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Updated: Feb 18

Figure 1: Blarney RIC Station & Smith's Hotel c1900.

On the evening of 1 June 1920, Blarney Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks was ambushed by Volunteers from the First and Sixth Cork Battalions. This attack followed the same pattern as many others over the previous nine months. Firstly, the capture of badly needed arms and ammunition and more importantly, to clear out these smaller outposts which were manned by RIC with considerable local knowledge and therefore proved dangerous to local Volunteers.

'Upwards of four hundred men from 1st and 6th Battalions were mobilised. Of this number only about thirty men were engaged in the actual attack.'[1] The other members of the battalions were tasked to blow up roads leading to Blarney thereby delaying any reinforcements from Cork City (eight kilometres south-east) or Ballincollig (three kilometres south).

Sean O'Connell and Tim Lehane from 'G' company were to block the road to Carrigrohane and they set about this by felling trees. However, as they began their objective, 'lorry loads of armed military approached from Ballincollig and opened fire' on O'Connell and his party. Due to the fact that the Volunteers were out numbered and out gunned they retreated.

Figure 2: Smiths Hotel, Blarney (via NLI).

Meanwhile, back in Blarney, Cork City Volunteers under Florrie O'Donoghue were preparing their assault on the barracks. The prolific Pa Murray was involved and he recollects that at least thirty men were involved arriving in Blarney by motor, the vehicles 'commandeered' from the Universal Motor Company, Cornmarket Street, Cork.[2] Smith's Hotel (Blarney Castle Hotel) was located, on the right of the barracks. The plan was to breach the adjoining wall between the hotel and barracks thereby gaining direct access to the dayroom of the RIC building. A charge of guncotton was set and the force of the explosion surprised the Volunteers as it blew them through the door of the hotel into the bar.

Figure 3: Blarney Castle Hotel (Smiths) 1950s/60s.

Unfortunately for the Volunteers, the room where the guncotton had been set was destroyed, preventing their access to the barracks and giving the RIC time to prepare for an assault. Pa Murray and his comrades tried to set the roof alight but they did not have enough fuel and therefore had to retire.[3] However, the guncotton did its work, and, although the Volunteers did not capture arms, the barracks was abandoned and taken out of commission the following day when the Blarney Company set fire to the building.[4]

Figure 4: Demise of Blarney RIC Barracks.


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