As Historian for AOH Division 18 in Peekskill, N.Y. I write a monthly History Column for the division’s newsletter.
The attached is a copy of the column I put together for November’s issue.
Due to space considerations I did not get into the controversy created by the late Canadian, Professor Peter Hart’s book The IRA And Its Enemies (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1998) and his “revisionist” account/theory of Commandant Tom Barry’s description of the “false surrender” by the Auxiliary officers. In essence claiming General Barry was a liar and that the false surrender was invented and did not happen. For those seeking a thoroughly researched, factual and unbiased account of the ambush I recommend Meda Ryan’s book Tom Barry IRA Freedom Fighter (Mercier Press: December 31, 2005). Mrs. Ryan, a historian and journalist, was born in West Cork and educated at University College Cork and New York City College. She is the author of many books, including The Tom Barry Story, The Day Michael Was Shot and Michael Collins and the Women in His Life.
Having had the personal privilege of speaking with General Barry on a number of occasions during visits to Cork, including walks with him on the grounds of Cork City Museum, and a private tour with him of the Ambush site I can say with certainty Commandant General Tom Barry was without a doubt one of the true heroes of the War for Irish Independence an Irish Republican of unmatched courage, honor and integrity.
It is up to us, those of us who continue to believe in the FENIAN FAITH and strive for a truly free and independent UNITED IRELAND (all 32 Counties) to fight with all our might the Revisionist Historians, Professors/Teachers, Government Officials and Politically Correct Journalists who continue this day with their attempt(s) to subvert and re-write the history of our great Republic as proclaimed, under arms, in 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916!
The month of November 2020 has some significant centennial anniversaries and commemorations of events which took place during the Irish War of Independence. What I will be focusing on are three of those historic events which ultimately led to the famous Kilmichael Ambush.
The first of those events took place 100 years ago, in Dublin, on the 1st of November (“All Saints Day”) 1920, with the British military forces torture and execution (hanging) of 18 year old Kevin Barry. Barry’s death (murder) led to a huge outpouring of grief and anger all over Ireland. The British strangle hold and hostile actions in Dublin led the Republican military leadership to a plan of action.
At this time the English were sending to Ireland intelligence agents from all over the kingdom, particularly the Middle East with sole purpose to root out and destroy the IRA’s organizational leadership. These deep-cover secret intelligence agents were nicknamed “THE CAIRO GANG.” The Gang adopted a strategy of assassinating members of SINN FEIN unconnected with the military struggle hoping doing so would bring the IRA leaders, especially Michael Collins, into the open.
Harking back to the FENIAN BROTHERHOOD forming the secret “SHOOTING CIRCLE” to deal with spies, informers, turncoats and traitors some 50 years earlier, Michael Collins put together, under his direct command, “The SQUAD” also known as an “ACTIVE SERVICE UNIT” and ultimately called “THE TWELVE APOSTLES.”
Which leads to the second significant event of November 1920. The most well-known operation executed by the Apostles occurred on “BLOODY SUNDAY” 21 November 1920, when they, along with assistance from the IRA Dublin Brigade, assassinated 14 members of the Cairo Gang at various locations in Dublin while wounding another 6.
The third event deals with the BLACK and TANS retaliation to the assassinations by crashing into CROKE PARK during the GAELIC FOOTBALL match between DUBLIN and TIPPERARY and machine -gunning the attendees killing 14 civilians including one of the players ,MICHAEL HOGAN, and wounding 68.
100 YEARS AGO ON THE 28TH OF NOVEMBER 1920 AT KILMICHAEL, COUNTY CORK, THIRTY-SIX IRISH VOLUNTEERS FROM THE 3RD WEST CORK BRIGADE “FLYING COLUMN” UNDER THE COMMAND OF COMMANDANT TOM BARRY AMBUSHED AND KILLED SEVENTEEN MEMBERS OF THE DREADED BRITISH AUXILIARIES. MAKING A DRAMATIC ESCALATION IN THE IRA’s MILITARY CAMPAIGN.
DURING THE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1920 OVER 500 MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL IRISH CONSTABULARY HAD RESIGNED AND THE GOVERNMENT IN LONDON CAME UP WITH THE PLAN TO REINFORCE THE REMAINING RIC WITH A PARAMILITARY POLICE FORCE MADE UP OF FORMER BRITISH WORLD WAR I SOLDIERS WHO BECAME KNOWN AS “THE BLACK AND TANS.”
THIS GROUP WAS FOLLOWED UP BY THE “AUXILIARIES.” RECRUITED FROM EX-BRITISH OFFICERS WHO HAD HELD COMMISSIONED RANK FROM LIEUTENANT TO BRIGADIER-GENERAL AND HAD BEEN IN COMBAT ON ONE OR MORE FRONTS DURING WORLD WAR I. THEY WERE HIGHLY TRAINED, EXPERIENCED AND ABSOLUTELY RUTHLESS. REPUTED AND PUBLICISED BY THE BRITS AS THE PICK OF ENGLANDS BEST SOLDIERS.
IN AUGUST 1920, 150 AUXILIARIES ARRIVED IN MACROOM TOWN AND TOOK OVER MACROOM CASTLE AS THEIR BARRACKS. FOR MONTHS THEY WERE PERMITTED TO RAMPAGE THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE WHILE NOT A SINGLE SHOT IN ANGER HAD BEEN TAKEN AT THEM. FOLLOWING THE BLOODY SUNDAY MASSACRE AT CROKE PARK IN DUBLIN ON 21 NOVEMBER 1920 THE LEADERSHIP OF THE IRA’s SOUTHERN DIVISION MADE THE DECISION TO ATTACK AND COMMANDANT TOM BARRY PREPARED FOR THE AMBUSH. NOT ONLY WAS BARRY A BRILLIANT MILITARY TACTITION HE ALSO POSSESED A KEEN STRATEGIC MIND AND NOT A SINGLE DETAIL IN PLANNING THE AMBUSH WAS OVERLOOKED.
AT 2:00am ON SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28TH “THE BOYS OF KILMICHAEL” ASSEMBLED FOR THEIR MARCH TO THE AMBUSH SITE. EACH VOLUNTEER WAS ARMED WITH A RIFLE, A FEW HAD REVOLVERS, BARRY DRESSED IN A BORROWED IRA OFFICER MILITARY UNIFORM, ALSO CARRIED TWO HAND GRENADES. AT 3:00am THE MEN WERE FINALLY TOLD THEY WERE ON THE WAY TO ATTACK AN AUXILIARY FORCE BETWEEN MACROOM AND DUNMANWAY. THEY REACHED THE AMBUSH SITE AT APPROXIMATELY 8:15AM AT WHICH TIME ALL WERE INFORMED OF THE BATTLE PLAN. THEY WERE ALSO TOLD THE POSITIONS THEY WERE TAKING ALLOWED FOR NO RETREAT AND THAT WHEN THE ENEMY ARRIVED IT WOULD A FIGHT TO THE DEATH. AT APPROXIMATELY 4:00pm ONE OF THE SCOUTS SIGNALLED THE AUXILIARIES APPROACHING IN TWO LORRIES. AS THE FIRST LORRY CAME AROUND THE BEND INTO THE AMBUSH SITE BARRY STEPPED INTO THE ROAD WITH HIS HAD UP. THE DRIVER OF THE LORRY, SEEING BARRY IN HIS IRA UNIFORM, BEGAN TO SLOW DOWN. BARRY THREW ONE OF HIS HAND GRENADES INTO THE UNCOVERED LORRY. THE GRENADE EXPLODED KILLING THE DRIVER AND THE FIRE-FIGHT WAS ON. IN LESS THAN FIVE MINUTES NINE OF THE AUXILIARIES LAY DEAD OR DYING. AS THE SECOND LORRY CAME TO A STOP IT TOO CAME UNDER FIRE. SOME OF THE AUXILIARIES WERE LYING ON THE ROAD RETURNING FIRE WHILE OTHERS HAD TAKEN UP POSITIONS BESIDE THE DITCH NEXT TO THE ROAD, OR HAD TAKEN COVER BEHIND THEIR LORRY WHEN ONE OR MORE OF THE AUXILIARIES SHOUTED “WE SURRENDER.” THE FIRING STOPPED AND THREE 0F THE VOLUNTEERS STOOD UP. THE AUXILIARIES ONCE AGAIN BEGAN FIRING AND THE THREE VOLUNTEERS FELL.
BARRY GAVE THE ORDER TO OPEN FIRE. A SHORT TIME LATTER THE AUXILIARIES ONCE AGAIN SHOUTED “WE SURRENDER” BUT BARRY GAVE THE ORDER TO “KEEP FIRING ON THEM” “KEEP FIRING.” EVERYONE KEPT FIRING UNTIL BARRY BLEW THE WHISTLE AND GAVE THE OREDER TO CEASE FIRE. WITH THE FIGHTING FINALLY OVER SEVENTEEN AUXILIARIES AND TWO VOLUNTEERS, MICHAEL McCARTHY AND JIM O’SULLIVAN, LAY DEAD AND THE YOUNG 16 YEAR OLD PATRICK (PAT) DEASY MORTALLY WOUNDED.
THE ENGAGEMENT AT KILMICHAEL, THE FIRST BETWEEN THE IRA AND THE PREVIOUSLY INVINCIBLE AUXILIARIES, HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED AS BEING ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BATTLES OF THE ANGLO-IRISH WAR. SHAKEN TO THE CORE, THE BRITISH MILITARY COMMAND COULD NOT COMPREHEND HOW 17 BATTLE HARDENED OFFICERS FELL IN COMBAT AGAINST WHAT THEY HAD PREVIOUSLY DISMISSED AS NOTHING MORE THAN AN ARMED RABBLE.
BECAUSE OF A BATEMAN-DEASY/HAYES FAMILY FRIENDSHIP WITH COMMANDANT GENERAL BARRY AND A DEASY FAMILY (cousins) RELATIONSHIP TO LIAM AND PARTICK DEASY IT WAS MY UNIQUE PRIVILAGE TO HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF A PERSONAL VISIT AND TOUR OF THE KILMICHAEL AMBUSH SITE WITH COMMANDANT GENERAL BARRY IN THE SUMMER OF 1968 AND AGAIN AT THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1970.
“GOD SAVE IRELAND!”
Past National Historian, AOH
Past Division 8 Historian, Lawrence, MA
DIVISION 18 HISTORIAN, Peekskill, NY
VIEWING AND LISTENING PLEASURE:
THE REBEL SONG; ‘THE BOYS OF KILMICHAEL’ SUNG BY JIMMY CROWLEY COMMEMORATES THE AMBUSH. THE POET PATRICK GALVIN WROTE A NEW FINAL VERSE CRITICAL OF ‘REVISIONIST’ HISTORIANS.
(1998): ‘SONGS FROM THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE HAVE BECOME SO FROWNED UPON IN POST-MODERN IRELAND THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE BEING DENIED ANY RECOURSE TO NATIONAL PRIDE, LANDSCAPE, LEGENDS OR ANY FORM OF HEROISM , ALL VERY NECESSARY COMPONENTS OF THE IRISH PSYCHE. FOR ALL THOSE REASONS, I ASKED THE CORK POET PATRICK GALVIN TO WRITE AN EXTRA VERSE AND DISPATCH A BROADSIDE IN THE DIRECTION OF THE HISTORICAL REVISIONISTS .
(JIMMY CROWLEY, NOTES ‘UNCORKED!’)
THE 2006 AWARD WINNING FILM: THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY IS BASED ON THE KILMICHAEL AMBUSH. SOME OF THE DETAILS OF THE AMBUSH IN THE FILM ARE DIFFERENT. IN THE FILM ONLY ONE VOLUNTEERS DIES. ALSO THE AMBUSH IN THE FILM TAKES PLACE DURING THE DAY. THE LEADER OF THE AMBUSH IN THE FILM WEARS A BRITISH UNIFORM WHEREAS COMMANDANT TOM BARRY WORE VOLUNTEER PADDY O’BRIEN’S IRA OFFICER’S UNIFORM. THE ORDER TO FORM UP INTO RANKS AND THE CONTENT OF THE SPEECH AFTER THE BATTLE BY THE AMBUSH LEADER, IS SIMILAR AS TO WHAT HAPPENED AT KILMICHAEL.