This is an account of an ambush which took place during the Irish Civil War near the town of Glenamoy in the Barony of Erris. This engagement took place in September 1922 just three months after the conflict began with the bombing of the Four Courts in Dublin. After the start of the war the National Forces (Regulars) moved quickly and by August 1922 they had control of the East and most of the South. There were, however, many areas in the West that were still in Republican (Irregulars) hands.
In September, 1922 National Troops were posted in the Workhouse, Railway Station and Bridges in Ballina. On Tuesday, the 12th of September, the Republican Forces attacked Ballina using one hundred and fifty well equipped Troops and an armoured car, “Balllinalea”, which had been captured from Nationalist Troops, at an earlier stage. Shots were fired at the sentries on the bridge which resulted in the death of a young girl on her way to Mass.
This incident was followed by a short engagement at the railway station.
The Republican Forces never wanted a full battle at Ballina so their forces split up into two groups. One of these units, commanded by General Kelly, moved westwards along the coast road. His armed escort, the armoured car “Ballinalea” left him in Ballycastle leaving Kelly and his men to continue westwards. They spent Wednesday, the 13th digging their trucks out of the poor muddy roads between Ballycastle and Glenamoy.
On the following day, Thursday, the 14th September, 1922, a force of Nationalist Troops, numbering around thirty, arrived at Bangor. They arrested two men, one of whom was armed. Later on this date these Troops were fired upon by a group of armed Republicans . After a short skirmish the Nationalist Troops surrounded the enemy Troops taking five of them prisoner.The National soldiers now moved on to Glenlossera Lodge, Glenamoy, where they surrounded the building. When they discovered that it was occupied by a large force of Republicans the Nationalist leader, Brigader General Neary, sent for reinforcements. By this time General Kilroy and his force of Republican Troops had arrived at the scene from Ballina. The Nationalist Troops were unconscious of this large number of Republicans, under Kilroy, who now had them surrounded.
Kilroy’s men placed themselves in ambush position and opened fire at the Nationalist Forces. In this time burst of gun and machinegun fire four Nationalist Troops were killed. They were:
Captain Healy; Pontoon
Lt. W. J. Gill; Ballinalea
Vol. Sean Higgins; Foxford
Vol. Thomas Rall; Dublin
After this initial shock the Nationalist Troops reorganised themselves and returned fire. This ambush raged in open fields for many hours. The Nationalists fought bravely despite the Republicans having the advantages of greater numbers and better equipment (machine guns), seventeen Nationalist Troops were surrounded and taken prisoner by General Kelly.
Later in the ambush the Nationalist forces surrounded a house in the area owned by the Irwins. They were of the belief that it was being occupied by General Kelly. As there was a woman and her children in the house they refrained from bombing on the Republicans, on seeing the house surrounded opened fire on the enemy Troops. In this brief engagement two further Nationalist Troops were killed. They were:
Serg. Major Edward Carbbe
Vol. Patrick Bray
Both of the above men were killed by explosive bullets. After this final confrontation Neary knew the battle was lost. Those at the rear of his force retreated o their cars and escaped. Those at the front who were now outgunned decided to surrender. The Nationalist Force had fought bravely but had lost six men. The Republicans captured forty two rifles, revolvers and a large amount of ammunition. Prisoners taken by the Republicans at Glenamoy were later released by General Kelly.
The dead and wounded from the ambush were later collected by Doctors Walsh (Ballina) and Kelly (Westport) and transported back to Ballina in Red Cross trucks. A memorial stone was later erected in the memory of the six men who died in the Glenamoy Ambush.
Taken from “Report of the Erris Survey, August 1990 – May 1994”, Part 3. Sponsored by FAS and Iorrais Teo.