The Storming of Ballina
(The Western People, 22nd September, 1922)
These are some of the incidents which attended the invasion of Ballina by the Irregulars on Tuesday week:
· Mr. D. Sheerin, an Irregular Commandant, had a narrow escape from death. He was sniped at from the Workhouse gate, and flying pieces of the wall at which he stood wounded him on the back of the hand. A second bullet grazed him on the forehead, leaving a slight scratch.
· Volunteers Dan Boyle and “Forty” Walsh, of the National Army, kept up rapid fire from the Workhouse gate and only stopped when the “Ballinalee” armoured car came up the road with a man in front of it bearing a white flag
· The soldiers in the Workhouse were about to dig a trench inside the Workhouse gate to prevent the car entering when they were compelled to surrender.
· The traders whose shops were looted were told that the goods would be paid for when the National Forces paid their debts.
· It is stated that close on 2,000 tins of petrol were seized in the Workhouse and town.
· Large quantities of boots were taken by the Irregulars from Messrs. Coolicans’ shop. The shop of Mr. P. Hanley was also raided and even ladies’ hats and silk blouses were taken. It is stated that those were intended as presents for lady friends. (See letter from Mr. D. Sheerin in reply to this allegation).
· Messrs. Moyletts’ shop was also visited and cooked ad tin meats of all descriptions were seized.
· Many Republicans in the town joined the Irregulars on their arrival and were immediately given rifles and the distinguishing armlets which they wore on the occasion. These men are now with the Irregulars on the hills.
· The attack on the town was evidently well planned, for the different selections of the Irregulars rushed to their posts immediately they entered.
· When the Irregulars hammered on the door of Miss Hannon’s residence, John Street, one of the National soldiers jumped from the top storey on to the flags, and it is stated, was badly injured.
· The mine which destroyed door and windows of the Post Office, as well the windows of practically all the shops in King Street, was laid under the cover of a heavy fusillade from the “Ballinalee” directed towards the sandbagged windows of the building. The mine was blown up by an electric battery, and not by a time-fuse, as many people imagine.
· When the National troops arrived from Crossmolina and opened fire on the Workhouse from Gurteens people coming from the fair in Crossmolina rushed into the dispensary. The sheep dog of a boy named Mangan who was driving sheep from the fair, was shot dead as he was jumping through the wicket of the dispensary gate. The leg of one of the sheep was broken by a bullet.
· It was at this time that Malachy Geraghty of Ballygar, Co. Galway, was shot quite close to the dispensary. He got the bullet in the mouth, the exit wound being in the back of the head. Curiously enough he did not know he was badly wounded and talked over to the adjoining wall for shelter. Here he sat down, and it was in this position he was found dead. His brother, who was with him at the time, was also unaware of the serious injuries Malachy had received. He crouched under the wall and in a few minutes when he looked around it was only to discover that his brother was dead. The shock he received made him almost hysterical and he sobbed bitterly with his Rosary beads in his hands. “My only brother,” he cried. “Isn’t it awful”.
· “My God, this is awful,” was the expression made use of by Dr. D. Rowland, when he laced his stethoscope to the breast of the girl killed (Miss Constance Tynan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, aged 22, and niece of Miss M. Cafferty, Bridge Street), on the bridge and discovered she was dead. It was Norah Browne, Bridge Street, who with pluck and nerve that was truly amazing, helped Dr. Rowland to undo the blouse of the girl in order that he might ascertain if she was dead. (It was going to the assistance of this girl after she was mortally wounded that Volunteer Patrick Lackey received several bullets in the shoulder and chest. He is progressing favourably).
· An Irregular sniper took up a position on a tree in Mr. Beckett’s field in Bury Street. Some inquisitive civilians looking out of one of the windows of Mr. B. Sweeney’s mills in Francis Street, were fired on by the sniper. The bullet struck the wall close to the window and the civilians hastily withdrew.
· Another Irregular sniper took up a position on the roof of the Central Hotel, King Street, as also did one on the roof of Messrs. White’s garage in King Street.
· A saddle at which Mr. Frank Walsh, Bridge Street, was working, was pierced by a bullet which bent one of the buckles. It lodged in another saddle close by.
· Since the “invasion” the sentries at the bridges have been removed. The barbed wire entanglements at both bridges were hurled into the river by the irregulars, and the posts mounted with teh wire now show their heads above the water at several parts of the river.
· The Post Office Clock stopped at 11.30 and recorded with a correctness that could not be challenged the exact time at which the explosion on the mine occurred. Some hours afterwards the hands in some mysterious manner pointed to 3.30. Whether it is that the change occurred through the pranks of playful boys or that the clock made a desperate effort to recover its equilibrium it is not known.
· Some of the Irregulars were served with hot cans of tea while standing on the street after calm was restored.
· The captured garrison was lined up at the top of Ardnaree and kept for many hours standing there before being released. Some of the National troops had to dispense with their uniforms.
· The laithe seized some time ago at the Quay by National Troops was taken away by the Irregulars.
· Mr. Henry Hewson, chief clerk, Ballina Post Office, was in the office when the mine was exploded outside the door. He was in the act of coming down the stairs at the time and had a most terrifying experience, as he was pitched headlong on to the landing and the mortar of the ceiling crashed down on top of him. Luckily he was uninjured, and suffered nothing more than a severe shock.
· The instruments in the Post Office were in no way injured, and the Irregulars did not attempt to interfere with them.
· On Tuesday night many Irregulars congregated in Ardnaree and terrorised the inhabitants in the early morning with volleys of shots. A good deal of intoxicating drink was commandeered by stragglers of the Irregulars in different parts of the town, but one of the leaders visited the public houses and ordered the publicans not to supply their men with drink on any pretext whatever.
· Shots were fired into the Moy Hotel, but the officers who stayed there were at the High Mass de Requiem which was celebrated at the time in the Cathedral. The ladies in the house went through a terrible ordeal.
· Mr. P. J. Ruttledge narrowly escaped death. Passing by the Jackson Memorial Font he was sniped at from some place in the direction of the station. The bullet whizzed by his head.
· The crash of glass in the much-windowed Hibernian Hall was something terrific. To one inside it appeared as if the whole building had collapsed. Immediately after the explosion a bullet entered the room and shot an electric bulb off one of the lights over the billiard table.
· The “Ballinalee” when coming down Ardnaree halted at Donegan’s corner, and it was from there that the fatal shots were fired. The car then rushed down the street, followed by a number of lorries, the men which kept shouting “Up the Republic”.
· The Irregulars placed a machine gun in the window of Mr. Thomas Kennedy’s licensed premises facing Bridge Street. They apologised to Mr. Kennedy for the inconvenience they were causing him.
· A fierce resistance was put up by the National troops guarding the railway station. They kept their attackers at bay until the “Ballinalee” cars came on the scene. It is stated that two of the Irregulars were killed in this scrap.
· The Irregulars raided a number of banks in the town, and it is stated succeeded in seizing close on £10,000.
· On Wednesday, an Irregular who remained in town, fired as some National soldiers in King Street. One of the soldiers replied with two revolver shots, but the Irregular escaped.
· A National Volunteer sniper who had taken up a position on the Crossmolina road, was in imminent danger of being captured by the Irregulars who were in the vicinity. He hailed a farmer who coming from Crossmolina fair with a cart of pigs. Donning the overcoat and hat of the farmer, he put his rifle in the cart, which he drove into the town, and in this manner escaped capture. He left the cart of pigs in a yard in the town, where the farmer subsequently found them.
ITEMS OF THE FIGHTING AROUND BALLINA (Get Right Date)
· On Friday night Mr. Jack Leonard, Crossmolina, brother-in-law of Mr. Michael Kilroy, the Irregular leader, captured at Newport, was arrested at his home. Mr. Leonard is well known as a photographer all over Mayo. His letters in a controversy which arose between him and Captain Judge of the National Forces will be remembered by readers of the “Western People”.
· Amongst other arrests made by the Ballina forces are Mr. Owen Brogan, a member of the Ballina District Council, and his sister.
· Last week a man named Martin Gallagher, of Moygownagh, who held the rank of captain in the Irregular forces, surrendered to the troops in Crossmolina and handed in his rifle. He was released on signing the usual undertaking.
· Bernard Farrell, Lacken, who defended the goal for Mayo in the football match at Castlerea on Sunday, was arrested in Ballina on Monday.
· On Sunday night at 12 o’clock Killala Post Office was raised by masked and armed men. A small sum of money and a number of stamps were seized, after which all of the office documents and books were burned. Other houses in the town were also raided and goods seized.
· Troops operating near Killala on Sunday were fired on. One soldier had a narrow escape, his shoulder strap being blown away.
· On last Thursday week Messrs. Moylett’s motor supply van was held up at Corballa by armed men and goods to the value of £46 seized. On the following day Messrs. John Hughes’ van was held up.
· On Tuesday morning High Mass de Requiem was celebrated for the eternal repose of the soul of the late Nicholas Corcoran, shot when a number of prisoners were brought out from Ballina to remove a barricade erected on the M.G.W. railway line. There was a large congregation.
· On Friday night, 23rd inst., the different military posts in Ballina were attacked by Thompson gun and rifle fire. The barrack of the Civic Guards was also subjected to much sniping and bears traces of bullet marks. A Lancia car, which patrolled the town during the firing, was also fired on. The railway station premises were also sniped at. The attack lasted for about an hour, but the National Forces sustained no casualties. It is stated that moans were heard in Hill Street as if one of the attackers had been hit.
· Curfew in Ballina has been extended to 11 o’clock, p.m., as from Monday, 26th inst.
· Rev. J. Kilgallon, C.C., Binghamstown, son of Mr. Thaddeus Kilgallon, Clare Street, Ballina, has been appointed chaplain to the National Forces, Ballina, with the rank of Captain. During the Great War he acted as chaplain to the British Expeditionary Forces in France.
· Mr. William Gillespie, a member of the Ballina District Council, has joined the National Forces.