Plaque unveiled as part of Heritage Week events in Longford commemorating Battle of Ballymahon
A pivotal moment in South Longford's military campaign during the War of Independence was market at a solemn ceremony in Ballymahon last Friday, August 19.
The day marked the 102nd anniversary of the first major War of Independence engagement to take place in the southern part of the county.
Family members of the combatants, history enthusiasts, locals and political representatives gathered for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the site of the Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks.
The campaign to install the plaque was instigated by Rónán Ó Ceallaigh, with assistance from the local Leo Casey Historical society. Also contributing were historian Sean O’Suilleabhain and county archivist Martin Morris. Leo Baxter and Anne Molloy, whose fathers were instrumental in the raid, performed the unveiling.
The raid came at a crucial time in the War of Independence. Following assaults on Drumlish and Ballinamuck Barracks led by Seán Connolly and Seán Mac Eoin the local resistance campaign was gaining momentum.
A daring raid by Mac Eoin's and five other on the Upper Military Barracks in Longford (now Pearse Park) on August 18 yielded 11 rifles, 550 rounds of ammunition, grenades and other equipment.
Not a man to rest on his laurels, Seán Mac Eoin met Seán Connolly and finalised arrangements for an assault on Ballymahon to take place the following night. Ballymahon Barracks, on the town's Main Street, was manned by 15-20 RIC/Tans.
Wednesday next, August 19, 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first major War of Independence engagement to take place in South Longford.
The group undertaking the operation included Paddy Callaghan, Frank Davis, Jim Sheeran, Séamus Conway, Hugh Hourican and Mick Kenny. The majority of the men called into action were from the local IRA companies around Ballymahon, Ardagh, Carrickedmond, Kenagh and Legan.
This operation involved large numbers, with about 50 deployed at four locations in the town itself. Some were located at the bridge near the Athlone Road junction, others were at the Church of Ireland and the core group were based on the street and at the end of the barracks itself.
The difficult task of breaking into the barracks was given to eight men who broke through the wall of the adjacent dwelling houses.
After smashing through the roof a bomb contained sulphur, brimstone, black pepper and other ingredients was lobbed into the barracks.
The bomb was thrown through the hole in the roof and exploded sending gas fumes all over the barracks. The bomb may have smelled more dangerous than it was, the result was instant surrender by the RIC.
The Ballymahon operation was a very significant step in the War of Independence in County Longford. This was the very first occasion the IRA in the county obtained a surrender and a hand-over of equipment in a barracks attack, and was achieved without any casualties on either side.
Seán Ó Súilleabháin, renowned local author and historian, has been researching Longford’s part in the War of Independence for the past four years, for a book which he hopes to publish next year. This year marks the 100th anniversary of some key events in the War of Independence. Indeed, 1920 and 1921 were momentous years in Longford’s history and the deeds of Seán Mac Eoin and his Flying Column were legendary. We are delighted that Seán Ó Súilleabháin is sharing some of his research with Longford Leader readers as he looks back on that era, and this week he looks at some of the fiercest engagements, The Burning of Granard by the Tans and Lancers, and legendary defence of Ballinalee by the IRA. The author would welcome any feedback or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seán Ó Súilleabháin, renowned local author and historian, has been researching Longford’s part in the War of Independence for the past four years, for a book which he hopes to publish later this year. 2020 & 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of some key events in the War of Independence. Indeed, 1920 and 1921 were momentous years in Longford’s history and the deeds of Seán Mac Eoin and his Flying Column were legendary. We are delighted that Seán Ó Súilleabháin is sharing some of his research with Longford Leader readers as he looks back on that era, and this week he looks at the Clonfin Ambush of February 2, 1921, when the elite British forces surrendered to Seán Mac Eoin. The author would welcome any feedback or comments at email@example.com
About ten rifles and five or six hundred rounds of ammunition were handed over, as well as some revolvers.
Last Friday the organisers recognised the contribution of Harry and Colette Skelly, the proprietors of the Old Barracks building for giving permission for the plaque, John Nally of Nallys Courtyard, for sponsoring this plaque and The Glenside Ceili Band for performing at the unveiling.
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