The Founding of the Presentation Brothers’ Schools at Birr in 1877; recollections of 1927 from J. Deering.
[Birr Historical Society meets again on Monday 4 December 2023 after a break of three…
We had a blog last April on the 100th anniversary of the death of Matthew Kane. Now we recall the first procession in his memory from Tullamore to his place of burial in Mucklagh in late January 1922. Those early weeks of February 1922 saw the commencement of the removal of the British forces from Offaly in the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The barracks at Daingean, Clara, Shannonbridge and the great Birr barracks were handed over to the IRA. In the first week of February the Offaly Independent was again issued after a break of fifteen months due to the burning by the Crown forces in early November 1920 (see an earlier blog).
Memory of The Dead: Ex-Prisoners’ Tribute To Tullamore I.R.A. Man Matthew Kane
On Sunday last the ex-prisoner comrades of Lieut. M. Kane, I.R.A., who was shot dead in Tullamore in April last , marched to Mucklagh Cemetery, where he is interred, and deposited a beautiful floral wreath and a memorial cross on his grave. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the evening, there was a good turn-out, all the ex-prisoners and ex-internees being present. The procession started from Charleville Square at 2 o’clock, headed by St. Enda’s Pipers’ Band. The ex-prisoners and ex-internees, in military formation, took up the leading position, preceded by the band. Following came a motor taxi in which were the aged father of the deceased, and some female friends, and next came several companies of the Tullamore Batl. I.R.A. and Fianna. At Mucklagh bridge – the bridge was destroyed during operations by the I.R.A., but temporarily repaired – they were met by the Rahan Battalion and the whole being reformed, marched slowly to the cemetery, the band playing “The Flowers of the Forest”. A cordon of Volunteers was formed round the grave, at the head of which stood, with bared head, the father of Lieut. Kane. The Rosary was recited in Irish by Father Smyth, C.C., Rahan, who was promptly in attendance and who looks none the worse of his imprisonment in the Curragh. The responses were answered in Irish by a large percentage of the gathering, which included many ladies, both young and old. The little ceremony having concluded, the people dispersed to their homes. The floral wreath bore the following inscription – “To the memory of our Comrade who laid down his life for Ireland – From the Ex-Prisoners of the Tullamore Co. I.R.A.” The cross, which was of Celtic design – the designer being Mr. Alphonsus Johnson, late of Ballykinlar [see our blog in December 2021], and was inscribed : – “I gCuimhne Lieut. M. Kane, I.R.A. Killed in action, R.I.P – From his ex-Prisoner Comrades, 1922.” OI19220204 / In the meantime the former internees and prisoners were organising.
EX PRISONERS ORGANISE – Since the Republican ex-prisoners were released, a committee selected from amongst themselves has been at work to safeguard their interests. During the past week or so steps have been taken to place the movement on a firm footing. Efforts are being made to get employment for those who are willing to take up civil occupations and to have the positions which they occupied prior to the troubles restored to them. There are seventy ex- prisoners in the Tullamore district. Needless to say they have wholehearted support. 19220204 MT
Republican Ex-Prisoners – We notice that in other parts of Ireland the ex-prisoners are taking steps to form associations for their own protection such as that stated by Tullamore Republican ex-prisoners. Mr. P. Molloy is secretary to the local organisation.
Extraordinary Success Re-Publication Of “Offaly Independent” First Issue Sold Out In A Few Hours. The first issue of the “Offaly Independent” published since the destruction by Crown Forces of our printing premises, the Athlone Printing Works, in November, 1920, was attended with extraordinary success. A few hours after delivery of our supplies, in most cases largely increased on former times, to our agents, every copy had been sold, and requests for additional quantities poured in on us from all sides, extra supplies having to be printed and despatched all day Sunday. Many messages of congratulations have reached us from old and new readers. OI 11/2/1922
Centenary of burning of the Athlone-based Independent in Nov. 1920.
Evacuation of barracks in Offaly
To quote the “London Times” of seventy years ago, “They are going with a vengeance,” but now it is the army of occupation, not the natives of the country, that is leaving our shores, going while a great sigh of relief goes up, and no pang of regret is felt at the departure of those who held is in bondage for so long. What a change the front of St. Conleth’s School in Daingean now presents from what it did a short time ago. The front gates are now thrown open for the first time in nearly two years, as when the local police barrack was destroyed the splendid group of houses inside the gates of St. Conleth’s School which had been used for the purpose of housing some of the tradesmen employed in the institution were commandeered and used as a barrack for police and Black and Tans until Wednesday of last week when the evacuation took place. From an early hour on that morning the residents of the barracks were astir and it was easy to see that something out of the common was about to take place. Before long it was evident that the long-wished for hour had come and that the Crown forces were about to clear out, bag and baggage. At mid-day lorries arrived from Edenderry carrying the Black and Tans from that district, and all assembled at the Grand Canal Bridge, Daingean for the final parting. Such musical instruments as accordions, mouthorgans, etc., were produced and the disbanded heroes made the welcome ring to the strains of “Come back to Erin” (we hope they won’t). “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “You’ll Remember Me”, and other items. The townspeople viewed the scene unmoved and the farewells were not returned. On the following day the members of the old R.I.C. force prepared to leave Daingean, and by Friday not a single policeman was to be seen in the place, while a new force guarded the town. 19220211OI/
Daingean Under I.R.A A detachment of the Tullamore Batt. I.R.A. took over Daingean police barracks on Tuesday after its evacuation by Crown forces. Since the old police barrack was burned down, the Crown forces occupied quarters in the Reformatory, which was formerly the County Prison. The furniture, etc., was conveyed to Tullamore in British military lorries, as well as that of some other outpost stations, some days before the evacuation. 19220211 OI/
The splendid premises inside the gates of St. Conleth’s School now present a different appearance to what they did during the past fifteen or sixteen months, when they were occupied by R I C. They are now occupied by a detachment of the I.R.A., and from a flagstaff at the front entrance the tricolour floats freely. 19220218 MT
The dwelling house inside the gates of the reformatory. This picture from 1913.
Exit, “Black And Tans.” The “Black and Tan” members of the R.I.C. stationed in the Tullamore an Daingean districts took their departure on Wednesday afternoon. Quite a large number of people, which included many “well-wishers” assembled on the platform to see them off. The “Tans” who were in mufti and who were accompanied by some old R.I.C. comrades, were in a merry mood, and indulged in song and a little flag-waving pending the arrival of the train. The departure was quite a tame affair, and no tears appear to have been shed, even by their dearest friends. Many of them, it is stated, are off to the Far East to join the Palestine police force. Having had a fairly warm time in the Island of Saints and Scholars, they no doubt are looking forward to warmer times in the Holy Land. 19220204 OI/
“Black And Tans” Leave – It is estimated that over 100 Black and Tans have altogether left Offaly, and only the few connected with Transport arrangements now remain. It is rumoured that in some parts of the country they celebrated their departure in quite characteristic fashion, but nothing very remarkable marked the proceedings in connection with their going, except a parting shot or two. 19220211 MT/ Black and Tans passed through Tullamore on Wednesday evening week to the railway station, in four or five lorries, green flags, with Union Jacks in the corner being raised above them. There was a considerable number of people at the railway station but there was no response whatever to the cheers which the departing “Black and Tans” raised. 19220211/
Barracks For Ireland’s Police A portion of the huge building in Clara, which formerly consisted of the R.I.C. barracks and recently detached from the main building, was on Tuesday taken over by the Irish Authorities and established as a permanent barrack under the new regime for the town and district, and when adequate requirements for all purpose are in force. It is said that the local constabulary force in the town will, for the present, consist of three permanent men, fully equipped and armed under the supervision of Commandant Boland, who has charge of the divisional districts. 19220204 OI/
Birr Military Barracks – IRA officers took over stores at Birr military barracks on Wednesday. IRA AND BIRR MILITARY BARRACKS – It is understod that Birr military barracks will be taken over next week by the Commandant General of the 3rd Southern Division IRA. 19220211/ We understand that the Military Barracks, Crinkle, recently vacated by the Leinsters and other regiments, was formally handed over on Monday last, to Commandant General McCormack of the 3rd Southern Division I.R.A. The barrack is now occupied by Divisional Officers and their attendants, to the number of about 50. Birr is to be the headquarters of the division named, and is at present being used as a depot for the training of Cadets. The South Offaly No. 2 Brigade is still quartered in Birr workhouse. On Friday of last week Shannonbridge Police Barrack was handed over to Commandant Bourke, Offaly No. 2 Brigade, I.R.A., by the District Inspector R.I.C. The police then vacated the barrack, into which marched an armed guard of the I.R.A. 19220216 OC/
The fourteen-acres outside of Birr Barracks, c 1910
Barracks Taken Over By IRA – Shannonbridge RIC Barracks was evacuated on Friday, and the IRA took over possession of the place. The barrack was handed over by the D I, representing the County Inspector, R I C, to Brigade Commandant Bourke, Offaly No 2 Brigade. Immediately that the police had left it an armed guard of the IRA entered the barracks, the brief, but historic ceremony being watched by a large gathering.
Coming up: the evacuation of the military in Tullamore