Extract From Keohan's History - by Edmond Keohan
The day after the interment of John Fitzgerald there were some deplorable incidents committed by the military, who, armed with sledge hammers and rifles, approached the premises of Messrs. Michael Moloney, Bridge Street, and having ordered all the people outside, they threw out on the street all the household furniture in the place. As each article fell on the ground the soldier with the sledge broke it into pieces, and the work continued until all the furniture was demolished. It is said that the action taken by the military was a reprisal for the ladies taking part in Fitzgerald's funeral.
Having finished at Messrs. Moloney's, they next proceeded to the premises of Miss Boyle, O'Connell Street, where the same deplorable procedure was gone through. Next they went to Miss Fuge's in St. Mary Street, and did the same. It was a heartrending sight to witness the beautiful furniture thrown from the upper windows and smashed with the hammer in the street. A crowd was collecting, but a shot was fired by the soldiers, and this sent the people back. They finished the fell work, and forming into line they marched through the Main Street to their barracks. Many a comment was made on the proceedure, which was, of course, another means of striking terror into the people. It should be mentioned that before the soldiers began to break up the furniture they imposed a levy of £100 on each of the parties named, but payment in each case was refused. The sight was a woeful one, and those who witnessed it can never have it completely blotted from their memories. But the result of the Burgery ambush was not yet complete, as will be seen from the details given of other processes of destruction.
Curfew was proclaimed in Holy Week, 1921. It cautioned all parties to be within doors from 7 o'clock in the evening till the morning. Some short time before the hour fixed for curfew groups of people could be seen around the streets, standing at their doors and on the Square, watching out for the soldiers to appear. Punctually at 7 o'clock a body of military would emerge from the Barrack Lane armed with rifles. These were soon followed by lorries of military carrying machine guns and rifles, and people would shout "Here they come," and there was an immediate rush for their homes. In a minute the streets were cleared. The Lenten devotions in the churches were suspended, and from the early hour named in the evening till daylight no sound could be heard in the streets save the challenges of the soldiers or the loud knocking at doors where an entry would be demanded for the purpose of making a search.
Shooting a Donkey
Incidents had their humorous as well as their serious side. One night, while the military were patrolling the-"Dead Walk," they saw an object move in the darkness under the trees. The cry "Halt!" was given, but still the object kept moving. Another "Halt!" louder than before, was shouted. still without effect. "Halt!" said the commanding voice in all its force, but the moving object did not heed. And then bang went the rifles. The object dropped. They moved cautiously to view the victim, but they found a donkey.
Another incident-sad in character took place at Carriglea. While the military were passing the wood in a Crossley tender they saw a figure moving among the brambles. The "Halt! " was given, but with no effect. Another " Halt!" was cried out. Still the moving went on The military fired, and a poor aged woman was shot dead. She was collecting some decayed timber for her fire. She was deaf and did not hear the challenge of the military.
About this time also a man named William Moran, a shoemaker and ex-soldier, was taken in the night from his home in Lord George's Lane and shot. His body was found next morning in the marsh with a label tied on, on which were the words "Spies, beware!"
Destruction of Other Property
The funeral of John Fitzgerald took place on Holy-Thursday, and on the following day, Good Friday, scenes were enacted in the suburbs which can never be forgotten, and which were a consequence of the ambush at the Burgery. At about mid-day on this memorable Friday two military lorries drove up the Main Street, carrying some twenty soldiers fully armed, and with machine guns. One of the lorries contained a goodly supply of implements of destruction, axes, sledges, crow bars and various other tools.
The lorries drove across the Square and in the direction of Abbeyside They then turned to the left, on the road to Ballycoe, the residence of Mrs. Dunlea, which is about one and a half miles from the town. The residents were Dunlea, a widow, and her two daughters, the Misses Dunlea. The residence was approached by a long -winding avenue, and up this the lorries drove, coming to a halt in front of the door. Their appearance was a shock to Mrs. Dunlea and her daughters. The officer in charge ordered all the inmates outside, and he informed them that he was going to wreck the furniture and destroy the dwelling. Then began a scene of destruction which was as barbarous as need be witnessed. The ladies were obliged to remain passive onlookers to the demolition being carried out. The soldiers went inside. First they attacked the beautiful piano a first-class instrument and this they smashed to atoms, using the sledge hammer freely. Next in turn came all the furniture, and from room to room the wrecking party went, breaking everything, until the entire massive resi-dence was a heartrending scene of desolation. They next directed their efforts to the outside. The flowers and shrubs they cut down. Even the creeper on the front of the house they cut away. They smashed the hall door and the windows, and the adjoining conservatory, roofed with glass, they smashed and broke in every way. Then they entered the fruit garden, situated immediately inside the lawn. Here they cut down the fruit trees and destroyed everything. They then procured a tall ladder, went on to the roof of the dwelling, and hacked and broke away all the slates. Having completed the process of destruction, they went away, highly satisfied that they had carried out their orders with avidity and completeness. The fine habitation was a ruin and a woeful sight to behold. It must have been agonising to the ladies to see this fell work being carried out, and they helpless to interfere. That night they were obliged to seek shelter in other apartments besides their own, given to them by sympathising friends.
Leaving the demolished premises of Mrs. Dunlea, the military party drove around by the house of another widow, that of Mrs. Morrissey at the Burgery, which lay close to where the ambush had taken place. The residence here was of thatch, the out offices being slated. The soldiers attacked her place, tumbled down her dwelling, and stripped the roofs of all the out-houses. They left the place a com-plete wreck, while she, poor woman, was helplessly looking on. All this destruction was as a reprisal for the ambush. Those who know Mrs. Morrissey can well believe that she knew nothing whatever about the ambush coming off, nor had she had anything in the world to do with it. Still she was made to suffer, and, like in the case of Mrs. Dunlea, she, too, was obliged to seek other apartments for the night which were kindly given her by the kind-hearted neighbours.
On returning to Dungarvan the lorries stopped at the business house of Miss English, of Abbeyside. She was suspected of being in sympathy with the I.R.A. They attacked her house, broke all her furniture, smashed her windows, and left the place a wreck. Crowds of the townspeople walked around to view these devastated places on the following Easter Sunday, and were filled with horror at what they saw. In penning these lines two years after the dreadful occurrences one is amazed that a Government professing advanced principles of civilisation could have condoned, let alone promoted, such fell work, and all for reprisals.
On the anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald large numbers of young men, members of the I.R.A., came from Kilrossenty and district and formed a circle in the field around the spot where he was killed. Then, going on their knees, a priest recited the Rosary, the responses being given by the people, and, having concluded the impressive ceremonies, the young men reassembled on the road and marched four deep back again towards Kilrossenty. The anniversary of the ambush was commemorated in Abbeyside Church, when Requiem Office and High Mass were celebrated, the church being filled with sympathisers during the devotional proceedings. The two young men who had lost their lives in the ambush were held in the highest esteem and enjoyed the confidence of their comrades. Their deaths occasioned universal sorrow, and it may be said with truth, that their memories will live for all time among the people of their native parish, and their deeds of daring be cherished with feelings of undying regard.
The Abbeyside Burning - More Horrors
Perhaps at no previous time were there more indications of the rule with an iron hand than now prevailed in Dungarvan. The whole object of the Government seemed to be to strike terror to subdue by force the spirit of the people. But all these efforts were borne in good part by the inhabitants. Sir Hamar Greenwood, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was the ideal instrument in the hands of the British for the purpose, and when questioned in the House of Commons as to the actual happenings his replies were almost brutal in their callousness. The military rule in the town and district was as rigorous as ever it was in the old days of tyranny, and what with the Black-and-Tans and the armed force, the police force did not much count, as they seemed to be entirely on the defensive, the incidents which were of daily occurrence were appalling in their character. In pursuance of this policy, the striking of terror, a body of Black-and-Tans paraded the streets, carrying with them a bucket of tar and a brush, and they daubed the walls of the houses here and there with such mottoes as "Up the Black and Tans" "To H --- with the I.R.A.!" "Remember Redman and Hickey!" and several other wordings of a like description. Even in some cases the shop fronts were be smeared and the residents warned under the severest penalties not to attempt to clean off the nuisance. Still, under all this provocation, the people were passive in their demeanour and were careful to avoid anything that would be the cause of disturbance in their midst.
But on the night of the Abbeyside burnings there was great activity in the old Castle of Dungarvan. Martial law had been proclaimed. It was enforced with rigour, and the curfew was on. People were obliged to retire to their homes at an early hour. The streets were patrolled through the night by military, and wherever a light was seen burning in a house the door would be battered with the buttend of a rifle. Oftentimes loud knockings would disturb the sleepers, and one was almost afraid to put his head through the window to ascertain why there was any commotion. But on the night of the 12th April, 1921, occurrences of the most alarming character took place. The tramp of armed men could be heard at intervals passing up and down the streets, and close on midnight Verey lights of much brilliancy were sent off from the Castle. The direction in which they were shot was chiefly towards Abbeyside. These firework displays followed one another with unusual rapidity, and only from the cover of their windows could the people see any indication of what was happening, but the brilliant illuminations led them to surmise that something of an unusual character was taking place, and events of momentous import must have been under way. No one could venture out. It might be death to do so. All that could be discerned was the Verey lights streaming through the sky and throwing a shower of brilliant flare on the landscape. Not till the morning were people able to glean wnat this was all about. But with the coming of the day it was learned that many of the houses in Abbeyside had been fired and destroyed by the Black-and-Tans. It was alleged, at all events, that they were the perpetrators of the burnings, and from the stories told in the morning one could gather the sort of horrible night that had been spent by the inoffensive people of Abbeyside. From an examination of the happenings, the aspect of Abbeyside was truly pitiable. Miss Fitzgerald's fine business house, the "Strand Hotel," was a mass of charred ruins. So also was the house adjoining, Mr. T. Fahey's fine business house, on which he had expended a lot of money in improvements, was completely gutted, and the houses alongside were completely destroyed. Tales of horror were told by the people. In the case of Mrs. Fahey, whose husband was in prison at the time, arrested on suspicion, she escaped with her infant child over a high back wall, and the wonder is her courage had not failed her, for she was in fear of death. Miss Fitzgerald stood the ordeal with commendable bravery, and not many could hold out as she did at the sight of her fine premises being consumed in flames. Stories were told of soldiers running and firing, of Verey lights flaming in the sky, of the petrol can being used freely, and the flames of the buildings rising in the air the crackling of the timbers and the falling. of the walls adding fresh horrors to the weird proceedings. It was a night of terrible suffering, and its harrowing incidents will be told at the firesides of this peaceful suburb for many generations yet to come. Happily, when calmer reason prevailed compensation was given to the sufferers, but scarcely any money consideration could pay one adequately for the ordeals they had gone through on that eventful night.