Under the command of Brigadier General George O’Connor, troops take control of Kilkenny Barracks
Photos of commemoration by Pat Shortall
There are two main sources which narrate the events of the February 7th in Kilkenny City.
James Comerford’s book ‘My Kilkenny IRA Days,’ gives a complete chapter to the takeover.
This is a highly important account as he was a member of the marching body of troops who entered the Barracks through the Ballybought Street gate under the command of Brigadier General George O’Dwyer.
The local newspaper also gave an account of the takeover of the Barracks.
The British Army commenced their withdrawal from Kilkenny Barracks in early February with the evacuation of members of the 11th and 145th Batteries Royal Field Artillery numbering 216 officers and men as well as six eighteen-pounder artillery guns and six Howitzers.
This movement of troops was probably to the Curragh Camp.
On Tuesday February 7th, 1922 the Barracks was taken over by Captain Fulham, a representative of the Irish Government.
At 2pm a body of 42 armed personnel, including members from the Kilkenny Flying Columns and officers drawn from the nine battalions of the Kilkenny Brigade, assembled at St. James’ Park, where some rehearsals were conducted and photographed by Mr. Moran, a photographer from the local newspaper.
The marching body proceeded via Vicar Street to the Market Yard which was the assembly point for the parade. The troops were commanded by Brigadier George O’Dwyer whom James Comerford describes as ‘six feet two inches wearing a full uniform of green gabardine and a Sam Browne belt from which hung a holster holding his .45 colt revolver. St Patrick’s Brass and Reed Band provided the musical honours on the day playing many famous Irish Airs’.
The exact names of the armed soldiers who participated are not recorded; we know who the members of the Active Service Units (ASU, Flying Columns) were in 1922.
They are listed here to honour their memory. No 1 North Kilkenny ASU: John Walsh, Column Commander, George O’Dwyer, Kieran Tobin, John Keane, James Delaney, Edward Holland, Michael Carroll, Patrick Quinn, Christopher Doyle, Robert Doyle, James Doyle, Michael Hanrahan, James Purcell, John Wall, Thomas Burke, Martin Bates, 7th Battalion ASU James Leahy Column Commander, Edward Aylward, Edward Hally, James Kelly, Patrick Downey, Patrick Ryan, Michael Maher, Edward Byrne, Nicholas Byrne, Thomas Tallis, Michael Delaney, Edward Butler Edward Walsh, James Daly, Thomas Maher, Patrick Power, James Robinson, Patrick Hogan, Patrick Luttrell, James McKenna, Edward Cuddihy, Michael Gibbs, Edward O’Neill, Patrick Kearney, Patrick Torphy, Edward Dwyer, Sean Hales. Other armed soldiers identified from the photograph taken on the day are Martin Kealy and James Comerford.
The following description is taken from James Comerford’s book, My Kilkenny IRA Days.
‘The Parade led off shortly after 2 o’clock passing the historic inscription on the Market Pier marking the Confederation Hall. They were loudly cheered by Smithwicks’ workers standing in Parliament Street. Irish Republican flags flew from Peter de Loughry’s shop. Passing the Butterslip the printers of the often-suppressed Kilkenny People gave vent to their patriotic fervour.
At the Tholsel two of Kilkenny’s greatest patriots – Peter de Loughry and Tom Treacy – led a cheering party. High Street, from end to end, had exuberant crowds. From upstairs in Miss Farrell’s shop at 13 High Street, where the Brigade had its Headquarters, came a particularly warm greeting.
At the end of Friary Street brown-robed Friars showed their support. The day was crisp and dry – ideal for such a parade. Next stop was at the gates of Kilkenny Castle where word was awaited from the Military Barracks as to its readiness for takeover. Appropriately they now stood on “The Parade”.
CROWDS GATHERED TO CHEER
The word of readiness arrived, and the troops advanced through the Parade and down Rose Inn Street. People stood packed three deep on either side of the narrow street. Clapping and ringing cheers greeted the liberators. The women and men of Coon and Muckalee picked this vantage point to cheer their heroes. The music being played in John Street included The Boys of Wexford, God Save Ireland and Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week.
At Wilsdon’s corner, now Lalor’s, the Dunbell, Clara and Paulstown people gave vent to their patriotic feelings. Many Cumann na mBan ladies were there, including Helen Murphy and Angela Mulrooney.
Approaching the Military Barracks the march slowed as departing British vehicles came through the gate turning up Ballybough Street.
They were reluctant to test the mood of Irish supporters on John Street as they headed for the Curragh. This interruption caused Brigadier O’Dwyer to give the order “mark time”.
The troops arrived in the Barracks and an exchange of guard – Irish from British – took place with the normal courtesies. The very symbolic lowering of the British flag and raising of Irish was next. Two Devonshire soldiers lowered the British flag and then with a small tug lowered the flagpole.
It had partly been sawn through. British military tradition ensures that no one flies their flag on a British pole.
The Kilkenny men were equal to the situation and flew the Irish flag from a young tree supplied and positioned by Ned Mulrooney. Willie Cody conducted the band in the playing of the Soldier’s Song – not yet the official anthem of the new state. Symbolically our bratach náisiúnta was raised on the tree of liberty’.
Barrack routine was established very quickly, men from the first battalion were rostered to take over the Barrack duties and the guard room was duly taken over and the Barracks installation was manned. Commandant Brennan took over as Duty Officer.
The take-over of Crown Barracks would continue in Kilkenny, with the RIC Barracks in John Street and Parliament Street occurring in the coming weeks.
Our decade of centenaries continues, and we now enter the last two years where the focus changes from fighting a foreign enemy to one where we engage in nation building in a contested polarised bitter civil war. However, the country we live in today is a testament to our ancestors. Their legacy to us is espoused every time one looks at our national flag, or attends any occasion which triggers a memory of an event which occurred one hundred years ago.
The Kilkenny Observer wish to thank the following for their contribution to both articles on the Takeover of the Military Barracks series: Larry Scallan, Commandant at James Stephens Barracks, (retired); Kilkenny Saturday Walkers Group; Rothe House; Kilkenny Re-enactment Group; Pat Shortall.