The Founding of the Presentation Brothers’ Schools at Birr in 1877; recollections of 1927 from J. Deering.
[Birr Historical Society meets again on Monday 4 December 2023 after a break of three…
Oliver Mulpeter was heard to say he ‘would not miss it for the world’ and carrying the national flag which he proudly bore as the nephew of one of the wounded soldiers, he was among the first to arrive.
The commemoration was to honour soldiers of the National Army who were wounded in a Civil War ambush, two of whom died some weeks later. Relatives of all four casualties gathered for a roadside ceremony on a bitterly cold January day with traffic thundering past inches away on that busy road between Raheen and Geashill in North Offaly.
An honour guard of soldiers of The Irish Defence Forces Veterans group was present led by Declan Sheridan. They came to attention and gave the salute as the ceremony progressed – a poignant mark of respect to their comrades-in-arms of a century ago, their presence there an important and vital element of the event.
It was one hundred years to the day that the ambush took place at that spot, within sight of old Raheen chapel, on a bend of the road overlooked by rising ground. The ambush party opened fire with rifles and a Lewis gun from both sides of the road on a platoon of fourteen soldiers marching from their Geashill garrison to Sunday mass. Luckily the Lewis gun jammed, otherwise casualties would have been much higher.
John Lacey of Clopook in Laois, the senior officer leading the party and the lieutenant in charge of the garrison was hit in the shoulder but continued to organise a defence from the ditches where his men had taken cover. Private Patrick Lynch of Ballyfore, Croghan was struck in the leg and died on January 12th from sepsis in the Curragh Military hospital. Private P.C. White of Blessington, Wicklow was struck in the left shoulder and died on January 18th from secondary haemorrhage, also at the Curragh. Private Patrick Mulpeter of Tober, Daingean was struck in the leg also but both he and Lieutenant Lacey recovered from their wounds.
The event organiser local historian P.J. Goode spoke of how privileged he was to have this opportunity, being the son of a National Army volunteer who was also wounded in the Civil War. He described the ambush and named the casualties, spoke of how most of that new army had previously been volunteers of the IRA. Lynch was the adjutant of Croghan Company, White was a member of Blessington Flying Column, Lacey was extremely active in his part of Laois and the Mulpeters were members of Cloneygowan Company IRA.
P.J. Goode gives the first oration to be followed by Dr. Philip McConway (to his right).
Dr. Philip McConway spoke at length about the events leading to the ambush and its aftermath. He is the leading historian on the Revolutionary period in Offaly and is preparing a multi-volume work on the subject. Declan Sheridan of the Army Veterans group spoke of the failure of the state, being neither capable nor willing to honour the seven hundred or so fatal deaths of National Army soldiers, casualties of the Civil War and leaving it to local volunteer groups like those present to address their shortcomings. He spoke of the state’s ongoing neglect of its duty to the army and neglect of army veterans.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Cloneygowan community by P.J. Goode and on behalf of Lieutenant Lacey by members of his relatives from Laois and Oliver Mulpeter made his contribution too.
Among the relatives of the Lieutenant were his cousins Raymond and Paddy Lacey, others were Olive Lacey, Patsy Dwyer, Mary McDonald and Jennifer Taggart. Among the relatives of Volunteer Lynch were nephews Sean Lynch and Ned Sheeran along with his son and grandson, grandniece Elizabeth Rigney Alexander, Patsy Feery, Michael Hannon, along with neighbours of the Lynches of Croghan. Present also were the Davis brothers from Bogtown, Brendan Berry, Niall and Amelia Goode.
It might have been a windswept corner on a biting cold winter’s day yet in the hearts of the men and women present beat a compassionate desire to remember and honour those young men, especially the two who had given all they had and all they would ever become in defence of the emerging state, Saorstát Eireann.
Relatives group which includes Laceys and relatives from Stradbally, Lynchs and Sheerans of Croghan, the Davis brothers from Bogtown, Brendan Berry of Killeigh, Bill Pilkington of Daingean, Oliver Mulpeter flying the national flag and the Goodes, on the extreme right.
P.J. Goode 2023
Dublin and Cloneygowan, organiser of the event at the ambush site.
Our thanks to P.J. Goode for this article. His book is available from the Society at Bury Quay, Tullamore and at our website http://www.offalyhistory.com