The first organised action against British military forces since the 1916 Easter Rising, takes place at Fermoy, County Cork, on September 7, 1919. It is carried out by the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) under the command of Liam Lynch. Their objective is an armed party of British soldiers who attend Sunday service at the Wesleyan Church at the eastern end of the town, the church being about half a mile from their barracks. It is not known if the rifles they carry are loaded but the assumption is that they are and plans are made for that contingency.
At around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, September 7, 1919, fourteen soldiers and a corporal leave their barracks and march through the town towards the Wesleyan Church. They carry their rifles at the slope. Approximately twenty-five volunteers from Fermoy company, armed with just six revolvers between them, assemble in groups of two and three in the vicinity of the church, remaining well spread out to avoid attracting attention. The main attacking party of which Larry Condon is in charge, includes John Fanning Michael Fitzgerald, Patrick Ahern and James Fitzgerald. Another group is detailed to collect the rifles and transfer them to cars parked nearby, while the remainder are to close in from the rear when the attack begins and prevent any attempt by the British to get back to their barracks. Any volunteers who are unarmed carry short clubs hidden on their person.
One of the cars, with George Power in charge, is halted near the church, with two men attending to an imaginary breakdown. The second car, which includes Liam Lynch, drives up Patrick Street behind the party of soldiers, timing it to arrive at the church at the same moment as the soldiers. A whistle blast begins the assault. Liam Lynch calls on the soldiers to surrender but they immediately resist. The attackers rush them, shots are fired and for a minute or two there is a confused struggle. A soldier swinging a rifle butt at Lynch is shot dead while three others are wounded. When the soldiers are finally overpowered, their rifles are taken from them and piled into the Buick driven by Leo O’Callaghan. Into that car also goes Liam Lynch, Owen Harold, Ned Waters, Tom Griffin, Larry Condon, Michael Fitzgerald and John Fanning while Jack Mulvey’s Ford contains Pat Leahy, John Joe Hogan, Peter O’Callaghan, George Power and Dan Hegarty. Both cars head out the Tallow road while the remaining volunteers scatter on foot.
Shortly afterwards a bugle call at the barracks raises the alarm and within minutes two lorry loads of soldiers are speeding out the Lismore road in pursuit. However, at Carrigabrick, a mile and a quarter from the town, two trees on the roadside have been partly sawn through and then held in position by ropes. The moment the cars carrying the rifles pass, the trees come down with a crash thereby forcing the pursuers to make a detour and lose the trail. At Kilmagner, five miles from Fermoy, the rifles are taken to a pre-arranged spot and safely concealed. The following night they are transferred to a dump in the Araglen company area.
Much thought had been given to the selection of officers and men for the task. It is inevitable that those of them who are well known locally would thereafter have to evade arrest. Intensive searches by military and police continue throughout the day. Parties of military in lorries scour the countryside, cars are held up and many people questioned. Two days later the district is proclaimed a military area.
On the Monday night following the raid a large party of soldiers from the British garrison at Fermoy descend upon the town. They smash the windows in most of the shops in Pearse Square, MacCurtain Street and Patrick Street and loot the contents. The following night the troops are confined to barracks, but on Wednesday night they assemble again but find a large crowd of residents waiting for them in Emmet Street. Armed with sticks, stones and other weapons, the local people attack the soldiers so furiously that they are driven back to their barracks. Many citizens barricade their homes and premises and prepare to defend them against further attack, but by Thursday the spate of lawlessness appears to be over for the time being.
However, arrests soon follow. Local Battalion Commandant Michael Fitzgerald, Vice Commandant Larry Condon and Fermoy Company Captain, John Fanning, are among those detained. Others arrested are James Fanning, John Swaine, John Joe Hogan, Martin O’Keeffe, Dick O’Keeffe, Pat Leahy, Tom Griffin, Peter O’Callaghan and Jack Mulvey. Two months later further arrests are made at Mallow. Dan Hegarty, Brian Kelly, Ned Waters, Owen Harold and Leo O’Callaghan are detained. After a series of weekly remands, the prisoners are returned for trial at the Cork Assizes in July, 1920. At Cork the Grand Jury finds against Michael Fitzgerald, John Joe Hogan and Dan Hegarty. The remainder are released.
(From: “Arms Captured in Attack on Military at Fermoy,” http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/ | Pictured: The former Wesleyan Church in Fermoy)