Abbeyfeale's Fighting Story


No. W.S. 1,272

Witness; James Collins, T.D.,
Convent Terrace,
Co. Limerick.

Identity. Captain Abbeyfeale Company;
Vice O/C. Abbeyfeale Battalion;
Brigade Adjutant West Limerick Brigade.

Subject. Abbeyfeale Company Irish Volunteers,
Co. Limerick, l9l5-192l.
Conditions, if any, Stipulated by Witness.
File No. S.2564
Form B.S.M.2
No. W.S. 1,272

Convent Terrace, Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick.

“I was born in the parish of Abbeyfeale on the 31st
October, 1900, and was one of a family of three boys and
three girls. My parents, who were farmers, sent me to
the local national school until I was fourteen years of
age, after which I attended a private school run by a man
named Mr. Danaher. While attending the private school,
I became an apprentice to a chemist in the town of
Abbeyfeale whose name was Richard B. Woulfe. After
completing my apprenticeship, I was retained in his
employment for some years until I was forced to go on the
run during the Black and Tan terror.
Mr. Woulfe's wife was Miss Cathie Colbert, sister
of Con Colbert (executed after Easter Week 1916) and
James Colbert, and cousin of Michael Colbert who later
became Brigade Vice 0/C, West Limerick Brigade. The
Woulfe's were great supporters of the Irish independence
movement and their shop and house, from the earliest days
of the movement, became a meeting place for men like Con
Colbert, Captain Ned Daly and others who later figured
prominently in the fight for freedom.
A Company of the Irish Volunteers was formed in
Abbeyfeale in May, 1914. I did not become a member at
the time. The strength of the Company was about three
hundred. A Dr. Hartnett was the chief. organiser, and
an ex British soldier, named James Wall, was one of the
drill instructors. They did not hold together for long
and ceased to exist early in the year 1915, after John
Redmond's speech in the House of Commons in which he
offered the semi-trained Volunteers of Ireland to fight
for the freedom of small nationalities.
Some time later in the year 1915, Ernest Blythe
visited Abbeyfeale and reorganised the Company. I was
one of nine members who joined the Company at its inception.
I was only fifteen years of age at the time. A man named
Thomas Fitzgerald of the Railway Bar, Abbeyfeale, was our
first Company Captain.
A short time previous to Easter Week, 1916, Captain
Ned Daly and Con Colbert visited Woulfe's where I was
employed. They were in uniform.
On Thursday of the Holy Week previous to Easter Week, 
the late Batt O'Connor, who later became T.D. for a Dublin constituency, 
visited Woulfe's on his way from Dublin to Tralee with dispatches.
He was on a bicycle which he asked me to take past the
R.I.C. barracks for him, in case the R.I.C. became suspicious.
On Easter Sunday morning, the late Pierce
McCann arrived at Woulfe's in a Wolseley motor car on his
way to Tralee. He enquired for the best road to take
there and was advised to take the Castleisland road. I
got into the car and acted as his pilot for part of the
way. Just as we left Woulfe's, four R.I.C. men put up
their hands to stop the car in the town. McCann slowed down
but, just as he got abreast of the R.I.C., he shot off
again on his way. When we arrived at Feale's bridge, we
saw a couple more R.I.C. men on duty at the bridge and
avoided them by taking a bog road via Knocknagoshel to
Immediately after Easter Week, the local R.I.C.
were on the look-out for Monteith who had landed with
Roger Casement at Banna strand. My employer had got word
that he was in the Ballymacelligott area of Co. Kerry.
Mr. Woulfe sent me to Fr. O'Flaherty of Brosna, Co. Kerry,
to borrow his car for the purpose of bringing Monteith to
Co. Limerick. Fr. O'Flaherty agreed to lend the car
which was a model T-Ford. Soon after, Peter Byrne,
Junior, of Abbeyfeale, who was usually employed by Fr.
O'Flaherty to drive the car, collected it and later brought
Monteith from Ballymacelligott to Batt Laffan's of
Killowan. From this to early spring of 1917, there was
no activity.
In the spring of 1917 the same nine or ten men, who
hail previously formed the Company before Easter Week of
1916, met once again. Captain Fitzgerald again became
0/C. We held routine meetings and drilled up to the end
of the year.
A short time after the general release,
Abbeyfeale Company, with Athea, Tournafulla, Mountcollins
and Templeglantine Companies, were formed into a Battalion.
Dr. E. Hartnett of Abbeyfeale became Battalion Commandant.
During the conscription scare of 1918, our Company
strength increased to forty-seven men. We collected
some shotguns and intensified drilling at the time.
After the scare, a number of the Volunteers, including
some of our officers, left the Company.
A re-election of officers then took place. I became Company Captain, the
late P.J. O'Neill, 1st Lieutenant, and Laurence Hartnett,
2nd Lieutenant.
About the end of June of this year, a dispatch from G.H.Q., Dublin, 
arrived at Woulfe's for delivery to P.J. Cahill, Brigade 0/C, Kerry No. I Brigade.
I took the dispatch to Listowel where members of the
local Company refused to accept it or have it transmitted
to Cahill. I then proceeded to Tralee where I contacted
some members. of the Tralee Volunteers in a railway signal
Cabin near the town. They also refused to accept the
dispatch but directed me to where Cahill resided. After
some abuse by Cahill's relatives, the dispatch was
accepted. The reason for the refusal of the Listowel and
Tralee Volunteers to accept responsibility for the delivery
was that curfew was in operation at the time following the
shooting of two R.I.C. men in the town of Tralee on the
14th June, 1918, by Tom MacEllistrim and another Volunteer
for their part in the shooting of two Volunteers some time
At the latter end of the year, with other
Volunteers of West Limerick, I assisted in the election
campaign in East Limerick where Dr. Hayes was the Sinn
Féin candidate. Con Collins, the Sinn Féin candidate in
West Limerick, was returned unopposed.
Routine drilling continued during the year 1919.
Following the rescue of Seán Hogan at Khocklong railway
station in May of this year, Seamus Robinson, Dan Breen
and Sean Treacy, with Seán Hogan, arrived in the West
Limerick Brigade area where they stayed in various farm
houses for some time. They had been in the area for
some time when a man, who gave his name as Peadar Clancy
of G.H.Q., Dublin also arrived in the area and was taken
to Mrs. Kennedy's of Castlemahon where Dan Breen and the
other three men had stayed for a while. After a while,
'Clancy' disappeared for a few weeks but returned again.
This time he arrived at Woulfe's of Abbeyfeale in a pony
and trap, driven by a Volunteer named Mick Sheehan of
Templeglantine. At Woulfe's he announced his name as
'Clancy' of G.H.Q., Dublin, and produced identity papers
which seemed to be in order. I was working in the shop
at the time. Mrs. Woulfe called me and told me that she
knew the Clancy family of Dublin and that this man was
not one of them. She was very suspicious of him and
warned me to be careful. 'Clancy' had said he wanted to
go to Co. Kerry on very important business and asked to
be taken part of the way there. I procured a pony and
trap and called on another Volunteer, named Michael
Downey, and sent him to Hickey's of Ballinatrin to warn
them that I was taking 'Clancy' there. Breen and his
companions had stayed at Hickey's for a while. I
brought 'Clancy' to Hickey's and handed him over to a
Volunteer, named John Carmody, to proceed on his journey.
As a result of Mrs. Woulfe's suspicions, 'Clancy'
was eventually arrested and tried as a spy specially
employed by the British to track down Seán Hogan and his
three friends. Set Hogan, who was in Dublin at the time
of the arrest, came down for the court martial and
identified 'Clancy' as a man named Crowley of Fermoy.
Crowley was subsequently executed and labelled "spy".
Earlier in the year 1919, agrarian trouble started
in the parish which lasted for nearly two years. It
appears to have been started by a creamery manager, named
O'Mahony, who dismissed a number of labourers and employed
some farmers' sons in their place. It was a common
practice for one or other of the two parties to come out
at night and fire a few shots through the windows, of their
opponents' houses. Eventually, the farmers formed
themselves into what they called a vigilance committee and,
in company with members of the R.I.C., patrolled the parish.
No members of the I.R.A. were involved on either side. This
was the position that existed when an order was received at
the latter end of the year 1919 from the Brigade 0/C, Seán
Finn, to collect all shotguns in the area. We managed to
collect a few guns but these farmers refused to co-operate
and held on to their guns.
The position continued up to May, 1920, when the
'London Daily Mail', in an item of news one day referring
to this and other incidents in Ireland, said that Abbeyfeale 
was the one bright spot in the Empire", or words to that effect.
 An evening or two later, I again saw a group of armed farmers in the town. 
They were joined by a number of R.I.C. men and, in a body, they
proceeded to patrol the town and parish. I reported the
the matter to the Brigade 0/C. In the meantime, our 1st
and 2nd Lieutenants, Laurence Hartnett and P.J. O'Neill,
respectively, raided the home of the Chairman of the
vigilance committee and seized his shotgun and revolver.
Seán Finn later contacted me and, after a short
discussion, we decided to raid every farmer connected with
the Committee and seize their arms in daylight.
Accompanied by Seán Finn, P.J. O'Neill, Slope
Reidy and Con Creegan, I seized a motor car, the property
of O'Mahony, the creamery manager who had started the
trouble, and went from one farm to another and collected
a total of seventeen shotguns and a number of revolvers
which had been issued by the R.I.C. As we drove into
the farmyard of James Lane, who was a Justice of the Peace,
his son, Dan, opened fire with a revolver on us and
wounded Reidy in the arm. As he discharged the shot, I
jumped out of the car. He recognised me and approached
with his hands up and apologised for firing. He, it
appears, had taken us for the labour agitators. He handed
over his revolver and a shotgun, afterwards bringing us
into the kitchen and treating us to our dinner.
We returned to Abbeyfeale with our car loaded with
rifles and revolvers, and proceeded to the residence of
William Creagh-Hartnett, another J.P., and seized a rifle
and shotgun. We then went to the residence of a man
named Woulfe, also a J.P., of The Glen, Cratloe,
Abbeyfeale, where we got another rifle. By the 1st June,
every farmer in the area, including those attached to the
vigilance committee, had joined the I.R.A. I swore them
in and administered the oath. Our membership went up to
one hundred and twenty men.
About the first week of June, 1920, Humphrey
Murphy, Battalion 0/C of Kerry No. 2 Brigade, with the
help of Duagh Company, Kerry No. 1 Brigade, and members of
the West Limerick Brigade, decided to attack an R.I.C.
barracks at Brosna in Co. Kerry. I mobilised Abbeyfeale
Company for the occasion. Other Companies in the West
Limerick Brigade were also mobilised for the same night.
We blocked all main roads and placed armed men at each
road block. Unfortunately, the R.I.C. got word of the
impending attack and had a party of military stationed on
and around Feale's bridge. An advance party of the Duagh
Company, who were in a motor car, drove right into the
military at the bridge. Six I.R.A. men in the car were
arrested. I got word of the arrests in a short time and
sent a dispatch rider - P.J. O'Neill - to Mountcollins
where Humphrey Murphy and the attacking party had mobilised
at a creamery there. Murphy decided to call off the
About 14th June, I Received a despatch from G.H.Q.,
Dublin, signed by Gearoid O'Sullivan, through Seán Finn,
Brigade 0/C, to seize R.I.C. correspondence from Co.
Kerry to the Castle, Dublin. I contacted P.J. O'Neill
and Michael Collins (nicknamed Bird) from Abbeyfeale
Company, James Roche and two others from Templegantine
Company. We proceeded to Barna railway station on the
15th. The Mail train was just steaming into the station.
As it came to a standstill, Bird jumped on to the footplate
of the engine and ordered the driver and fireman on to the
platform. The driver, seeing me, pointed to a coach
where a number of military officers were chatting to a
local solicitor named Lavin. I opened the door of the
coach and, pointing my revolver, ordered, "Hands up". To
my surprise, they obeyed. They were all unarmed. In the
meantime, the rest of my party were busy throwing the mail
bags, further along in another compartment, out on to the
platform. While this was happening, the officers kept
their hands up. The train was held until the mail bags
were carried to the roadside. We then let it proceed.
We had just carried the last of the mail bags on
our backs to a dip in the first bye-road west of Barna
station when two lorry loads of R.I.C. and Black and Tans
flashed by the end of the bye-road. The stationmaster
had 'phoned the R.I.C. in Newcastlewest and reported the
raid while it was in progress. Later, we took the mails
to Sugar Hill bog where we got in between some turf banks
and sorted them out. We found the R.I.C. bag enclosed in
a larger one. Among the parcels we found one which, for
some reason or other, we thought suspicious. It was a
pie addressed to an R.I.C. man. We opened it and inside
found a letter from a Miss Collins of Abbeyfeale.
Unknown to her friends and neighbours, she had married the
B.I.C. man some time previously. He was apparently fond
of pie. The letter informed her husband, among other
things, that if James Collins (myself) P.J. O'Neill and
Mahony were arrested, opposition to the R.I.C. would
collapse in Abbeyfeale.. We returned the letter to Miss
Collins with our compliments and a warning that she would
be held responsible if any of the three men were arrested.
She immediately reported the matter to the local parish
priest. We sent the police bag to Seán Finn who had it
sent to G.H.Q., Dublin. It contained a complete report
of the I.R.A. Organisation in Co. Kerry.
A day or two later, the Brigade 0/C, Seán Finn,
informed us that Humphrey Murphy was to make another
attempt to attack Brosna R.I.C. barracks. The attack
actually took place on the 19th June. I was in charge
of the West Limerick men whose duty it was to man road
blocks which had been prepared for the occasion.
Between thirty and forty men, including about twelve West
Limerick men, took part in the actual attack which started
around 12.30 a.m.
When I had placed my men who were armed with
shotguns on the road blocks, O'Neill and I proceeded to
Abbeyfeale hill which commanded a perfect view of Brosna
village. The attack had lasted for some time when we
saw some Verey lights lighting up the sky over Brosna.
Around 4 a.m., the attack was called off. We had a
perfect view of the retreat of the I.R.A. men from the
village. As we were returning to one of the road blocks
on the Abbeyfeale side of the hill, O'Neill spotted some
R.I.C. men crawling on hands and knees through a valley
up the hill towards Brosna. He pointed them out to me;
there were twelve of them. We were on much higher ground,
and opened fire together. We were armed with rifles.
One R.I.C. man was wounded. They sighted the road block
and opened fire on the men located there. We kept up the
rifle fire until they eventually withdrew to Abbeyfeale
whence they had come. We had the advantage, as they did
not know our strength. The attack on the barracks itself
was a failure. Some time later that morning, the R.I.C.
Appendix 6
National Archives Act, 1986, Regulations, 1988
Form to be completed and inserted in the original record
in place of each part abstracted
(i) Reference number of the separate cover under
which the abstracted part has been filed: 115/272/A
(ii) How many documents have been abstracted: 411
(iii) The date of each such document: 5 October1955
(iv) The description of each document:
25 1272 Whier Vikene JamesCollin TD P10-13 (ind)
Atis Lach
(Where appropriate, a composite description may be entered in respect of
two or more related documents).
(v) Reason (s) why tile part has been abstracted for retention:
(c)Would or might cause distress or danger to living persons on the ground
that they contain information about individuals, or would or might be
likely to lead to an action for damages for defamation.
(Thesewill be the reasons given on the certificate underSection 8(4).)
Name: (J. Moloney.)
Grade: Col.
Department/ Office/Court
Date: 7 March 2003.
raided my father's house for me. Luckily for my two
brothers (who had also taken part in the activities of
that morning) and myself, we had not arrived home.
A short time after the attempt on Brosna barracks,
I received on order from the Battalion C/C, Maurice
Hartnett, to burn down the local courthouse. Having,
procured a quantity of petrol and paraffin, I selected
about twenty men from the local Company to carry out the
job, including a man named whose father was a
and who resided with
his I placed fourteen men in positions covering the barracks while the
job was being carried out. Two of the men were armed
with rifles; the others had shotguns. with six other
men, I approached the courthouse. I carried an eighty-ounce
bottle of ether which I had carefully wrapped in
cotton-pool and other padding material, My intention
was to hurl the bottle of ether into the building as soon
as it had taken fire. was with me and carried
a tin of petrol. The back of the courthouse was
surrounde4 by barbed wire stretched on iron posts sunk
into the ground. This wire had been cut in several
places previously by my brother, Denis, to afford a way
of retreat if necessary, as the barracks itself was only
a few yards across the road from the courthouse.
As we were about to break one of the windows,
began to tap the wall of the courthouse with
the petrol tin and continued to do so for some time.
Immediately, the R.I.C. opened fire from a gable window
in the barracks which overlooked the courthouse. The
petrol tin was dropped by and the petrol
spilled out on the ground. We all retreated by the back
Of the building. Luckily, the barbed wire had been cut.
I became very suspicious of after this
incident. The tapping of the petrol tin was obviously
a signal to the R.I.C. I was convinced that he had
informed them of the proposed burning of the building but,
sooner than bring him under suspicion with the other
members of the Company, I did not mention the incident to
A fortnight later, I had all preparations made again
to burn the courthouse and was determined to do it. I
did not tell but he got to hear of it from some
of the other men. Then he asked me was it true that I
was going to make another attempt on the courthouse, I had
to admit it. On the night fixed for the second attempt
on the 2nd June, 1920, while he and I were walking down
the street at about 9 p.m., a big motor car arrived in the
town and pulled up at Leahy's pub in the Square. Six men
in civilian clothes got out and went into Leahy's. I
stood at a corner and he grabbed me by the arm and said,
"Come on". I refused to go near Leahy's pub. He
proceeded alone. As he was passing the pub, he was
grabbed by a couple of the men in civilian clothes and
pulled inside. The won were R.I.C. He was placed
under arrest and subsequently charged with the possession
of firearms. When he had met me. earlier, he told me that
he wanted to go to his grandfather's house to collect his
revolver for the burning of the courthouse. ye would have
to pass Leahy's house to reach his grandfather's. In
fact he had the revolver on him at the time. Next day,
Mrs. Leahy, who was an aunt of Laurence Hartnett, our 2nd
Lieutenant, told us that, as soon as the R.I.C. got him
into the pub, they said to "Where is he?". We
abandoned the proposed burning after this.
Next day, he was taken by lorry to Limerick prison.
I was in the street at the time and saw him point me out
to his R.I.C. escort. About a week later, his aunt,
approached me and told me that her
nephew wanted to see me in Limerick prison and that he had
something important to toil me. I did not want to go
but eventually, when she hired a motor car to take me
there, I agreed and brought my wife with me. I was still
suspicious of aná, at the last minute, would not
enter the jail but arranged for my wife to take whatever
message he had to a certain restaurant in the city where
I decided to await the two women.
At the exact time that I had arranged to meet the
two women. the restaurant was raided. by R.I.C. and Black
and tans. They did not go near anybody else sitting at
the tables but came straight to my table where I was
sitting opposite a priest, also having a meal. They
questioned me and searched me. I gave a false name. I
could see they were not sure of me until the priest said,
This young man is a friend of mine", after which they left
me alone.
was subsequently sent to Wormwood Scrubbs
Jail in England and was put into a cell next to Michael
Relihan of Kilcara, Duagh, Co. Kerry, one of the six men
arrested on the first attempt on Brosna R.I.C. barracks.
The I.R.A. prisoners were on hunger strike there at the
time, but was one of the men who were not
forcibly fed on the occasion. It subsequently transpired
that he was brought there to act as a spy on the rest of
the prisoners. He was later released in October of that
year, on "medical grounds", as he said when he returned to
the area. I did not meet him again until some time in
1920 when I was on the Flying Column.
To finish story, he and Austin Stack
had organised Sinn Féin Courts around West Cork during
the Truce. One day during the period, I heard he was
staying in a hotel in Newcastlewest. With a couple of
I.R.A. men, I went to his room and arrested him, and
disarmed him of a Webley revolver and eighteen rounds of
ammunition. I reported the whole story to Liam Lynch.
He was court martialled by Liam Lynch, during which he
confessed to having been working for the enemy. He was
ordered to leave the country. A short time after, I
paid a visit to the Department of Home Affairs in Dublin
and discovered that be was working for Austin Stack there.
I was with Con Collins at the time. We told Stack of
career. Stack fired him on the spot. Next
day, he arrived in Newcstlewest off the same train as
myself. I subsequently searched his room and disarmed
him of a Mills bomb. His next appearance was as
Around the end of June, 1920, a reorganisation of
this Battalion and Brigade Staffs took place. Moss
Hartnett remained Battalion 0/C. I became Battalion
Vice 0/C in place of Jim Colbert who had become Brigade
Vice 0/C to Seán Finn, Brigade Commandant. Patrick John
O'Neill, 1st Lieutenant, became Company Captain in my
One Sunday evening in July, a party of military
and Black aid Tans raided my father's house and asked to
see the bedroom occupied by my brothers and me. During
the course of the search, they took a coat from the
wardrobe and asked, "who was the owner". My mother said
it was mine. As they were replacing it, she saw a
Black and Tan putting two clips of ammunition into one
of the pockets. He then called a military officer, took
the ten rounds out and said, "Look at what I found here".
My mother protested, saying she saw the Black and Tan
putting the ammunition into the pocket. The Tan struck
her with the butt of his rifle. The following day, a
warrant was issued for my arrest.
At this time, I had staying with an I.R.A. man
named Patrick Buckley who had been in the R.I.C. and had,
a short time previously, handed over to the I.R.A. an
R.I.C. barracks in County Clare. He was subsequently
blown up at Ballyseedy during the civil war. On the
Monday after the ammunition was "found" in my pocket,
Buckley and I, while armed with a rifle each, walked up
Main Street of Abbeyfeale and proceeded a short distance
outside the town, where I hurriedly mobilised about
twelve members of the local Company for the purpose of
attacking a party of four soldiers in charge of an
officer who, earlier in the day, had pulled up in the
town and had a drink in one of the pubs. The military
were taking a lorry load of baled straw from Tralee to
Limerick. It was my intention to attack them on their
way back to Tralee. Besides Buckley and myself, four
of the men were armed with rifles; the other eight had
shotguns. We took up positions in extended formation
on one side of the road at Ward's Cross at 3 p.m. We
waited up to 10 p.m. The military party did not return.
On the following morning, an R.I.C. Constable named
O'Mahony waited in church after Mass and informed Rev.
Fr. Fitzgerald, C.C., that a party of Black and Tans was
to arrive in Abbeyfeale that evening to execute the
warrant for my arrest. When I received this information,
I left town that evening. I contacted. the Brigade 0/C,
Seán Finn, who at the time was located at Springmount,
Abbeyfeale. He had a small fighting unit of seven men
with him at the time. They were all men on the run.
They had just retreated from Loughill where, with the
assistance of the 0/C of the 5th Battalion and members of
Ballyhahill Company, they had ambushed a party of R.I.C.
and Black and Tans on the 7th July, in which a Constable
Fahy was shot dead. I made the eighth man of the then
active service unit.
About this time, an old man was shot dead in a
field in Shanagolden by a Tan named Huckerby who, for
his own safety, was subsequently transferred to Abbeyfeale.
He was a thorough blackguard from his first day in the
town, holding up the inhabitants at the point of the
revolver and visiting public houses where he terrorised
the owners and public generally. He was a crack-shot
with a revolver, and one of his favourite pastimes was
to throw a penny in the air and hit it with a shot from
his revolver, or to shoot sparrows on the wing. The
Brigade 0/C decided to try and have him shot for the
killing of the old man in Shanagolden. He told me to
go into Abbeyfeale to try and get him. I brought a
man named Fitzgerald - a New Zealander who had joined the
I.R.A. - with me. When we arrived in the town, we
dumped our bikes and went into a public house. While
we were in the pub, we saw Huckerby in the street and
were waiting for him to approach our position when a
local man and his wife started to fight in the street.
The man was beating his wife with an ash plant.
Huckerby intervened and stopped him. As this was
happening, one of our men - Slope Reidy - arrived in
the pub with a message from Finn, asking us to cancel
the shooting of Huckerby as he (Finn) intended to carry
out an ambush on a patrol of R.I.C. and Tans within a
week or two in the town and that it was possible that
we would be able to get Huckerby then.
Finn and I discussed the attack later and eventually
decided to carry it out on Saturday night, the 19th
September, 1920 The patrol consisted of ten men,
including Huckerby. They usually patrolled from the
barracks to a cross-roads outside the town, a distance
of a quarter of a mile. Fifty armed men had been
mobilised for the attack; eight of these had rifles;
the others had shotguns. Finn was in charge. He
divided the attacking party into three sections. Finn
himself was in charge of one section, Moss Hartnett was
in charge of the second section, while I was in charge of
the third section. My section was located behind a
ditch in extended formation between the barracks and the
cross-roads. The other two sections were located
behind fences at the cross-roads itself. We had taken
up our positions only a short time when the patrol
arrived as usual at the cross-roads. My instructions
from Finn were to let the patrol up to the cross-roads
before opening fire.
Before the order was given by Finn to open fire,
one of our men at the cross-roads made a noise by
accidentally breaking a branch of a tree. One of the
R.I.C., named O'Mahony, (who had earlier warned me of my
impending arrest) crossed over to investigate. Before
he reached the fence, O'Neill, the local Company Captain,
fired. O'Mahony fell dead. The patrol turned and ran
for the nearby presbytery. As they ran, our men at
the cross-roads opened fire on them. The patrol appears
to have reached the presbytery without further casualties.
Some little time. later, two priests - Fr. David
Fitzgerald and Fr. John Carr - accompanied the patrol to
the barracks. The police had placed O'Mahony's body in
a cart which they pushed down the street with them. As
the two priests were with the patrol, we in our section
did not open fire. It so happened that the Tan,
Huckerby, was not with the patrol that night.
On the Sunday night following, several lorry loads
of R.I.C. and Black and Tans arrived in the town. Most
of the local people had cleared out. The Tans remained
for a couple of hours while they fired some thousands of
rounds of ammunition all round them and bombed several
houses, including O'Neill's and my father's. My father
and sisters were in bed when they arrived. My mother
and sisters had only just left the house when the first
bomb came through the window.
About a week later, a lorry load of Auxiliaries
and Black and Tans arrived in charge of a Colonel Latimer.
They surrounded a field where my youngest brother,
Michael, was working. They arrested him and took him
to the local R.I.C. barracks, after which they took him
out into a field at the back and tied him to a whitethorn
bush where they beat him and questioned him to extract
information from him as to the whereabouts of myself and
other members of the attacking party that had shot
O'Mahony. The local square was; full of people watching
the beating, when the local parish priest, Canon Creegan,
came on the scene. He protested violently against the
treatment being meted out to Michael and eventually
succeeded in getting the local District Inspector,
R.I.C., to stop the beating and to phone Newcastlewest
military barracks for the military. When the military
arrived, the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans protested
at their interference. They held on to Michael and
would not hand him over. An argument then developed
between the two parties and was becoming serious when
the Taps and Auxiliaries released him and tied him by
the legs to their lorry. Preceded by the military,
the Auxiliaries dragged him through the town towards
Newcastlewest. When they reached Barna, about six miles
away, the military halted and again remonstrated with the
Auxiliaries and Tans. By this time, he was uncofl5ciOus.
His head and body were battered and bruised. At last,
they untied him and threw him into a dyke and left him
for dead.
Some time later that day, a man and his wife,
returning from Newcastlewest in a donkey cart, found him
and took him to their home. They washed and cleaned
him and got him medical attention. It was a week before
we heard of his whereabouts. About four days later, he
arrived home.
On the 22nd September, the Tan, Huckerby,
followed two civilians out the road. They were Jer.
Healy and Patrick Hartnett. Healy had just left his
place of employment, and Hartnett his home. Hartnett's
mother worked in the barracks, and he resembled my
brother very much. A short distance outside the town,
Huckerby halted the two men, took them into a field and
shot them dead, through the forehead. He returned to
the barracks and reported to the District Inspector that
he had shot Collins and another I.R.A. man, around a
Appendix 6
National Archives Act, 1986, Regulations, 1988
Form to be completed and inserted in the original record
in place of each part abstracted
(i) Reference number of the separate cover under
which the abstracted part has been filed: Ws
(ii) How many documents have been abstracted: 19
(iii) The date of each stick document: 5 October 1955
(iv) The description of each document:
25 1272 Whier Vikene James Collins TD. P19
Atis Lach
(Where appropriate, a composite description may be entered in respect of
two or more related documents).
(v) Reason(S) why the part has been abstracted for retention:
(c) Would or might cause distress or danger to living persons on the ground
that they contain information about individuals, or would or might be
likely to lead to an action for damages for defamation.
(These will be the reasons given on the certificate under Section8 (4).)
Name: (J. Moldoney.)
Grade: Col.
Department/ Office/ Court
Date: 7 March 2003.
bend in the road. I received this information from a
Constable Pattison who was acting I.C. for me in the
barracks. At the subsequent inquiry, this reference
to Coning was deleted. He (Huckerby) was removed the
night of the shooting. under a military escort to
Limerick. I subsequently heard that he was sent to the
Cork area where he took part in operations there.
Constable Pattison, R.I.C., pus a Protestant and
native of Ghibbereen, Co. Cork. He sent his information
to me through a Mrs. Edward W. Ford, Serchant. of
Abbeyfeale or through two shop assistants there named
Miss Nance Ahern and Miss Margaret Meade. It was he
who confirmed that was working for the R.I.C.
in the first instance.
A short time after the attack on the patrol in
Abbeyfeale, it was the first weak in October. a Brigade
active service unit was formed. An active service
unit of eight men had been in existence for some time.
they had taken part in the attack on Kilmallock R.I.C.
barracks and other attacks in the West Limerick area.
Among the men accepted on the Brigade A.S.U. at the time
were Patrick J. O'Neill, Daniol Murphy, my brother,
Denis, Seán Hertnett, Laurence Hertnett and James
Guiney. The Activo Service Unit or Flying Column were
whole-time and consisted of twenty-throe men, We had
eighteen rifles. a number of shotguns and some small
arms. Seán Finn already in charge of the smaller unit,
remained in charge of the larger unit or column. At
first, we were billeted in the Athea area but, after a
while, we transferred to the Kilcolman area, near
During the month of October, Seán Finn sent me
and another man to the 3rd Battalion area to administer
the oath. The headquarters of this Battalion was
Drumcollogher. Con Foley was the Battalion 0/C. I
visited Feenagh, Kilmeedy, Castlemahon and Knockaderry,
Companies and administered the oath to each member of
these Companies. The other man - I forget his name -
administered the oath to members of the other Companies
in that area.
About the end of October or early in November,
I attended a Brigade meeting at Kilcolman at which a
decision was taken to divide the Column into two
sections. The Brigade 0/C, Seán Finn's intention was
to attack small patrols simultaneously in the east and
west of the Brigade area. One section in charge of
Garrett McAullife was sent into the 3rd and part of the
1st Battalion areas, while he remained in charge of
the other section in the 2nd and 5th Battalion areas.
Some days after the Brigade meeting at which this
decision was taken1 the Brigade Adjutant, James Roche,
while on his way to the Drumcollogher area from the
meeting, was arrested. Seán Finn appointed me Acting
Brigade Adjutant iii his place. The section under
Garrett McAuliffe was not very long in their area When
Con Foley, Battalion 0/C, reported to Set Finn some
indiscipline among the members of the section in his
area. I understand that the trouble arose from the
fact that some local I.R.A. men, who had been transferred
to police duties following the setting up of Sinn Féin
courts in the area, had some difficulty with the I.R.A.
in enforcing the licensing regulations. Finn called
another Brigade meeting to which the offenders were
summoned. They were severely reprimanded and. cautioned
as to their future behaviour.
Just before Christmas of 1920, we were billeted
at Knocknasna, about two miles from Abbeyfeale. A few
days before Christmas Day, Fr. David Fitzgerald of
Abbeyfeale sent word to us that he would say Mass for us
on Christmas morning if we could find a suitable house.
We found the house. Fr. Fitzgerald arrived and said
Mass at 4.30 a.m. There were eight of us present -
Murphy, Guiney, Mahoney, John and Laurence Hartnett,
O'Neill, myself and my brother. After Mass, he saw
each man individually and gave each his blessing with
the sign of the Gross on the forehead. As he made the
sign of the Cross on my forehead, he said to me, "No
bullet will ever shoot you". There must have been
something in what he said, for I was in a few very
tight corners subsequently but never got a bullet wound.
In February, l92l, the two sections of the Column
reunited for an attack on a train at Barragone, midway
between Foynes and Askeaton. The Brigade 0/C had
recived information that a few R.I.C. were to travel,
on the 17th of the month, to Limerick to give evidence at
a court martial of an I.R.A. prisoner named Willie
Madigan. Seán Finn detailed an I.R.A. man, named
Liston or Histon, from Foynes to travel in the last
coach of the train, with instructions to wave a white
handkerchief once for each R.I.C. man or Black and Tan
on the train. We had mobilised in the library at
Ballyhahill and left at 2a.m. on that morning to take
up our positions.
We had taken up our positions in three sections
when the train arrived. It was the first one from
Foynes. One section had occupied a position at a road
bridge over the railway, another section in extended
formation on the Shannon side of the railway, while the
third section was located on high ground which formed
the embankment of the railway line. I was in charge
of the section on the road bridge. Set Finn and Garrett
McAuliffe were in charge of the other sections. About
half of the men had shotguns; the others had revolvers
or rifles. As the train came into our positions, an
I.R.A. man named Con Boyle waved a red flag. He was
standing on the line. The train came to a stop.
Liston was seen to wave the white handkerchief from the
carriage window up and down several times. It was
certainly more than the four waves which we expected.
In my section were Con Creegan, Jerry Maloney,
Larry Hartnett, John Joe Leahy and Daniel Murphy. As
the train stopped, we opened fire. Garrett McAuliffe
threw a bomb at a carriage window which rebounded on to
the embankment. At the same time, a Black and Tan
left one of the carriages and crawled underneath the
train to the engine where he compelled the driver at
the point of a revolver to start up the train. When
it got around a bend, it halted. From this position,
the R.I.C. and Tans opened fire on my section. We
replied to their fire. In the short encounter,
Laurence Hartnett was wounded. By this time, Finn and
McAuliffe had retreated with their sections. Daniel
Murphy and I managed to carry the wounded man a distance
of three miles over very rough ground. He was bleeding
profusely. We had only just reached safety when troops
and Tans were poured into the area we had left.
That evening, the Column reassembled at Monohill
schoolhouse where we slept, in relays, for the night.
During the night it was decided to contact the East
Limerick Flying Column arid to request their assistance
in carrying out an attack on an enemy patrol in the area
of Ballyhahill. At this time, it was usual to see
convoys of enemy lorries of not less than sixty men,
made up of military, R.I.C., Auxiliaries and Black and
Tans, supported by armoured cars, on the prowl.
Donnchadh O'Hannigan, 0/C of the East Limerick
Flying Column and his men arrived in the Athea area in
Holy Week. They were all rifle men and brought with
them a number of gelignite mines. With the East
Limerick men, we numbered at least eighty men. On Holy
Saturday morning we all went to Mass and Holy Communion
in the local church, stacking our rifles outside in
broad daylight while we were inside. Athea was
surrounded by garrisoned towns at the time. It was
only six miles from Abbeyfeale, eleven from Listowel
and thirteen from Newcastlewest. Ballyhahill, which
was not garrisoned, was eight miles from Athea.
After receiving Holy Communion, we were all
billeted on the northern side of Athea village. While
we were there, a large contingent of enemy forces passed
through the area. They abandoned two lorries on the
Black Heights as a ruse. Enemy machine gun nests were
placed around the area overlooking the lorries. They
had us completely surrounded, although we were not
aware of it at the time.
Finn ordered me to select a few of our men and
proceed to the abandoned lorries to investigate their
contents and to burn them if possible. I selected
Jerry Maloney, Jimmy Sullivan, P.J. O'Neill, Set
Brouder, Jim Guiney and Paddy Naughton. About half-way
down the side of an open mountain, Maloney volunteered
to proceed ahead and scout the position. We remained
where we were while he went forward. While he was gone,
we received information from the local inhabitants that
the surrounding countryside was occupied by armed
military and Black and Tans. They pointed out to us
where machine gun 1posts had been set up. When Maloney
returned, I took my party back to Seán Finn and informed
him of the position. Both he and O'Hannigan were
satisfied that the enemy was aware of our presence in
the area. They decided to move in a northerly
direction that night to the Ballyhahill area.
We arrived in the Ballyhahill area at 1a.m. next
morning. The East Limerick men were billeted in the
village. Our men moved three miles north-west towards
Glin. Seán Finn and Donnchadh O'Hannigan, with a few
other men, moved to a billet about two miles north-east
of the village. I was with them and had about reached
my billet for the night when Finn, at the last. moment,
asked me to go back and take charge of the west
Limerick men. I had on me at the time a bag containing
the entire Brigade documents and correspondence. I
agreed, returned to the village and proceeded to catch
up on our own men, three miles away. I arrived in the
locality about 4 a.m. and found our men. After a check
up on the men present, I selected a guard for the next
couple of hours and then went to bed with Naughton and
Later that morning, three lorry loads of R.I.C.
and Black and Tans arrived from either Newcastlewest or
Adare. At Whiskey Hall Cross, they slowed down their
lorries and cut off the engines. Some three members
the East Limerick Column were billeted in a house at
this cross. Seeing the lorries, they left by the back
door and ran into an open field. They were fired on as
they ran. The Tans, instead of proceeding into the
village, turned the lorries and went down a side road
which ran alongside the field the three men had taken.
This side road led to the house of a man named Danagher
of Woodview, where Seán Finn, Donnchadh O'Hannigan, Jim
Colbert, Jimmy Finn and some others were billeted.
Hearing the shooting, Finn and O'Hannigan, who at
the time were outside Danagher's house, ran for their
rifles and gave the alarm and came out to investigate.
By this time, the lorries had come within a few yards
of them. While all of the I.R.A. men in Danagher's were
running through a ploughed field, in single file, Finn
was mortally wounded and another I.R.A. man, named Quane,
was wounded through the jaw.
The death of Finn saved the other men. When the
R.I.C. and Tans saw his dead body, they were so anxious
to collect it that they failed to follow up the
retreating men, thus saving them from certain death.
I was asleep at the time, but Paddy Naughton, who was
billeted with me, when informed that morning that shots
had been heard to the east towards Ballyhahill, took no
notice at the time. An hour later, I received a
despatch, informing me that Finn had been shot and
requesting me to mobilise our own men and bring them
back to Athea parish area again. Here we were billeted
along the slopes of Direen, situated on the northwestern
boundary of the county, near Moyvane.
On the following morning, my brother; Denis,
Jim Guiney and Patrick Naughton, while billeted in a
house at Blain Bridge cross, got up early to wash their
shirts. They decided to move elsewhere, as the house
was on a public highway. They had only gone a few
minutes when three lorry loads of Tans and R.I.C. arrived
and searched the house, afterwards proceeding in the
Glin direction.
After the shooting of Seán Finn, O'Hannigan
decided to move his Column back to Fast Limerick. He
asked for volunteers from the West Limerick Column to
come with him. We were numerically too small to remain
in our own area and carry out any effective attack on
the enemy, with their huge concentrations all around us
in Listowel, Newcastlewest and Abbeyfeale. About
eighteen of the West Limerick men volunteered to join
O'Hannigan's Column. Twelve of these, including myself,
were from the Abbeyfeale or 2nd Battalion area.
Before we left for East Limerick, a re-shuffle
of the Brigade Staff took place following the death of
Seán Finn. Garrett McAuliffe replaced Seán Finn as
Brigade Commandant. Michael Colbert became Vice 0/C.
I became Brigade Adjutant (I had been acting in that
capacity since the arrest of James Roche), James Colbert,
Quartermaster, and Edward Creegan, Brigade I.0.
In two night marches, we travelled from the
extreme western boundary of the county, on. the Co. Kerry
border, to Elton, Knocklong. We moved around the area
in various billets at the foot of the Galtees until
Sunday, the 1st May, 1921. At daybreak on this
particular day, Michael Colbert and I were on guard
duty, protecting the eastern end of a Column in charge
of Ned Ryan of Cappawhite, when a cycle patrol of
military - the Green Howard's - halted a short distance
from where we were posted. Their officer, who was
known as King of Galbally or Shakey Head, began to view
the countryside with a binoculars. He was only thirty
yards from a gateway where we were posted behind a pair
of pillars. After a while, they mounted their bikes
and proceeded towards Kildorrery. I reported the
incident immediately to Ned Ryan who contacted O'Hannigan.
At this time, there were in East Limerick three
Flying Columns. The eighteen men of West Limerick were
divided among the three. I was attached to the Column
in charge of Ned Ryan who was a blacksmith from
Cappawhite. Michael Colbert of West Limerick was
accepted as leader of another Column, and Dan Allis was
in charge of the third Column. It appears that the
reason for the cycle patrol's activities that morning
was the fact that John Joe Hogan of Tipperary had burned
down the home of a loyalist some time earlier the same
On the assumption that the patrol would return
by the same route later in the day, O'Hannigan immediately
made plans to ambush them in the vicinity. Ned Ryan,
whose column was on the spot, was ordered to take up
ambush position. He divided his column into three
sections and placed them in extended formation for a
distance of half a mile, on one side of the main road
east of Shraharla church. The main road connected the
town of Galbally, from which the patrol had come, and
the town of Mitchelstown. I was in charge of one of
these sections, Michael Colbert was in charge of a
second section while Ned Ryan himself took charge of
the third section. We were all armed with rifles. In
the meantime, O'Hannigan was collecting the other two
columns to reinforce our column. As these two columns
were advancing towards our positions, through an open
field, three lorry loads of mixed military and Black and
Tans advanced along a bye-road which overlooked the field
in which the two columns under Seán Carroll of
Castleconnell and Liam Forde were proceeding to their
positions. The lorries pulled up. The military and
Tans opened fire with machine guns on our men in the
field. They ran for cover of a ditch opposite to where
part of Ned Ryan's column were placed. My section,
which was in a flanking position1 opened fire on the
three lorries. Firing lasted for about an hour when the
enemy was reinforced by an armoured car which raked the
surrounding countryside with machine guns. Our column had
to retreat as best we could. As we retreated, one of
our men, Jimmy Humphries of hurling fame, was wounded and
fell into a water-filled hole in the ground. I managed
to pull him out and brought him with us. In the
encounter, the other two columns had three I.R.A. men
killed and one man wounded. The wounded man, whose
name was Casey, was captured. He was subsequently
executed after a drumhead court martial in Cork military
barracks. The three dead men were collected that night
by the local Company who arranged for their funerals.
Led by local scouts, we all reached Lackelly,
Knocklong, that night where we billeted in the area.
We were not long in bed when we were roused again. The
Green Howard's were out early again and were raiding
houses along the road where one of the column &was
billeted. They were in charge of the same officer,
King of Galbally. A Cumann na mBan girl, by the name
of May Maloney, saw the raiding party. She knew where
our men were located and proceeded in that direction to
warn them. They followed her. She turned into a byeroad
and cycled around the first bend. Here the
column had just mobilised. The military wheeled around
after her and, at point blank range, fired into the
assembled men, using a machine gun. Four of our men
were killed on the spot. Murphy, one of the West
Limerick men, was with this column and had a man shot
dead each side of him. He afterwards related to me the
incident of the priest who, on the Christmas morning
previous, had said Mass for us and gave each of us his
blessing afterwards. The priest, after making the sign
of the Cross on his forehead, had also said to him, "No
bullet will ever kill you!".
I was still with Ned Ryan's column but we were
billeted some distance to the west of the column which
had been attacked. A railway line lay between us.
When our column heard the shooting, we advanced towards
the point from which it came. On our way, we met a
scout who informed us of the attack on the column and of
the deaths of four of its members. We proceeded through
a field near the railway line and took cover in some long
rushes. A few minutes later, we saw some military
crossing a gate immediately to our front. After a
while, we saw a number of our own men coming into the
same field in which we were located. As we approached
the railway line, I saw two railway workers taking cover
in the side of a ditch. They pointed to a belt of high
oaks, and lime trees east of the track and said that they
saw soldiers climbing the trees. As I was in
conversation with these two men, I saw a lone man, half
a mile away, running towards us. When he reached us,
I saw it was O'Hannigan. It is now obvious that the
cycle patrol of Green Howard's Was only a decoy party.
By the time we reached the railway line, reinforcements
of military, Auxiliaries and Black and Tans were pouring
into the area. I told O'Hannigan of the soldiers in
the belt of trees. He replied, "Never Mind! Try and
get through!". He ordered our column under Ned Ryan,
who by this time were all lying in the rushes and long
grass, to proceed through an opening in a nearby fence
into an adjoining field. When we got into this field,
a section of Black and Tans, located in a ditch opposite,
opened fire on us. We made for the cover of the railway
fence on our bellies. While doing so, one of our men,
named Reidy, was wounded in the leg. Another man, named
Noonan, was also wounded and fell into a stream from
which he was rescued. When we reached the coyer of the
railway fence, we replied to the fire of the Black and
Tans in the ditch opposite. We had a short time
previously seen the Black and Tan party who opened fire
on us but, as they had their tunics thrown over their
shoulders, we took them to be our own men.
Firing had lasted for about an hour when the
Black and Tan party, with whom we were engaged, suddenly
broke off the engagement. It seems that they had been
attacked from behind by another section of our men.
They retreated to a farmhouse a couple of hundred yards
away. Our column then advanced into the position they
had vacated. When we got there, we found the four dead
bodies of our men who had been killed earlier that
morning, as well as forty cycles which the enemy had
The Black and Tans in the farmhouse were later
joined by a party of military. We could not open fire
in case we shot the woman of the house who was used as
a screen by one of the military officers every time he
came out to scan the countryside with a pair of
The enemy, however, fired indiscriminately for
over two hours at anything they saw moving. Several
cattle around the house were shot dead. Eventually,
the officer with the binoculars appeared alone. As
he did so, he was shot dead by one of our men.
We eventually made for the belt of trees and got
through without further interference. In the confusion
of that day, it is not easy to give a correct picture
of the fighting as it developed. The fight had lasted
for eight hours when the enemy decided to withdraw.
When it was over, the four dead men were collected as
well as the forty cycles abandoned by the Green Howard's.
The four dead men were buried next day in a corner of a
field. A priest was present t the burial. The
cycles were handed over to the local Company. Our
Column had moved on; we did not wait for the burial.
That night, we were in an area around Kilteely
where, with three of our men, I was billeted in the
house of a man named Quinn. Early next morning, we
sent Miss Quinn out to buy some chocolate. As she
left, the three men with me left by the back door to
stroll around. When Miss Quinn returned, she informed
me that a party of Black and Tans were approaching the
house on foot. I was in bed at the time. I jumped
up, dressed and grabbed four rifles, a bandoleer and
two pairs of leggings, went out the back door, crossed
a low wall and lay down there. The Tans searched the
house and left by the back door, taking the opposite
side of the back yard to that where I was lying down.
In the meantime, the three men who had left the house
earlier spotted the Tans and lay down. When the Tans
had gone, they came along and collected their rifles.
Shortly after, some members of the local Company
arrived. The night before, they had shown each man on
the Column his billet for the night. They brought us
to a double ditch where we assembled for further orders.
Except for two men - my brother, Denis Collins, and
James Guiney - the full Column was present. As we lay
in the ditch, we could see the Tans raiding houses in
the neighbourhood, including the house where my brother
and James Guiney had slept during the night. The Tans
left the house when they saw the owner - an old, deaf
woman - lighting the fire. Unknown to her, her son
had the two men upstairs all night. They joined us
later. In the meantime, a 'plane, which flew overhead
for six hours, assisted the Tans in their raids. We
had to remain where we were.
That night, Sean Wall brought word that the West
Limerick men were to move back to their own area. We
were later joined by the East Limerick men who accompanied
us to Howardstown on the fringe of the West Limerick
Brigade area. We all billeted in the area for the
night. Next evening, the West Limerick men proceeded to
Granagh in our own area. We billeted here for the
night but we were not long in bed when we were ordered
up again to leave the district. Earlier that night,
it appears that members of the local Company, while
escorting a prisoner who had been sentenced to death,
were surprised by a military patrol. An exchange of
shots took place in which one of the escort was shot
dead. His name was O'Shea. We got on the march again
and covered the forty miles via Castletown to the
Ballyhahill area before we could get a sleep.
Garrett McAuliffe, Brigade 0/C, and Ned Creegan,
Brigade I.0., had remained in their own area while the
two Colberts and myself, also Brigade officers, were in
East Limerick. A short time before our return, Liam
Lynch had been in the area with the object of forming
the West Limerick Brigade and other Brigades into a
Division. A short while after our return, I attended
a Brigade meeting at the house of a farmer by the name
of O'Connor of Glenagown, Newcastlewest. Liam Lynch
Among the many topics under discussion that night
which were agreed to were the formation of a Division,
the disbandment of Brigade Columns and the formation of
Battalion Columns, the formation of Battalion signalling
systems and the furnishing of daily reports from each
Company to the Battalion Adjutant and from each
Battalion to the Brigade Adjutant.
Immediately after the meeting, the Brigade Column
was disbanded. During the meeting, it had been
suggested that all rifles in the Brigade area should be
distributed equally between the five Battalion Flying
Columns. We of the Abbeyfeale, or 2nd Battalion,
protested. It so happened that the majority of the men
who had gone to East Limerick were from the 2nd
Battalion, and we had in our possession twelve rifles
while one or two of the other Battalions, although
having some rifles for their own Battalion operations,
felt that all available rifles should be distributed
equally. It was eventually agreed to loan the rifles
to any Battalion requiring them for use in an attack.
When the members of the Brigade Flying Column
returned to their respective areas, Battalion Flying
Columns were formed in each of the five areas the
intention being to strike in each Battalion area on the
same day or night. In each area, Volunteers came
forward to man the available arms. These men were not
generally known to the enemy and were able to go home
after an operation. Dug-outs were prepared for men
on the run. While some of the arms were kept at the
Battalion dumps or dug-outs, most of the riflemen
retained their rifles in their own dug-outs. A list
of active service men in each Battalion area was
prepared about the time.
About this time, a "gentleman" by the name of
Kissane, who was known locally as "Captain Hand",
arrived from G.H.Q., Dublin, in the area. He was
staying at Barry's of Newbridge, Rathkeale. The
house was raided by B.I.C. and Black and Tans one
morning while he was there. He managed to escape
but he left behind him the complete list of active
service men in the Brigade which the enemy captured.
In each Battalion area, a headquarters was set
up for the receipt and issue of dispatches with fixed
hours for each. A Brigade Headquarters was set up
at Carrickkerry, Ardagh, in a dug-out on the bog-lands
of Denis Goulding. Seán Brouder of the Newcastlewest
Company, who was a journalist, was appointed Chief
Clerk on the Brigade Staff. He was fully occupied
issuing and receiving despatches and filing
In the meantime, the Brigade Staff set up a
signalling system. A training school was first
established In the Mountcollins Company area. An ex
British army, signaller named Thomas Liston, became
the instructor. One Battalion was taken on at a time.
Volunteers from each Company attended courses of
instruction in Morse and semaphore. After a short
time, we had in the 2nd Battalion area a perfect
signalling system which I would venture to say was one
of the mast efficient in the I.R.A. Each Company area
had been allocated a code number. At night-time, use
was made of cow horns to send messages from one hill
to another in the area. The use of these horns had a
very noticeable demoralising effect on the enemy.
At the end of May, from the Brigade Headquarters
at the dug-out, I attended a Brigade meeting in a
nearby house owned by a Miss Noonan. Captain Hand was
present. Each of the Battalion officers present was
asked to submit plans and arrange a suitable date to
attack the enemy simultaneously in their areas. While
this meeting was in progress, our guards could see a
Flying Column of British military in Kilcolman library,
not two hundred yards away. They were previously
stationed in the courthouse in Newcastlewest but they
closed up the courthouse and took over the library.
We knew we were in safe country. When the meeting was
over, we moved off in one's and two's.
At the meeting, an order was issued to James
Liston, Battalion Commandant, 1st Battalion,
Newcastlewest, to have the evacuated courthouse in
Newcastlewest burned down. Guarded by the Battalion
Flying Column, the courthouse was burned down in about
the first week of June. Liston's despatch to Brigade
Headquarters read, "Collins, Brigade H.Q., Courthouse
gone west. 0/C of the 1st".
After the Brigade meeting, Captain Hand asked me
to come to Brouder's of Athea with him. He insisted
on taking the main road but I refused and took a byeroad.
I reached Brouder's about an hour before him.
We stayed there that night. Next morning, as two men
of the house were preparing to go to a fair, the house
was surrounded by a party of military. I happened to
be up at the time. I. saw one of the Brouder men with
a dish of oats and a bridle in his hands, about to go
into a paddock to catch a horse. I grabbed the oats
and bridle, went into the paddock and advanced towards
the horse. As I did so, the military stood watching.
When I caught the animal, I jumped on his back and rode
towards a far-off ditch. I leaped the ditch and ran
for my. life. In the meantime, the military searched
the house. Luckily for Captain Hand, they did not go
into the bedroom he occupied.
Following the request at the Brigade meeting for
a Specified time and date for an attack on the enemy in
each Battalion area, it had been arranged for these
attacks to take place on June 5th. In the 2nd Battalion,
we had decided to attack an R.I.C. and Tan patrol. For
the two previous Sunday mornings. we had plastered the
walls and hoardings around the town with stencilled
notices, such as, "Take down your steel shutters and let
in the fresh air", or "Bring out your armoured cars
and tanks Devil a bit we care!", or "Scum of Frongoch
and Dartmoor, come out and take them off"
The following Sunday morning was the 5th June.
We had put up similar notices ail over the town and
even put one on the door of the barracks that morning.
My brother, Michael, and the Company I.0., David
Shanahan, were the only two men aware of the impending
attack. I intended to occupy certain houses in the
town for the attack. The occupants were all sympathisers.
My brother made arrangements with the householders to
leave a door or window unlocked to facilitate us. I
contacted my friend, Constable Pattison, and arranged to
meet-him at Forde's pub; when he met me, he assured me
that he would have the Black and Tans in the barracks
out early that morning.
On the night of the 4th and morning of the 5th,
I moved the Battalion Active Service Unit from
Meenahelia to the outskirts of the town. At the
Protestant church, my brother had eight scouts waiting.
The Column did not know my intention and thought it was
of a more simple nature. Each scout and each member
of the Column removed his footwear. Led by the scouts,
the Column had occupied their allocated houses by 3 a.m.
I had twenty-two armed men ready for the actual attack,
apart from some armed men on outpost duty on every road
leading into the town on which we had road blocks.
Just before daybreak, at 5 a.m., eleven Tans and
one R.I.C. man left the barracks and approached a
junction in the main street. We had the walls around
this junction plastered with the stencilled slogans and
had occupied five houses covering the spot. They
halted exactly where we wanted them. They undid their
tunics, slung their rifles over their shoulders and, with
their penknives, began their customary task of tearing
down the stencilled posters. Ten of them concentrated
on the gable end of a house owned by people named Joy,
in a dead line opposite a house owned by a Mrs.
Eggleston, where I had placed eleven shotgun men in
charge of John McAuliffe.
Unknown to me, Mrs Eggleston had come upstairs
to the eleven men and brought them downstairs to
breakfast or a meal of some sort, just before the
appearance of the Tans. I waited for some time for
McAuliffe to open the attack, to drive the Tans into our
positions, but there was nothing doing. At last, I
lifted a curtain to signal them to attack. As I did
so, one of the Tans fired at me. With that, we opened
fire; most of them were out of sight, around the corner
from our positions. One Tan was killed;, four,
including a Sergeant, were wounded. They ran for the
barracks. We dashed out into the street where we
captured a rifle off a Tan who had run in the opposite
direction. I received a slight flesh wound.
Among the men who took part in this attack were
my brother, Denis, Jim Guiney, P.J. O'Neill,
Naughton, John Hartnett, Jer. Maloney, Laurence Hartnett,
Daniel Hartnett, William O'Keeffe, Johnny Jones,
Capper White and Mick O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan was a
North Cork man and a Column leader who had just moved
into our area to escape a round-up.
After the attack, we retreated to Mileen Glen,
beyond Mountcollins, where we stayed for the day.
That night, we walked through the night, retracing our
steps into Athea, to avoid a round-up which we
anticipated to be in operation next day. That Sunday,
Canon Creegan, parish priest, condemned us From the
altar and asked the authorities' to avoid punishing the
innocent people of the houses we had occupied that
morning but to deal mercilessly with the rebels
responsible for the murder of the policeman. He
promptly received a despatch from Brigade Headquarters,
warning him of the consequences of his talk from the
Our next big contemplated operation was at Barna.
Paddy O'Brien of Liscarroll, North Cork, Moss Hartnett
and myself had planned a large-scale attack, on three
lorry loads of Black and Tans which, on certain days of
the week, travelled from Newcastlewest to Listowel via
Abbeyfeale. The Brigade Staff spent about a fortnight
in the locality, measuring distance5 and timing their
movements. O'Brien had brought the North. Cork Column
with him for the attack. Every armed man in the West
Limerick Brigade had been mobilised. The North Cork
men had a number of land-mines with them as well as a
machine gun. We had sent all the gelignite in the
Brigade area to Ballydesmond for the manufacture of
the mines which were to be electrically detonated.
They were placed at intervals in the road for a
distance of two miles from Dore's Cross to Barna Bridge.
The attacking party in charge of Paddy O'Brien
eight, riflemen, a machine-gunner and several
shotgun men. They were placed in positions on each
side of the road. Everything was ready. We had a
complete first-aid section and a signalling unit.
As the three lorry loads of Tans, led by a motor
cyclist, left their barracks in Newcastlewest, our
scouts and signallers had us informed. It was 10 a.m.
They had never left at that hour before; it was usually
around 3 p.m. before they left for Listowel. We
hurriedly decided to let them pass and to attack as they
were returning. They never returned that day. We
waited for three days and three nights, and slept in
houses in the vicinity and in open fields, as the weather
was so warm.
On the third morning, Paddy O'Brien, Garrett
McAuliffe, Moss Hartnett and myself held a consultation.
O'Brien was of the opinion that, with so many armed men
in the area only a few miles from the strongly
garrisoned town of Newcastlewest, it would not be safe to
strike after such a long wait, We guessed that the
enemy was aware of our presence by this time. We
called it off. The time was twelve noon on the 11th
July, 1921. Just at that hour, a 'plane flew over our
As my Battalion Active Service Unit was removing
the mines, the three lorries arrived. The Tans all
dismounted and stood watching for some time.
After the Truce, I remained at Brigade
Headquarters which by then was set up at Patrick
Mulcahy's house in Moneygay. Later, in charge of
the I.R.A., I Took over Newoastlewest R.I.C. barracks.
Garrett McAuliffe and Jim Liston, 0/C, 1st Battalion,
took over Desmond Castle from the military.
The copies of three proclamations,
issued by E.P. Strickland, Major-General, on the
27th December, 1920, were given to me by Mrs. M.
Hayes (sister of Seán Finn, Brigade O/C, who was
killed at Ballyhahill,) for presentation to the

SIGNED:James J. Collins
(James J. Collins)
DATE: 5th October 1955
5th October 1955.
No. W.S. 1,272
John J. Daly
(John J. Daly

The following is an account of the fight at Abbeyfeale.

Previous to the attack on the R.I.C. patrol at
Abbeyfeale, June 5th, 1921, the 2nd Battalion, Cork 1V
Brigade, was in consultation with some members of the
West Limerick Brigade in order to bring off an attack
on the R.I.C. and Tans either at Brosna or Abbeyfeale.
On the 21st May the 2nd Battalion, A.S.U.,
destroyed Guiney's Bridge that was partly demolished
earlier in March, near the Cork-Kerry-Limerick border,
and lay in wait next day for a patrol of R.I.C. and Tans
from Brosna. The patrol failed to turn up and, on the
invitation of the West Limerick Brigade, the 2nd
Battalion, in co-operation with members of West Limerick
Brigade, lay in wait at Abbeyfeale Hill May on 29th. As
there was a heavy downpour all day the patrol failed to
come out. When all the efforts failed it was decided
to attack the patrol in the town of Abbeyfeale.
It was brought about in this way. The 2nd Battalion, Cork 1V Brigade A.S.U., with members of the local A.S.U, West Limerick Brigade,
entered the town from the Newcastlewest side about
midnight. Local scouts were in readiness to take the
barefooted men into the houses where positions were taken up.
The houses occupied were : Egglestons, Hartnetts,
Brownes, O'Connors, Fordes, O'Connells and Leahys.
At 6 a.m. a patrol of twelve came along the street in
extended order. Fire was opened from the houses occupied
by our men. Jolly - a Tan - was killed and some of the
others were wounded. The attack lasted only about fifteen minutes.
The attackers retreated to Mileen by the eastern side of the town. Our line of retreat was covered by local outposts."

Rathina, Newcastlewest. Co. Limerick.
Member of Fianna Eireann, Newcastlewest, 1917 -
Section Leader Irish Volunteers, Galbally, Co. Limerick,
1917 -
.Subject. West Limerick Irish I Volunteers, 1917-1921

“It was then decided to ambush a military convoy
of four lorries which usually travelled, from Newcastlewest
via Abbeyfeale to Listowel. The position chosen for
the attack was. between Barna and Thmpleglantine, about
six miles from Newcastlewest
We took up positions in extended formation on
one side which was higher than the road, the opposite
being more or less on a level with the road. We were
all armed with rifles, shotguns or revolvers. The
North Cork Column had a machine gun. Brislane was
in charge. Michael Colbert was 2nd in command.
The road had been mined with box mines to which electric
wires attached to detonators were connected. I do
not know who took charge of the battery, but he was a
North Cork man.
We lay in wait for four days. Early one
morning - it was the 10th July, 1921 - the four lorries
passed towards Listowel. We let them go with the
intention of attacking them on their way back that
evening, but they never returned that day.
On the 11th July, 1921, at 12.15 p.m.
as the mines were being removed the convoy arrived and
pulled up. The officer in charge and his men had a
look around. The officer walked over to Brislane,
shook hands and after a word or two drove off again.
I went to a training camp during the Truce
and later joined the National Army for a period of
eighteen months and retired with the rank of
By the end of August 1920 a very large number of
men in the brigade area were on the run when the Brigade
0/C formed an active service unit. In all 15 men were
taken into the unit, which later became known as the
Flying Column. I become one of the column and was
issued with a carbine rifle and. a point 32 automatic.
The rifle was one of a number of rifles captured at
Ballylanders on the 27th April, 1920, by the I.R.A. in
the attack on the R.I.C. barracks there. The Brigade
0/C, Seán Finn, took charge of the column.
One of the first actions of the column after its
formation was an attack on a Tan patrol in Abbeyfeale
on the 18th September, 1920. The patrol usually
numbered ten or twelve men, who left the R.I.C. barracks
at about 8 p.m. each night and patrolled up and down
the Street from the barracks to the Church of Ireland,
about a wile to the south of the town. Our scouts had
informed us of this.
The full column arrived in the town on the night
of the l8th September and took up positions on either
side of the Main St. I was near the church and was armed
with the carbine.
As the patrol were approaching the ambush
position proper a couple of our men located behind a
hedge adjoining one of the houses in the street, made
a noise which attracted the attention of one of the Tans,
who went over to investigate. As he looked across the
hedge he saw the two armed men. Our two men could do
nothing but open fire at once. The Tan fell dead.
The remainder of the Tans opened fire all round, to
which our men in the immediate vicinity replied. The
action had lasted about ten minutes when our men
Signed:  (Amos Riedy)


“The Column leader in Newmarket (Michael D. O'Sullivan) and
myself went into the West Limerick area and met some members of
the Abbeyfeale battalion at Tournafulla. They informed us that
there was a convoy of military passing regularly each week
between Newcastlewest and Abbeyfeale. They asked us to inspect
the ground near Templeglantine as it would be about the only
place possible to get a position for an ambush. The convoy
might number anything up to eight lorries, which could include
an armoured car and would not definitely be less than four lorries
We inspected the road and chose a position between Ardagh  (Barna?) and
Templeglantine where we could get reasonably good fir positions,
ranging from about thirty to one hundred yards, and slightly
elevated over the road, all at the southern
side. We made arrangements to have the Column ready on July 7th, and West
Limerick were to have their Column mobilised at the same time.
From information available we felt reasonably sure that the
convoy would travel on July 8th and we were to be in position
on that day. On the night of July 7th a Column of eighty men
from North Cork proceeded by Rockchapel to the vicinity of
Tournafulla, where we met the West Limerick Column of about
sixty men. The following morning we had eight mines placed
in the road between Ardagh (Barna?) and Templeglantine, enclosing a
distance of nearly a mile. The Columns were divide into
sections covering each of the eight positions (Mines) and
allowing for protection on the flanks. It was decided that
should the convoy come we would attack them on their return
journey from Abbeyfeale. The sections had to remain concealed.
in the ambush position during the morning as there was no suitable
cover to conceal the full Columns in the vicinity. About 2 p.m.
four lorries were observed coming from the direction of New-castlewest
- they were allowed to pass through to Abbeyfeale,
and whilst our men were all keyed up waiting for the return
journey we viewed them some considerable distance away returning
by another route to Newcastlewest. A situation like this had
never before occurred in the area, and it was afterwards ascertain
ed that the R.I.C. in Abbeyfeale, afraid. to move out on their
own, had sought the protection of the military whilst collecting
dog taxes from the residents in the rural districts. The
Column withdrew after about an hour's waiting and it was decided
to move back to the Tournafulla district and wait until the
following Monday when the convoy would be again likely to pass,
and in the meantime the mines to be left concealed in the road.
Late on Saturday evening, July 9th, a despatch arrived
from Divisional Headquarters summoning myself and the Battalion
Os. C., who were with the Column, to a meeting at Dromahane on
Sunday, July 10th. We started immediately and got as far as
Freemount that night, where we heard the first rumours of a
Truce. On the following day, Sunday, we got to Dromahane and
arrived at the venue of the meeting. The Divisional O.C.
was present and also the Brigade 0.C. (George Power) who had
brought his Battalion Os. C. to the meeting also. It was then
we were definitely informed that there was to be a Truce the
following day at noon.
Some time prior to this the Divisional O.C. had intimated
that the Brigade was too big for one Unit and had decided in
making two Brigades for the area. This arrangement was carried
out at the meeting and the Divisional O.C. appointed the staffs
for both Brigades - Cork No. II and Cork No. IV. George Power
was appointed Cork No. II Brigade and I
Was appointed Cork No. IV Brigade; Ned Murphy of Lombardstown,
Vice O.C., Cork No. IV;
Michael O'Connell, also of Lombardstown, Q.M., Cork IV., and
Eugene McCarthy, Charleville, as Adjutant of the Brigade.
I then asked if it would be permissible for the Column
to carry out an attack on the following morning, and was informed
by the Divisional O.C. that we could please ourselves but that
the Truce should be strictly observed at 12 Noon on Monday.
We returned to Tournafulla that night and held a Conference with
the Section leaders of North Cork and the Officers of the West
Limerick Column. I explained to them about the Truce and
asked for their opinions as to the advisability of seeking an
engagement on the following morning. It was unanimously
decided that we would go back into the positions evacuated on
Friday and remain there until 12 noon.
At 11.45 a.m. on Monday, July 11th, I called the Column
together and explained to them the conditions implied by the
Truce. The Column was dismissed at 12 noon, and at 12.15 p.m.
when the men were actually removing some of the mines from the
road a military party came on the scene from Newcastlewest.
These, seeing our men on the road, first attempted to be
hostile but when asked if they were prepared to observe the Truce they
changed their manner and continued on their way to Abbeyfeale.”
(Signed) P. O'Brien.
Brigade 0.C.
Cork 4 Brigade.


While we were in West Limerick and soon after
the burial of Liam Scully, we got a message from
North Cork - Seán Moylan or Liam Lynch - to go down to
take over General Lucas, who had been captured a short
time previously, and there was great enemy activity
around the North Cork area. We took him over somewhere
around - I think it must have been Newmarket, Co. Cork,
in that direction anyway. I can't remember exactly.
I know that, approaching Abbeyfeale on our way back
with him as a prisoner in the car, we ran out of petrol
and that he had to help us to push the car to the tops
of the hills when we could let it run down. In this
way, we got as far as Abbeyfeale where we got petrol.
We took him to a place outside Abbeyfeale and kept him
there for a night. Subsequently we took him on near
Shanagolden. I am not sure whether/ there was any R.I.C.
garrison in Abbeyfeale at this time, but I think that
probably there was not. We got the petrol in a garage
at the outskirts of the town. We spent a night near
Abbeyfeale, or possibly it may have been only a day, and we
moved on after nightfall. We took him to a place near
Shanagolden. Dore was the name of the man who owned the
house We kept Lucas there for several days, perhaps for
a week. At the time there was a suggestion that the
British might exchange a prisoner for Lucas. Bob Barton
was a prisoner in British hands at the time and it was
hoped he might be exchanged for Lucas, but the latter
scoffed at the notion. He said he was not as valuable
in British eyes as we seemed to think. Lucas was a very
decent man and could even see our point of view. He said
to me once that if he were an Irishman he would be in the
I.R.A. He was a very keen card player, very fond of
bridge, and we, of course, tried to make everything as
pleasant as we could for him. He was a bit of a nuisance
while he was around, our attention being concentrated on looking after him. 
He held up the whole place. Nobody
could do anything while he was with us. We did, of course,
what North cork did - passed him along to somebody else.
We got in touch with Glare and suggested that it was
getting too dangerous to keep him in East Limerick. There
had been raids here and there. We took him across to
Glare side in a boat and handed him over there to Mick.
Brennan and company. We remained for some time in
dare with Lucas.
I was wounded. in Glare actually that time. I ran
into a military patrol. This was the time that Lucas
was down there, it was after we had handed him over to
Brennan. We were just coming along the road and we saw
this lorry coming. We took to the fields, and a lucky
shot got me in the thigh. It was not very serious.
I was taken into hospital at Limerick afterwards.
Lucas was kept in Clare for a while. Then he was
transferred to mid-Limerick and he escaped from the
mid-Limerick fellows. The Mid-Limerick fellows were
trying to palm him back to us and we did not want to
have him. He escaped from these fellows, that is,
Dick Connell, and the suggestion is anyway that his
escape was connived at by his guards. I would not be
one bit surprised if that was so, because they were all
sick of him. He was a nice fellow and everyone liked
him. We would have been very sorry if he should become
a subject for execution, as a retaliation or anything
like that, while on the other hand keeping him in
custody imposed a burden on whatever unit held him at
the time.
Lucas was actually nearly being killed after
escaping. There was an ambush in Oola, or somewhere
down there, on the day he escaped. He got in touch with
some military lorry, halted the military lorry, and the
lorry was later ambushed by Seán Treacy and that crowd,
I think, in Oola, in ignorance of the fact that Lucas
was on the lorry. Lucas and the British party thought
it was wonderful Intelligence organisation on our part
to have discovered his whereabouts so quickly following
his escape.
Signed Tomas O Maolleoin (Sean Forde)


  1. Marvellous report and wonderful history

  2. Great report . Great to read and keep