Kilmallock Barracks attack commemorated  By Matt O’Callaghan


Last Thursday morning, a commemoration was held at the exact spot where Kilmallock Barracks was attacked 100 years previous on 28th May 1920 during the War of Independence (or Cogadh na Saoirse as it is known as Gaeilge) which was fought here in Ireland between 1919 and 1922.
Among those present were guest of honour 103-year-old Betty McElholm, Deputies Richard O’Donoghue and Niall Collins, Cllr Michael Donegan and Cllr P.J. Carey. The colour party was provided by O.N.E. members Denis Martin and Christy O’Connor, Noel Collins was M.C. and Eamonn O’Riordan delivered the comme-moration address.
The Irish volunteers or Oglaigh na hÉireann was a military organisation established in 1913 and was made up of members of the Gaelic League, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Cumann na mBan and Sinn Féin and its aim was to secure and maintain the right and liberties for the whole people of Ireland. Opposing this group and representing British rule in Ireland were the Royal Irish Consta-bulary, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries.
Speaking at the commemoration and wreath laying ceremony, Eamonn O’Riordan, Chairperson, Kilmallock Historical and Heritage Society said “Today I wear a replica uniform of the Irish volunteers in honour of the men and women who fought so bravely to achieve our independence.
“The epic battle which took place here on the 28th May 1920 was fought between two very determined groups of soldiers namely the Irish volunteers and the Royal Irish Constabulary.
“The R.I.C., as they were known, occupied the barracks here behind me where the Bank of Ireland now stands. the volunteers occupied the various buildings which we have identified here today by flying our national flag from them. Behind you and to the left Fitzgerald’s Bar which at the time was Clery’s Hotel, to the right was the Bank of Ireland now Powers Solicitors offices. To my left and in front of you is Dan Conway’s house which at the time was Conbas and known as the Run of Luck house. Finally, and probably the most strategic location of the assault on the barracks here to my right was Carroll’s house. it was from this location that the barracks roof was penetrated which allowed the building to be set in flames.
In welcoming guest of honour Ms McElholm, Mr O’Riordan continued., “This lady has a direct connection with this historic event. Betty McElholm (nee Carroll) who celebrated her 103rd birthday this year was born in Carroll’s house three years prior to the attack and we are honoured to have her with us here today as a tangible connection to that historic time. Her house was subsequently burned to the ground in reprisal for the attack on the barracks.
“Very few events taking place throughout the country to mark the centenary of the War of Independence will have such a direct descendant to mark the occasion so on behalf of the Historical Society and everyone here may we thank you sincerely Betty for being with us today and we wish you many more years of health and happiness.
Betty was also with us to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the attack and at the time I remember saying to her that we were looking forward to having her with us for the centenary celebrations. I don’t think so Eamonn was her reply,” Mr O’Riordan recalled.
Explaining a picture that was on display on the stand, Mr. O’Riordan outlined, “In the picture is Frank Gammell whose father played a pivotal role in the War of Independence and was arrested after the attack in Ballylanders. Next, we have Betty who laid the wreath that evening. To her left was John Tobin. it was John’s father who was in Carroll’s house that night throwing the heavy weights onto the roof of the barracks in order to breach it.
The man on the extreme right was Eamonn O’Riordan. it was Eamonn’s father, Seán T. O’Riordan, who led the attack on Ballylanders barracks on the 27th April and was arrested here in Kilmallock on the 12th May. It is reputed that the attack on the barracks here in Kilmallock was in reprisal of his arrest. both john and Eamonn have gone to their eternal reward since that event.
Continuing Mr O’Riordan said “1920 was not the first time the barracks was attacked it was also besieged by the Fenians in 1867 and today we are honoured to have a great, great grand-daughter of Patrick O’Riordan, Imelda O’Riordan (née Garvey) with us. Patrick was one of the Fenians involved in that episode. they did not succeed in penetrating the barracks but set the seed for future generations to rid the country of British rule, indeed some of the volunteers involved in 1920 were direct descendants of the Fenians involved in 1867.
“Many articles and books have been written on the attack which people may access at their leisure but today our brief comme-moration is to honour and remember the brave soldiers on both sides who took part in one of the seminal battles of this war. a Freemans Journal correspondent who arrived on the scene in the aftermath of the battle described it as a “desperate and bloody battle.”
“It is reported that three men lost their lives in the engagement, two were R.I.C. men reportedly wounded at an early stage of the attack and consumed in the subsequent fire, the third man was an Irish volunteer shot through the throat as he retreated at the end of the battle.
The victims’ names are as follows;
Sergeant Thomas Kane of the Royal Irish Constabulary who was 48 years old at the time and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.
Constable Joseph Morton of the Royal Irish Constabulary, a native of Kilmallock and just 47 years old. he is buried here in the local cemetery. Tragically his father, who was also in the RIC, was killed in an incident in Belfast before joseph was born.
Captain Liam Scully of the Irish volunteers, East Limerick brigade, just 29 years of age, a Gaelic League teacher from Glencar County Kerry. He died of his wounds as he was being taken back to his home place and was buried at night to avoid the attention of the black and tans, in the churchyard in Templeglantine.
“The plaque over the entrance to the gates here is in honour of Liam’s memory, these three men paid the ultimate sacrifice during this bitter war and it is fitting that we remember them here today.
“The Historical Society were planning a much bigger commemoration but due to the ongoing pandemic we were forced to revise our plans,” Eamonn O’Riordan revealed, “hopefully, next year we will revisit those ideas.
“The society are committed to honouring the men and women who fought so bravely to achieve our freedom from what was perceived to be the biggest empire in the world. To that end we are proposing to erect a monument in their honour adjacent to the new library facility here at the top of the town. At present we are having some difficulty obtaining planning permission for the monument so I am asking any of our local council representatives to use whatever power they can in persuading Limerick City and County Council of the benefits to the town in having such a monument located there,” he insisted.
“If anyone would like to see the graphic designer’s image of the monument, you may visit our Facebook page to view it. We have set up a Gofundme page also if people would like to donate towards the cost of the monument, we would greatly appreciate any donations towards the project.
The society would like to mention the following for providing their products and services free of charge here today the society thank you most sincerely for your kind gesture.”
Mr O’Riordan concluded by thanking the following. John McCarthy of Arch Engineering for sponsoring the portable flagpole and stand. Cyril Costelloe for cleaning and restoring the plaque dedicated to Liam Scully. The two members of the O.N.E. Denis Martin and Christy O’Connor. for providing the guard of honour and adding so much to the occasion. Orla and Tim of Aherne’s Nurseries for providing the colourful flowers and pots, William McCarthy for his amplification system, Michael Daffy who sponsored the beautiful wreath.
He also thanked all the premises which allowed the flying of the National Flag. Alphonsus O’Regan the traffic warden and the local Gardaí for their help and cooperation
Concluding his address Mr. O’Riordan added, “These are strange and difficult times for all members of our society and I would just like to take this opportunity of thanking you all for coming out and supporting us today in honouring this most significant event of the war of independence here in Kilmallock, go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.”