How Kealkill’s RIC barracks escaped Volunteer attack

Seán O’Hegarty had charge of 30 Volunteers who marched from different directions to Kealkill, where the plan had been to take control of the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks.

By Niall Murray

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Sean O’Hegarty was the most senior IRB man in Cork

 

But the allotted time of 4pm — by when O’Hegarty was told to expect the orders to attack — came and passed, with no news from his fellow IRB member, Tomás MacCurtain. In fact, O’Hegarty was the most senior IRB man in Cork at the time, and was probably more in the picture about the bigger plan for Easter weekend than most others in the county.

The men with him from Ballingeary and Bantry were armed with four rifles, 10 shotguns, and 11 revolvers, but he decided to dismiss them at 6pm when there were no orders sanctioning the attack on police.

However, there was a close shave for both sides when police attempted to disarm some of the Volunteers as they headed for home. RIC sergeant John Bransfield from Waterford may have chosen wisely in his reply to O’Hegarty asking if he was looking for trouble, and the tension subsided as the two groups went their separate ways.

West Cork map.indd

 

A few hours earlier, MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney had arrived at Inchigeela — between Kealkill and Macroom — to meet almost 60 Volunteers marching into the village on schedule at 3pm.

They had come from Dunmanway and from Lyre outside Clonakilty, where the local company had gathered at 5am. After 8 am Mass in Dunmanway, the two companies marched to Inchigeela — roughly doubling the 12 mile journey already undertaken by the 18 Lyre men under their captain, Jim Walsh.

But when they arrived at their destination, it was only to be greeted by the Brigade commanders with news of the cancellation of manoeuvres.

 

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First Communion day in Inchigeela, 1936. Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain met 60 volunteers marching into the village on Easter Sunday, 1916.

 

After taking refreshment in Inchigeela — and some welcome shelter from the persistent rain — the Volunteers turned around for the southward journey home.

The Volunteers from Eyeries on the Beara peninsula were scheduled to have met up at Kenmare, just over the Kerry border on Easter Sunday.

But detached from the Cork Brigade officers, they were left with no orders beyond those sent on Good Friday by Fred Murray from the city Volunteers corps.

With heavy rain falling, they took shelter in the village of Lauragh, with little or no food. Being one of the few companies that far west, there was little knowledge or support for the Volunteers, and they had to take shelter in the local church.

A small group who had cycled ahead to Kenmare did not return with any orders, and so it was decided not to proceed.

Most of the company remained in the church overnight, returning to their homes on Easter Monday morning.

 

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