Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stories of Athenry and the Irish Civil War 1922-1923 Part 5: Raids, Robberies and Executions by Ronan Killeen

Got from the Irish Times Archive online

On the 5 August 1922 the Irish Times reported that  'Two houses had been raided in Ballygurrane, Athenry, and half a dozen boys, arming themselves with a pitchfork and a single shotgun with one cartridge, lay in ambush for the raiders the following night. They duly arrived. The single cartidge was exploded 'hands up' was called from each side of the road, and the raiders found themselves with the fork prongs around there throats. They were deprived of their weapons and were marched to the Railway Hotel, Athenry,where they were handed over to the National Troops.

On the 14 December 1922 the Athenry Post Office was raided. The Sub-Postmaster J.M. Lee was entertaining friends in the kitchen of the post-office and a knock came to the door. There were four armed and masked men the leader of the raiders told the staff to put up their hands who demanded the keys ordered the Sub-Postmaster to show him where the money and the stamps were.
    They took £282 odd, and £170 in cash. The stamps and postal orders were also taken. After the raiders left the Postmaster of Athenry Postoffice reported it to the National Troops stationed at Athenry Railway Hotel and to the civic gaurds on the same street (More than likely Cross Street because that would have been previously an RIC Barracks).
    There was no trace of the raiders to be found but investigation did pursue. Other statements about the event mentioned that it was not four but seven men. This was not the first time for the Post-Office to be raided it had been raided in  April 1922.'

In the next case there is many conflicting accounts with the Irish Times newspapers:
On Tuesday 24 1923 the Galway Correspondent for the Irish Times wrote 'A raid occured at the Munster & Leinster Bank, Athenry, at 4pm. They had hired a motor car from Mr. J. Cunniffe. Athenry Branch for manager for Mr. W. P. Higgins. The hirer of the car told the staff he wanted to bring to girls to Loughrea while the other two men went into the bank.
   A woman named Ms. McLoughlin saw the two men go in to the bank and Mr O'Kelly Lynch said it was after hours when the event happened. Miss McLoughlin had been working in a stationary shop which led to the bank and immediately noticed that the door was locked against her.
   After three minutes the raiders got away. The motor car Cuniffe had hired was outside of the bank and was just after refershments with the third raider soon after the two men emerged with the stolen money.
   Ms. McLoughlin shouted at Cuniffe that raid had just happened at the time and he asked where were the two girls that needed to be driven to Loughrea. Cuniffe refused to take the two men in the motor vechicle and warned them that 'If you do not go quickly you will be caught' . The raiders ran away but one got caught by a civic gaurd.
   The captured raider exclaimed to the Civic Gaurd that he was attached to the military at Ardrahan, and that he was permitted to go free. Shortly, Rev. Father Lynch, Captain Curran, the Gaurds  and  25 soldiers were split up into small parties on cars and bicycles.

Then, at 6 o'clock in the evening Captain Curran and Sergeant Major Hargrave came across two men that were walking along the banks of a river three miles from Athenry. The found the stolen sum of money and two Webley revolvers in execellent conditon which were of the Royal Irish Constabulary patter.
   The two raiders were Joseph O'Rourke, a servant boy from Ardrahan and the other raider was Joseph Murphy from Cranagh, Gort (Later in the Irish Times it gives Murphy an address of Coxtown, Ardrahan)
 who was originally a Liuetenant in the Republicans at Renmore, Depót before it was burnt down.
   When the prisoners were brought to Athenry Military Barracks they declined  to make any statement and on the the following morning Wednsday 25 May 1923 they were escorted to Tuam.

The Irish Times Tuam correspondent gives a conflicting account of the event stating that 'The raiders where captured at Moyvilla after Captain Curran fired at them. The haversack the two men had contained £687 13shillings and 11 pence'.

O'Rourke and Murphy were court-martialed and were found guilty at the military tribunal on the 24 May 1923 and found guilty of an armed raid, stealing from the Munster & Leinster Bank and in possesion of arms with out proper authority.
   In 1922 the PUBLIC SAFETY BILL came into the coutnry what this ment was if you bear arms against the Free-State or under suspicion with out proper authority, you could be court-martialed and executed depending on the crime.
   It turn's out the case had no connection to politics at all. There possesion arms made them liable to extreme penealty of death. On Wednsday 30 May 1923 O'Rourke and Murphy were executed at Tuam Barrack at 8 o'clock in the morning. The third raider had got away.

In my own research of executions I can't find any others after these two men were executed.


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