Thursday, April 23, 2020
The Gooseberries of Wrath
Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill
It was June of 1921, a few months before the Truce that would bring an end to the War of Independence. Around 15 members of the flying column lay in wait at Carrantryla, Dunmore. They had been tipped off that the RIC would come by that day. From a military point of view the IRA, outnumbering the enemy, were well prepared. Despite being armed the RIC were on the harmless mission of gooseberry picking that day. Within moments they would be dead. They however stopped at the estate gate and waited a while before mysteriously cycling away again. The watching IRA found their behaviour peculiar. It was as if someone had warned the RIC of their presence. The incident would not have merited much attention had I not recently discovered that my own relatives were involved in it.
My grandmother, Agnes Boyle, born at Carrantryla in 1915, often spoke of encountering the IRA in the woods there as a young child. Towards the end of her life in 2015 she spoke a lot of the Big House there, vivid in her mind but obliterated from the landscape in the 1940s. Her father, John Edward Deneny was the caretaker there. I was researching the murder of Thomas McEver when I came across the witness statement of Captain Thomas Mannion of Brackloon, who gave a statement to The Bureau of Military History in 1956. The Bureau was set up in 1947 by former IRA man and Minister for Defence, Oscar Traynor. Its aim was to record for future generations the actions of IRA volunteers during the fight for Irish freedom. The statements were given on condition that they would not be made public until all the witnesses were dead. Thus they remained closed until 2003. Part of the statement made reference to the unsuccessful ambush and described the role of my great grandmother in it. Mannion wrote:
“One day in June 1921, before the ambush on the Moylough/ Mountbellew Road, as far as I remember, about 15 or 16 men of the flying column under the command of Brigade Commandant Patrick Dunleavy took up ambush positions along the drive leading to Carrantryla House near Munmore. A small party of R.I.C. from Dunmore was expected to come to the house for gooseberries. They had been there some days before on the same mission, but they were told that the fruit was not ripe. Mrs. Denneny, wife of the owner of Carrantryla House, told Volunteer Martin Kenny of the Dunmore Company about the first visit of the R.I.C. and the date on which they were to come again. Volunteer Kenny told me, and I informed the flying column. Four R.I.C. came to the gate of the house, about half a mile from the house itself. They remained at the gate for a few minutes and then went away. We could not understand this as we were certain that they had not seen us.”
Mrs Deneny was the wife of John Edward. They say opposites attract and in this case political opposites most certainly did. While he represented British law and order his wife was more Republican inclined. Mary Deneny née Murphy was born in Knocknagoshel, County Kerry in 1878. John Edward Deneny was born in Cavan in 1863, joined the RIC in 1882 and was posted to Kerry when the couple met and subsequently married in 1901. Jobs were thin on the ground and working for the British administration was viewed as a chance to better yourself. The RIC was an armed colonial police force, the eye and ears of the British government. The recent furore over the commemoration of the RIC shows that they are poorly regarded and from 1919 onwards were regarded as traitors yet this was previously not the case and with the exception of evictions were seemingly well regarded. In 1902, Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Féin wrote the following in The United Irishmen about the force:
“The Royal Irish Constabulary is a body of Irishmen recruited from the Irish people; bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh. The typical young constabularyman is Irish of the Irish; Catholic, and (as the word goes) Nationalist; the son of decent parents; his father a Home Rule farmer . . . his uncle a patriotic priest; his sweetheart the daughter of a local Nationalist district councillor and patriotic publican. He is smiled on by the Irish clergy; he is smiled on by the Irish girls; he is respected by the young fellows of the street corner and the country crossroads.”
To avoid conflicts of interest RIC members were never posted to their home county. He was serving in Rearcross, County Tipperary when he entered the 1911 census details for himself and the three other RIC men in the barracks. Perhaps for security reasons the details differ from those of a normal citizen. His surname is only represented by the initial D and reference to being an Irish speaker or having any children is left blank as are those of his three other colleagues. He retired in 1912 with the rank of sergeant. Rearcross was his last posting, a county where seven years later the War of Independence would start. We can only speculate how he would have fared had he still served during this time. As a boy I often asked about my great-grandfather. ”He was in the RIC” was the start and end of the information I received. It was neither praised nor condemned. It wasn’t really spoken about. After retiring he moved his family to Galway to take up the position of gamekeeper and caretaker at Carrantryla House. Though not mentioned by name in Mannion’s witness statement as a former RIC man he would have been suspected of being an informer and the republican sympathies of his wife may well have kept him alive. After all it was she who helped set up the ambush. Peace came to Dunmore and the gooseberry incident was forgotten. Four men very nearly lost their lives and it was never revealed who warned them. The Deneny family continued to live in the Big House until its owner, a Major Handcock returned in 1928. John Edward died in 1949 and was buried in Dunmore. His grave makes no mention of RIC service. This is not unusual and it is mostly the gravestones of those who died prior to 1922 that mention any connection to the force. Mary Deneny died in 1955 and was buried with him.
Friday, April 10, 2020
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Ireland is not really suitable for wine growing.The Romans called this place Hibernia, meaning cold place. There is however a tiny wine production of 500 bottles a year in North County Dublin. Its a nice Merlot but expensive.
In 2018, the body of baby was discovered on a beach in Balbriggan.
I came across this in Second Hand bookshop in Kilkenny. A great find. The man knows how to write a story.