Bloody Sunday 1920, East Wall and the one who got away.
The events of November 21st 1920 are among the most talked about from the Irish Revolutionary period. Remembered as ‘Bloody Sunday’, the day saw a total of 31 violent deaths in the city – 14 targets associated with British Military Intelligence , 14 shot dead when British forces opened fire at Croke Park and three men summarily executed in Dublin Castle that night.
At approximately 9am members of Michael Collins ‘squad’, along with volunteers from a number of IRA battalions, launched a series of co-ordinated attacks on British Intelligence operatives across the city. The majority of targets were on the South-side (in reasonably affluent areas) except for the Gresham Hotel (where two men were shot dead) and an unspecified target in East Wall.
Information on the East Wall operation is scarce, but using the recently released Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection we can now confirm some details. Up to now the available information consisted of a location – East Road, and a summary of “This operation did not come off as the targets had left the house the day before and there was nobody at home when the Volunteers called. Apart from the name of the road, nothing exists on the targets .It had been allocated to 2nd Battalion and appears to be the only one of their operations which did not come off.”
In fact , the target was on Church Road , and in their military pension applications two members of the 2nd Battalion , Dublin Brigade , Irish Republican Army, make reference to their participation in Church Road ‘job’ .Details are still scarce- neither the exact address or the individual targeted are mentioned , but hopefully further material will be forthcoming. For anybody who does not know the geography of the East Wall area, East Road and Church Road merge, and it is easy to see how confusion might arise.
Captain William Byrne states simply in relation to November 21st operation that his role was “organising for job and making preparations on job at church Rd. – the man wasn’t there.”
Michael Smyth gave a little more detail. He states that on Bloody Sunday he was on Church Road, and gives the following detail “We went to this house in Church Road. There was a man there but not the man we wanted. We took away all the correspondence of the man we wanted who was down in Cork”.
Both Byrne and Smyth were experienced and well regarded volunteers. They were 1916 participants having served in the Jacobs Garrison. Here are some further details of both mens record of activity during this period –
William Byrne had worked for the Dublin Port and Docks Board but this “Pensionable job lost in 1916”. Like many other republicans he afterwards worked in the Dublin Dockyard, where Irish Citizen Army man Willy Halpin was the shop steward and favoured republicans and Labour men. While here he availed of the opportunity to’make munitions’ and took part in a raid for ’17 pounder shells’. He detailed some of his local operations as “the planning. preparations and carrying out of the attack on the Customs House in Dublin in May 1921, the burning of the city of Dublin Stores and an attack on members of the Auxiliary Police Force (Auxiliaries) at the London and North Western Railway Hotel that same year”.
Following the treaty signing he joined the National Army in March of 1922.
Michael Smyth was a carriage painter by trade, and had lived at a variety of addresses, including Buckingham Street and Bayview Avenue. Amongst his many activities during this period he lists -
“provision of bolt cutters for use in escape of Frank Teeling, Simon Donnelly and Ernie O’ Malley from Mountjoy Prison; and transportation of material to be used in the Customs house attack in May 1921”
And further elaborates that he “Invented and made bolt-cutters for escape of frank teeling …” and that he commandeered and “Brought lorry with paraffin to custom house…”
Unlike his Captain, Byrne, he took the anti treaty side, and was eventually arrested by the National Army but was arrested on the North Strand in a commandeered car with weapons and ammunition stolen from the Custom House.
Smyth (nicknamed ‘Tiger’ Smyth) was a well respected operator, and his former comrade, General Tom Ennis claimed that “On the formation of the National Army I offered Michael Smith the rank of Captain if he would join, which offer I again repeated when he was a prisoner in Gormanstown Camp – both of these offers he turned down”.
Sometime in the 1940’s he moved to number 49 West Road, where he remained until his death in 1967, survived by his widow Margaret Leech.
Our research into the North Docks during the revolutionary period is ongoing. Recently Joe Mooney and Hugo McGuinness met up with Peter Duffy, the UK secretary of the Collins 22 Society. His family were participants in local activity during the period, and a very useful discussion and exchange of information took place, and contact will continue. If you have any information, memorabilia, clarifications or corrections relating to this period please contact us.
(Map sourced from http://www.cairogang.com/ a website well worth reading for information on the British Intelligence operation and the IRA response from this period.)
Our community lost one of its leaders this week with the passing of Maureen Burke from East Wall Road.
Maureen gave of her time and boundless energy to so many people and projects over the years. She was always there to support, to help out and go that extra mile for her neighbours and members of her community.
During all kinds of weather, Maureen could be seen knocking on doors, chatting to neighbours and delivering community flyers throughout the neighbourhood.
Maureen volunteered for many years with younger people in the area. She was actively involved in the Senior Citizens Christmas Party held in Croke Park each year and would go from shop to shop seeking raffle prizes. She represented the community at the Docklands Seniors Forum each year where she would make the case for greater facilities and support for older people in the area. Up until recently, she continued to attend the North Strand Community forum, always willing to share her thoughts and ideas.
Maureen provoked the powers that be to sit up, take note and listen to what a community wanted. She would make phone calls – a lot of them – and burn the ear off Councillors, TDs, Ministers and the odd Taoiseach to ensure the concerns were heard loud and clear.
She actively campaigned on issues which greatly impacted our area: from the rebuilding of the East Wall Road railway bridge (No Wall, No Way) and the construction of the Dublin Port Tunnel to the HGV ban on East Wall Road and events at Croke Park, Maureen always made sure the community came first.
Above all Maureen was a true neighbour – always looking out for people around her and willing to help out in whatever way she could – even if it was by just listening. She doted on neighbours’ children, looked out for stray cats with some milk and took in parcel deliveries!
Always forward thinking, Maureen once talked Readymix into dumping a tonne of sand in her front garden and in the downpours of rain, began filling sand bags for neighbours as the River Tolka came close to bursting its banks!
Maureen’s baking skills were legendary – just ask anyone who ever tasted one of her Christmas cakes or puddings!
Always one to put others first, Maureen was a natural and original community leader and will be greatly missed by all those she engaged with and an entire community to which she gave a voice.
May she rest in peace.
The East Wall History Festival 2014 was a great success . While everybody agrees it was the best one yet the success was tinged with sadness following the death of our friend and colleague Sarah Lundberg in July. In memory of Sarah we promoted a strong suicide awareness message throughout the past two weeks.
At the suggestion of Alice Dunne, at each event raffles were held and Cycle Against Suicide wrist bands were sold. We are delighted to announce that €1,200 was collected and will be presented to the charity during the week , through Holy Faith Killester where Alice and Rebecca attend . Thanks to everybody for their generosity and support .
For more information see : https://www.facebook.com/eastwallhistory
This Year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Sean O’Casey , one of Ireland’s most famous playwrights.
Sean O’Casey and his family moved to number 25 Hawthorn Terrace when he was a young boy , and remained there for a number of years before moving to Abercorn Road . This Sunday a plaque will be unveiled on his former Hawthorn Terrace home .
The event will assemble at the Sean O’Casey Community Centre (St. Marys Road) at 2pm on Sunday 2nd November. From there we will proceed to Hawthorn Terrace , and ceremony will include a piper from the Laurence O’Tooles Pipe Band .
We are delighted to announce that the unveiling will be conducted by broadcaster Joe Duffy , a life-long fan of O’Caseys writing.