“A damn good clean fight.” The Last Stand of the Leixlip Flying Column

fs ArmouredCar
Free State troops in an armoured car.

An anti-Treaty column is captured and five of its members executed in December 1922. By Christopher Lee.

Heavy machine gun fire ricochets off the brick walls of the house and shatters windows. Those inside rise from cover to fire at the soldiers advancing towards them across the field but they can do nothing to slow the armoured car that rolls down the road towards them.

The gun battle can be heard for miles around and troops continue to converge on the area. Though the men inside the house have stood their ground and fought, their outposts have been pushed back and they are under attack from two sides. It is clear to them they are outgunned and outnumbered and will soon be surrounded. Rather than be pinned down inside the house, the decision is made to break out and escape across country, to take their chances in the fields of Kildare.

The Leixlip flying column may not have left its mark on the history of the Civil War but it was certainly not for the want of trying. From its creation to demise, under the command of Patrick Mullaney, the Anti-Treaty flying column was responsible for the widespread destruction of transport and communication infrastructure across Eastern Kildare and numerous ambushes of Free State forces. Mullaney was also involved in an ambitious plan, which, if carried out, would have been an outstanding propaganda and tactical coup, nothing less than the destruction of the Baldonnel military aerodrome and the aerial bombing of Leinster House.

Though it operated for only a little over three months, as a guerrilla fighting force it was certainly formidable; well-disciplined and heavily armed with automatic weapons. The men of the column would distinguish themselves in their last engagement against Free State forces, earning the respect of their opponents.

The formation of the Leixlip Column

An IRA flying column, in this case at Kilflynn Kerry in 1922. The Leixlip men who have been similarly dressed and equipped. (Courtesy of the Irish Volunteer website)
An IRA flying column, in this case at Kilflynn Kerry in 1922. The Leixlip men would have been similarly dressed and equipped. (Courtesy of the Irish Volunteer website)

During the War of Independence Patrick Mullaney, a school teacher from Balla, Mayo, operated with the Meath/Kildare flying columns and carried out a number of actions ranging from sabotage and destruction of railway lines and bridges to attacks on R.I.C. barracks and ambushes. With the split in the army over the acceptance of the treaty, Mullaney sided with the Anti-Treaty forces in Kildare.

The day after the Civil War broke out on 28th June 1922 Mullaney was arrested and imprisoned in the Curragh, but by 20th August, had managed to escape and took command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Eastern Division. The 1st Brigade’s area of operations was from Dunboyne to Celbridge and from Lucan to Maynooth.

The Leixlip anti-Treaty IRA column was formed in August 1922 after the escape from imprisonment of Patrick Mullaney,

Under Mullaney’s command it engaged in a campaign of ambush, destruction and raiding. The railway lines between Dublin and Maynooth were repeatedly destroyed, as was the Louisa Bridge at Leixlip and Post Offices were raided for mail bags and money. Several ambushes and attacks were carried out on National Army troops, with sniping attacks on Maynooth and Lucan.

On 27th September 1922, the Provisional Government granted itself emergency powers to the effect that any civilian charged with taking up arms against the state or even possessing arms without permission could be tried in a military court and face the death penalty.[1] From this point, all members of the flying column risked execution by a firing squad if they were captured.

The proposed attack on Baldonnel Aerodrome

Some flyers and am aeroplane from the early days of teh Irish Air Corps, based at Baldonnel. (Courtesy of the Military.ie website)
Some flyers and an aeroplane from the early days of the Irish Air Corps, based at Baldonnel. (Courtesy of the Military.ie website)

In November 1922 Mullaney was involved in his most ambitious operation yet, a plan to capture and destroy Baldonnel Aerodrome, home of the fledgling Irish Air Corps. The Air Corps had around ten aircraft based at Baldonnel which was guarded by around 300 soldiers and 30 officers.[2]

Mullaney was in touch with soldiers inside Baldonnel sympathetic to the Republican cause, one of whom, Corporal Leo Dowling, told him that if he mounted an attack he could count on the support of around thirty soldiers.

A member of the flying column, Michael O’Neill, had the contract to supply meat to Baldonnel and Mullaney made frequent trips inside the base, producing drawings of the entire layout.[3] The plan was to assemble a substantial force from Kildare, Meath and Dublin and, relying upon the inside help, capture the aerodrome before any resistance could be mounted. James Dunne, officer in charge of the Kildare Brigade, recalled:

“I reported to Celbridge, where we were joined by T. Harris with men from 4th Battalion (Prosperous) and W. Byrne…with that Battalion Column. We had about 50 men all told, and Mullaly’s (sic) men brought the total strength to 80 men. One hundred men were promised from the Dublin Brigade but only twenty men turned up.”[4]

Mullaney and his men were in Baldonnel guardhouse with the sympathetic soldiers, waiting for the signal to attack, when the operation was called off because of the low turnout from the Dublin Brigade.[5]

Todd Andres with Eamon de Valera (Courtesy of the Irish Volunteers website)
Todd Andrews with Eamon de Valera (Courtesy of the Irish Volunteers website)

Todd Andrews, the Dublin Brigade officer in charge of providing men for the operation, ordered the men to disperse back to their brigade areas without any action being taken. Over the next fortnight, two more attempts were made to assemble enough men to mount the attack and on each occasion the Dublin Brigade failed to turn up in sufficient numbers, on one occasion just seven men turned up.

On the final attempt, when Todd Andrews again called off the operation, James Dunne recalls in his witness statement, Mullaney, who had invested a lot of energy into the operation, cried.[6]

After the Civil War, Mullaney would lay the blame for the failure of the Baldonnel operation on Todd Andrews and other senior officers of the Dublin I.R.A. accusing them of “…insincerity and negligence…”.[7]

Following the cancellation of the final attempt to organise the attack on Baldonnel Mullaney was asked to create a diversion to allow those of the Dublin Brigade who had shown up to disperse back into the city. Mullaney mounted an attack on the nearby Lucan barracks and though the shooting continued until dawn there were no reports of casualties on either side. [8],[9]

The Leixlip column, with the IRA Dublin Brigade, planned to seize Baldonel aerodrome and use its planes to bomb the Dail in Leinster House.

The most interesting aspect of the plan to capture Baldonnel was to use two planes to bomb Leinster house or Beggars Bush barracks: “… two I.R.A. officers who were ex British army airmen were to man two planes and bomb Leinster House. [10]

The plan to use the National Army’s own weapons against them was audacious and, if successful would have been a significant propaganda coup. James Dunne said “The bombing of Leinster house might have ended the war.”[11] However, Todd Andrews, selected as a bombardier for one of the planes, in his autobiography, was dismissive of the practicality of the plan and its chances of success.[12]

In his witness statement, Dunne says, regarding the first cancellation of the operation: “As only twenty men turned up from Dublin, Todd Andrews decided to call off the operation as he had not enough men to take away all the material and to attack Dublin with the help of the planes.” (emphasis added)

This would seem to indicate there was to be a coordinated ground and air attack by Republican forces on key centres in Dublin. Following the disastrous attempt to destroy Dublin’s road and rail links to the rest of the country on the ‘night of the bridges’ in August 1922, the Dublin based Anti-Treaty forces had lost considerable manpower and arms. Perhaps the coordinated ground and air attack on Leinster House and Beggars Bush barracks was to be an attempt by the Dublin Republican forces to regain the initiative.

Francis Brennan, a member of the column.
Francis Brennan, a member of the column.

However, though it would undoubtedly have caused alarm in the government, it is unlikely to have irrevocably swung the military or political balance in favour of the Republican side. The planes chosen for the attack would likely have been Bristol F2, which were based at Baldonnel. These WW1 biplanes were considered very good fighters and ground attack aircraft for their day.

They could stay in the air for around 2 ½ hours, were armed with two machine guns and could carry up to 200kg of bombs. However, with only two aircraft and untrained bombardiers, there would be a limit to the amount of damage they could inflict before they ran out of fuel, ammunition and bombs, and potentially causing civilian casualties with poorly aimed bombs dropped in urban areas.[13]

With Baldonnel Aerodrome presumably having been destroyed there would have been nowhere for the planes to refuel or rearm. Indeed, Todd Andrews mentions his plane was to put down on the beach at Merrion Strand near Sandymount.[14] At this point the plane would be useless to the Republicans and would probably have been destroyed. However, regardless of the effect of the air attack upon the government, the raid on Baldonnel would certainly have provided a large quantity of arms, ammunition and possibly armoured cars for the Republicans at a time when weapons were in short supply.

Though the plan to bomb Leinster House has often been attributed to Mullaney, in his interview with Ernie O’Malley, he denied any knowledge of it:

“The place would have been given over before anyone would have known of it and when the aerodrome was captured it was to have been burned. I didn’t know about the pilots. .. Dowling said they were to bomb the government buildings and Beggars Bush when the planes had been captured. But I would have been satisfied to have captured Baldonnel.”[15]

Erskine Childers was rumoured to have planned to fly one of the planes in the Baldonnel plot. He was captured and executed not long afterwards.

One curious aspect of the planned attack on Baldonnel is mentioned in Mullaney’s interview, the involvement of Erskine Childers. Mullaney says: “Erskine Childers was to have been brought up from the south in connection with that (the attack on Baldonnel).” Later, Mullaney again says: “Childers, I was told, came up for Baldonnel ….”

Childers had been a decorated pilot with the Royal Air Force during WW1, and perhaps Mullaney thought Childers would pilot one of the planes. On 10th November 1922, Childers was captured while making his way to Dublin, ostensibly to meet with De Valera. Childers had in his possession a .32 semi-automatic pistol, a gift from Michael Collins from before the Civil War. He was charged with the illegal possession of arms, found guilty and executed at Beggar’s Bush Barracks on 24th November, 1922. Childers was the fifth anti-treaty fighter executed under the emergency powers act. The previous executions had been four young Dublin men sentenced for possession of firearms.

A campaign of destruction

The raid on Baldonel did not come off but some of its National Army garrison defected to the republicans.

For the next few weeks Mullaney’s column carried out an aggressive campaign of destruction, tearing up railway lines, burning signal boxes, cutting telegraph and telephone wires, wrecking exchanges as well as raiding for supplies. Railway lines and road bridges were blown up at Leixlip, Straffan, Celbridge and Maynooth. Post offices and pubs in Leixlip and Celbridge were raided for money, alcohol and cigarettes. At one stage, in the early hours of the morning, the column effectively occupied Leixlip in preparation for an ambush that didn’t eventuate.[16]

On the 28th November, Mullaney received word the remaining soldiers in Baldonnel who were sympathetic to the Republican cause would no longer be on guard duty.[17] It was at this point Mullaney states six soldiers from Baldonnel joined his column: “They would not remain inside (Baldonnel) any longer for they had become pals with our men from meeting them so often.”[18]

By December 1922 the Republican forces in the South of Ireland had been defeated, the ‘Munster Republic’ had fallen and the civil war had degenerated to a bitter conflict consisting of skirmishes, raids, assassination and executions. By this time the Anti-Treaty forces had effectively lost the war. However, Mullaney and his men, the last significant Anti-Treaty force operating near Dublin, stayed in the field and fought on.

By now the Leixlip flying column numbered 22 men and was heavily armed. They had rifles, grenades, automatic pistols, a Thompson sub-machine gun, with the soldiers from Baldonnel adding a Lewis gun to the arsenal. By now Mullaney had welded his men into a compact, efficient and well-disciplined fighting force. [19]

On the 30th November, the flying column raided Maynooth, taking food and clothing from Dawson’s pub, effectively occupying the town for a short time.[20] Mullaney’s force had now been operating with virtual impunity, occupying towns and carrying out sabotage seemingly at will. So far they had met with no serious challenge from government forces. This was about to change dramatically.

The Battle of Pikes Bridge

Pikes Bridge
Pikes Bridge

On Friday 1st December, the Leixlip flying column occupied Grangewilliam House, the residence of Mr Cornelius Kehely, a large country house 2.5km east of Maynooth near the main Dublin – Galway road.[21]

The position was well chosen by Mullaney to mount an ambush on traffic travelling the main road. Running parallel to the road was the Royal Canal and the Midland Great Western Railway line. The column occupied positions on the southern side of the canal, using it as a defensive barrier.

On December 2nd, the Leixlip column successfully ambushed a Free State supply lorry at Pikes Bridge

Mullaney placed some of his men in a small graveyard at the ruins of Donaghmore church close to the canal and immediately overlooking the only nearby bridge over the canal, Pikes Bridge. Another group was positioned in Grangewilliam Wood, guarding the house from the Maynooth side.

The previous day, twelve National Army soldiers under the command of Commandant Joseph Ledwith had left Lucan for Maynooth in response to the flying column having occupied it the previous day. [22]

At around 9am on Friday 1st December, a National Army lorry left Lucan barracks to deliver pay and provisions to Ledwith’s soldiers in Maynooth. The occupants of the vehicle were Vice-Commandant Lynam, the Quartermaster-Sergeant of Lucan and a driver. After passing through Leixlip the lorry developed engine trouble and came to a stop some distance west of Collinstown.

While working on the engine, the three men came under fire and took cover on the canal bank, where they were fired at by the Thompson gun and fled towards Pikes Bridge, further along the canal. The members of the flying column used a commandeered car to race to the bridge to cut off all escape. Vice-Commandant Lynam and the Quartermaster-Sergeant, were cornered and forced to surrender.[23]

Grangewilliam House today.
Grangewilliam House today. (Picture Courtesy of Anthony Rogers)

Following their capture the Free State soldiers were taken to Grangwilliam House, given something to eat and placed in a room under guard. The lorry was searched and set on fire and the commandeered car used by the ambushers was abandoned nearby.

However, the driver of the lorry had managed to evade capture, a fact that had fatal consequences for the IRA column. The driver continued on foot to Maynooth and there made contact with Commandant Ledwith who sent requests for reinforcements to the barracks at Portobello Barracks, Naas, Trim and Lucan.

It is impossible to know why Mullaney did not move the column once the National Army troops had surrendered. To any other troops passing along the road the burning lorry would have been a clear signal they were operating in the area, removing any element of surprise. Also by abandoning their car the flying column removed their ability to escape quickly. Perhaps Mullaney had become accustomed to operating unchallenged, and now faced with a challenge from Ledwith’s force, was unwilling to back down. This was a serious miscalculation.

Free State reinforcements were rushed from Dublin in significant force and engaged the column.

While waiting for the reinforcements to arrive, Commandant Ledwith advanced on Grangewilliam House. While inspecting trains he had encountered a group of a dozen soldiers returning to Dublin, one of whom had a Lewis gun. He placed these soldiers under his command bringing his total force to around twenty four soldiers. Leaving Maynooth at around 1.45pm, Ledwith set off towards Grangewilliam House, advancing in an extended formation and spreading out across the fields.

As they neared Grangewilliam, the soldiers came under heavy fire from the rifles and machine guns of the flying column hidden in the woods. The soldiers now crawled forward, attempting to work their way around the flanks of the flying column position, while they, on the other hand, concentrated their fire on the ends of the infantry position to prevent them spreading out.

A Rolls Royce armoured car.
A Rolls Royce armoured car.

During this time two soldiers had become separated from the main group when one of them was hit in the head, killing him instantly. Some members of the flying column came out from the wood, captured the remaining soldier and took both soldier’s rifles and ammunition. The soldier was placed with the other two National Army soldiers in the house.

The flying column and National Army soldiers exchanged fire in the fields before Grangewilliam Wood for about an hour before reinforcements began to arrive. The first troops to arrive were from Wellington Barracks, a detachment of seven officers and forty soldiers under the command of Commandant-General Hogan travelling in five Crossley Tenders accompanied by a Rolls Royce armoured car and a Lancia armoured car.

After a four hour fire fight in which there were six casualties, the 22 strong anti-Treaty IRA column surrendered.

The Rolls Royce armoured car, one of only thirteen the National Army possessed, was plated with half-inch thick armour and armed with a .303 Vickers machine gun. The Lancia armoured car carried between eight to twelve soldiers firing through loopholes in its armour in addition to at least one Lewis gun. Additional reinforcements arrived near Collinstown, one group under the command of Commandant-General Hugo McNeill.[24] The size and firepower of the force converging on them is perhaps a testament to how seriously the National Army took Mullaney’s flying column.

On approaching Pikes Bridge the National Army convoy came under fire from the flying column position in Donaghmore graveyard, wounding one soldier. The National Army soldiers took cover and, with the armoured cars, returned such a heavy fire the Republicans were forced to evacuate the graveyard and retreat back towards the house.

Before advancing any further the National Army troops were divided into two forces, one under Commandant Saurin and Captain Trayers with the Rolls Royce armoured car, to advance over the fire swept Pikes Bridge, while the other, under Brigadier McDonnell, with the Lancia armoured car, was to go back along the Royal Canal and cross over the bridge at Collinstown in an attempt to outflank and encircle the flying column.

As the armoured car rolled over Pikes Bridge, covering the advance of the soldiers, the members of the flying column would have been under fire from two sides – from Ledwith’s men to the West and from the newly arrived troops to the North. Inside Grangewilliam House, as the shooting intensified, Commandant Lynam protested it was unfair for them to be held captive while under fire from their own side. One of the flying column replied that the captives would have to take the same risks as themselves. [25]

By now it would have been clear to Mullaney and his men they were heavily outnumbered and outgunned. It was decided they would attempt to break out and retreat across country to the south. It is unknown if Mullaney was aware of the second National Army force working its way towards the rear of their position via the bridge at Collinstown. Taking their prisoners, Mullaney’s men headed into the lanes and fields around Grangewilliam.

Pursued by the National Army soldiers and armoured car, the fight developed into a cross country running battle. Accounts of the battle describe the flying column moving from one defensive position to another as they retreated, maintaining a disciplined and steady fire. At some stage during the running battle the Flying Column abandoned their prisoners who managed to make their way to their own side unscathed.

Free State troops pictured here during a gun battle in Dublin city, 1922.
Free State troops pictured here during a gun battle in Dublin city, 1922.

Moving across country, under constant fire, the column was unable to cover ground as quickly as the National Army troops could by vehicle on the roads:

“All the reinforcements had by this time arrived and armoured cars and Crossley tender patrolled the roads. The sounds of the firing from Vickers, Lewis and Thompson guns and rifles were heard for miles around.”[26] Some idea of the intensity of the fighting can be seen in Mullaney’s interview: “An armoured car cut the top of a bank behind which we lay. We fired away until we had no rounds left to fire.[27]

While soldiers pursued the retreating flying column across country, other forces pushed further South via the roads near Ballygoran House to Kilwoghan. By this stage Brigadier McDonnell’s troops, coming from the direction of Collinstown, had also made their way behind the flying column, completing the encirclement.

Mullaney’s men were eventually pinned down around Ballygoran, roughly 1.5km from Grangewilliam House. The end came at around 4pm, when a group of ten soldiers and an officer from Commandant Saurin and Captain Trayers group managed to get behind the flying column:

With ten men…I pushed my way along cautiously towards where the fire came from. It was like a chapter from a red Indian novel. We crept along under cover until we suddenly saw about twenty men, three of them in uniform. We hesitated about firing, but one of them turning round caught sight of us and immediately they opened fire. We replied of course and it was all over inside ten minutes. They all surrendered with their arms and ammunition.[28]

The Royal Canal from Pike's Bridge today.
The Royal Canal from Pike’s Bridge today.

Even after having fought a running battle across country for two hours against superior numbers and firepower, and now attacked from the rear, the members of the flying column still held their nerve and fought on for another ten minutes before surrendering. Mullaney was of the opinion: “In another half hour we would have got away in the dark”[29]

The Irish Independent stated: “Here the whole column surrendered with their arms and ammunition and were congratulated by the troops for the fight which they had made.”[30] After the surrender Commandant-General Hugo McNeill said to Mullaney, “… you fought a damn good clean fight…”. However, Mullaney, in his interview with Ernie O’Malley said, “He (Hugo McNeill) didn’t know how near death he was that day (at Kiely’s at Grangewilliam) for we had him cornered with a rifle and tommy gun and before we could shoot something else happened.”

The National Army had suffered one fatality, Private Moran, and two wounded.[31] Moran was thirty-five years old, from Kilcock.[32] The Flying Column suffered three wounded – William Wyse, Charles O’Connor and Thomas Kealy. However, not all the wounds were sustained in the fighting: “One F/S lost his head in the surrender and fired a burst from a tommy gun at Charlie O’Connor, a shoemaker. He was in hospital for months and months in the Curragh.”[33]

The arms captured with the flying column consisted of 21 rifles, 1 Lewis machine gun, 1 Thompson submachine gun, 5 revolvers, 1 ‘Peter the Painter’ automatic pistol, 5 grenades and around 1000 rounds of ammunition.[34]


Paddy Mullaney's autograph book from his stay in Kilmainham gaol. Written incongruously in French is 'Long Live the Irish republic'.
Paddy Mullaney’s autograph book . Written incongruously in French is ‘Long Live the Irish republic’.

Following their capture, the members of the column were taken to Wellington Barracks and interrogated. Three of the column had been captured wearing National Army uniforms and very soon another two were identified as army deserters.

On 11th December 1922, Corporal Leo Dowling (18 years old), Corporal Sylvester Heaney (19 years), Privates Terrence Brady (18 years), Laurence Sheehy (21 years), and Anthony O’Reilly (age unknown) were tried in a military court for treason.[35] They were found guilty and sentenced to death and on 8th January 1923 they were executed by firing squad at Portobello Barracks.

Five of the column, deserters from the National Army, were executed in January 1923.

This was the first time National Army troops had been executed for either treachery, desertion or any other reason.[36] It is possible the soldiers were executed to send a warning to any remaining Republican sympathisers within the ranks of the National Army.

However, one of the army deserters, Thomas McCann managed to avoid the firing squad:

An officer came in to identify him in Kilmainham and I was in the cell with him. “Blast it all”, he said, “I had applied for my discharge.” “I looked over the file McCann,” he said “and I couldn’t find it” said the officer. “Couldn’t you find it,” I asked him, and he did find it, for McCann was a sergeant, but he wasn’t shot.”

January 1923 saw the largest number of executions of the Civil War, a total of 34 with the largest single judicial execution carried out at the Curragh on 19th December, 1922. On the night of 13th December, eight members of the anti-treaty Rathbride column were captured in a dug out at Mooresbridge, right on the edge of the Curragh. One of their number, Tom Behan was killed during the capture of the column, beaten to death with a rifle butt. The remaining seven were tried, sentenced to death and executed on 19th December.

Against this backdrop of executions the members of the Leixlip flying column were put on trial for taking up arms against the state and being in possession of arms. Unsurprisingly they were found guilty and sentenced to death. However, due to a legal technicality their sentences were commuted to 10 years imprisonment. Following the end of the civil war the members of the column were released from detention in mid-1924 as part of the general amnesty.

Though the flying column operated under Mullaney’s command for only a little over three months it left and impressive trail of destruction through Kildare. Despite its short life the flying column was also probably the most effective and aggressive Anti-Treaty unit operating near Dublin. Within a short space of time Mullaney created a well disciplined and efficient fighting force that, when faced with a superior force, initially stood its ground and then conducted a well ordered, cross country, fighting retreat.

Even when outnumbered, attacked from the rear, when three of them were wounded and they had been fighting for hours, they still refused to surrender until it was clear all hope of escape had gone. They had fought hard and fought well, earning the respect of their enemies.   However, that respect was not enough to prevent five of them being executed and would have led them all to their deaths if not for chance. The men of the Leixlip flying column deserve to be remembered as brave men who didn’t back away from a fight and stood their ground to the last.

Graffiti commemorating the executed Leixlip men. (Courtesy of Laura McAtackney)Dr
Graffiti commemorating the executed Leixlip men. (Courtesy of Dr Laura McAtackney)

In Kilmainham Jail, in a cell in the West Wing there is a piece of graffiti, scrawled in pencil on the back wall:

By their comrades

of the column


In Memoriam

Executed 8 January 1923

  1. Brady

Leo Dowling

Sylvester Heaney

  1. O’Reilly
  2. Sheehy[37]

(See Kilmainham Gaol Graffiti website here)

I would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Matt McCormack and Denis Brennan. Christopher Lee, January 2015.


[1] Cahir Davitt, BHM.WS1751, p.32

[2] James Dunne, BMH.WS1571, p.18;

[3] Ernie O’Malley Military Notebooks U.C.D. Archives P17b/106;

[4] James Dunne, p.18;

[5] James Dunne, p.18;

[6] James Dunne, p.19

[7] Cummins, p.8

[8] O’Malley;

[9] Cummins, p.9;

[10] James Dunne, BMH.WS1571, p.18;

[11] J. Durney, The Civil War in Kildare, (Mercier Press, 2011) p.102

[12] Hopkinson, p.146

[13] Hopkinson, p.146

[14] Hopkinson, p.146

[15] O’Malley;

[16] Cummins, p.13;

[17] Cummins, p.13;

[18] O’Malley;

[19] This list of names would not have been possible without the invaluable research of Matt McCormack; The members of the column were:

Patrick Mullaney, Balla, Mayo;

Terrence Brady, Wilkinstown, Navan, Meath; *

Francis Brennan, North Road, Finglas, Dublin;

Thomas Cardwell, Celbridge, Kildare;

John Curley;

James Dempsey, Castletown Lodge, Celbridge, Kildare;

Leo Dowling, Yew Trees House, Askinran, Carna, Curragh Camp; *

John Gaynor, Leixlip, Kildare;

Bertie Hawney;

Sylvester Heaney, Dillonstown, Louth *

Thomas Kealy, Celbridge, Kildare;

Charles Kelly, Church St, Skerries, Dublin;

James Kelly, 168 Gallowgate St,         Glasgow;

Thomas McCann, Duleek St, Drogheda; *

Patrick Nolan, Leixlip, Kildare;

Thomas O’Brien, Virginia, Cavan;

Charles O’Connor, Elm Hall, Celbridge, Kildare;

Michael O’Neill, Weston Park, Leixlip, Kildare;

Anthony O’Reilly, Simonstown, Celbridge, Kildare; *

Laurence Sheehy, Braytown, Meath; *

Tim Tyrrell, Maynooth, Kildare;

William Wyse, Jamestown, Finglas, Dublin

* The soldiers who deserted the National Army at Baldonnel.


[20] Cummins, p.14;

[21] Kildare Observer, 9 December, 1922, p.4

[22] In the all too common irony of the Civil War that Ledwith and Mullaney knew one another, Ledwith having been under Mullaney’s command during an aborted raid on the Castledermot RIC barracks during the War of Independence.

[23] Many accounts of the ambush state the fire came from the direction of Grangewilliam House or from Grangewilliam Wood. However, Grangewilliam House and the wood are around 750m from the canal at its nearest point, too far away to mount an effective ambush. The Tommy gun had a maximum effective range of 100m to 150m meaning the ambush party was considerably closer to the canal than the accounts indicate. Also, if the ambush party was near Grangwilliam House and in Donaghmore graveyard then the soldiers would have been fleeing towards the flying column instead of away from them towards Collinstown.


[24] Irish Independent, 2 December 1922, p.7;

[25] Kildare Observer, 9 December, 1922, p.4

[26] Kildare Observer, 9 December, 1922, p.4

[27] O’Malley;

[28] Kildare Observer, 9 December, 1922, p.4

[29] O’Malley;

[30] Irish Independent, 9 December, 1922, p.4

[31] Irish Independent, 2 December 1922, p.7

[32] Kildare Observer, 9 December, 1922, p.3

[33] O’Malley;

[34] It is remembered within the Brennan family that Francis Brennan carried a handgun during the War of Independence and Civil War he referred to as ‘Peter’. This would indicate that the ‘Peter the Painter’ (Mauser C96) automatic pistol listed in the captured arms was the personal weapon of Francis Brennan;

[35] Ages are provided in the National Army Census of November 1922.

[36] Ulster Herald,

[37] N. O’Sullivan, Every Dark Hour. A History of Kilmainham Jail, (Liberties Press, 2007), p.224;

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