The Killurin ambush 1922 and the Civil War in Wexford

National Army troops in Wexford. Credit: C. E. Vize collection, Ibar Carty, Enniscorthy

The Killurin train ambush, July 1922 and the outbreak of civil war in County Wexford. By Aaron Ó Maonaigh

The Irish Civil War broke out when pro-Treaty forces opened fire on the Four Courts on June 28 1922.

As full-scale civil war developed in late June, the Republican campaign of destruction against the infrastructure of the nascent Provisional Government increased in its intensity.

Across the territory of the Free State, armed Republicans waged war against the nation’s rail network. In an attempt to bring the proto-Free State to a standstill, railway bridges and tracks were blown up, rails removed, locomotives derailed, rolling stock, signal cabins and even station buildings were destroyed.

County Wexford was far more violent in the Civil War than in the War of Independence.

Notwithstanding the colossal material damage incurred and the disruption of civilian daily life, the war on the railways pinned down Free State troops throughout the conflict, creating a frightfully tense atmosphere in which a routine journey could potentially have disastrous consequences.

This article examines an episode of the Civil War in County Wexford, an area which was by national standards a relatively quiescent county during the preceding War for Independence.

Noticeably reticent throughout the previous four years, Wexford became one of the most violent counties in the Civil War, and was the scene of some of the conflict’s bloodiest and most protracted fighting.[1]

This peculiar spike in violent activity, despite its apparently anomalous character, has also been noted in case studies of other areas such as Kerry and Sligo.[2] Both counties defied a broader pattern whereby lethal political violence during the War for Independence was significantly lower than that of the Civil War.[3]

The split between anti-Treaty and pro-Treaty adherents was country-wide and Co. Wexford was no exception in this regard. The conflict cleaved the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in two, splintered the political institutions, divided families, and left an indelible mark upon the county’s social fabric. It has been stated that the conflict ‘was so viciously fought that veterans of the 1916 and 1921 struggle wondered why County Wexford, by comparison, had been so quiet during the previous three years.’[4] 

 The outbreak of civil war in Co. Wexford

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

The Treaty cleaved the Wexford IRA in two, the South Wexford Brigade under the command of Thomas O’Sullivan were emphatically Republican, while the North Wexford Brigade under Joseph Cummins found itself in the unenviable position of being nominally pro-Treaty while containing a sizeable number of dissenters.[5]

Located in the southeast of Ireland, Wexford’s unique geographic position bordering the eastern perimeter of the main stronghold of anti-Treaty forces, the self-styled ‘Munster Republic’, posed a particular challenge to the Provisional Government’s authority.

the South Wexford IRA Brigade under the command of Thomas O’Sullivan was firmly anti-Treaty, the North Wexford Brigade under Joseph Cummins was split.

The possibility of using the county as a launch pad for a Republican offensive to converge on Dublin in an upward curve from their Munster stronghold added extra impetus for establishing control.[6] Initially, both sides were keen to avoid bloodshed and actions were limited to the posturing such as barrack and courthouse occupations. Patrick Brennan, Adj. 4th Battalion North Wexford Brigade, recalled:

‘On the outbreak of the civil war all available men in the battalion were mobilised to proceed to Ferns to attack the Free State troops stationed there. The attack was called off and did not take place until some-time afterwards.’[7]

Fighting in Wexford was soon to be exacerbated by the influx of Republican forces retreating south from Dublin.

After the fall of the Four Courts and during the fighting in Dublin city, a large group of Republicans based outside the Provisional Government forces’ cordon around the city made an attempt to regroup in the village of Blessington, just over the border in Co. Wicklow.

Here the Dublin escapees led by Ernie O’Malley linked up with a column of Tipperary Republicans under the command of Michael Sheehan – the only provincial unit to respond to the Dublin Brigade IRA’s call for aid. Although the village was taken over with little resistance and bolstered with troops from the surrounding counties and beyond, confusion reigned.[8]

As Frank Carty, Brigade Adjutant of the 3rd Eastern Division (North and South Wexford, and Carlow Brigades) told Calton Younger: ‘There they were, tip-top fighting men, but there was nowhere for them to go, no fight to fight.’[9] The initial plan had been for the Republicans to use the north Wicklow village as a base for launching a counter-attack on the city, yet this plan never materialised. An incidence of miscommunication resulted in arms rather than a relief force being despatched from Blessington to Dublin.[10]

By the time the error was noticed O’Malley was already on his way southwards, leaving the village in the hands of the Dublin and Kildare men.[11] Cut off from the capital and devoid of any definitive plan of action, when National Army troops advanced on the village from the Curragh, Dublin, and the eastern coast the occupying Republicans dispersed.

To compound their humiliation, several senior IRA officers including Gerald Boland and Andy McDonnell were arrested in the round-up that followed.[12] After the breakup of the Republican units at Blessington those of them who remained at large headed southwards towards the republican stronghold of Munster, while a column of men under the command of Ernie O’Malley travelled first to Carlow before continuing on to Wexford where a fledgling Free State army was vying for control of the county’s principal towns with local Republicans.[13] Upon their arrival at Wexford, O’Malley’s men rendezvoused with Sheehan’s column of Tipperary men who had also escaped the Free State capture of Blessington.

 ‘Enniscorthy is in a state of war’


Enniscorthy Castle, the scene of heavy fighting in July 1922.

When word reached Wexford that the Executive forces in the Four Courts were under attack, word was sent from Divisional Headquarters at Wexford military barracks to take the two military posts in Co. Wexford occupied by Free State troops; one of these was the Castle in Enniscorthy and the other consisted of the post office and the castle in Ferns.[14]

The latter was captured without a fight, while in an unusual act of courtesy Paddy Fleming, O/C 3rd Eastern Division (Republican), made contact with Sean Gallagher, O/C Enniscorthy Castle, and invited him to surrender.[15] Unsurprisingly, Gallagher refused Fleming’s offer.[16]

Enniscorthy town was briefly taken by Republicans after three days of heavy gun battles.

Thus began a three day siege of the castle. On 2 July Republican troops surrounded the castle and the water supply was cut off. From the belfry of St. Mary’s Cathedral (COI) IRA snipers opened fire on the Free State garrison, but no attempt was made to capture the castle, the idea being that the garrison would be compelled to surrender within a week or so through lack of food and water. Their Free State counterparts in the castle replied in kind, throwing bombs and issuing frequent bursts of machine-gun fire from the ramparts of the castle.

The Enniscorthy Guardian reported: ‘…Enniscorthy is in a state of war, and a closed and shuttered town has given itself up to the rattle of bomb, rifle, and machine-gun fire.’[17] The two sides blasted away at each other until the impasse was finally breached on Wednesday 5 July.

However, it was republican reinforcements from outside Wexford that decided matters. At roughly 3 a.m. a large force of Tipperary IRA men under the command of Michael Sheehan replete with rifles and machine-guns, took up positions on Abbey Quay, directly opposite the Free State occupied Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks.

Less than two hours later Ernie O’Malley’s column, having reached Enniscorthy launched an all-out assault on the castle garrison. Approaching from rear of the post office on Friary Place, O’Malley’s men had only turned the corner when two of their numbers were struck by sniper fire from the castle. Maurice Spillane, a local Volunteer from Hospital Lane, fell down dead mere metres from his family home.[18]

Commandant Patrick ‘Paddy’ O’Brien, of Inchicore, Dublin, who had commanded the Four Courts garrison, was also mortally wounded; he was subsequently removed to the County Home where he succumbed to his wounds on 11 July.[19]

The fighting came to a dramatic end shortly after 4 p.m. that afternoon, when Brigadier N. J. Murphy’s twenty-six man garrison at the barracks hoisted the white flag above their post. An order to ceasefire was issued to the Republicans surrounding the castle and Staff Captain Seán Gallagher and the ten men under his command formally surrendered.[20]

There was a respectable air of fraternal courtesy in the terms of surrender which followed. The IRA men shook hands with the Free State troops as they marched out and congratulated them on their valiant stand.[21]

O’Malley agreed to release some of the Provisional Government troops – those who were veterans of the ‘Tan War’- on the condition that they would undertake a solemn promise – soon broken – that they would not continue in arms against the Republic.[22]

A Free State column from Dublin re-took Enniscorthy and the other Wexford towns without great opposition in mid July 1922.

Despite taking Enniscorthy and forcing the surrender the Free State garrison at Enniscorthy Castle, such pithy successes amounted to little more than a pyrrhic victory for the IRA unit led by Ernie O’Malley, which also included Seán Lemass. The deaths of local Volunteer Maurice Spillane and Commandant Patrick O’Brien were a heavy price to pay for the concessions extracted from the National Army garrison.[23]

Within a short time O’Malley, Lemass, and the column of Tipperary men absconded from the county, leaving the town of Enniscorthy to fall domino-like as the towns before it, paving the way for the National Army’s relentless advance towards Wexford town. Reflecting upon their losses as they made their way across the rolling hills of west Wexford Lemass turned to O’Malley and gloomily remarked: ‘I wish we had never come near the damn place.’[24]

The tide soon turned in Wexford and the gains made by the Republicans in the opening week were soon reversed. Two days after the IRA capture of Enniscorthy a strong force of pro-Treaty troops from Dublin approached Enniscorthy via Arklow and Gorey. They arrived at the latter shortly after 3 a.m. on the morning of 7 July, lorry loads of troops poured into the town and soon established control.[25]

Unable to withstand an attack from such a large force of troops, the small guard of Republicans left behind at Enniscorthy withdrew after dismantling the RIC barrack and firing the courthouse.[26]

The IRA post at Ferns was also taken by pro-Treaty forces after a brief exchange. Unbeknownst to them, Frank Carty’s men had been observed demolishing the main bridge into the village and were subsequently routed by a large force of Provisional Government troops. Over thirty prisoners, including Brigade Adjutant Carty, were captured at Ferns.[27]

The Kyle IRA flying column. Credit: Crossabeg Comoradh Committee, Crossabeg – Na Crosa Beaga: The parish and its people, vol. 1 (Wexford, 1998)

The initial skirmishes at Gorey, Ferns, and Enniscorthy and the ease at which the Free State forces dislodged the local Republicans and gained control of the county’s principal towns must have given Staff-Commandant McAlister and his Wexford column an inflated sense of victory.

The expeditionary force of Free State troops -dubbed the ‘Wexford Column’- send forth to wrest the county from Republican control was led by Staff Commandant Charles McAlister and Wexford native Commandant Joseph Vize. Consisting of 230 men, sixteen officers, two armoured cars, and four Lewis guns, the column left Dublin on 6 July 1922 to take control of the south-east of the country.[28] Notwithstanding some transport issues and a small number of casualties incurred, the column largely succeeded in dislodging the IRA from their strongholds in the north and southeast of the county.[29]

It appeared that within three weeks the National Army had, as their boasts in An t-Óglach would lead one to believe, established complete control of the county:

‘The initial successes of the Army in Dublin have been followed during the past few days by many important achievements in the Provinces. In some instances whole counties like Wexford and Louth have been cleared of Irregulars during one week. On the eastern sea-board the Army has established complete control. Louth, Meath, Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford being strongly held. A remarkable feature of the campaign in this area, has been the small resistance offered by Irregulars in centres such as Gorey, Enniscorthy, and Baltinglass.’[30]

The local periodical, The Echo, was more realistic in its frank assessment of the situation in the county. While reporting that all of the county’s main towns, as well as Newtownbarry (Bunclody) and Ferns had fallen into the hands of the Provisional Government troops, the situation in the countryside was far from peaceable: ‘A flying column of Irregulars is still operating in the district and raids on farmers’ houses and civilian premises are reported.’[31]

The IRA’s reluctance to maintain their defences in the various towns around the county necessitated a return to the guerrilla tactics of the Anglo-Irish War. In a short time this change in military strategy bore fruit for the Republicans who made the roads and rails between Enniscorthy and Wexford treacherous for their Free State opponents.

The ambush at Killurin station

The derailed train at Killurin.

Located some six miles (10 km) north of Wexford town, the busy station at Killurin on the Dublin and South Eastern Railway line (D&SER) was a regular focus of Republican sabotage from the outbreak of civil war until early 1923 when increased security measures saw such attacks diminish.[32]

On 10 July, only two weeks prior to the fatal ambush at Killurin, a party of Wexford Republicans under the command of Commandant Robert “Bob” Lambert blew up the 10 ft. brick arch railway bridge (no. 399) at Killurin, thus setting in train a concentrated IRA campaign against the county’s railways. The explosion caused a break in the rails leaving a gap of some 20 ft short of the wrecked bridge.

Bob Lambert’s anti-Treaty IRA column waged a sustained campain against the railways in County Wexford.

The target, the 4.15 a.m. goods train (locomotive no. 70) from Wexford, was unable to stop, and jumped the gap. The derailment caused the second carriage to slump into the void left by the explosion, where it remained for some hours suspended precariously over the River Slaney below.

News of the derailment was telephoned through to Wexford station who promptly despatched a breakdown gang under the direction of Inspector Michael Forde who arrived on the scene at 7.30 a.m. Remarkably, Forde’s repairmen worked through the day installing a temporary bridge and the line was reopened for traffic later that night.

Perched at a height where the embankment merges with the shoulder of the surrounding hills, Killurin station cuts an isolated figure commanding both river and glen. It was, as one commentator stated, ‘in every way a handy place for an ambush’.[33] Less than two weeks after the initial derailment, on Monday afternoon 24 July 1922 the mail train from Wexford to Dublin was ambushed near Killurin station.

The train, crowded with civilian commuters, left Wexford on schedule at 4.20 p.m. The two coaches next to the engine were occupied by an escort of Free State troops, and the third coach by a party of Republican prisoners who had been recently rounded up during the opening skirmishes in the county.

What was envisioned as a relatively straightforward journey became one of the fiercest battles of the county’s civil war. Shortly after the train emerged from the tunnel, about 600 yards on the Wexford side of Killurin Station, two rifle shots rang out.  Unbeknownst to those aboard, news of the prisoners’ departure reached Bob Lambert’s column of IRA men from nearby Kyle. Assisted by local Cumann na mBan, Lambert’s men crossed the Slaney by boat – the moveable bridge had Killurin had been raised – and made their way to the ambush point.

Hearing the train as it passed through Ferrycarrig, the column got into position; not before placing an obstruction in the form of a blockade of sleepers across the line and locking the station-master in his office.[34] As the shots rang out almost immediately the train pulled up, and from the heights of the embankment and the woods which skirted the railway line a hail of fire was directed at the two coaches occupied by the National troops.[35]

Where the train came to a halt left it brutally exposed to their well-placed attackers. Chaos ensued when Free State troops attempting to detrain found the doors of their carriages to be locked.  As such, they were obliged to clamber out through the windows.

The majority succeeded in doing so, although their position left them woefully exposed to the rifle-fire of the IRA men on the hills above the railway line, as Lambert later sardonically remarked:  ‘You’d want to be a bad shot to miss them’.[36] Those who managed to escape the fusillade promptly took whatever scant cover they could find and at set about engaging their assailants.

They pursued the latter up the heights and for almost half-an-hour heavy firing continued on both sides. The ordinary passengers on the train threw themselves on the floor in a state of panic and barricaded the carriage windows with luggage. According to the Freeman’s Journal ‘one lady had a very narrow escape, a bullet piercing a parcel she had in her arms.’[37]

Three National Army soldiers were killed or mortally wounded and seven injured in the ambush.

In spite of armed resistance from the detrained National troops, Lambert’s column continued to blaze away at the two coaches in which some of the troops remained. The fusillade of bullets shattered the windows and panelling of the carriages, perforating the woodwork of the coaches like a sieve; all of the casualties sustained by the Free State were from the body of troops who remained in these two carriages.[38]

Eventually, fearing a Free State encirclement Lambert’s column withdrew fighting a tactical retreat. All the while none of the IRA prisoners on board the train made an attempt to escape, despite possessing keys to the carriages. Frank Carty described their reluctance thus: ‘Under the circumstances we felt that it would not be possible to make any attempt to get away as it would mean passing down the embankment through the ranks of the Free State soldiers.’[39]

The fierce engagement although lasting just over half-an-hour in duration resulted in the deaths of two Free State soldiers: Corporal Thomas McMahon and Private Maurice Quirke. In addition to the deaths of McMahon and Quirke the National Army sustained seven wounded in the fire-fight: five slight injuries and two serious, one of whom – Private Michael Campion, a seventeen-year-old recruit from Dublin’s Church Street – succumbed to his wounds three days subsequent to the attack.[40]  A sole civilian casualty, Mr. Raymond O’Keefe of the Faythe, Wexford, was also injured. Although he received a slight wound to his arm he was able to continue his journey to Dublin.[41]


Bob Lambert, Kyle Flying Column C/O. Credit: Ruán O’Donnell, From Vinegar Hill to Edentubber: The Wexford IRA and the Border Campaign (Wexford, 2007)

When the battle ended suspicion immediately fell on the driver of the train, whose actions in bringing the train to halt in such an exposed position – as opposed to pulling up the train behind the 8 ft. brick wall at the station – aroused questions regarding his complicity in the attack.[42]

The Captain of the escort, Lieut. P. Leonard, entered the engine cabin and requested that the driver, John ‘Sketch’ White, draw the engine and its carriages up behind the safety of the station wall to secure the train and its passengers from further attack. White replied that the brakes were jammed, which upon inspection was discovered to be untrue.

As the train pulled into the station at Macmine an hour after its expected arrival, witnesses were greeted by a gruesome scene of running boards drenched in blood which oozed out of from beneath the carriage doors.

The train continued on to Enniscorthy where White was taken off the engine and promptly arrested on the charge of colluding in the ambuscade. As he was being escorted to the prisoner’s carriage one of the National Army troops, Jem Doyle – a comrade of the recently deceased, broke ranks and assaulted the indignant White.[43]

In fact, it was Frank Carty rather than the driver who conspired to ensure the ambush took place. When he learned of the Wexford prisoners imminent departure for Dublin he passed out this information to Bob Lambert and asked that some railway carriage keys should be got ready to aid their escape. As the prisoners were saying goodbye to their friends and relatives on the platform of Wexford railway station Carty’s mother passed him one of the carriage keys.[44]

Once the wounded were removed from the carriages the prisoners and their escort left Enniscorthy and continued on their journey by special train, arriving at Harcourt Street station that night after dark. What occurred when the prisoners reached Harcourt Street, however, is the matter of some dispute.

As the prisoners detrained they were lined up against the wall and a Free State officer, Frank Bolster, queried who was in charge of this party. Contemporary reports from the press claimed a further attempt to rescue the Wexford prisoners was made at Harcourt Street, and that while the prisoners were being lined up sniper fire was directed at the Free State troops from Republicans nestled in the roofs of the buildings overlooking the station.[45] However, the account of Frank Carty tells a different story:

Sean Gallagher said in a sneering voice, “Where is Commandant-General Carty?” I did not volunteer to announce myself and he picked a man named Carton who was standing near and said, “This man will do to take charge”. Fire was then opened on us by Bolster, Gallagher and a number of Free State soldiers. I do not think that we were fired on direct. I remember seeing some of the officers flashing their revolvers towards the pavement and sending out ricochet bullets, and on the following morning I found a flattened revolver bullet in the heel of the boot of one of the men who had been beside me. I should like to repeat that we were not fired on point blank.[46]

That shots were fired is undeniable, although who fired them and what get rise to the firing is a matter of debate. One of the prisoners was seriously wounded in the fracas and died subsequently.

The injured man was Richard Tyrell, an IRA volunteer from Craanford, a small village midway between Gorey and Carnew in north Co. Wexford. He never recovered from his wounds and died on 3 March 1925 at his home.[47]

When the dust settled at Harcourt Street the prisoners were placed in lorries and removed from the scene, whence they were subsequently interned at Newbridge and elsewhere. The following week at Enniscorthy a coroner’s jury returned an open verdict as to White’s complicity in the attack at Killurin.[48]

A further six weeks later he was released under writ of Habeas Corpus issued by the DS&ER company.[49] The funerals of the deceased National Army soldiers who lost their lives at Killurin took place at Glasnevin Cemetery with full military honours where their remains were interred in the National Army plot.[50]


Speaking at a Cumann na nGaedheal rally in August 1923 at Wexford, Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde goaded his anti-Treatyite opponents’ Damascene conversion to provocative militancy during the Civil War. Evoking Michael Collins’ rebuke of the Wexford IRA’s rather modest fighting record during the Anglo-Irish War he queried the motivations of those who took part in the recent conflict:

‘When Michael Collins asked what they were doing in Wexford in the Black and Tan days, the reply was that they could not have any ambushes there as the country was very flat (laughter). Since the departure of the English forces 20 or 30 men had been murdered in the county.’[51]

That there was a noticeable militancy about the IRA’s campaign during the Civil War that hitherto-fore had been lacking in the county has not escaped the attention of commentators both current and contemporary.

Pro-Treatyites remarked bitterly that anti-Treaty republicans had not fought the Black and Tans but only Free State forces.

Remarking upon the anomalous character of the county during the Civil War Michael Hopkinson has noted in his seminal work on the period:  ‘The south of Co. Wexford is a rare example of an area that became more active as the war progressed.’[52] The flying columns of Thomas O’Sullivan in the New Ross area, and Bob Lambert around Wexford town pinned down Provisional Government troops for the duration of the war with large-scale acts of railway destruction and frequent attacks on post offices and sentry posts.

Despite a presence of over 900 National Army troops in the area the Kyle flying column continued to harass the government forces there, while Lambert remained at large until his arrest after the IRA ceasefire. O’Sullivan too remained at large having escaped from Free State custody – with the help of a Free State gaoler – he continued to be a constant thorn in the side of the National Army troops around the New Ross area.[53]

The arrest of IRA officers throughout the county saw no discernible abatement of activity on the part of the Republicans, as officers were arrested and interned others simply took their place. Significantly, the scale of IRA operations and the longevity of their campaign during the Civil War marked a considerable departure from the previous conflict.

Free from the restraint of less bellicose officers, Lambert and O’Sullivan’s initiative saw them rise to prominence during the conflict as veritable fighting commanders.[54] During this period there was an IRA flying column in each of the four battalion [South Wexford] areas. Occasionally, in large operations such as that at Killurin, the four columns worked in tandem before returning to their respective areas, this fluidity made their capture and restraint all the more difficult.[55]

The ambush at Killurin was one of the most significant rail-related operations during the Civil War anywhere in the country.[56] Its location as a target had a dual purpose, not only did it present Lambert’s column with a commanding position of the railway station but it’s accessibility from Kyle – the column’s base – and position adjacent to the Slaney made for an easy escape route back across the river where the warren of forgotten country lanes and bohreens provided ample cover for the IRA column.[57]

In the months after the ambush Lambert’s men made the roads from Wexford and Enniscorthy practically impassable for Provisional Government transport corps. Rails were torn up, bridges demolished, roads were mined and trenched, Killurin was subject to weekly ambushes, and its station was regularly sabotaged, while further east at Castlebridge Free State convoys were frequently sniped.[58] Devoid of working rail-lines Provisional Government troops were forced out onto the roads where the chance of a fatal ambush was significantly higher.

The increased belligerence of the Wexford Brigades during the Civil War may be explained by a number of influential factors. Firstly, the fact that very few of the South Wexford Brigade went over to the Provisional Government side following the Treaty split resulted in an emphatically Republican, homogeneous IRA unit.

During the Truce period the brigade underwent significant reform. Younger, eager fighting men came to fore, men whose restraint during the Anglo-Irish War added a dynamism to the campaign in Wexford that hitherto-fore had been lacking. Moreover, no doubt buoyed by the Truce period training camps in the locale, the companies and battalions of the South Wexford Brigade were reorganised, renewed, and ready to take to the field; in this regard they were far more prepared than their Free State counterparts and even more so than the pre-Truce Wexford volunteers.[59]

The Provisional Government struggled to recruit in the county, despite appeals to employers in the district to release their men for one year’s service, compensated by the government, in the National Army.[60]

The effects of the conflict in the county continued well into the closing stages of the war – and beyond – with some extra-judicial killings carried out by the National Army after the IRA ceasefire, in addition to a number of deaths attributed to alleged mistreatment and neglect whilst interned.[61]

At least fifty lives were lost as a result of revolutionary violence in the county during the period of April 1922-December 1923; more than double the figure of twenty-three fatalities from same during the period January 1917-December 1921.[62] These figures concur with earlier assessments that the Civil War in Co. Wexford was indeed a conflict that was fought with far more ferocity than those of the previous five years.[63]


About the author: Aaron Ó Maonaigh is a native of Dublin with familial ties in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. A graduate of Coláiste Phádraig (Droim Conrach) and Ollscoil Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath (DCU), he is currently employed by the Department of Education and teaches English and History at a post-primary school in Co. Dublin. He has previously published and presented on the subject of Irish cultural identity and the politics of sport during the Irish Revolution (1913-1923).


Endnotes and references

[1] Bill Kissane, The politics of the Irish Civil War (Oxford, 2005), p. 4; Peter Hart, ‘The geography of revolution in Ireland 1917-1923’, Past & Present, no. 155 (May, 1997), pp 142-176 (147)

[2] Michael Farry, The Irish Revolution 1912-23: Sligo (Dublin, 2012), p. 110; Tom Doyle, The Civil War in Kerry (Cork, 2008), pp 323-331; cf. Eunan O’Halpin, ‘Counting terror: Bloody Sunday and the dead of the Irish Revolution’ in David Fitzpatrick, (ed.), Terror in Ireland, 1916-1923 (Dublin, 2012), pp 141-157 (152).

[3] Andy Bielenberg, ‘Fatalities in the Irish Revolution’  in John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy, and John Borgonovo (eds), Atlas of the Irish Revolution (Cork, 2017), pp 752-761 (760)

[4] Nicholas Furlong and John Hayes, County Wexford in the rare oul’ times, 1910–1924, vol. iv (Wexford, 2005), p. 192; Joost Augusteijn, From public defiance to guerilla warfare: the experience of ordinary volunteers in the Irish War of Independence, 1916-1921 (Dublin, 1996), pp 114, and 118-119.

[5] Francis Carty [O/C 4th Battalion, Adj. South Wexford Brigade, 1920-1922], statement (Irish Military Archives [IMA], Bureau of Military History witness statement [BMH WS] no. 1,040); Younger, Ireland’s Civil War, pp 344-345; Captain Míceál O’Niall, ‘Activities of C & B Companies, No.1 Battalion South Wexford IRA’, manuscript (National Library of Ireland [NLI], Míceál O’Niall papers, Ms 49,190)

[6] Eoin Neeson, The Civil War, 1922-1923 (Cork: repr., 1989), p. 178.

[7] Patrick Brennan, [Adjutant 4th Battalion North Wexford Brigade, 1918-1922], statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,120)

[8] Seán Lemass, ‘Lemass looks back – 3’, Michael Mills (ed.), Irish Press, 22 Jan. 1969.

[9] Francis ‘Frank’ Carty quoted in Calton Younger, Ireland’s Civil War (London: 3rd impression, 1979), p. 345

[10] Ernie O’Malley to Liam Lynch 12 July 1922, in Ernie O’Malley, ‘No surrender here!’: The Civil War papers of Ernie O’Malley, 1922-1924, Cormac K. O’Malley and Anne Dolan (eds), (Dublin, 2007), p. 48.

[11]Oscar Traynor to Ernie O’Malley, 2 July 1922, No Surrender Here, p. 39; cf. Oscar Traynor, interview (University College Dublin Archives Department [UCDAD], Ernie O’Malley [EOM] notebooks, P17b/95). I would like to thank John Dorney for drawing my attention to the disparity between Traynor’s contemporary actions and latter day reminiscences.

[12] John Redmond, interview (UCDAD, EOM notebooks, P17b/85)

[13] Ernie O’Malley, The singing flame (Dublin, 1978), p. 133.

[14] Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040)

[15] Adj. 3rd Wexford Brigade to [?] C/S (Richard Mulcahy), 4 July 1922, copy account of the fighting between the Irish Free State Army and the IRA in Co. Wexford (NLI, Ernie O’Malley papers, Ms 10,973/11/11)

[16] Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040)

[17] Enniscorthy Guardian, 8 July 1922.

[18] Richard Roche, Here’s their memory: A tribute to the fallen of Republican Wexford (Wexford, 1966), p. 66.

[19] Enniscorthy Guardian, 15 July 1922; Pádraig Ó Conchubhair (AKA Paddy O’Connor), interview (UCDAD, EOM notebooks, P17b/101)

[20] The People, 8 July 1922.

[21] Free Press, 15 July 1922.

[22] Ibid; O’Malley, The singing flame, p. 135; Tommy Brennan and Denis ‘Dinny’ Allen, interview (UCDAD, EOM notebooks, P17b/98)

[23] Séamus Mac Suain, Republican Wexford remembers, 1922-1923 (Loch Garman, 1993), p. 11.

[24] O’Malley, The singing flame, p. 137.

[25] Mac Suain, Republican Wexford remembers, p. 12.

[26] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 15 July 1922; Free Press, 15 July 1922.

[27] Younger, Ireland’s Civil War, pp 348-349.

[28] Commandant McAlister to C/S, 6 July 1922, copy report from Gorey (NLI, Ernie O’Malley papers, Ms 10,973/11/20)

[29] In addition to a number of non-fatal injuries accrued in the taking of Ferns, the Provisional Government troops sustained a single fatality. In the early forenoon of Wednesday 5 July, Private Matthew Pender was seriously wounded during the fighting at Ferns. He was removed on Thursday to Enniscorthy, where he died on Friday morning (7 July). Pender’s brother Stephen also served with the Free State army. Matthew Pender, Military Service Pension application  [MSPA] (IMA, Military Service Pension Collection [MSPC], W/2/D/456); [Dublin] Evening Herald, 11 July 1922; Irish Independent, 12 July 1922; Irish Times, 12 and 15 July 1922.

[30] Two notes from Commandant McAlister to C/S, 10 July 1922 (UCDAD, Mulcahy papers, P7/b/16); Commandant McAlister to C/S, Enniscorthy, 10 July 1922 (UCDAD, Mulcahy papers, P7/b/106); An t-Óglach, vol. iv, no. 7 [new series], 22 July 1922, p.3; Sgéal Chatha Luimnighe (Limerick War News), vol. i, no. 9, 22 July 1922, p.2.

[31] The Echo, 14 July 1922.

[32] The station and its various constituent parts at Killurin were sabotaged at least five times during the period July 1922-Jan. 1923. See County Wexford applications for compensation for criminal injuries under section 5 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, for the years 1919-1922 (NLI, Ms 42,339); Dr George A. Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, Journal of the Irish Railway Record Society, vol. iii, nos. 12 and 13, (Autumn, 1953), pp 85- 149 (91-97); Bernard Share, In time of civil war: the conflict on the Irish railways 1922-23 (Cork, 2006); Ernest Shepherd and Gerry Beesley, The Dublin & South Eastern Railway: an illustrated history (Leicester, 1998), pp 156-157.

[33] Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, p. 91.

[34] Bob Lambert memoir, reproduced in Séamus Mac Suain, County Wexford’s civil war (Loch Garman, 1995), pp 71-79 (72); Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, p. 97.

[35] Free Press, 29 July 1922.

[36] Lambert memoir, p. 72.

[37] Freeman’s Journal, 25 July 1922.

[38] Free Press, 29 July 1922.

[39] Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040)

[40] Private Michael Campion was shot and mortally wounded during the Killurin train ambush, Co. Wexford. He was removed to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, where after three days he succumbed to his wounds and died on 27 July 1922. Michael Campion, MSPA (IMA, MSPC, W/2/D/246); Death of Michael Campion in 1922 (Irish Civil Records Index [ICRI], General Records Office [GRO], SR District/Reg. Area – Dublin South, Group Registration ID: 3302493, entry no. 72); [Dublin] Evening Herald, 29 July 1922; An t-Óglach, vol. iv, no. 9 [new series], 5 Aug. 1922, p.4; The full list of casualties resulting from ambush as reported in the Freeman’s Journal were: Private Joseph Quinn, Dublin (throat), Private Michael Campion, Dublin (arm and lung), Privates George Lambert, Dublin (arm), C. Hearne, Ballinacarrig, Co. Cork (face), Corpl. R. Rooney, Dublin (face), Vol. Aidan Johnson, John St., Wexford (leg), and Private William Hogan, Parnell St., Wexford (neck).

[41] Irish Times, 29 July 1922.

[42] Referring to the incident in his memoir Bob Lambert cryptically wrote: ‘Sketch White (the train driver) pulled her up where we wanted.’ The ambiguity of Lambert’s comments could be construed to mean that White had unintentionally stopped the train at a point which was extremely advantageous to Lambert’s men, or it could imply complicity on the part of White. Such is the vagary of the statement it is not entirely possible to discern its true meaning. Lambert memoir, p. 72; White had been a pre-Truce member of the IRA but stated that he ceased his association with that movement upon the outbreak of the Civil War, see Irish Times, 3 Aug. 1922.

[43] Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, p. 98.

[44] Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040); Lambert memoir, p. 72.

[45] Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, pp 98-99; Freeman’s Journal, 26 July 1922; The People, 29 July 1922 cf. Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040)

[46] Francis Carty, statement (IMA, BMH WS no. 1,040)

[47] Roche, Here’s their memory, p. 66.

[48] Irish Times, 3 Aug. 1922.

[49] Hadden, ‘The war on the railways in Wexford 1922–23′, p. 99

[50] Irish Independent, 28 July 1922.

[51] Freeman’s Journal, 23 Aug. 1923; Esmonde leaned heavily on Collins’ legacy and ideals throughout his campaign, see ibid, 14 and 21 Aug. 1923; For Collins’ original complaints about ‘slack’ areas in language that leaves little to the imagination see various GHQ reports (UCDAD, Mulcahy papers, P17/a/17) and Adj. Gen. to Acting Brigade C/O Wexford Brigade, 1 Apr. 1920 (NLI, Michael Collins papers, A/0478)

[52] Michael Hopkinson, Green against green: The Irish Civil War (Dublin: repr., 2004), p. 245.

[53] Divisional O/C Patrick Fleming and his Adj. Martin Howlett were captured during a National Army raid near New Ross in late July. Further arrests of IRA officers occurred throughout the month of October with significant captures at Gorey and Foulksmills effected by Provisional Government troops. Commandant Thomas O’Sullivan was arrested in arms at Wexford on 2 Nov. 1922. He subsequently escaped from custody with the aid of a sympathetic Free State gaoler, Lieut. P. Gill who himself absconded from his post once his complicity in the escape was discovered. QM (3rd Bn. N. Wexford) Dinny Allen was arrested by the Free State on 4 August 1922 only to escape from the Newbridge Camp, Co. Kildare two months later. He was re-arrested by the authorities on 20 October 1922 but escaped again on 19 Nov. 1922. Free Press, 29 July 1922; North Wexford Brigade report, 26 Aug. 1922 (UCDAD, Ernie O’Malley papers, P17a/73; Eastern Command reports, 4-11 Oct. 1922 (IMA, Civil War Operations and Intelligence Reports Collection, CW/OPS/07/01); Denis Allen, MSPA (IMA, MSPC, MSP/34/REF/24833)

[54]  Lambert memoir, p. 71; John Foley, ‘Crossabeg and the War of Independence’ in Crossabeg Comoradh Committee, Crossabeg – Na Crosa Beaga: The parish and its people, vol. 1 (Wexford, 1998), pp 205- 213 (211); Conversely, the work of Joost Augusteijn has shown that it was the direct intervention of GHQ rather than local initiative which sparked the escalation of militarism in Co. Wexford during the latter half of the Anglo-Irish War, see Joost Augusteijn,  ‘Accounting for the emergence of violent activism among Irish revolutionaries, 1916-21’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. xxxv, no. 139 (May, 2007), pp 327-344.

[55] South Wexford Brigade IRA diary of operations (Wexford County Archive [IE WXCA], Edward Roe papers, P79/6)

[56] Share, In Time of Civil War, p. 44.

[57] Séamus Moriarty, ‘War on the rails: Killurin and Macmine, July 1922 to January 1923’, Bree Parish journal, no. 16 (2012 & 2013 reviewed), pp 28- 32 (32)

[58] Robert Lambert, sworn statement made before the Advisory Committee on 24 June 1936 in Lambert, MSPA (IMA, MSPC, MSP/34/REF/22181)

[59] RIC breaches of the Truce reports (National Archives, United Kingdom [NAUK], Colonial Office [CO], 904/712); Return showing the amount of railway fares paid to officers attending training camp (UCDAD, Mulcahy papers, P7/a/39)

[60] Enniscorthy Guardian, 3 Feb. 1923; Local periodicals such as The Enniscorthy Guardian, The People, and The Echo carried frequent recruitment advertisements for the National Army throughout the Civil War.

[61] Mac Suain, Republican Wexford remembers, p. 27.

[62] O’Halpin, ‘Counting terror: Bloody Sunday and the dead of the Irish Revolution’, p. 152; The figure of fifty Co. Wexford fatalities arising from revolutionary violence during the period 1922-1923 is taken from research conducted by this author. This forthcoming work is awaiting some finalisation and is expected to be published in late 2019.

[63] Furlong and Hayes, County Wexford in the rare oul’ times, p. 192.

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