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Desperate Attack At Holycross.

Desperate Attack at Holycross.
Barrack Riddled – Marvellous Escapes.

[As exactly published, on Saturday, January 24th, 1920, by the Nenagh Guardian. Brigades Involved: 2 Tipperary Brigade (Mid Tipperary) – 2 Southern Division.

Simultaneously, with the Drombane battle on Sunday night, (January 18th, 1920, two days before the sacking of Thurles), a large party of armed men attacked Holycross police barracks.

Royal Irish Constabary (RIC) Barracks, Drombane village, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 1920.

Holycross barracks is about four miles from Thurles and five (miles) from Drombane. The barrack stands in the middle of a thickly wooden country, about one mile beyond the historic Abbey of Holy Cross, on the road to Cashel and there are few houses in the vicinity.

Image above – Main Street Thurles, 1920.
Same image 100 years later – Liberty Square, Thurles, (previously Main Street) 2021.

The attackers opened a fierce fire, shortly before 9 o’clock, some of the bullets evidently coming from the tree tops and front roof of a dwelling opposite the building. The police garrison of 9 men vigorously replied; the besieged citadel spitting out an incessant stream of bullets and hand grenades, while occasionally relief rockets were sent up.

Like an earthquake.
In the thick of the onset, a party of the attackers dashed right up to the barracks carrying ladders, pickaxes, sledges and crowbars. They made for the eastern gable, which having no windows or opening, when once reached, would place the attackers out of the danger zone. Two bombs were placed in position and a loud explosion followed. The noise of the explosion was heard in Thurles and according to defending constables, the whole building rocked and reeled as if there was an earthquake.

Nobody, however, was injured but a portion of the roof was blown away and a huge hole was made in the ground. During the attack the raiders placed a long ladder against the gable and hacked a hole, about 2-ft square, on the top portion of the wall, but did not penetrate fully. Evidently it was intended to hurl explosives through the aperture on the defenders.

The battle raged with unabated vigour and occasionally above the din could be heard, now and then, the screaming of the children in the house opposite the barracks; the roof of which was occupied by snipers.

Notwithstanding that rockets were frequently sent up by the garrison, no relief came and at 10:30 the attackers fire ceased, owing it is believed to a lack of ammunition. Another theory is that the ceasefire was ordered because it was thought, owing to the screaming of the children, that somebody in the house had been hit. During the attack all roads leading to Holycross were blocked by felled trees, while all telegraph wires in the neighbourhood had been cut. All person’s travelling in the district were held up and kept prisoner by armed outpost.

Policeman Captured.
Constable Donoghue (Name may be incorrect as other reports state Constable McCloskey), when returning to his station, was captured, blindfolded, searched and held prisoner, while the attack was in progress. A party of card players returning home were also held up and detained in custody by the attackers. The mansion of Mr C. N. Clark D.L. (Deputy Lieutenant) landlord of the barracks is 100 yards away and this was closely guarded during the attack; nobody being allowed in or out.

Question in Parliament:

Mr. James Lonsdale, (Unionist Member of Parliament for Mid Armagh from January 1918 until his death in 1921).
To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether he has received particulars of the attack made by a crowd of persons on the house of Mr. Charles N. Clarke, D.L., at Holycross, County Tipperary, on the night of the 17th (18th) instant; what damage was done to the house; were any of the police injured; and have any proceedings been taken against those who organised the attack.

Answered by Mr. Augustine Birrell. (British Liberal Party politician, who previously was Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1907 to 1916.)
Eight arrests have been made this morning in connection with this case. As proceedings are pending, it is not desirable to enter into further particulars.

All the windows are smashed, some bullets having pierced the steel shutters, while all the woodwork is riddled with bullets, some of which can be seen sticking out of the timber. Notwithstanding all the bullets and grenades fired not one drop of blood was spilled. (Some of the police did receive cuts from glass splinters) The force of the explosion was so great that some of the houses in the village where shaking.

An old age pensioner living a mile from the scene said that as soon as he heard the firing and saw the flare of the rockets, he knew “there was some devilment going on”, and he went to bed on the spot.

The newspaper article concludes.

Involved in the Holycross attack on the barrack on that Sunday night, January 18th, 1920 where:- Paddy Ryan, Richard and James Phelan, James Kelly, Hugh Long, Patrick Lennon, Michael Bartley, Richard (Dick) Scott, Richard (Dick) Purcel, Mathew Connolly, Edmund Maher, Thomas Moore, William Phelan, Jack Moore, James Kealy, Jack Darcy, Christy Cody, Michael (Mick) Coady, Michael (Mick) Ward, Bill Buckley, Patrick Purcell, Watt Buckley, James Alexander, John McConnell, Michael Maher and Patrick Moore.
The main purpose of the attack was to acquire further arms, explosives and ammunition.


Thurles – Policeman Shot – Town Wrecked – Inhabitants Terror Stricken.

The Nenagh Guardian is the longest established local newspaper circulating in North Tipperary. First established on Saturday, July 21st, 1838 as ‘The Nenagh Guardian’, the paper has recorded many Tipperary momentous events over the last 183 years, including the event hereunder, which was published on Saturday January 24th 1920 using the headline:-

Exciting scenes in Thurles.
Policeman shot.
Town Wrecked – Inhabitants Terror Stricken.

[The report is published in full hereunder.]

Constable Luke Finnegan, while going home just before 11 o’clock in Thurles on Tuesday night, was shot as he was about to enter his home. He received three bullets and was conveyed to Dublin for an immediate operation. His condition is reported to be critical.

Armed squads afterwards made a search of the district entering several houses. Pedestrians on their way home where held up, questioned and searched. Later there was a crashing of glass from shop windows in Friar Street and this was followed by a volley of police rifle fire. It was thought a midnight attack was being made on the local barracks, but this proved to be incorrect. There was further smashing of plate glass windows before quiet was restored.

Archbishop On Scene. Most Reverend Dr. Harty and members of the local clergy walked through Thurles streets on Wednesday morning and inspected the damage done.

The English Labour delegates included Thurles in their itinerary through Ireland and were expected to arrive about midday on Wednesday.

The above deputation comprised of the Chairman of the British Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), William Adamson, and MP’s William Tyson Wilson, Arthur Henderson, John Allen Parkinson, Walter Robert Smith and John Robert Clynes. H. Scott Lindsay, secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party is acting as secretary to the delegation.

English Labour delegation arrives in Thurles

Surgeon Arthur Joseph Chance

The injured Constable Luke Finnegan who was shot in Thurles, arrived at Kingsbridge Station and was at once removed to Stephen’s hospital. An examination of his injuries showed that a bullet had passed through the abdomen and that he had been struck in the right arm, one of the bones of which was broken. Despite loss of blood he was perfectly conscious on admission. An operation was performed by Surgeon (Arthur Joseph) Chance on Wednesday morning.

Shortly after 11:00p.m. when comparative quite reigned, the streets being in possession of armed forces, the next thing heard was the crashing of glass from shop windows in Friar Street. A loud report followed. It was a volley of rifle fire. Consternation reigned in the town, the impression at first being that an attack had been made on the local barracks. But not so. Another volley rang out and more glass crashed on the pavement. Then ensued wild but systematic smashing of plate glass windows.

Terror Stricken Towns-People.
Terror-stricken women and children crowded together in back rooms for safety. Some fainted. For an hour and a half firing continued. Huge damage has been done. On Wednesday morning the streets were littered with broken glass, while several houses bore bullet marks. Many bullets were picked up in the streets. After 1:00 o’clock the firing ceased.

Enquiries made so far disclose that at least three houses were fired into. Bullet marks are in the bedroom of Mr James Leahy U.C., manager for Mr Michael O’Connell (now in jail). His house is in Main Street (Today’s Liberty Square) and the bedroom is on fourth storey. Mr Leahy luckily quitted the room on hearing the first bullet coming through his window. The window is riddled in many places.

Providential Escapes
In the house next door Mr J. Corbett, drapers assistant had a narrow shave. He was going to bed and he was near his window when two bullets crashed through the glass. His room is also on the fourth storey and bears numerous bullet marks.

Mr Charles Culhane’s residence, Friar Street, too, came in for special attention. His bedroom windows were riddled with bullets and he himself narrowly escaped being shot.

Mrs Benson’s Drapery Shop

Rifle firing started at 11:15 p.m. The streets were normal at the time and all lights were out. Most of the houses in main Street were wrecked including Molloy’s hardware store, Jeremiah O’Dwyers, McLoughney’s drapery house, O’Connell’s public house, D.H. Ryan’s drapery, Mrs Benson’s drapery house, Mrs Tobin’s hotel, Mr D. Morgan’s in Cathedral Street, (Latter grandfather of the late Dermot Morgan of “Fr. Ted” Channel 4 sitcom fame.), Mr C. Culhane’s, Friar Street, Mr T. Fitzgerald’s Westgate and the Star Newspaper office. Into the above places bullets were sent flying through the windows and doors. The terrified inhabitants had narrow escapes. Women became hysterical and fainted and children were frightened beyond description. Inmates of houses lay flat on floors and moved to back places. The firing lasted till five minutes after midnight. At 1:15 a.m. it again began and lasted until 1:40.

The amazement of the English Labour delegates at the occurrence in Thurles is expressed in a special statement which they issued on Wednesday evening on arriving in Tipperary from Thurles. They saw in Thurles, what Mr Arthur Henderson MP described as, “a besieged city”. After seeing Dr. Harty they had personal interviews with several persons whose houses had been attacked, and the situation was so extraordinary that they decided to issue a special report, when questioned by Press representatives regarding what came under their notice.

Interesting Visit.
Their joint statement is in part as follows: “The deputation had a very interesting visit to Thurles and had striking evidence of what is going on in various parts of Ireland at the present time. It appears that the night before a policeman was shot out in the street and wounded and that as a consequence the above policemen lost their heads. Walking down the street about a dozen houses bore marks either by way of shattered windows or otherwise of a considerable amount of indiscriminate shooting. From the evidence that one could gather from the prominent residence a number of the inhabitants who had retired or where retiring for the night, ran very narrow escapes from shooting through windows and doors”.
The deputation had an interview with one man who had retired with his wife and children and where awakened by the reports. Bullets began to come through the windows and he and his family had to leave the bedroom and shelter in the basement. Their passage to the basement was extremely perilous as bullets were coming through the windows and the doors”.

Greatly Astonished
Mr William Adamson MP, Chairman of the Party, in an interview stated that the deputation had been greatly astonished by all they had seen in Thurles and it was a striking confirmation of the many statements they had heard since their arrival in Ireland and showed conclusively the deplorable results of the present Castle (Dublin Castle) rule.

Most Rev Dr. John Mary Harty

The occurrence in Thurles, Mr Adamson said, and the evidence gathered by the deputation, will form an important part of our report to the Labour forces in Great Britain, and will without doubt strengthen the demand for the abolition of the present military regime in Ireland, and the substitution of a more enlightened method of government.

Mr Lindsay, Secretary of the delegation, issued a report as to the interview with Most Rev Dr. Harty: “The Labour Party deputation was exceedingly gratified” the report said “in securing an interview with the Archbishop of Cashel, who gave a very instructive and illuminating explanation of the prevailing opinions of the people of Ireland, as recorded by them in recent elections, Parliamentary, Municipal, and pointing out in view of past history the Irish people had come to the definite conclusion that nothing short of complete independence would be beneficial to this country”.

Thrilling Story.
They had also an opportunity of conversations with the editor of “The Tipperary Star” and with Mr Morgan, a secondary teacher who had just been elected to the Urban Council and whose place had been raided during Tuesday nights affray.

A thrilling story was told by Mr Callaghan President of the local Sinn Fein club. “The first intimation I had of the affair”, he said “was the report of a rifle shot. Immediately afterwards a piece of the ceiling in the room in which I slept, fell to the ground. The window was pierced through by the bullet. I knew what was coming then and I dressed and went downstairs. The crash of the lower window being broken and the door being battered then began. Meanwhile, I had gone out into the yard which was dark and went to the far end. Two policemen came out but could not see me. Nine policemen then enter the house, having forced the door. Some of them rushed upstairs and called for me. Nobody was in charge of the police who entered my house but there were two bunches of them and I saw one bunch hold up a motor car in the street outside.

Many Shots Fired.
The maid servant in the house related a similar story and the house bears evidence of a very large number of shots being fired at it. In all 16 houses were assailed, either with bullets grenades or clubbed with rifles. The damage to glass alone is estimated at £3000.

The house of Mr O’Connell in The Square bore traces of 15 rifle shots. In addition eight shots passed through the window of one room in the apartment adjoining, which a child was sleeping. One bullet pierced a picture of the Sacred Heart and penetrated through a thick partition and was found embedded in the far wall.

The premises of Mr McLoughney next door appeared to have been the target for several shots. While the fusillade was more intense, families who had not retired to bed, retreated to back portion of their houses, for safety and there joined in reciting the Rosary. One lady stated that you thought a rebellion had broken out, the firing was so rapid and so long sustained. Most people however were of the impression that a desperate street battle was in progress.

Thurles Police To Be Transferred.
The special correspondent of the “Dublin Evening Mail” states that the members of the entire police force now in Thurles are to be transferred to various other stations.

Thurles Outbreak Sequels.
Constable Luke Finnegan, who was shot in Thurles on Tuesday night, died in Stephen’s hospital as 11:30 o’clock on Thursday night.

Thurles resumed its normal appearance on Thursday and no police patrols were on the streets. Many of the shops, which suffered in the outbreak, were shuttered.

A number of high constabulary officers arrived in Thurles on Thursday night and were escorted from the railway by armed police and armoured cars to a local hotel. The houses attacked in the Mall on Tuesday night included that of Mrs Conran, mother-in-law of Mr George Clancy MP for South Sligo.
In the house of Mr Leahy a sleeping infant had a miraculous escape; a bullet passing between its arm and body and embedding itself in a wall opposite.

A Place Of Battles.
The town of Thurles with its many ancient castles and ruins has often witnessed scenes of a warlike nature. Originally called Durlas-O’Fogarty it was the scene of a memorable battle in the 10th century, between the Danes and the Irish, in which the former suffered severe defeat. After the Norman invasion those Danes who still remained in the country went to reinforce Strongbow at Cashel. When they halted at Thurles they were attacked and defeated by O’Brien of Thomond, who shortly afterwards compelled the invaders, who he encountered near the town, to retreat.

It is hardly to be wondered at that the late Fr. Benson shows Thurles as the most important Ecclesiastical Centre in the country, in one of his most famous novels. In addition to it being the Cathedral town of the Archbishop of Cashel, it contains several monasteries and convents. In former days a monastery for the Carmelites was founded there by one of the Butler family and also a preceptory of the Knights Templars, while in the 15th century a Franciscan monastery was established by the O’Meaghers.

The newspaper article of Saturday, January 24th, 1920, concludes.


Early History Of College Lane Linking Great Famine Double Ditch

Before St. Patrick’s College, Cathedral Street, Thurles was built, [Now MIC St. Patrick’s Campus, Cathedral Street, Thurles.], the area we know today as ‘College Lane’ was called ‘Bohereen Keagh‘.

See lighter area, framed in red, hereunder on the 1841 Ordnance Survey Map.

Bohereen Keagh (Blind Road).
Special thanks to the research undertaken by historian, Very Rev. Mgr. Dr. Maurice Dooley, Loughmore, Co. Tipperary.

Note the area framed in blue is where the now 175 year old Great Famine Double Ditch would later be built five years on, in 1846. Same was the beginning of a successful effort by local Thurles business men, led jointly by Thurles Roman Catholic and Protestant Clergy, to protect local families from starvation and death, during a time when the ruling British government was effectively turning its back financially on their most westerly province of the United Kingdom.

In the legal papers transferring property from where St. Patrick’s College was initially to be built, which was then on lands, east of Thurles on the Mill Road; (later to move to its present site through a property agreement, between Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy), the right was reserved to widen ‘Bohereen Keagh’, for the use of the Earl’s tenants renting lands at Monakeeba.
That Earl was, of course, Earl Llandaff, the title of the Mathew family who were the freehold owners of the Thurles Estate.

‘Bohereen Keagh’: [Name translated from Irish into English means ‘Blind Road’.] The modern Irish spelling of Bohereen Keagh would be Bóithrín Caoch, the standard Irish for a cul-de-sac, as distinct from a through road.

In the nationalist fervour, following Irish independence in the 1920s, many Thurles streets were renamed to honour Irish heroes or patriots, hence Parnell Street, Croke Street, Kickham Street, O’Donovan Rossa Street, Mitchel Street, Cuchulainn Road, etc. College Lane was officially renamed Eliogarty Road, but the name didn’t take off, with not many people using the name, whereas some older people still used the older name, pronouncing it ‘Boreenkay’ or ‘Bosheenkay’, just as other boreens were also called ‘bosheens’.

Incidentally the original proposed site for the College was in what was then called Killahilla, on the Mill Road on the opposite side, to the Great Famine Double Ditch, and with a now reversal of former nationalistic fervour is now today called ‘Windsor Grove’.

It is a pity that so many of the older names have now fallen out of use. Who now knows the whereabouts of ‘The Boggagh’, ‘The Orchard’, ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Turner’s Holding’, ‘Moanroe’, ‘Obin’s Holding’, ‘The Watery Mall’, ‘The College Leat’, [‘Leatpronounced ‘Late’], and ‘Bolton’s Holding’, which are all within a few hundred yards of ‘Bohereen Keagh’?

Very soon, if Tipperary Co. Council officials and our elected representatives, all demonstrating a lack of experience, wisdom, and judgement, get their way, so too will the 175 year old Great Famine Double Ditch vanish into a similar state of unimportance, unknown and sadly inconspicuous to our resident towns folk.


Cllr. Micheál Lowry Confirms Destruction Of 175 Year Old Famine Double Ditch.

“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Sir Walter Scott.

I received an email from the office of Mr Micheál Lowry on Monday, March 15th, 2021, at 17:08 (7 days ago).

It should be noted that the sender of the email, (content shown hereunder), appears to originate from the son of Mr Michael Lowry, Teachta Dála (TD); the former being a member of the “Lowry Team” group of Co. Councillors. Same in no way should be attributed to his father, latter TD, who also has refused to reply to any of my previous attempts to correspond.

The sender is the same man whom readers will remember, enquired from me, during a mobile phone call, (September 2020), asking quote “Who the f..k do you think you are?”

This confusing content contained in Mr Lowry’s only communication ever sent to me in relation to the destruction of the Great Famine Double Ditch is shown directly hereunder, in full; same raising more questions, than it offers answers.

Read Carefully between the lines

In relation to your email dated the 4th of March, I wish to put on record that I nor to my knowledge any of my council colleagues have any desire to “destroy” the double ditch which you write about.

A small section of the walkway will potentially be removed to facilitate the proposed inner relief road for Thurles Town. While a map exists which outlines the proposed route (you have displayed same in previous articles) the fact remains that the County council have not at time of writing acquired the lands over which the proposed route will traverse. Should the lands be acquired and funding confirmed I along with my council colleagues will do all we can to ensure that minimum disruption is brought to bear on the double ditch walk way.

If you have any proposals as to how you would like to see the walkway promoted internationally as stated in your article dated March 5th please forward same to the area councillors for discussion as part of the Thurles Municipal projects development plan.

Micheál Lowry

Questions Raised:
In Mr Lowry’s opening paragraph he states, “I nor to my knowledge any of my council colleagues have any desire to “destroy” the double ditch“. Then in his second paragraph he states, “A small section of the walkway will potentially be removed to facilitate the proposed inner relief road for Thurles Town.” Readers will no doubt find this statement contradictory.

  • Firstly, if this is the case why the refusal by all Municipal District / Co. Councillors and Council officials to initially communicate; forcing me to contact the Standards In Public Office Commission (SIPO)?
  • I have done the measurements. Is it not true that over half the double ditch, 250 yards approximately, will be eradicated, including its eastern 175 year old stone entrance?
  • Is it not true that contractors employed by Tipperary Co. Council have already partially undertaken the destruction of the 175 year old Great Famine Double Ditch, through digging out and flooding the northern side; breaking the eastern 175 year old stile entrance, while allowing the area to become a ‘fly-tippers paradise’?
  • Is your colleague Cllr. Mr Jim Ryan and the County Council Officials who claims to have confirmed my worst suspicions; stating something that is not true?

Mr Lowry Jr. states, “the County council have not at time of writing acquired the lands over which the proposed route will traverse. Should the lands be acquired and funding confirmed I along with my council colleagues will do all we can to ensure that minimum disruption is brought to bear on the double ditch walk way.”

While I accept that Tipperary County Council may not have acquired the lands as yet as purchasers, we must believe that some sort of an agreement / consensus / accordance or indeed rapport has been entered into with all / any future vendors.

  • Who drew up the map, shown above, without the consent of the owner of the lands involved?
  • Who sought planning permission through An Board Pleanála, on land that are not yet acquired or entered into by agreement?
  • Who also sanctioned the undertaking of an EIA Screening report, (OCSC Project T189) on lands, where no previous agreement has been entered into?
  • Who requested the poorly carried out Archaeological Impact Statement from ÆGIS (REF.: 210-11), which failed to identify the double ditch shown clearly on the 1883 Ordinance Survey (5 inch) map, and more recently again also shown clearly on the 1951 ordinance survey map?
  • Who gave all these consultants and archaeologists permission to trespass on lands, where no agreement with the owners had been entered into between the vendors and by Tipperary Co. Council?
  • Will this land be acquired without the consent of the owners, by means of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO)?
    It is with regret that Cllr. Mr Jim Ryan, latter who lives close by the Great Famine Double Ditch, has failed to reply to two questions, sent to him on March 3rd last, (see request HERE).

In relation to your final paragraph and your request regarding “walkway promoted internationally”.
When I am convinced that the 175 year old Great Famine Double Ditch will been retained in full, together with the provision of a small parking area for tourist traffic; God willing, I will begin the process of promotion and marketing, something that Tipperary Co. Council’s Tourism committee has failed miserably to achieve for Thurles. You will remember the disastrous costly promotion entitled, “Tipperary The Place, The Time” launched back in early 2017. Where did all of the TD’s, Ministers, Councillors and Celebs that were rounded up, go after the photographs and the expensive promotional banquet?

Our readers should note that I have not replied personally to the above email sent by Mr Lowry Jr., nor indeed currently do I intend to do so.


“Irish Famine Migrant Stories In Ontario”

The original Ellis Island Immigration Station in New York Harbour was officially opened in 1892 and the first immigrant to pass through its doors was a 15 year old girl from County Cork, by the name of Annie Moore, (April 24th, 1877 – December 6th, 1924).
Annie arrived from Cobh (Queenstown) in Ireland, aboard the steamship ‘Nevada’ in 1892. Her brothers, Anthony 14 and Philip 12, had journeyed with her.

Now a virtual exhibition entitled “Irish Famine Migrant Stories In Ontario” will tell the story of Ontario’s Irish migrants from 5 years earlier, “Black 47” (1847) and the caregivers who put their lives on the line, during one of the worst health-care crises recorded in Canadian history.

As officials in Tipperary Co. Council, together with local elected representatives and politicians (namely Mr Michael Lowry and Mr Jackie Cahill) support the destruction of our Great Famine history here in Thurles; this new exhibition will apprise the untold tales of Irish Great Famine migrants, who endured a typhus epidemic, while emigrating to Canada.

Created by the Ireland Park Foundation (IPF), this virtual exhibit, which took more than four years to assemble, will follow the lives of 100,000 famine migrants, latter who crossed the Atlantic Ocean landing in Grosse Isle, an island located in the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, and onto the shores of Ontario during this Great Hunger, on board ‘coffin ships’ that would claim the lives of some 20,000 people.

Some 16% of the population in Ontario, Canada, today can correctly claim Irish decent. Toronto back then, was largely a Presbyterian/Protestant city, while 80% of the Irish migrants arriving were Roman Catholic. This human melting pot of the late 1800’s laid the seeds to a diverse Canada population, the envy of the world, that we as Irish people today know and love.

In relation to our Double Ditch Survey sent to local elected representatives; same due to be returned last Sunday evening, March 14th; we can confirm that we have received some answers which will be published later.