Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Murder by Crown Forces of Eddie Carmody of Ballylongford, County Kerry, on November 22nd 1920

Lieutenant Eddie Carmody was born in Moyvane, Co. Kerry and at a very young age moved to Ballylongford to work on a local farm. He was an outstanding Gaelic footballer and an all round athlete. He was a man of great courage, honesty and innate chivalry. He was one of the first local men to join Óglaigh na hÉireann becoming at first the Quarter Master of his local company and then a Lieutenant within the IRA. While on his way to an arms dump outside Ballylongford on the 22nd November 1920, he was ambushed by a patrol of Black and Tans. He was severely wounded after being fired upon several times, but still managed to struggle away a few hundred yards. The Black and Tans following his trail of blood found him after a brief search and dragged him onto the roadway, where he was kicked and beaten with rifle butts. After being stabbed by the soldier’s bayonets in a frenzied attack he was shot several times in the face resulting in his death. His body was then put onto a cart and dragged through the village to the local barrack's, where he was left outside in a turf shed till his father collected his body the following day. Eddie Carmody was unarmed at the time.
Lead Up to Murder
The local events leading up to the murder of IRA Lieutenant Eddie Carmody can be traced back to 1919, when Ballylongford IRA volunteers successfully defended a Feis being held in the village in mid-summer. Posters announcing the date of the Feis were distributed far and wide, and sensing a political aspect to the proceedings, a company of Welsh Fusiliers were sent to Ballylongford from Limerick, and arrived around noon and took over what was known then as the Big Store, They issued a proclamation banning the festivities. It was decided by the IRA to create a diversion, so a few horses and sidecars and ponies and traps were ostentatiously loaded with known IRA volunteers in full view of the British Army company. The convoy then took off, followed by the Welsh Fusiliers who found themselves at Craughdarrig, surrounded and detained by the Volunteers they had been following. The British Army men were detained whilst the Feis proceeded successfully in an alternative venue at McNamara’s at the Building in Tullahinnell. In the evening, after the Feis was more or less too late to stop, the British soldiers were permitted to return, no doubt somewhat chastened by their welcome to Kerry. It was then that a disturbance broke out at the rear of Collin’s public house in Ballylongford between some young men who had drink taken. Brian O’Grady one of the local IRA officers and Lieutenant Eddie Carmody, were called to bring some volunteers to eject the troublemakers from the village. Shortly after that a British officer arrived and asked if everything was under control, and added ‘We don’t want any trouble and anyway we are clearing out in the morning’ which suggested that he was less than concerned that the IRA seemed to be in de facto control of things. Incidentally, and perhaps of interest for those aware of Ballylongford’s strong literary links , the British officer who enquired that all was ‘under control’, was none other than Captain Robert Graves, the English poet who would later become famous for his novel ‘I Claudius’.
This humiliating failure to assert control over the area indicated that Sinn Féin and the IRA were in a strong position in this area. This was followed in late 1919 by an incident where an RIC man was fired on by the IRA in Bridge Street and wounded for insulting a young priest not long ordained. All throughout this period Eddie Carmody was a pivotal figure in the local IRA. In early 1920, Eddie Carmody took part in a successful and peacefully transacted raid on Kilelton house, which secured a small amount of arms for the IRA but also a lot of kudos for the raiders, it being carried out unmasked and in full daylight to prevent a shoot-out occurring. The raid resulted in a number of reprisal burnings by the British army, including Boland’s garage where the IRA party had acquired the vehicle for the raid.
The Tans
It was inevitable that the level of conflict would intensify in January 1920 when the Black and Tans were deployed in the area, no doubt in an attempt to bring ‘to heel’ this rebellious village. The ‘Tans’ as they were known locally were ex-British soldiers and ex-convicts recruited to be a paramilitary quasi-fascist terror force in Ireland, whose primary purpose was to intimidate the local people into submission. Things were hotting up in the area, with IRA activity against the British forces intensifying, with shooting incidents and sabotage of British rule increasing enormously. The reaction was a much higher degree of reprisal and terrorising of the locals by both the RIC and the Tans, things had moved on a lot from the days of the Feis in 1919. This culminated in a situation where the local IRA took prisoner an RIC man and a Black and Tan, who had been captured by the IRA in the avenue leading to the church in Ballylongford. The RIC man and the Tan had been involved in a vain attempt to detain the parishioners after devotions. The two would be detainers, were themselves detained by the IRA. But they were, after some negotiations, released unharmed, after being held overnight in Moyvane. This represented another damaging humiliation for the British forces in the Ballylongford area. It was obvious that a strong response would soon follow. In the aftermath of this action, the local volunteers were ordered by the IRA Kerry HQ to place their arms in a dump temporarily, and out of harms way, since Ballylongford was to be swamped in a search for arms. According to the former IRA officer Brian O’Grady, this meant that the volunteers were not able to resist effectively when the Tans did come looking for revenge.
So it was in reprisal for these earlier actions, that on the morning of the 22nd November 1920 Ballylongford was flooded by a force of Tans and police which arrived in four or five Lorries. There then followed a day of searches and intimidation by the RIC and the Tans throughout the village, interspersed with numerous visits to pubs, where copious quantities of beer and spirits were consumed at the unfortunate landlords (enforced) expense. In the early part of the evening a large number of Tans emerged and started firing their guns and smashing windows in the Tea lane area, and then proceeded to do the same in Bridge Street. A group of unarmed IRA men were dispersed around the village to advise people to avoid where the Tans were congregated. At some point a patrol of Black and Tans proceeded up Tea lane again, and fired on Eddie Carmody. Seeing how things were deteriorating it is thought that Carmody was making his way, in his role as an IRA quartermaster, to retrieve some hand guns from the nearest dump to the village. He never made it to the arms dump; he was spotted and wounded somewhere near the Doctors gate. Shortly afterwards a further fusillade of shots was heard from near the Rusheen Grove, where Carmody had got to despite being wounded. It appears that his pursuers followed him by observing where the trail of blood led them. On capturing him it is reported that he was beaten with rifle butts and then shot in cold blood, his final shooting being marked by much drunken cheering.
Eddie Carmody was laid to rest in Murhur graveyard, and was accorded full Irish Republican Army military honours despite the continuation of repression and terror throughout the area.


David Duff said...

The Tans were, indeed, a disgraceful bunch of thugs, by and large, and I would not disagree with your description of them as "a paramilitary quasi-fascist terror force in Ireland, whose primary purpose was to intimidate the local people into submission".

Not the least of their malpractices was teaching the IRA how it should be done! A lesson that came to full fruition in the last 30 years and is now prevalent in parts of Ulster. Interestingly, of course, they were never able to intimidate the Republic because that old brute, de Valera, intimidated them to destruction!

The Irish are so much better at this 'intimidation' lark than us Brits, don't you think?

Lizzie O'Grady said...


Can you tell me where you got information for this article. Brian O'Grady mentioned is my Grandfathers brother, and am interested to find out more on this particular period where he may have been involved.

lisa said...

the tan who finished off eddie carmody was moved to ballybunion and was shot in 1922 on the castle green in broad daylight so he got his just desserts even though a truce was in force

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