seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The North King Street Ambush

Three British soldiers are killed, the first in the city since the Easter Rising of 1916, and two more wounded in a short exchange of gunfire with an Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit on the morning of September 20, 1920, at the corner North King Street and Church Street in Dublin.

Just before 11 o’clock, fifteen soldiers of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment arrive in a motor lorry at Monks’ Bakery, North King Street, to acquire a supply of bread for Collinstown aerodrome. What happens next is disputed. Soldiers involved in the incident testify later that the volunteers began the shooting, after shouting “Hands Up!” and demanding they hand over their rifles.

Two key testimonies tally. The driver of the truck, Private C. Barnes, testifies at IRA volunteer Kevin Barry‘s court martial that he had been looking under the bonnet of the vehicle when he saw a civilian carrying a pistol walk up, shout “Hands Up!,” and fire a single round into the air. Decades later, the officer commanding the IRA unit that day, Seamus Kavanagh, tells the Bureau of Military History that it was indeed one of his men, but not Barry, that had fired the first shot, perhaps due to “overanxiety.”

Kavanagh sees the soldiers in the truck immediately rise to their feet, rifles in hand. The plan has fallen apart at the first hurdle, the element of surprise is lost, and there are no guns captured that day. He says he then gives the order to open fire, and retreat from the bakery. The exchange lasts four or five minutes.

In the last seconds of the ambush, Barry is in trouble. His gun has jammed twice, and has only fired two shots. Trying to clear the second jam, he fails to realise the rest of the unit has retreated, leaving him alone. He rolls under the lorry to hide, but a woman in the crowd of onlookers points him out to the soldiers, actually out of concern that he might be run over. He is taken prisoner and brought to the nearest base, at the North Dublin Union.

One reporter who attends the scene counts 22 bullet marks on walls, doors and windows in nearby homes and shops and adds that the military lorry is also riddled with bullet holes.

The three dead soldiers are identified as 18 year-old Private Harold Washington, who is found dead at the scene, Private Marshall Whitehead and Private Thomas Humphries who both die subsequently in King George V Hospital in Stoneybatter. The two wounded are Private William Smith and Private Frank Noble, neither of whom is armed.

It is rumoured that one or two of the attackers are killed, but this is not confirmed. Several volunteers are slightly wounded, but get away. Bob Flanagan’s wound is the most serious, a bullet literally parting his scalp. One onlooker expresses disbelief that the episode did not result in further fatalities given how close the soldiers and their assailants were to each other.

One person is understood to have been arrested in connection with the incident, however, according to eyewitnesses, the civilian in question has nothing to do with the attack and is taking shelter under a dray when arrested.

(Pictured: The funeral of the soldiers killed in the North King Street ambush, Irish Life, October 1, 1920)


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Birth of Thomas Traynor, Member of “The Forgotten Ten”

Thomas Traynor, a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in Tullow, County Carlow, on May 27, 1882.

Traynor is an experienced soldier having been a member of the Boland’s Mill garrison during the 1916 Easter Rising. After the Rising he is interned in Frongoch internment camp, Wakefield Prison and Mountjoy Prison where he shares a cell with Seán Mac Eoin.

Traynor works as a boot maker and is married with ten children. At the time of his death the eldest is 18 years and the youngest 5 months. The eldest son, Frank, represents Ireland at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, competing as a bantamweight boxer.

Traynor is captured during an ambush on Auxiliaries in Brunswick Street, Dublin, on March 14, 1921, and is tried on April 5 at City Hall. He is part of a party of IRA volunteers keeping watch outside a meeting at 144 Brunswick Street that includes Seán MacBride. During the fight an IRA volunteer, Leo Fitzgerald, is killed, as are Constable James O’Farrell and Cadet Bernard Beard of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Traynor is reportedly badly beaten by members of the Igoe Gang.

Traynor is hanged in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin on April 25, 1921, one of a group of men, commonly referred to as the Forgotten Ten, hanged in Mountjoy Prison from 1920–21, during the Irish War of Independence. He is 38 years old at the time of his death.

Mark Sturgis, assistant to the Under-Secretary for Ireland, writes, “Traynor, captured red handed with an attacking party when Auxiliaries were killed in Brunswick Street, was executed this morning. I don’t think they will make much fuss as there is no sort of ‘alibi’ business this time – nor is he the usual ‘youth’, dear to ‘The Freeman‘, as he is over 40 and has a pack of children, the poor deluded idiot.”

On the day following Traynor’s death, Gilbert Potter, a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) District Inspector based in Cahir, County Tipperary, and being held for Traynor’s safe treatment is executed in reprisal by members of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade of the IRA. Another IRA volunteer, Jack Donnelly, captured with Traynor, is sentenced to death but is reprieved by the declaration of an impending truce in June 1921.

In 1965 a statue is erected to honor Traynor in his native town of Tullow. The Ballad of Thomas Traynor is written in his memory.

In 2001 Traynor and the other nine, including Kevin Barry, are exhumed from their graves in the prison and given a full state funeral. He is now buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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Execution of Bernard Ryan, One of “The Forgotten Ten”

Bernard Ryan is one of six men hanged in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin on March 14, 1921. He is a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and part of the Dublin Brigade’s Active Service Unit (ASU). He is one of the Forgotten Ten.

Ryan is born in Dublin c. 1901, the son of Joseph Ryan and Anne Ryan, née Plummer. Affectionately known as Bertie, he is recorded with his widowed mother and his two sisters, Katie and Sarah, in Quarry Lane, Glasnevin, Dublin in the 1911 Census of Ireland. He also has a foster brother, Paddy. He attends St. Gabriel’s National School in Cowper Street. By trade he is an apprentice tailor and is only 20 years old when he wis hanged.

Ryan, together with Patrick Doyle, Thomas Bryan, and Frank Flood, are tried by court-martial on February 24, 1921 and convicted of high treason and ‘levying war against the King,’ following an attempted ambush at Drumcondra, Dublin on January 21, 1921. The four of them, along with Thomas Whelan and Patrick Moran, are hanged at Mountjoy Prison by executioner John Ellis on March 14, 1921, while a crowd of over 20,000 people protest outside. They are hanged in pairs with Whelan and Moran hanged at 6:00 a.m., Doyle and Ryan at 7:00 a.m., and Bryan and Flood at 8:00 a.m.

Ryan is one of a group of men hanged in Mountjoy Prison in the period 1920-1921 commonly referred to as the Forgotten Ten. In 2001 he and the other nine, including Kevin Barry, are exhumed from their graves in the prison and given a full State Funeral. He is now buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.


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Birth of Frank Flood, One of the “Forgotten Ten”

Francis Xavier Flood, known as Frank Flood, a 1st Lieutenant in the Dublin Active Service Brigade during the Irish War of Independence, is born at 6 Emmet Street, Dublin on December 1, 1901. He is executed by the British authorities in Mountjoy Prison and is one of the ten members of the Irish Republican Army commonly referred to as the Forgotten Ten.

Flood is the son of policeman John Flood and Sarah Murphy. The 1911 census lists the family living at 15 Emmet Street. He is one of ten children consisting of nine brothers and one sister, most of whom are heavily involved in the Independence movement. He attends secondary school at O’Connell School in Dublin and wins a scholarship to study engineering at University College Dublin (UCD) where he is an active member of UCD’s famous debating forum, the Literary and Historical Society. He passes his first and second year engineering exams with distinction. At the time of his arrest he is living with his family at 30 Summerhill Parade, Dublin.

Flood is captured, together with Thomas Bryan, Patrick Doyle, Bernard Ryan and Dermot O’Sullivan, while attacking a lorry-load of Dublin Metropolitan Police at Drumcondra on January 21, 1921. All of the men are found in possession of arms and a grenade is discovered in Flood’s pocket. On February 24, 1921 he is charged by court-martial, with high treason/levying war against the King, and is one of six men executed by hanging on March 14, 1921 in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. At nineteen years of age, he is the youngest of the six. His younger brother Patrick is the only member of the family to make an appearance on day of his execution.

Flood is a close personal friend of Kevin Barry, and asks that he be buried as close as possible to him. He had taken part in the September 1920 ambush during which Barry had been arrested and had been involved in the planning of several aborted attempts to rescue him. He remains buried at Mountjoy Prison, together with nine other executed members of the Irish Republican Army known as The Forgotten Ten, until he is given a state funeral and reburied at Glasnevin Cemetery on October 14, 2001 after an intense campaign led by the National Graves Association.

Students of University College Dublin establish the Frank Flood Shield, an annual debating competition, in his memory. Flood and the other five men executed on March 14, 1921 are commemorated in Thomas MacGreevy‘s poem “The Six who were Hanged.”

The bridge over the River Tolka in Drumcondra at Millmount Avenue/Botanic Avenue is named Droichead Frank Flood on March 14, 2018.


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The Hanging of IRA Soldier Kevin Barry

Kevin Gerard Barry, an 18-year-old Irish Republican Army (IRA) soldier, is executed by the British Government on November 1, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. He is sentenced to death for his part in an attack upon a British Army supply lorry which results in the deaths of three British soldiers.

Barry’s execution inflames nationalist public opinion in Ireland, largely because of his age. The timing of the execution, only seven days after the death by hunger strike of Terence MacSwiney, the republican Lord Mayor of Cork, brings public opinion to a fever-pitch. His pending death sentence attracts international attention, and attempts are made by United States and Vatican officials to secure a reprieve. His execution and MacSwiney’s death precipitate an escalation in violence as the Irish War of Independence enters its bloodiest phase, and Barry becomes an Irish republican martyr.

Barry is born on January 20, 1902, at 8 Fleet Street, Dublin, to Thomas and Mary (née Dowling) Barry. The fourth of seven children, two boys and five sisters, he is baptised in St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row. As a child he attends the National School in Rathvilly, County Carlow, and the O’Connell Schools in Dublin, before enrolling in the Preparatory Grade at St. Mary’s College, Dublin, in September 1915. He remains at that school until May 31, 1916 when it is closed by its clerical sponsors. With the closure of St. Mary’s College, he transfers to Belvedere College, a Jesuit school in Dublin.

In October 1917, during his second year at Belvedere, Barry joins Company C, 1st Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers. When Company C is later reorganized he is reassigned to the newly formed Company H, under the command of Captain Seamus Kavanagh. The following year he is introduced by Seán O’Neill and Bob O’Flanagan to the Clarke Luby Club of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), and at some point in time he is sworn as a member of this secret society which is led by Michael Collins.

Two Dublin Volunteers notice that a British army lorry guarded by an armed party of soldiers makes twice weekly trips to Monk’s Bakery on Church Street to obtain bread. Based on these observations, John Joe Carroll of Company H conducts a reconnaissance of the bakery. In addition to its main entrance on Church Street, he observes that the bakery yard is also accessible by a corridor leading from a shop on North King Street. He concludes that this makes the bakery an attractive site for an ambush.

On the morning of September 20, 1920, Barry goes to Mass, then joins a party of IRA volunteers on Bolton Street in Dublin. Their orders are to ambush a British army lorry as it picks up a delivery of bread from the bakery, and capture their weapons. The ambush is scheduled for 11:00 AM, which gives him enough time to take part in the operation and return to class in time for an examination he has at 2:00 PM. The truck arrives late, and is under the command of Sergeant Banks.

Armed with a .38 Mauser Parabellum, Barry and members of C Company are to surround the lorry, disarm the soldiers, take the weapons and escape. He covers the back of the vehicle and, when challenged, the five soldiers comply with the order to lay down their weapons. A shot is then fired, possibly a warning shot from an uncovered soldier in the front. Barry and the rest of the ambush party then open fire. His gun jams twice and he dives for cover under the vehicle. His comrades flee and he is left behind. He is then spotted and arrested by the soldiers. One soldier is killed and two other later die of their wounds.

The War Office orders that Barry be tried by court-martial under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act 1920, which received royal assent on August 9, 1920. Barry is charged on three counts of the murder of Private Marshall Whitehead. In accordance with military procedure the verdict is not announced in court. He is returned to Mountjoy Prison. Later that night the district court-martial officer enters his cell and reads out the sentence: death by hanging. The public learns on October 28 that the date of execution has been fixed for November 1.

Barry is hanged on November 1, 1920, after hearing two Masses in his cell. Canon Waters, who walks with him to the scaffold, writes to Barry’s mother later, “You are the mother, my dear Mrs. Barry, of one of the bravest and best boys I have ever known. His death was one of the most holy, and your dear boy is waiting for you now, beyond the reach of sorrow or trial.”

Barry’s body is buried at 1:30 PM, in a plot near the women’s prison. His comrade and fellow-student Frank Flood is buried alongside him four months later. A plain cross marks their graves and those of Patrick Moran, Thomas Whelan, Thomas Traynor, Patrick Doyle, Thomas Bryan, Bernard Ryan, Edmond Foley and Patrick Maher who are hanged in the same prison before the Anglo-Irish Treaty of July 1921 which ends hostilities between Irish republicans and the British. The men are buried in unconsecrated ground on the jail property and their graves are unidentified until 1934. They become known as the Forgotten Ten by republicans campaigning for the bodies to be reburied with honour and proper rites. On October 14, 2001, the remains of these ten men are given a state funeral and moved from Mountjoy Prison to be re-interred at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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First Burial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

glasnevin-towerThe first burial takes place at Glasnevin Cemetery in Glasnevin, Dublin, on February 22, 1832.

Prior to the establishment of Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics have no cemeteries of their own in which to bury their dead. The repressive Penal Laws of the eighteenth century place heavy restrictions on the public performance of Catholic services, forcing Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards. This situation continues until an incident at a funeral held at St. Kevin’s Churchyard in 1823 provokes public outcry when a Protestant sexton reprimands a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass. The outcry prompts Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion proving that there is actually no law forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushes for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants can give their dead a dignified burial.

Glasnevin Cemetery is consecrated and opened to the public for the first time on February 21, 1832. The first burial, that of eleven-year-old Michael Carey from Francis Street in Dublin, takes place on the following day in a section of the cemetery known as Curran’s Square. The cemetery is initially known as Prospect Cemetery, a name chosen from the townland of Prospect, which surrounds the cemetery lands.

Originally covering nine acres of ground, the area of the cemetery has now grown to approximately 124 acres and is the final resting place of some 1.5 million people. The cemetery consists of two parts. The main part, with its trademark high walls and watchtowers, is located on one side of the road from Finglas to the city centre, while the other part, called St. Paul’s, is located across the road and beyond a green space, between two railway lines.SONY DSC

Glasnevin is one of the few cemeteries that allows stillborn babies to be buried in consecrated ground and contains an area called the Angels Plot for that purpose. In 1982, a crematorium is constructed within the cemetery grounds by Glasnevin Trust and has since been used for people of various religious denominations who wish to be cremated.

Glasnevin contains historically notable monuments and the graves of many of Ireland’s most prominent national figures. These include the graves of Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins (pictured at right), Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Maud Gonne, Kevin Barry, Roger Casement, Constance Markievicz, Pádraig Ó Domhnaill, Seán MacBride, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Frank Duff, Brendan Behan, Christy Brown, and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

Glasnevin Cemetery remains under the care of the Dublin Cemeteries Committee and the development, expansion, and refurbishment of the cemetery is an ongoing task.

The Catholic Mass is celebrated by members of the parish clergy every Sunday at 9:45 AM. An annual blessing of the graves takes place each summer as it has since the founding of the cemetery in 1832.


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Laying of the Foundation Stone of Nelson Pillar

nelson-pillarConstruction of Nelson Pillar, a large granite pillar topped by a statue of Horatio Nelson in the middle of O’Connell Street (formerly Sackville Street) in Dublin, begins with the laying of the foundation stone on February 15, 1808 by the Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Richmond.

News of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar reaches Dublin on November 8, 1805 and is greeted with boisterous celebrations in the streets, alongside mourning for the death of the hero. Within a month the Lord Mayor of Dublin, James Vance, calls a meeting of nobility, clergy, bankers, merchants, and citizens to plan a monument in Nelson’s memory, which is to be funded by public subscription.

The Duke, dressed in a General’s uniform and accompanied by the Duchess in deep mourning for the dead hero, arrive at the foundation stone laying in a state coach drawn by six horses. The procession from Dublin Castle to the site includes Horse Yeomanry and Foot Yeomanry, sailors, officers of the Army and the Navy, subscribers, the committee, the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, the Lord Mayor, the Common Council, sheriffs, aldermen, and peers according to their degrees.

The pillar is a Doric column that rises 121 feet from the ground and is topped by a 13-foot tall statue of Nelson carved in Portland stone, giving it a total height of 134 feet, some 35 feet shorter than Nelson’s Column in London. The diameter of the column is 13 feet at the bottom and 10 feet at the top. All of the outer and visible parts of the pillar are granite from the quarry of Goldenhill, Manor Kilbride, County Wicklow. The interior is black limestone.

The pillar is completed by August 1809 and the statue of Nelson is hoisted into place. The statue is the work of Thomas Kirk, a young Cork-born sculptor then at the beginning of a successful career. The statue adds £630 to the cost of the pillar, which totals almost £7,000.

The monument is opened to the public on Trafalgar Day, October 21, 1809, the fourth anniversary of the battle. It offers the citizens of Dublin an unprecedented perspective on their city. For the payment of ten pence, they can climb the 168 steps of the inner stone staircase to the viewing platform.

On October 29, 1955, a group of University College Dublin students lock themselves inside the pillar and try to melt the statue with flame throwers. From the top they hang a poster of Kevin Barry, a Dublin Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteer who is executed by the British during the Irish War of Independence. Gardaí force their way inside with sledgehammers. They take the students’ names and addresses and bring them downstairs. Rather than arrest the students, the Gardaí merely confiscate their equipment and tell everyone to leave quietly. None are ever charged.nelson-pillar-bombing

At 1:32 AM on March 8, 1966, a bomb destroys the upper half of the pillar, throwing the statue of Nelson into the street. The bomb is planted by a group of former Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers in what is believed to mark the commemoration the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Six days after the original damage, on the morning of Monday, March 14, 1966, Irish Army engineers blow up the rest of the pillar after judging the structure to be too unsafe to restore. This planned demolition causes more damage on O’Connell Street than the original blast, breaking many windows.

The rubble from the monument is taken to the East Wall dump and the lettering from the plinth is moved to the gardens of Butler House, Kilkenny.