seamus dubhghaill

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


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Death of Cathal Brugha, Revolutionary & Politician

cathal-brugha-1Cathal Brugha, Irish revolutionary and republican politician, dies in Dublin on July 7, 1922 from injuries received two day earlier when shot by Irish Free State forces on O’Connell Street.

Brugha is born Charles William St. John Burgess of mixed Roman Catholic and Protestant parentage in Dublin on July 18, 1874. He attends Colmkille Schools until 1888 when he is admitted to Belvedere College. He intends to study medicine but this does not come to fruition after his father’s business fails in 1890. He is seen as an austere figure, not very different from Éamon de Valera, and is known not to smoke cigarettes, swear or drink alcohol.

In 1899, Brugha joins the Gaelic League, and he subsequently changes his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He meets his future wife, Caitlín Kingston, at an Irish class in Birr, County Offaly, and they marry in 1912. The marriage produces six children. He becomes actively involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1913 he becomes a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers. He leads a group of twenty Volunteers to receive the arms smuggled into Ireland in the Howth gun-running of 1914.

Brugha is second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt in the Easter Rising of 1916. On the Thursday of Easter Week, being badly wounded, he is unable to leave when the retreat is ordered. Brugha, weak from loss of blood, continues to fire upon the enemy and is found by Eamonn Ceannt singing “God Save Ireland” with his pistol still in his hands. He recovers over the next year, but is left with a permanent limp.

Brugha proposes a Republican constitution at the 1917 Sinn Féin convention, which is unanimously accepted. In October 1917, he becomes Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and holds that post until March 1919.

Brugha is elected as a Sinn Féin MP for the County Waterford constituency at the 1918 Irish general election. In January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs refuse to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assemble at the Mansion House in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament called Dáil Éireann. Owing to the absence of Éamon de Valera and Arthur Griffith, he presides over the first meeting of Dáil Éireann on January 21, 1919.

Brugha is elected Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on January 21, 1919, and he reads out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratifies “the establishment of the Irish Republic.” On the following day he is appointed president of the ministry pro tempore. He retains this position until April 1, 1919, when Éamon de Valera takes his place.

Brugha has differences with Michael Collins, who, although nominally only the Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) Director of Intelligence, has far more influence in the organisation as a result of his position as a high-ranking member of the IRB, an organisation that Brugha sees as undermining the power of the Dáil and especially the Ministry for Defence. He opposes the oath of allegiance required for membership of the IRB. In 1919, his proposition that all Volunteers should swear allegiance to the Irish Republic and the Dáil is adopted.

At a top-level IRA meeting in August 1920, Brugha argues against ambushes of Crown forces unless there is first a call to surrender, but it is dismissed as unrealistic by the brigade commanders present. He also has the idea of moving the front line of the war to England, but is opposed by Collins.

On January 7, 1922, Brugha votes against the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During the Treaty debates, he points out that Collins has only a middling rank in the Department for Defence, which supervises the IRA, even though Griffith hails him as “the man who had won the war.” It is argued that, by turning the issue into a vote on Collins’ popularity, Brugha swings the majority against his own side. Frank O’Connor, in his biography of Collins, states that two delegates who had intended to vote against the Treaty changed sides in sympathy with Collins. Brugha leaves the Dáil and is replaced as Minister for Defence by Richard Mulcahy.

In the months between the Treaty debates and the outbreak of Irish Civil War, Brugha attempts to dissuade his fellow anti-treaty army leaders, including Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows and Joe McKelvey, from taking up arms against the Free State. When the IRA occupies the Four Courts, he and Oscar Traynor call on them to abandon their position. When they refuse, Traynor orders the occupation of the area around O’Connell Street in the hope of easing the pressure on the Four Courts and of forcing the Free State to negotiate.

On June 28, 1922, Brugha is appointed commandant of the forces in O’Connell Street. The outbreak of the Irish Civil War ensues in the first week of July when Free State forces commence shelling of the anti-treaty positions.

Most of the anti-Treaty fighters under Traynor escape from O’Connell Street when the buildings they are holding catch fire, leaving Brugha in command of a small rearguard. On July 5, he orders his men to surrender, but refuses to do so himself. He then approaches the Free State troops, brandishing a revolver. He sustains a bullet wound to the leg which “severed a major artery causing him to bleed to death.” He dies on July 7, 1922, eleven days before his 48th birthday. He had been re-elected as an anti-Treaty TD at the 1922 Irish general election but dies before the Dáil assembles. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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The Grange Ambush

grange-ambush-memorialAn Irish Republican Army (IRA) column mounts an ambush at Grange, County Limerick on November 8, 1920.

Approximately fifty men of 3rd Battalion East Limerick IRA parade at 5:00 AM on the cold bleak morning of November 8. They are armed with 21 rifles and 21 shotguns, plus a small quantity of explosives. It has been decided to ambush a convoy at Grange Bridge, a point about eight miles from Limerick and about four miles from Bruff. They set out and occupy positions around John O’Neill’s house. The ambush site is about four miles from the big British garrison at Bruff to the south. The IRA expects two British lorries around 9:00 AM, however, in the end eight lorries and two armoured cars arrive at noon.

It is a joint action involving the flying columns of both the 3rd Battalion East Limerick Brigade and the 4th Battalion Mid Limerick Brigade, supported by men from the local companies of Bruff, Grange and Holy Cross in the East Limerick Brigade and from the Fedamore and Ballybricken Companies of the Mid Limerick Brigade. Donnchadha O’Hannigan has overall command of the combined columns and most of the ambushers are placed in houses and behind walls on both sides of the road. Among the IRA men who take part in the action is their chaplain, the Curate at Fedamore, Fr. William Joseph Carroll, who had been awarded the Military Cross for bravery in 1918 by the British Army. Also among the attackers is Maurice Meade, who had been a member of Roger Casement‘s Irish Brigade in Germany.

Something makes the British suspicious and they send one lorry ahead as a decoy. It is bombed by the IRA and raked with small arms fire. At this point, a British armoured car appears, with an officer mounted on the running board firing a revolver and its machine gun firing at the IRA at close range. The IRA account names the officer on the running board as Lt. Watling and they believe that they wounded him and he died in the hospital at Bruff that night.

More British reinforcements appear and the IRA realises that they are up against a vastly larger force than they had anticipated, so they retreat. Apart from one minor wounded man, they have no casualties.

The Royal Fusiliers‘ account says while escorting a Royal Air Force convoy from Fermoy to Oranmore, Lieutenant Allan and thirty other ranks are ambushed at Grange, near Bruff. The rebels, however, are speedily dealt with, and a quantity of arms, ammunition and two prisoners are taken. Unfortunately, Flying Officer Watling and Bandsman Bailey are wounded, the latter seriously. The only other casualty is Private French, who is shot at when a sentry at Galbally, and has the back luck of losing his arm.


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Killing of Bernard Daly, Seán Cole & Alf Colley

sean-cole-and-alf-colleyFianna Éireann members Seán Cole and Alf Colley and Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) member Bernard Daly, are abducted and killed in Dublin on August 26, 1922 by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) police unit based in Oriel House allegedly in revenge for Michael Collinsassassination four days earlier, although possibly in retaliation for the death of a CID man the previous day.

By the middle of August, the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State under Collins has control of Dublin. Collins himself has established a Criminal Investigation Department based at Oriel House, Westland Row. These former IRA Volunteers, turned Free Staters, acquire a ruthless reputation and become known to republicans as the Oriel House Gang. They are plain-clothed and heavily armed and Oriel House is notorious for ill-treatment of republican prisoners held there. Accounts of the killings of August 26 indicate that the Oriel House Gang is responsible.

The day after Collins is assassinated, Richard Mulcahy, Chief of Staff of the Free State Army, sends a message to his soldiers. He urges them to “stand calmly by your posts” and says, “Let no cruel act of reprisal blemish your bright honour.” Yet in Dublin, within days of that message, and as the body of Collins lay in state in City Hall, Free State forces carry out atrocities which have been almost totally forgotten.

Following the assassination at Béal na mBláth on August 22, Collins’s body is brought to Dublin and lay in state in City Hall. On August 26, a short distance away from City Hall where crowds are still filing past the coffin, Bernard Daly is working as a bartender in Hogan’s licensed premises in Suffolk Street. At about 3:30 PM three armed men enter the pub and arrest Daly at gunpoint. He is dragged to the cellar and then taken away in a Ford car.

Daly’s body is brought to the City Morgue that evening by Free State troops who claim to have found it. Daly had been shot dead near St. Doulagh’s Church on the Malahide Road in what is then rural North County Dublin.

Plain-clothed, armed men travelling in a large Ford car, possibly some or all of the same individuals, are responsible for the second summary execution of August 26. Seán Cole of Lower Buckingham Street and Alf Colley of Parnell Street are officers of Fianna Éireann, the republican youth organisation. They are arrested at Annesley Bridge and taken to Yellow Lane, Whitehall. They suffer the same fate as Bernard Daly, only this time there are witnesses.

The Irish News reports that soon after 6:00 PM, a group of children and young people playing on the road are surprised when a large Ford car comes to a sharp halt. There are five or six men inside – Cole and Colley and their abductors. The two Fianna members are forced out of the car while the crowd is held back at gunpoint. One of the Free Staters tries to open a gate to a field, which is presumably to be the site of the executions, but the gate is locked.

Cole and Colley are placed with their backs to the gate, held in position and killed with revolver shots to the body and head. Their killers then drive away from the scene.

The sites of the executions of Bernard Daly, Seán Cole and Alf Colley are marked by small memorials.

(Pictured: Seán Cole and Alf Colley – summarily executed in revenge for death of Michael Collins)


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James Mulroy Awarded the First Walter Scott Medal for Valour

The first Walter Scott Medal for Valour, a medal awarded annually for bravery in the Garda Síochána, is awarded to Garda James Mulroy on August 18, 1924. The award is presented by Colonel Scott himself at the Depot, Phoenix Park. It is not a state award, being in the gift of the commissioner, but the medals are awarded by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The Garda medal is instituted at the behest of Colonel Walter Scott, a New York City philanthropist who took an interest in policing. In 1923 he gives a one thousand dollar gold Bond which pays for in perpetuity a gold medal. The award is to be presented under the following condition: No action, however heroic, will merit the award of the Scott medal unless it takes the shape of an act of most exceptional bravery and heroism involving the risk of life in the execution of duty, and armed with full previous knowledge of the risk involved.

Guard Mulroy is accosted by two armed men who tell him he has five minutes to live. He waits for his opportunity, springs upon the man with the revolver, tackles him and holds him, but is shot and seriously wounded by the other man who fires his single barreled shotgun and then proceeds to beat Guard Mulroy on the head with the shotgun. The struggle ends when the stock of the shotgun separates from the barrel and Guard Mulroy grabs the barrel with one hand while still holding the other man with the loaded revolver with the other. Guard Mulroy disarms the man with the revolver while the other runs off. He then tells the remaining man to go home. Guard Mulroy falls unconscious and later awakes to find himself in the ditch with the revolver in one hand and the barrel in the other. He returns to his station at 5:00 AM, gets his wounds dressed, and then goes out with another Guard and arrests one of the men.