Sean Murnane entered the R.I.C. Constables quarters while Brennan went to tackle the barracks sergeant, Sergeant Porter: “I sent my three or four companions to capture the guard and two men in bed and I went along to the sergeants quarters myself. On Buckley’s plan I found his room easily and the light of my torch on his face woke him. He ignored an order to put up his hands and when I repeated it he snatched a revolver on the table beside him and levelled it at me. I found it impossible to fire at a man in bed, so I took a chance and hit his gun hard with my own. I was lucky and his gun rolled on the floor. After this he surrendered. I was warned that he would be though and he certainly was.”
The I.R.A. tied up the R.I.C. and searched the barracks seizing official police documents, valuable intelligence information, and police equipment. The I.R.A.’s main haul was the R.I.C. garrisons arms, six .45 Webbly revolvers, six Carbine rifles and a large quantity of ammunition. Before leaving, the I.R.A. cut the telegraph wires leading from the barracks to prevent the R.I.C calling for assistance. No damage was done to the building during the raid and none of the police had been harmed. Sergeant Porter was so disturbed by the raid that he tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat a few days later.
The British authorities responded to the raid on Sixmilebridge barracks by sending fourteen lorries of British soldiers and Black and Tans to search Kilkishen for republican suspects. As the British forces surrounded the village, I.R.A. Volunteer Joseph Clancy had a narrow escape: “Martin Mc Namara, Jack Curley and Michael Neville and myself were having a meal in Boyle’s public house at the time. We were all ‘on the run’ and each of us was armed with a revolver. We were warned in time to get out by the back door into the fields but were observed by the raiders, who turned machine gun and rifle fire on us. Mc Namara and Myself became separated from the others and we ran along by a hedge for about two hundred yards, when Mc Namara was wounded in the knee. However we kept going, with the enemy still on our tracks, and traversed about three miles through the country until we crossed the Owenogarney river, which was waist high at the time and got into the wood on the Belvoir estate where we eluded our pursuers.”
By the summer of 1920 raids by the British forces meant that active I.R.A. Volunteers had to leave their homes to avoid capture. As the first British reprisals and murders began, I.R.A. Volunteers had to think of the dangers their presence would expose their families to. Many I.R.A. Volunteers names and addresses were known to the British forces and because these men were officially wanted by the R.I.C. they went ‘on the run’, hiding in republican safe houses or sleeping rough in the countryside. In an effort to strengthen the I.R.A. it’s general headquarters issued orders to local brigades to form active service units or ‘flying columns’, large mobile forces of well armed I.R.A. Volunteers which could combat the motorised patrols of the British forces, while making full use of the men who had been forced to go ‘on the run’.
Michael Brennan selected Joseph Clancy, an ex-British soldier who had joined the I.R.A., to train the East Clare Brigade flying column: “I had been appointed Brigade Training officer by reason of my post on the brigade staff and because of my experiences in the First Great War. … As Brigade Training Officer I took in hands personally the drilling of each company according as I moved about the brigade area with Brennan. I always had a rifle or two with which I was able to give lectures on the rifle, its mechanisms and care, how to load it and how to aim with it.  I also gave instructions on the use of small arms and bombs. In this way every volunteer of average intelligence in the East Clare brigade could in an emergency be called upon to use the rifle or revolver by the end of 1920.”
Art O Donnell was appointed commander of the West Clare Brigade’s flying column organised that August: “It was suggested that two picked men from each company be brought together, bringing with them all available equipment for special training with a view to establishing an effective mobile column, and this suggestion was accepted. Instructions were issued to each company to select two of the best men in his company, and send them, with equipment to Tullycrine … Many company captains did not comply with the instructions and instead put the matter before a full meeting of the company, the selection being invariably by drawing lots. As a result, many men were selected who had no intention of going on active service, some actually claiming exemption on the grounds of some imaginary physical defect. When the full column had mobilised, Commandant Liddy asked if I would take charge and I agreed. I set about examining the possibilities of each and found that only about a dozen would be suitable. I billeted them all, however, in the locality and arranged a quiet spot to meet the next morning. Liam Haugh a returned American and an American ex-army man took them on hand at shooting practice.”
The first Sunday in August the column assembled at Simon O Donnells house in Tullycrine. Liam Haugh trained them in the use of the Lee Enfield rifle and the members of the column practiced shooting a .22 rifle. The column mobilised again the following Monday and Tuesday, and were lectured on the basic tactics. As the I.R.A. volunteers prepared for a fourth day of training O Donnell’s house was raided by a large combined force of R.I.C and British soldiers: “Up to this time, all activities enjoyed immunity from enemy intelligence. The Volunteers as a whole would not, or could not, conceive the possibility of the enemy inducing anybody to set the spy. The known pro-British element within the area were few and scattered; they were besides kept at more than an arms length and were known to be inactive. All the greater, therefore, was the consternation when, on the forenoon of the fourth day, a large force of military and police from Kilrush swooped down on O Donnell’s. About ten of the column, who had remained in the neighbouring houses overnight easily escaped.”
The West Clare Brigade’s flying column was temporarily disbanded as a result of the raid while the I.R.A. concentrated on discovering how the British forces had known about the training camp. It became obvious that the raid had been ordered by Detective Constable John Hanlon who was stationed at the R.I.C. barracks at Kilrush. Detective Hanlon must have received information about the training camp from a spy but the I.R.A. were unable to discover who it was and the West Clare Brigade decided to assassinate Detective Hanlon knowing that local British intelligence would be in chaos without him.
Detective Hanlon was very careful about his security arrangements and seldom left Kilrush on duty. According to Liam Haugh the Kilrush company of the I.R.A. were ‘a squeamish lot’ and were reluctant to shoot Hanlon. So two I.R.A. Volunteers from outside Kilrush, Paddy Clancy and Michael Melican, were ordered to assassinate Hanlon. Clancy and Melican entered the town and took up position near Hanlon’s home on Moore Street. As Detective Hanlon approached the two I.R.A. men crossed the street to shoot him. Just then a woman with a pram began walking alongside Hanlon. The two I.R.A. gunmen hesitated to open fire allowing the detective to reach his home safely. On the 10th of August the I.R.A. made a second attempt to shoot Hanlon. Six members of the I.R.A. armed with revolvers met at Tullycrine Grove to commandeer a car in order to travel to Kilrush and shoot Hanlon. After a while a black Ford van approached. It appeared to be an ordinary business van, and as it approached, one of the I.R.A. Volunteers stood on the road waving his revolver as a signal to stop. The van came to a halt and the other republicans dashed to the back of it, to take control of the vehicle to found themselves staring down the muzzles of six rifles, held by half a dozen equally surprised R.I.C. men. The six I.R.A. Volunteers fled through the fields while the R.I.C. beat an equally inglorious retreat in the opposite direction.
On the 21st of August Liam Haugh was passing through Kilrush on his bicycle when he saw Detective Hanlon on Moore Street. Haugh followed Hanlon into Walsh’s pub and shot him dead in the kitchen, before escaping on his bicycle. A number of British soldiers and R.I.C. policeman were patrolling Kilrush at the time but the shot that killed Detective Hanlon was not heard outside and Haugh had safely left the town before the British forces discovered Hanlon was dead. After Detective Hanlons killing, the British forces carried out widespread searches in Kilrush and the surrounding countryside. Volunteer, Patrick Burke, was arrested and beaten mercilessly by an R.I.C. patrol after being found with a revolver and sentenced to two years in prison. His health was broken by the poor treatment he received from the prison authorities and he died shortly after his release.
About this time, the republicans in Clare suffered another loss when I.R.A. Staff Captain Joe Mc Mahon from Kilmaley was killed. Mc Mahon worked as a carpenter in Co.Cavan and had been attached to the I.R.A.’s South Cavan Brigade. He was trying to develop a home made explosive for use in landmines when he was killed on the 15th of August 1920 by an accidental explosion. His body was brought back to Kilmaley for burial. There was a large force of British soldiers at the graveyard to stop the I.R.A. giving Mc Mahon’s remains military honours at the funeral. As the last shovel of earth was placed on Mc Mahon’s grave, the British soldiers left and a small group of I.R.A. volunteers stepped out from behind the churchyard wall and fired their revolvers over the grave.

In the summer of 1920 Patrick Buckley, an R.I.C. Constable from north Kerry stationed at Newmarket On Fergus, began making efforts to contact the I.R.A. Buckley had decided to resign from the R.I.C. in protest at British atrocities in Ireland when he  realised that he could strike a far greater blow for the Irish Republic if he could help the I.R.A. to capture his barracks. Pat Reidy, an I.R.A. Volunteer with the Mid Clare Brigade, met Buckley while he was on patrol in New Market on Fergus. Buckley told Reidy how badly the barracks was defended and how easily it could be captured. Reidy passed this information on to I.R.A. intelligence and Michael Brennan arranged to meet Buckley to discuss the possibility of raiding the barracks for arms. Brennan convinced Buckley to help the I.R.A. capture the barracks by leaving the window over the front door open when he was on duty. Michael Brennan’s first attempt to capture the building was a failure, when by chance one of the R.I.C. men inside the Barracks noticed locked the window that Buckley had opened.

On the 5th of August the I.R.A. made another attempt to capture the barracks. Buckley had arranged to leave the front door of the barracks unlocked. At midnight the I.R.A met at Convent Cross, a mile from Sixmilebridge. Sentries were posted on all roads leading to the village. The I.R.A. Volunteers removed their boots and crept towards the Barracks door with their revolvers drawn. Pat Reidy guarded the door of the barracks while Micheal Brennan lifted the latch and entered the barracks, followed by the other I.R.A. Volunteers.  Sean Murnane entered the R.I.C. Constables quarters while Brennan went to tackle the barracks sergeant, Sergeant Porter: “I sent my three or four companions to capture the guard and two men in bed and I went along to the sergeants quarters myself. On Buckley’s plan I found his room easily and the light of my torch on his face woke him. He ignored an order to put up his hands and when I repeated it he snatched a revolver on the table beside him and levelled it at me. I found it impossible to fire at a man in bed, so I took a chance and hit his gun hard with my own. I was lucky and his gun rolled on the floor. After this he surrendered. I was warned that he would be though and he certainly was.”

The I.R.A. tied up the R.I.C. and searched the barracks seizing official police documents, valuable intelligence information, and police equipment. The I.R.A.’s main haul was the R.I.C. garrisons arms, six .45 Webbly revolvers, six Carbine rifles and a large quantity of ammunition. Before leaving, the I.R.A. cut the telegraph wires leading from the barracks to prevent the R.I.C calling for assistance. No damage was done to the building during the raid and none of the police had been harmed. Sergeant Porter was so disturbed by the raid that he tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat a few days later.

© 2011 War Of Independence Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha