RIC Auxiliary Commandant Major James Seafield Grant (aged 34) from Aldeburgh, Suffolk (Coolnacahera or Coolavokig ambush, 6 miles from Macroom)
Date of incident: 25 Feb. 1921
Sources: CE, 26, 28 Feb. 1921; FJ, 26, 28 Feb., 2 March 1921; CC, 26 Feb., 1 March 1921; CCE, 26 Feb. 1921; New York Times, 26 Feb. 1921; Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/151A/2 (TNA); Seán Culhane’s WS 746, 15 (BMH); Jeremiah Murphy’s WS 772, 7-8 (BMH); Michael O’Sullivan’s WS 793, 12-14 (BMH); Patrick O’Sullivan’s WS 794, 11-12 (BMH); Charles Browne’s WS 873, 33-38 (BMH); Patrick O’Sullivan’s WS 878, 15-16 (BMH); Daniel Harrington’s WS 1532, 12-15 (BMH); Patrick J. Lynch’s WS 1543, 15-18 (BMH); Seán Lucy’s WS 1579, 9-12 (BMH); Edward Neville’s WS 1665, 5-8 (BMH); Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 102-10; Rebel Cork’s FS, 135-45; Abbott (2000), 203-4; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 85; Kautt (2010), 131-38; Kingston (2013), 214; Ó hÉalaithe (2014), 161-80, esp. 176, 191-92; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-s/seafield-grant/seafield-grant.html; http://www.theauxiliaries.com/INCIDENTS/coolavohig-ambush/coolavohig-ambush.html; http://www.theauxiliaries.com/adric-general/compensation/compensation%20claims.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015).
Note: According to Ó Suílleabhaín’s account, the IRA Flying Column moved early on the morning of 25 February 1921 ‘to occupy a quarter-mile stretch of the Macroom-Ballyvourney road at Coolnacahera’. These active-service Volunteers had already been doing this for about two weeks. The Auxiliaries from Macroom had expected to be attacked and had brought along four hostages. ‘As the lorries approached our position, four hostages were ordered out to walk ahead of them. We saw them and realised what they were. Bullets passed them by to strike down Auxiliaries near them, but the hostages remained unhurt.’ The ambush was weakened by the treachery of Patrick Connors (the informer who a few weeks later was responsible for the killing by crown forces of six sleeping IRA comrades at Clogheen—‘the Kerry Pike Murders’). On this day Connors was supposedly in charge of firing the Lewis gun from an advantageous position, but he failed to do so. Nevertheless, highly inflated accounts of British casualties were reported in republican sources. See Ó Suílleabhaín (1965), 102, 104, 108, 110; Rebel Cork’s FS, 145. IRA sources indicate that fifty-nine Volunteers were engaged in the ambush against J Company of the ADRIC, with a number of mishaps reducing IRA effectiveness; scouts, for example, failed to signal the approach of the convoy so that many of the ambush party were out of position. Yet Major Grant drove brazenly into the ambush position while knowing full well that an IRA party was there; his conduct reveals that he held them in low esteem and assumed that they would scatter. This action and then his standing up without taking cover were reckless in the extreme, costing him his life in addition to the lives of some under his command.
British accounts were somewhat too circumspect about crown casualties. According to ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, some fifty Auxiliaries under Major Grant left Macroom in three Ford cars and five tenders in order to deal with a Flying Column that had been observed operating around Ballyvourney. In the encounter Major Grant was killed and eight other Auxiliaries were wounded. In a later follow-up operation two Volunteers were reportedly killed without any crown casualties (p. 85). In the aftermath of the attack British forces ‘burned down all the houses in the vicinity of the ambush position, after which they went to Ballymakeera village and opened fire indiscriminately for a couple of hours. Here they wounded a Volunteer named Lucey in the leg, which had to be amputated later.’ See Patrick J. Lynch’s WS 1543, 18 (BMH).
Eight members of the ADRIC who had been wounded at Coolavokig later received awards of compensation ranging from as little as £200 in one case to as much as £5,000 in another. Four of the awards did not exceed £1,000, but the other four amounted to £12,800 altogether. See http://www.theauxiliaries.com/adric-general/compensation/compensation%20claims.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015).
Major Sarsfield Grant, according to a press statement issued by Dublin Castle, ‘only recently went down from Dublin to take command of the [Auxiliary] cadets at Macroom. He went to France with the King’s Own Scotch Borderers in 1914 and was wounded at Loos in September 1915. Subsequently, he commanded various companies of the Machine Gun Corps on the Westerrn Front until the end of the war. He was awarded the Military Cross and was twice mentioned in despatches. On his discharge after the war he received an excellent report from the War Office, who said he was a thoroughly sound officer and a born leader of men.’ See CE, 26 Feb. 1921. He was buried at Aldeburgh in Suffolk on 1 March 1921.