The lost Sligo lives of the Free State Army

On the 2nd February 1922 Liam Pilkington O/C third Western Division Anti Treaty IRA, took possession of Sligo Military Barracks from the departing 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment of the British Army bringing to an end lots of of years of British rule in County Sligo and marking what must have been the top of a violent and destructive period with the hopes of a recent peaceful future. Unfortunately this might not be farther from reality and the County of Sligo was about to witness more bloodshed and destruction then had ever been seen within the previous 3 yr War of Independence.

ivil War had come to Sligo, this painfully troubled time would see former comrades becoming enemies, neighbors would spy on neighbors and brother would kill brother.

In January of that yr after the ratification of the treaty, Dail Eireann made one in all its first tasks under Article 8 of the Anglo Irish Treaty to determine an area military militia for the brand new Free State and in so doing the National Army got here into being, also that month the newly elected Mayor of Sligo Michael Nevin was against the brand new treaty so to was the local IRA leaders Liam Pilkington and Frank Carty (Carty initially being on the fence). Sligo was one in all the few major Barracks across the country to be handed over to Anti Treaty forces.

Sligo Town was within the the control of the Anti Treaty IRA, if the brand new Free State government desired to take back control more National Army troops could be needed. Arthur Griffith’s visit to Sligo in April 1922 almost resulted in violence but after some gunshots being fired and a few scuffles, Griffith was in a position to make his speech peacefully on the corner of O’Connell street and Graffton Street watched on by lots of of locals, protected by National Army troops with Anti Treaty forces watching on from a captured Sligo GPO and the Town Hall across the corner.

On the twenty sixth of June 1922 Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Army JJ Ginger O Connell was kidnapped by Anti-Treaty forces as a reprisal for the arrest of an anti-treaty officer and brought prisoner within the fortified Dublin 4 Courts. Michael Collins took O’Connell’s capture because the Anti-Treaty IRAs final warning and ordered the shelling of the 4 Courts with 18 pounder Guns on loan from the British .

General JJ O Connell a veteran of the US Army, survived his kidnapping and went on to serve in the long run Defence Forces ending his profession as Director of the Military Archives.

His father had been a teacher and thought in Sligo with a young O’Connell living together with his parents on Cranmore Road. Each his parents are buried in Sligo Cemetery.

In the identical week because the Battle for Dublin was going down, Sligo Town experienced a few of its most violent scenes, the anti-Treaty forces had evacuated the previous RIC barracks burning it to the bottom. Free State Forces had arrange a HQ over at Sligo jail and it was here that the primary National Army fatality in Sligo took place when a young soldier was shot leaving the front gate of the jail by a sniper.

Twenty two Free State National Army Soldiers would die in Co Sligo by the top of the Civil War. But who were these men? Where did they arrive from? And what number of were native to Co Sligo?

The anti-Treaty IRA in Sligo through the Civil War would suffer a complete of 13 fatalities including the Noble Six on Benbulben which recently saw its centenary with the disclosing of a recent memorial not removed from Rathcormack. Much is understood concerning the men who fought and died for the anti-treaty IRA in Co Sligo and just about all (rightly so) have memorials to them similar to the cross in Coolaney to commemorate Vice Brigadear Henry Breheny.

As we enter the ultimate years of the Decade of Centenaries the Defence Forces have recently digitized and released all Military Service (1916-1923) Pension Collections (MSPC). It’s now possible to simply view all fatalities details from either side of Irelands Civil War period and in addition features a map showing 1,077 markers every one a fatality on a google map image of Ireland listing 662 Pro Treaty and 415 Anti-Treaty casualties.

Within the case of Co Sligo a National Army is after all just that, made up of troops from throughout Ireland. The third Western Division was often backed up by troops from Athlone Barracks under the command of General Sean McEoin. Searching through the places of residence for a few of these soldiers, they got here from counties similar to Cavan, Donegal, Offaly, Fermanagh and Dublin. Of the 21 Free State Soldiers listed as fatalities for Co Sligo 13 were killed in combat. Five were killed by accidental shooting, two of those going down in Tubbercurry Barracks. Accidental shootings were a daily occurrence throughout the country with a complete of 176 being recorded, an indication of the form of training (or lack of) the soldiers had when it got here to handling weapons.

Men joined the National Army for many various reasons, some were members of the IRA who followed their commanders in supporting the treaty.

Others were men who could have seen service in WW1 and desired to put their skills to make use of, after which there was those that just simply found the thought of a profession with accommodation, uniform, food and pay as enough reason to take up arms to defend the brand new state. An National Army Census was carried out on the night of the twelfth November 1922, Within the County of Sligo there have been 493 men listed on lively duty.

The next is a listing from the MSPC website of all Sligo born Soldiers of the National Army who died through the Civil War:

Lieutenant Joseph Patrick McDermott -Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces

KIA on 04/07/1922 at Markree Castle, Collooney Co Sligo In the course of the War of Independence McDermott served as Adjutant with the Riverstown Company Sligo Brigade, IRA.

He was 29 years old and from Knockadoo, Co Sligo

Sergeant James Skeffington -Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces third Western Division

KIA on 9/12/1922 on the Town Hall in Sligo. A native of Sligo he had previously served with the Connaght Rangers during World War 1. He was 32 years old when he died and lived in Charles Street in Sligo Town.

Sergeant John Carter -Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces. Lively Service Unit, Mayo Brigade.

KIA on 3/12/1922 near Leenaun on the Galway Mayo border

Prior to joining the National Army he had served six years within the British army from which he was demobilized 4 months previously.

He was not in employment during those months but as a substitute assisted his father on the family farm. He lived at Scardenbeg, Strandhill, Co Sligo

Private John Sweeney- Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces Died on 15/07/1922 in Sligo Infirmary from wounds received on the Rockwood Ambush two days before.

His occupation is listed as a Baker’s Apprentice at Farrells on Albert Street, and in addition had worked on the family farm. He joined the National Army in ether April or May 1922.

He was 16 years old when he died and lived in Ballynamona, Calry, Co Sligo

Private James Byrne (also spelled Beirne) – Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces. third Western Division

KIA on 3/7/1922

One in every of the primary National Army Soldiers to be killed in Sligo, he was killed immediately when he received bullet wounds to the pinnacle and lung while leaving his post at Sligo Jail. His two brothers John and Thomas also joined the National Amry with John later developing TB which he succumbed to in December 1924 aged 19.

At 15 years old James Byrne was one in all the youngest Free State Soldiers to die within the Civil War. He had been a laborer before joining the National Army in May 1922 and had an address at West Gardens in Sligo Town.

Private Henry Conlon -Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces. 22 Battalion A Company 17/03/1923

Henry Conlon was unintentionally shot and killed on the Upper Barracks, Arigna, Co Roscommon by Sergeant Mulvihill. Mulvihill was remanded for court martial. A letter dated 16 June 1924 from Commandant Patrick Woods states that Conlon was a member of the Connaught Rangers and was tried for mutiny in India.

He lived on Holborn Hill in Sligo Town.

Private Andrew Joseph Walsh- Óglaigh na hÉireann/National Forces. third Western Division. Accidently shot 18/09/1922.

Private Walsh died from a gunshot wound to the pinnacle received at Rahilly, Benbulben, Co Sligo on 18 September 1922. In response to Irish Walsh was eating when the trigger of his rifle caught within the belt of his coat discharging the rifle, the bullet entered his body killing him immediately.

Walsh had worked as tailor and lived at Churchview, Ballymote Co Sligo

National Army forces had only recently taken over Rahilly House from Anti Treaty Volunteers who escaped towards a cave in Glencar. Six Volunteers didn’t make it and were captured.

It is probably going that they were all shot after surrendering, known today because the Noble Six it’s one other example of the horror and tragedy of Civil War.

Another notable deaths by accident occurred when a Pt Hugh McMenamin from Donegal was accidently shot by one other soldier at Midland Great Western Railway Station now Mac Diarmada station in May of 1923.

The station itself would have been a shell of its former self having been completely destroyed by fire in an Anti-Treaty attack in January of that yr.

A Pt John McCrudden also from Donegal accidently drowned at Markree Castle in July 1923. Markree was a base for Free State troops in Collooney.

Within the suumer of 1922 a Pt Joseph Lawlor from Co Offaly was killed in a vehicular accident at Ballysadare travelling from Ballina to Sligo.

Commandant Sean Adair, of the National Army was originally from Lisburn in Co Antrim. He was previously a member of Na Fianna Eireann and served with the Scottish Brigade through the War of Independence. He took part in an attempted rescue of Frank Carty from a jail in Glasgow.

Adair was killed within the Ambush at Rockwood which incidentally was partly led by Frank Carty.

Sean Adair lived on Wine Street in Sligo, he’s buried along together with his brother in Sligo cemetary. Adair’s grave is exclusive within the proven fact that it has a headstone and is straightforward to seek out, a few of the soldiers listed above are buried in unmarked graves.

Within the hundred years for the reason that starting of the Civil War, how have these fallen Soldiers been remembered?

Obviously they’re remembered by their families, but how did their government and successive governments remember their sacrifice, the reply? Not thoroughly.

In Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin a mass grave surrounds their General Michael Collins. The names were all but faded until two years ago when it was finally cleaned up in time for the centenary, because of the recently released

Military pension archives there aren’t any longer names that were once marked as unknown.

There may be a small plaque on Rockwood parade in Sligo Town naming the National Army victims on the Rockwood Ambush. Young James Byrne is included on the plaque but doesn’t indicate that he was shot outside Sligo Jail two weeks before the ambush.

The National graves Association do a beautiful service within the up keep of those that died for the Republican cause.

In recent times the people of Sligo learned the true cost of the First World War played on the county with 5000 men going to serve overseas and a few 650 never to return back.

They at the moment are all named on a memorial in Clevragh Park because of the amazing work done by Lest Sligo Forgets.

Sligo has at all times had a military tradition with it sons fighting in all corners of the earth, from South America to the Congo, Gallipoli to the Lebanon.

The Civil War in Sligo is especially remembered for 2 major incidents The Rockwood/Dooney Rock Ambush and the Killing of the Noble six. Many civilians were also caught within the cross fire and killed.

Many from the Protestant community felt Sligo was not secure and left while after the Civil War many Anti-Treaty volunteers found it hard to seek out employment and needed to emigrate to America or Canada, including Liam Pilkington who went on to change into a priest in South Africa.

Our descendants who lived through this era wanted nothing more in life then to maneuver on and never speak about it, it was how that ‘Lost Generation’ delt with a decade that saw constant war.

Some could only express themselves through poetry,

‘A barricade of stone or of wood; Some fourteen days of civil war: Last night they trundled down the road That dead young soldier in his blood: Come construct within the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the center on fantasies, The center’s grown brutal from the fare, More substance in our enmities Than in our love; O honey-bees, Come construct within the empty house of the stare.’

W.B. Yeats


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