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Bomb Thrown At Train In Thurles Railway Station.

The Constabulary of Ireland, (RIC) was first established back in 1814 by Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), latter once a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Irish ‘rotten borough’ of Cashel, here in Co. Tipperary; an administrative division that had very few voters yet was represented in Parliament.

The Constabulary of Ireland were a trained and disciplined force under the central control of the English governments; which administered its affairs out of Dublin Castle. Members served under a strict code, that governed all aspects of their lives, both on duty and off. They were obliged to display strict impartiality at all times. For this reason, no serving member could be posted to their native district. They held no right to vote in elections or to hold membership of any political or religious grouping.

View this short video hereunder, to gain familiarisation of the Thurles area and the persons discussed, before continuing.

The Constabulary of Ireland, first had their barracks in Thurles, opposite what Thurles Confraternity Hall, then Thurles Gaol, on Rossa Street, then known as Pudding Lane or Gaol Street. Same was positioned on the opposite side of the street from the Gaol and currently rxisting Court House. The Barracks would later move to the north-east side of Main Street Thurles; today’s Liberty Square, until 1903, (where part of the Ursuline Primary School currently stands today in 2019). After 1903 it moved to Friar Street, to the premises today bearing the name ‘T. Mason’ over the door. It remained there until sometime around 1949, when the present-day Thurles Garda Station came into being on Slievenamon Road.

Here within this same Friar Street building, in the past, Sean Hogan and the recently pardoned Harry Gleeson; latter hanged by Albert Pierrepoint in Mountjoy jail in April of 1941; spent some in detention.

The former named detainee, Seán Hogan, was a known Irish Republican Army member, and then one of the most wanted men in Ireland, due mainly to his role in the Soloheadbeg ambush. Hogan was arrested on May 12th 1919 by the RIC, having attending a dance near Clonoulty, Co. Tipperary and was held at the Friar Street, Thurles RIC barracks. On May 13th 1919 he was rescued from a train by his comrades, including Dan Breen, while he was under guard by four armed RIC officers. Two of the RIC officers lost their lives and several IRA volunteers, including Breen, were wounded. This rescue, took place on Hogan’s 18th birthday, while the Thurles to Cork train halted briefly at Knocklong railway station in Co. Limerick.

Sergeant Thomas Enright

RIC officer Thomas Enright was the eldest of ten children of a second marriage born on a small farm in Listowel Co. Kerry in 1889. Forced to emigrated, he found work with the Canadian Pacific Railway; ending up in Vancouver. With the outbreak of World War 1, he chose to enlist with the 29th Vancouver Battalion and fought with them at the battle of the Somme during September of 1916. Seriously wounded in trench combat on the morning of August 21st. 1917, during a Canadians attack on Hill 70, near Lens, north-east France; he was field hospitalised before being invalided back to Canada to spent the remainder of the war recovering from Tuberculosis (TB) in a sanatorium near Vancouver.

It was here he met a nurse, Ms Mary White, a near neighbour of his from Bedford, Listowel, Co. Kerry. They were married the following year; both returning to Ireland in the summer (July) of 1919.

January 1919: The first shots in the war of the War of Independence had been fired in Soloheadbeg, placing Co. Tipperary under martial law. In April 1920, Thomas Enright, now back home here in Ireland, decided to join the RIC force, and was sent to Thurles. On August 6th 1920 he resigned from the RIC and was absorbed into the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, (ADRIC), becoming a Barracks Defence sergeant. (Service No. 147).

1921 Mar 10. [Witness Statement 1454]. Five masked and armed policemen raided the house of Larry Hickey, publican, Main St., Thurles,
(now Liberty Square South), when they found the owner in bed. [Premises known as Jackie Griffins News Agency shop, recently eradicated to build a new car park entrance, by Tipperary Co. Council]. He was ordered out in his night attire and when he reached the head of the stairs he was tripped and thrown downstairs by an R.I.C. man named Jackson. In the fall, Hickey’s neck was broken and he was in great pain at the foot of the stairs when Sergeant Thomas Enright, who was in charge of the raiders, shot him dead, to put an end to his agony. Hickey was a well-known republican in Thurles, and a detailed account of his shooting was given to me during the truce period by Sergeant Enright himself.

1921 May. [Witness Statement 1454]. The Thurles R.I.C. tried out a new deception; in the hope of being able to inflict damaging losses on the I.R.A. Parties or police, attired in I.R.A. fashion and numbering about 20 men, went at night time, on foot, into the districts of Horse & Jockey, Littleton and Moycarkey. These parties were always led by the notorious Sgt. Enright, a North Kerry man and an ex-Canadian soldier. His accent did not require a great deal of changing to make it rather similar to that of the Tipperary people. A favourite dodge of his was to knock at a house owned by people of republican sympathies and pretend to the owner or his family that it was “Leahy and the boys” who were outside and that they were looking for some “wanted” I.R.A. men. These tricks never worked, as the civilian population was too wary to disclose anything they knew until they were very sure of those to whom they were speaking. After about four abortive attempts the police got wise to themselves and abandoned the idea entirely.

Sergeant Enright then figured in another form of activity. About once or twice a week he led about a dozen policemen on patrol from Thurles into the country, varying the itinerary each time. Mick Small made an effort to engage this patrol on the Mall road, half a mile from the town. With a force of 25 men he waited there for about five hours but without result, as the patrol did not come out, In or about the same fortnight two more efforts made by Small to engage the police were also unsuccessful.

November 21st 1921. In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, November 21st 1921, the British authorities arrested hundreds of republicans and opened several internment camps throughout Ireland. The first internment camp was at Ballykinlar, in Co. Down, where 2,000 men were interned. Additional camps had to be established at Gormanstown, Co. Dublin, on Bere Island and Spike Island, in Co. Cork, and at the Curragh, in Co. Kildare. Some three days after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, on December 9th 1921, all republican prisoners were released from Ballykinlar.

1921 Dec 9th. A train carrying IRA men home from internment under the truce was attacked near Thurles. Certainly, the IRA believed Sgt. Enright was the man responsible.

December 10th 1921. According to a report in the TIMES newspaper carried on December 10th 1921; Three of the ex-prisoners were wounded, one Deelan Horton of Ardnaree, Co. Waterford dangerously, (Horton later died). Another man, James Coleman was wounded in the head, and other people in the station including the stationmaster, his wife,and his sister-in-law were slightly wounded by splinters. The bombs were thrown under cover of fog signals, which were being exploded as a greeting to the returning men.

December 1921 [Witness Statement 1100]. Sometime about the second week in December, a bomb was thrown at a passenger train just as it was about to enter the railway station in Thurles. The train was carrying a number of released political prisoners who were on their way home from various prisons and internment camps. One such released prisoner named Declan Horton was killed by the bomb. Sean Fitzpatrick and I went to Thurles to investigate the matter. Our information was that the bomb had been thrown by a Sergeant Enright of the R.I.C. and that it had been thrown from the bridge over the railway near Thurles Station

December 10th, 1921 [Witness Statement 952]. The camp went on until our release which was on the 10th December, 1921. Our trains were attacked by hooligans with stones. One train was fired on. The train on which I was travelling stopped at Thurles. An R.I.C. man named Enright threw a bomb at the carriage next to mine, mortally wounding a Cork Volunteer.

A truce was declared in July 1921 and a treaty agreed on the 6th December. It was mid-December 1921, with the Truce now fully in operation, when Sergeant Thomas Enright decided to attend a coursing meeting in the town of Kilmallock with his dogs. One of the dogs was ‘Bedford Lass’, entered under the name of his brother-in-law, Mr Patrick White. By pure coincidence, latter dog was drawn against ‘Political Duchess’, same owned by Mr Shawn Forde (also known as Thomas Malone), a well-known East Limerick IRA leader. The dog ‘Political Duchess’ won out to ‘Bedford Lass’ leaving a disappointed Sergeant Enright and his colleague, Constable Edward Timoney (latter a native of Tyrone), to return to Clery’s hotel that night to learn of the next day’s draw.

Among the attendance at that coursing meeting on that fateful Wednesday, was Mr Maurice Meade (1893- 1972), then a 28-year-old from Elton, Co. Limerick, (just 3.4 km (2.11mls) from Knocklong, Co. Limerick). Mr Meade had served with the British Army in World War I, and then with Casement’s Brigade in Germany, before becoming a member of the Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) East Limerick Flying Column, latter commanded by Donnchadh O’Hannigan. Latter had played an active role in the raid on Kilmallock Barracks (May 1920) and were involved in the ambush at Dromkeen (February 1921).

In “The Memoirs of Maurice Meade: A Forgotten Freedom Fighter”, an incident is recalled.

1921 December 12th. Meade shot at two RIC men at Kilmallock, Co Limerick. Sergeant Enright was killed and Constable Timoney was wounded in the shooting. The two policemen were in plain clothes and had left a hotel in Killmallock at 10.30. A group of men standing in the street fired a number of shots at them as they came out of the hotel.

Without going into much detail, Maurice Meade himself claimed that he was among the group that shot Sgt. Enright and Constable Timoney that night.

“Sean Fitzpatrick and I went to Thurles to investigate the matter. Our information was that the bomb had been thrown by a Sergeant Enright of the R.I.C. and that it had been thrown from the bridge over the railway near Thurles Station.

“On the previous day there was a Black and Tan named Enright who had a dog running there. This man was the brother of Enright, the RIC man who was killed at Knocklong, [Note this was not Sergeant Thomas Enright’s brother, rather another man with a similar surname.] and he was particularly active and bitter against our men, on one occasion bombing some of our captured men. For this we decided he should pay the death penalty. No opportunity to carry this out had arisen until the truce occurred, but when we saw him at the coursing meeting, even though the truce was then in operation, we agreed to shoot him and we did so that night.”

The Southern Star newspaper, reported the shooting in its Saturday issue, which read as follows:-

[Kilmallock, Thursday] A startling tragedy took place at Kilmallock last night, when Sergeant Enright, R.I.C. Thurles, was shot dead and a constable named Timoney seriously wounded. Only meagre particulars are available, but it appears that the Sergeant and Constable travelled to Kilmallock on Tuesday night to attend the coursing. The Sergeant and Constable travelled in plain clothes together with another man who had charge of dogs. The latter returned to Thurles last night with the dogs. The Sergeant and Constable proceeded to Cleary’s Hotel, where the card was being called over for today’s event. After leaving the hotel, shortly after 10.30pm, they were fired at from behind, by a party of eight or nine civilians, near the Post Office. The Sergeant was shot dead and the Constable seriously wounded. The report of the firing created considerable alarm in the town.

The then Cabinet of the Dáil and the Chief Liaison Officer of the IRA both condemned the killing, the latter stating, according to Saturday’s Irish Times, that ‘such deeds are not the acts of members of the I.R.A., but are the acts of cowardly individuals who endeavour to cloak their misdeeds in such a manner that they may be interpreted as the actions of soldiers of the Republican Army’. Sergeant Thomas Enright’s inquest details can be found HERE.

Sergeant Thomas Enright was one of the last casualties of the War of Independence. His body was taken from Limerick; back to Listowel Co. Kerry, for burial on Friday 16th, the same day as the Westminster Parliament voted to accept the terms of the Treaty, before being finally accepted by our own government on the January 7th 1922.

Those who shot him were not to know, or indeed those who would go on to report his death in the days ahead, that Sergeant Thomas Enright carried a tattoo on his right arm. The tattoo read “Erin go Bragh”, the Anglicisation of an Irish language phrase, “Éirinn go Brách”; which translated literally into English means, “Ireland until Eternity”.

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