In early May 1922, nearly two months prior to the official beginning of the Civil War, Kilkenny anti-Treaty IRA units took over 15 buildings in Kilkenny City, most notably St Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle.
In this, the final week The Kilkenny Observer in conjunction with Cois Céim take a look at the taking of Kilkenny Castle, Lord Ossory’s response and the capture of Kilkenny prison.
Kilkenny Castle: After a night of quietness the citizens were alarmed by the resumption of hostilities on Wednesday morning. Soldiers of the regular forces attacked the Castle from various vantage points. All the city shops were closed and the streets deserted, machine gun and rifle fire resounded all over the city. It was evident that all other outposts held by the Executive forces were either surrendered or evacuated, the Castle the last stronghold held by the Executive would be attacked.
The Castle possessed many advantages which were not a feature of other posts held by the Irregulars. The fortifications were capable of resisting attack, and the frequent fusillade of machine gun fire directed against it, made it seem unassailable. A determined onslaught was made on the Castle shortly after 8’oclock . An armoured car was placed in position and two assaults were directed against the building. The massive oak gate leading into the courtyard was rushed and to protect the invading force from attack a cordon of troops was placed across the Parade.
(How the Castle was rushed) Wednesday May 3rd
The castle was the last of the posts held in the city by the irregular forces of the I.R.A. was surrendered to the regular troops at 9.00 p.m. Earlier in the day the regular troops opened the assault with machine gun and rifle fire. About 3 o’clock a small party of troops smashed in some panels with their rifle butts. Four soldiers rushed the entrance and called on the occupants to surrender. Machine gun fire was opened on them and one of the party was seriously wounded obliging them to retire taking their comrade with them. The attack was continued and towards 6 o’clock when the replying fire became weaker the gate was again rushed. In the gate entrance three men of the regular forces were wounded by the machine gun fire. Intermittent fire continued until nine o’clock, when the last assault was made on the entrance. A party of troops reached the remaining barriers and an armoured car was driven through the passage into the court yard where the machine gun was trained on the windows. Parties of troops rushed forward escaping the cross fire
The defending Irregulars then surrendered and together with their arms, one Lewis machine gun and ammunition were taken to the military barracks. The news that the unofficial forces had capitulated quickly spread and throngs gathered on the Parade. Cheer after cheer was raised as the troops marched out of the Castle in charge of the seventeen prisoners. Many of the irregulars had escaped through the Castle grounds. The prisoners were escorted under armed guard to the military barracks where at the directions of General Prout were provided with food.
Lord Ossory will not leave Kilkenny
“J’Y SUIS J’Y RESTE” Here I am, here I stay, Lord Ossory stated to the Kilkenny People. He added “during my experiences with the siege I received marked courtesy from both sides. I have been through the European war and did not mind it. But Lady Ossory has not had that experience so her nerves are somewhat upset. We leave on Friday morning for England in order that she may have a short rest. Besides the Castle apartments are open to the four winds of Heaven. But please state in the Kilkenny People that we are coming back and hope to have a happy time in the old city. If they want me to leave Kilkenny they will have to shoot me, and I don’t think any Irishman will do that, I look forward to a good time in Ireland. “
Kilkenny Prison: O.C.M Ruth, I.R.A. Barracks Parliament Street, took over Kilkenny prison on Tuesday evening. Arriving at the prison with a number of men, he demanded admission and on the gate being opened by the warden the latter was held up and the keys demanded. These were surrendered and a guard placed in occupation of the prison. On the Friday evening a party of irregular troops from the police barracks in Parliament St. entered the bonded stores and seized forty casks of whiskey and rum and conveyed it to the prison. The matter was reported to Col. Prout who proceeded to the prison at 6.00 a.m. and informed the leader of the irregulars that unless the goods seized were returned to their rightful owners and the prison evacuated before 6.00 that evening he would take the building by force of arms. The Mayor Ald. Peter DeLoughry had been working for peace and was acting as a liaison officer between both sections. After long negotiations he was authorised to inform Col.Comdt. Prout that the Army Executive were willing to hand over the whiskey but would not evacuate the prison. The Col. declined these terms and intimated his fixed intention to attack the prison unless it was vacated. Finally the Officer in command of the prison agreed to evacuate it. Troops from G.H.Q. went into occupation , the Governor was reinstated and the whiskey retained in the prison until it is withdrawn by the traders to whom it belonged or transferred to the bonded stores in Chapel Lane.
Names of the wounded
Pte John Burke Co.Dublin thigh and leg. Pte Con Reilly Co.Dublin leg Pte Lar O’Daly Co. Dublin leg Pte. J.J.Kavanagh Dublin thigh. Pte. M O’Neill Dublin thigh. Pte Patrick Kavanagh, Dublin, leg. Pte Tom Morris, Dublin, shoulder. Pte Dan Conway, Co Tipp. Leg. Pte John Martin, shoulder. Pte. Thos Young, shin. Pte Michael O’Neill wounded by a dum dum bullet. All the above with the exception of O’Neill were wounded in the charge on the Castle. Four of the Executive troops were wounded. Commdt Brennan in charge at the castle was wounded in the face.
Diary of recent events in Kilkenny: Tuesday Apr25th Kilkenny prison taken over by O.C. M.Ruth I.R.A.Barracks Parliament Street, under Four Courts Army Executive. Friday April 28th, Bonded stores taken over by same force. The same night the whiskey was removed to the prison. Saturday morning April 29th, Lt. Col. Prout O.C Dail Garrison Kilkenny Barracks issues ultimaton to the prison. Saturday evening the prison and whiskey is surrendered to Lt Col Prout. Monday May 01st. Several positions in the city occupied by Executive Forces. Tuesday May 02nd Fight begins and continues all day. Dail forces attack positions held by Executive forces. All positions surrendered or evacuated except the Castle. Wednesday May 03rd. Attack on the Castle all day, the surrender comes at 9’0 clock. Dail forces take the castle and prisoners.
Sources: Kilkenny People April /May 1922 , Mr. T.J. Moran, photographer, James’ Street, Kilkenny, Rothe House, Kilkenny, Cois Céim, Saturday Walkers group and Eoin Walsh.