Soloheadbeg Ambush – A Centenary Perspective

“Soloheadbeg Ambush – A Centenary Perspective”

The year was 1919 and almost one hundred years ago to the present date, (January 21st 1919), two Irish born Roman Catholic Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Constables, named as Mr James Alec McDonnell and Mr Patrick O’Connell, were both escorting a horse drawn cart carrying blasting gelignite from the Tipperary town Military Barracks to the local Soloheadbeg quarry works.  The driver of the cart was Mr James Godfrey, accompanied by a Co. Council worker, named as Mr Patrick Flynn.

James McDonnell & Anastasia (nee Doyle) (Sepia Tone Pic.) – His son Christopher McDonnell & Bridget (nee McGrath) (Black & White Pic.). Pictures are published courtesy of the Sweeney Family.

Constable James McDonnell, a native of Belmullet, (a coastal Gaeltacht town) in Co. Mayo and the father of seven children, together with his comrade Constable Patrick O’Connell, latter a native of Coachford, Co. Cork and unmarried, were both in charge of guarding this cargo of explosives.

The driver and Co. Council worker were both left unharmed, when some eight armed and masked men, members of the then Irish Volunteers from the South Tipperary Brigade, opened fire on both Constables, killing both the men. Tipperary Volunteer GHQ had not officially sanctioned this ambush, however the shots fired at this ambush would now be the first bullets fired in the war for Irish independence from Britain, which followed.

Library researcher Mrs Mary Guinan-Darmody, (Tipperary Studies), in Tipperary Co. Council Library Services here in Thurles, now reports:-

“Just days before the centenary of the Solohead Ambush, the “Tipperary People and Places Series” welcome Dr. Des Marnane to give a very timely talk, in The Source, Thurles. His subject will be ‘The Soloheadbeg Ambush – A Centenary Perspective’.

With the help of Mr Cathal O’Donoghue; latter well known for his stage performances across the county; Dr. Marnane will base his lecture around a series of readings of original documentary sources, some not used before, providing differing perspectives on this seminal event.

So, do join us in ‘The Source’ at 7.30pm on Tuesday January 15th next. Also, being shown at this venue is a short film, showing an enactment of the ambush, produced and directed by the pupils of the Monastery School, Tipperary town.”

Note Please: As is usual with such Thurles Library events, all are welcome to attend and admission, on that evening (Tuesday January 15th), is free.

For further details please contact Tel No. – 076 1066123 or

Other Brief History of the Soloheadbeg Area.

Sologheadbeg (Irish – Sulchóid Bheag) is a townland and a civil parish in Co. Tipperary, Ireland, lying to the northwest of Tipperary town, with a population in the year 1911 of just 2857 inhabitants; same reduced by the Great Famine, (1845-1849); continuous forced emigration and migration, from a total of 6673 known residents, in the year 1841.

Year 968: Same townland, in the year 968, saw the stand-off for the Battle of Sulcoit, where the Dalcassian (Dál gCais were a 10 century Gaelic Irish tribe) Brian Ború and his illegitimate brother King Mahon of Thomond, defeat the Viking King Ivar.; latter the last King of the city-state of Limerick.

Year 1603: Back in 1603, it was a stopping-point for Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, during his epic march from Dunboy Castle in west Cork to O’Rourke’s Castle in Leitrim.

Year 1864: In April 1864, nearby, at Barronstown, Solohead, was born Sir Michael Francis O’Dwyer GCIE KCSI (1864 – 1940) who would go on to become Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab (1912 – 1919), the land of “five rivers”, in India.  O’Dwyer was the sixth son in a family of fourteen children born in this same area of Co. Tipperary to John and Margaret (née Quirke) O’Dwyer, of Toem, Co. Tipperary.  O’Dwyer aged in his 75th year, would be eventually assassinated; shot dead by a Punjabi revolutionary, named Udham Singh, on March 13th 1940, at a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Central Asian Society in Caxton Hall, London.


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