One hundred years ago today, Liam Lynch lost his life to a long-range bullet fired by the Free State soldiers. Lying on a cold mountainside in County Tipperary’s Knockmealdown Mountains as Chief of Staff of the anti-Treaty IRA, he commanded his troops to leave him and save themselves.
Liam Lynch had called a meeting with his senior officers on the mountainside, as was common for the anti-Treaty IRA side to evade the better-armed Free State soldiers. As the Civil War progressed, it became increasingly clear that the anti-Treaty side was losing.
Lynch and his officers had arrived in Newcastle the previous day and were hiding out in safe houses around the village. Somehow, the Free State troops found out, formed columns, and began a search of the area. By the time the IRA members were tipped off it was too late for them to disperse and take cover. The Free State Army were all over the mountains and valleys closing in on the irregulars with great speed and stealth. Although the IRA were well prepared and armed there were just too many troops and were quickly outgunned in the shootout that ensued.
Liam Lynch took a bullet almost immediately. Not wanting to implicate his officers more than necessary, he gave them his gun and documents and ordered them to save their own lives, as his was ebbing away. Reluctantly, they did. Lynch, who was bleeding profusely, was captured by the Free State troops, who did their best to save his life. He was carried back to Newcastle, where he was attended first by local doctors and then by medics at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Clonmel. But his wounds were too severe, and he lost his life later that night.
During the Civil War, Republican forces revived their campaign to burn down big houses. The campaign was facilitated by the absence of any forces of law and order in the countryside as a result of the withdrawal of the Crown forces in 1922 and the abolition of the RIC, but the elimination of signs of British rule in Ireland was the underlying motivation behind the destruction. The Republicans were also running dangerously low in arms so destruction of property was one of few acts of guerrilla warfare left at their disposal.
The big houses were burned down during the War of Independence as a way for the IRA to assert their authority. However, during the Civil War, many of the mansions abandoned by their owners for fear of attack were taken over by the anti-Treatyites and only destroyed when they were forced to leave when the National Army moved in on them.
Below were a few of many set alight in early 1923:
January 29 The Earl of Mayo’s Dublin residence is set alight by Republicans.
Sir Horace Plunkett’s Art Treasures are Destroyed
1 February: Moore Hall near Claremorris in County Mayo is burned down by Republicans.
“Back to Blighty,” stated one headline in the Freeman’s Journal of December 23, 1922. The action that got under way on December 14 marked the beginning of the end of the British military forces’ evacuation of the Irish Free State.
“The first sign of the change from the old order to the new was the taking over of the sentry duty at the gate. Green-clad and khaki-clad the new sentry and the old stood side by side. a sharp word of command- “Sentries Pass” – and the first Irish soldier to mount gaurd at the headquarters stepped smartly to his post. Old sentry—dismiss.” and the British soldier marched away to join his waiting comrades, proud of the honour, no doubt. of being the last British soldier to pace the sentry’s beat at British headquarters.”
Exactly one year after the Treaty was signed, the Irish Free State was proclaimed 100 years ago. However, the Civil War hung over the occasion, casting a shadow over it. In spite of the conflict normal life went on with a few changes:
Free State Stamps
The Dail Chamber
The Chief Secretary’s Lodge becomes home of the President Cosgrave
Weekly Irish Times 16 December 1922
Freeman’s Journal 07 December 1922
Drogheda Argus and Leinster Journal 30 December 1922
On this day 100 years ago, Erskine Childers faced the firing squad. Like Emily Childers was vehemently opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was quite vocal about it. In a dawn raid at his cousin Robert Barton’s home in County Wicklow by the National troops, a revolver was found. He and another man, David Robinson, were duly arrested.
Born in London in 1870, Erskine Childers was the second of five children. His father was Robert Childers, and his mother was Anna Childers (née Barton). Robert Childers (1838–1866), who was appointed to the Ceylon Civil Service in 1860, became the private secretary to Governor Sir Charles McCarthy. In his time there, he studied Sinhala (and possibly Pali) and became a student of Buddhism. After returning to the UK, he kept up his studies and, in 1872, published the first volume of the Pali dictionary. Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he died at the age of 38, leaving behind a young family. After his death his family moved to Co. Wicklow the ancestral home of his mother.
Young Erskine received a good education, taking classics and law at Trinity College and then Cambridge, where he studied law in which he came out with a first in the subject in June 1893. He also showed great literary promise and was editor of Cambridge Review. Childers took the civil service entrance exams and excelled, earning the position of joint assistant clerk at the House of Commons. When the Boer War broke out in 1898, he enlisted and volunteered as an artillery driver.
After he returned, his novel, Riddle of the Sands, was published. The novel, which he began in 1901, was loosely based on his own experiences. The book, often cited as one of the great works of espionage, is about the main character, who is invited by his friend to go on a yachting expedition, and their subsequent adventures. Childers, a keen sailor, was one of the crew of the Asgard. In May of that year, he traveled to Hamburg with Darrell Figgis to broker an arms deal there. They successfully sourced 1,500 Mauser Model 1871 rifles with 49,000 rounds of ammunition at a good price. In August, Childers and his wife, Molly Spring Rice, along with Gordon Shephard and two fishermen from Donegal, arrived at Howth with an arsenal of weapons.
Childers returned to London, where he served in the Royal Naval Volunteers for most of the Great War. In 1917, he was assigned as assistant secretary to the Irish convention, where he began to gravitate toward the Irish cause. In 1919, he relocated to Dublin and was elected to the Dáil in 1921. The same year, he was appointed Minister for Propaganda as well as Secretary to the Irish contingent of the treaty negotiating team. Childers, like Emily, was vehemently anti-Treaty and was quite vocal about it too. He was not fully trusted by either side and was suspected by the British and Irish provisional governments alike; it was only a matter of time until he was captured in November 1922. He was sentenced to death and executed at Beggars Bush Barracks. A true gentleman to the end, it was said that he shook hands with each member of the firing squad before he faced his death.
Thirty years later to the exact day Emily died in St. Mary’s Nursing Home. She too was buried near the Republician plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.