This is the site of the Kilmicheal ambush

The Kilmichael Ambush (Irish: Luíochán Chill Mhichíl) was an ambush near the village of Kilmichael in County

Cork on 28 November 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-six local IRA volunteers commanded by Tom Barry killed seventeen members of the RIC Auxiliary Division.[1] The Kilmichael ambush was of great political significance as it came just a week after Bloody Sunday and marked a profound escalation in the IRA’s guerrilla campaign.

Jimmy was my grandfather. When I was on holidays in Cork, about a month or two before he died he told me that he had been a member of the flying squads, a hit and run IRA group under Tom Barry’s command. They had one goal: Ambush and kill Black and Tans. He told me of one attack in which they did kill Black and Tans. The details are very rusty though. They ambushed a truckload of ‘Tans’ and killed them. They had been waiting in a field for about 24 hours for them to come along. A local woman (whose name he told me and which I cannot remember) brought them pots of tea to keep them warm. They slept outdoors that night. I do not remember the location or any other details. No one else seems to have been told this story. But he really did tell me. I had asked questions about this but got no answers. Now I have checked up on the internet about what Jimmy was talking about.

The Black and Tans had been sent into Ireland after the First World War. They were an undisciplined force that indiscriminately retaliated on the local population, such as the burning of Cork city in 1920 by drunken Black and Tans and the reprisal killing of 12 innocent people at a Gaelic Football match at Croke Park in November 1920. The reprisal was for the killing of 11 British police special forces by the IRA. This was known as ‘Bloody Sunday’, not to be mistaken with the other ‘Bloody Sunday‘ which took place in Derry at the end of the 1960’s. In a retaliation attack 10 days later the IRA killed 17 ‘tans’ in Cork. It would seem that Jimmy took part in this attack. Also around this time the Cork Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney had died after a hunger strike. He was being treated as a criminal and he wanted to be treated as a political prisoner. The political tension in Cork was very high at the time. Jimmy worked as chauffeur for Mary MacSwiney, Terence’s’ sister. Mary was a founding member of Cumann na mBan, interned during the 1916 rising and founder of an Irish language girls school.

It is also important to note that none of Jimmy’s own children seem to know of the above “Black and Tan ambush” story. All I can say is that Jimmy told me and it is only now dawning on me that I may be the only one who has heard this story.

Also, the Ken Loach film ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley‘ that won the best film in Cannes in 2006 has a scene which is based around the Kilmichael Ambush. The film is well worth watching and it very realistic.

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