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The Outrages


ISBN: 9781856358064

written by Pearse Lawlor.


The Outrages gives an account of the major incidents, now slipping from local memory, as the War of Independence escalated from attacks on RIC barracks into internecine atrocities. The many lives lost in each northern county are chronicled with factual accounts of attacks and reprisals, the impact these events had in Westminster and how Churchill, Craig and Collins reacted.

Included are the events leading to the creation of the Ulster Special Constabulary and an in-depth account of the shooting of A Specials at Clones railway station, the slaughter of eight unionists in a single night in south Armagh, the cover-up after B Specials left three innocent nationalists dead and two wounded in Cushendall, and the litany of reprisal killings from Camlough to Desertmartin. Details of attacks on the Great Northern Railway and other networks, not previously published, provide a unique insight into the problems faced by railwaymen and by the government during the period.

A must read for anyone interested in this period of Irish history and a treasury for genealogists.

Pearse Lawlor is a retired civil servant who served for 40 years in various departments of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and has worked with the European Commission. For the past twenty years his work entailed travel to the Far East, the Middle East, Europe and North America.




For the people of Ulster the events taking place in the rest of Ireland during 1918/19 had little impact on their lives. It was something they read about in the newspapers. These events, however, signalled the birth of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the start of the War of Independence. As attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) gathered pace, the ripples of the violence spread northwards and by 1920 the war was on the doorstep, often literally, of the nationalist and unionist population in Ulster.

The war in the northern and border counties would have an additional dimension to that in the rest of the island. Unionists had armed themselves in 1912 as the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist - by all means - nationalist rule in Ireland and by 1920 had reorganised to combat increasing attacks by the IRA. There was also a latent sectarianism, which bubbled to the surface each year during the Twelfth of July celebrations, and this had a significant impact in raising tensions, as religious animosity was added to the mix. The Outrages seeks to record as accurately as possible the incidents and the killings by both sides during the period 1920-22 in the border counties and Northern Ireland and, for perhaps the first time, provides an open and frank account of the creation and activities of the Ulster Special Constabulary. Many of the incidents and atrocities committed by both sides in this area have been airbrushed from history, often as deeds best forgotten, or have disappeared from memory. Others, to the present day, remain firmly embedded in the psyche of northern nationalists and unionists as part of the 'what aboutry' of recent Irish history, where accusations on one side are answered with 'well what about the time you-' on the other.

Events in Belfast around this time, including the 1920 pogroms, have already been documented and I have written in The Burnings 1920 about the pogroms in Lisburn, Banbridge and Dromore. This book provides a new insight into life and death outside of Belfast, in rural Ulster and the towns and cities in the northern counties caught up in the conflict during 1920-1922. Some of the earliest IRA activity took place in County Donegal during 1919 and attacks on RIC barracks steadily increased, but it was in Derry that the full impact of the War of Independence registered with the northern unionist population. 1920 was to be the start of one of the worst and bloodiest periods of violence in Ireland's history.
Pearse Lawlor


The changes in the political landscape of Ireland hit home when, for the first time since the siege of Derry in 1689, unionists lost control of Londonderry Corporation in the local government elections in January 1920. Following on from the landslide victory of Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election, this was a major blow to unionists in the city. The Irish Parliamentary Party and Sinn Féin councillors combined to ensure the election of Alderman Hugh O'Doherty, a Catholic, as lord mayor. O'Doherty went on record to say that he would not attend any function where there was liable to be a loyal toast. His view was that it would be the people of Ireland as a whole, not the 'Protestants of Ulster', who would decide the future of the island. This antagonised loyalists in the city and played to their fears that they might be abandoned when partition came. Unionist resentment and ill-feeling led to growing skirmishes with nationalists within the  city.  In April 1920 republican prisoners captured in earlier skirmishes were being brought to Bishop Street jail, located in an interface area. The taunting between nationalist and unionist crowds gathered in the area became more aggressive as stones were thrown, and soon progressed to hand-to-hand fighting. This went on for an hour before spreading to other streets.

The RIC barracks at Leckey Road came under attack by nationalists and at least six of the attackers suffered gunshot wounds. A couple of days later, with the Ulster Volunteer Force taking part in disturbances, shots were fired into the mainly nationalist Bogside district.
Because there were ex-servicemen among UVF ranks, they were able to persuade the British soldiers in the city to side with them. During a riot in Bridge Street, soldiers of the Dorset Regiment turned their guns on the nationalist crowd, which included women and children, to disperse them. The nationalists saw the partisan approach adopted by the British army in the city and reacted a few days later, on 15 May 1920, by attacking two soldiers on patrol. This led to further, full-scale riots.

The trouble culminated in an invasion of the Bridge Street area by armed UVF men on the same day. This time armed nationalists returned fire. As the police tried in vain to restore order, they too came under attack. Catholics were evicted, or fled, from unionist districts and vice versa. One of the casualties of this four-hour gun battle was Detective Sergeant Denis Moroney from the RIC Special Branch. He was shot as he, along with other police, pursued rioters along the quay.
The police and the military turned a blind eye to the activities of the UVF when, also on 15 May, armed and masked, they took control of Carlisle Bridge over the River Foyle, held up traffic and questioned pedestrians. Everyone stopped had to declare their religion. Any Catholic on the bridge at this time was assaulted.

The violence in the city continued and on Sunday 13 June a group of nationalists out walking at Prehen Woods, just outside the city, were attacked. This triggered further violence in the city. Rioting started in the nationalist Long Tower Street and Bishop Street, and by the end of the week had spread to a nationalist enclave of Union Street and Cross Street in the Waterside district on the other side of the River Foyle. Nationalist-owned homes were attacked, ransacked and set on fire on the night of Friday 18 June. The Derry Journal said that, 'the streets had the appearance as if an avenging army had passed through them, so great was the destruction caused'.

Nationalist residents sought to escape across the river by ferry boat as the UVF still controlled the Carlisle Bridge, the only route across the Foyle, but the boats came under fire. It might have been expected that troops from the Dorset Regiment in the nearby Ebrington barracks would provide some protection, but residents later reported that men in military uniform had taken part in the attacks. The situation was rapidly descending into civil war.

On Saturday night the presence of troops and police on the streets did not prevent a loyalist mob from opening fire on the nationalist Long Tower at 9 p.m. Fire was directed from vantage points on the city walls and from the unionist enclaves of Fountain and Albert streets. The UVF took control of the Diamond and Guildhall Square and from Derry's walls fired into the Bogside. The IRA, defending the nationalist area, were unable to equal the superior firepower of the loyalist UVF.

The police called for reinforcements from Ebrington barracks, but a detachment from the Dorset Regiment did not arrive until two hours later, by which time four nationalists and one unionist had lost their lives. The trouble spread to William Street where a number of unionist-owned businesses were looted. The military immediately announced a curfew and replaced the loyalist gunmen, putting heavy-duty machine guns in position and unleashing a hail of fire into the Bogside, killing six more nationalists. Far from bringing the situation under control, this only served to exacerbate it.

There was a calm of sorts on Sunday, but on Monday that changed with the killing of a Protestant. In the early hours of Monday, Isabella Waugh, owner of the Canadian House Hotel, heard the sound of marching feet and, looking out of her bedroom window, saw a military patrol marching up John Street. She was about to return to bed when she heard a whistle being blown and saw people going out onto the street.

Curious, she stayed at the window and then heard a shot being fired. She noted the time: 5.30 a.m. She saw James Dobbin coming from the direction of Foyle Street, and as he approached the hotel she saw two men, later identified as Hugh McFeely and Robert Doyle, call on Dobbin to halt and put his hands up. She watched as McFeely (Feely in some reports) put a revolver to Dobbin's side and fired. Dobbin slumped to the ground and the two men started to kick him. When they finally stopped she heard McFeely say, 'That's enough for him. We'll throw him in the Foyle.' She watched in horror as the two men grabbed Dobbin's legs and dragged him away, his head bumping on the square setts of the road. They took him through the railway gates and threw him into the river.

Later in the day the UVF resumed their checkpoint on Carlisle Bridge and openly patrolled, ignoring the presence of police. On Monday evening, they launched an attack on Bridge Street.

In the interim the IRA's Derry City unit, which had neither the manpower nor the resources to compete with the firepower of the UVF, the RIC and the military, called for assistance. Peadar OÌøåÀå_Donnell, responsible for the IRA in neighbouring County Donegal, responded, bringing men and weapons into Derry city. As a battle raged over the next two nights, a more confident IRA managed to displace UVF snipers firing from St Columb's College on Windmill Hill, resulting in an estimated twenty UVF casualties.

They then took control of the college and prevented the vantage point being used to fire into nationalist areas. This was the first effective action by the IRA in the city, and the deaths of loyalists tempered the UVF-organised violence. One of the victims was Howard McKay, son of the governor of the loyalist Apprentice Boys of Derry. When 1,500 extra soldiers were brought into the city on 23 June, the violence eased. The death toll of both nationalists and unionists in the city had reached forty.

Derry loyalists took advantage of the increased tension leading up to the 12 July celebration to stir up emotions in Belfast. At a meeting of the ultra-loyalist Belfast Protestant Association at the Workman & Clark shipyard in Belfast, a Derry loyalist told the assembled crowd how Sinn Féin had taken control of Londonderry Corporation. That, coupled with attacks on the nationalist community in Banbridge, Dromore and Lisburn, and a speech made at the 'Field' in Finaghy, when Edward Carson addressed thousands of Orangemen, resulted in the outbreak of unprecedented sectarian violence on 21 July in Belfast.


On the evening of 15 February around thirty IRA Volunteers, under the command of Eoin O'Duffy and Ernie O'Malley, attacked the RIC barracks at Shantonagh, a junction on the Great Northern Railway Company's railway network in County Monaghan. A number of prominent Volunteers including Dan Hogan, James McKenna, Terry Magee, Charlie Emerson, John McCann, James Flynn, Phil Marron, P. J. Daly and Matt Fitzpatrick were involved. Located seven miles from Castleblaney, the barracks was a substantial building usually manned by six officers. With help from the Latton Volunteers, approach roads had been either trenched or blocked with felled trees to prevent reinforcements reaching the barracks during the attack. The final act was to cut the telephone wires, left to the last, as a dead telephone wire was an indication to the police that an attack might be about to take place in the vicinity.

Wearing white armbands for identification, the Volunteers moved in. They gained access to a building adjoining the barracks and planted gelignite in the wall to blast their way in. The sound of the explosives being placed in the wall most probably alerted the RIC, who had retired for the night. They immediately took up defensive positions with their rifles at loopholes in the walls and at the sandbagged windows.

Around 2 a.m. the Volunteers opened fire on the barracks and called on the RIC to surrender. The request was greeted with return fire. The RIC were prepared to put up a fight. There was a stand-off for a considerable period and eventually the order was given for the gelignite to be prepared for detonation. A final call was made for the policemen to surrender or be blown out of the barracks. There was no response. Inside the barracks, the two sergeants - Graham, a Protestant who had only been in post three days, and Lawton (Lawson in some reports), a Catholic - debated what to do. Lawton feared for his life if he surrendered, as he had been responsible, while at another barracks, for the arrest of a large number of Volunteers. As they discussed the matter, there was the sound of three long blasts on a whistle. The order to detonate the bomb had been given.

The bomb blew a gaping hole in the wall of the barracks, bringing the upstairs floor crashing down. The Volunteers climbed in through the rubble to find the policemen in a state of shock, covered in dust and some buried in the debris. The Volunteers set about collecting as many rifles and revolvers and as much ammunition as they could. Their haul included a Verey pistol and twelve hand grenades. By 5 a.m. the IRA had disappeared into the night with their captured weapons. They used a stolen car to transport the weapons and had left an escape route free from obstructions. All went well until the car ran out of petrol near Clones. Despite this setback, everyone made it back home and the weapons were secured.

Four of the RIC officers - Sergeant Lawton and Constables Gallagher, Murtagh and Roddy - were later treated for their injuries in Carrickmacross hospital. Sergeant Graham later said that he had walked the nine miles to Carrickmacross to seek medical attention, as he had been unable to drive because the road was blocked with felled trees. Constable Nelson and Sergeant Graham survived uninjured.

While the capture of police barracks in other parts of Ireland had become a regular occurrence, this was the first RIC barracks in Ulster to be captured by the IRA. Its capture led to the closure of other isolated barracks in Inniskeen, Cullaville and Clarebane. In May that year, the IRA burned all the abandoned barracks. The military and RIC devoted considerable resources to tracking down those who had taken part in the attack. By mid-March Eoin O'Duffy, Dan Hogan, Phil Marron, Johnny McCabe, Jimmy Winters, Jack McCabe, George McEnearney, Tom Clerkin, Frank Fitzpatrick, Frank Sheridan, Tom Heuston, James McKenna and Matt Fitzpatrick had all been arrested and taken to Crumlin Road jail in Belfast.



A year after a raid on Adavoyle Orange Hall on 7 January 1919 to obtain guns, a few miles away in the village of Newtownhamilton, a more ambitious plan was implemented. The Volunteers planned to bluff an entry into the RIC barracks, to overpower the police and take their stock of weapons and ammunition. If everything went according to plan they would then burn the barracks. Early in February forty men dressed in British army uniforms marched up to the large two-storey barracks and demanded admission. The officer on guard duty, unaware of any military patrol in the area, was suspicious and refused entry. As the men waited outside, a crowd started to gather in the mainly loyalist village. The group then marched away, the locals unsure of what was happening. However, they returned later with a more audacious plan that had all the hallmarks of twenty-two-year-old Francis Thomas Aiken from Carrickbracken, Camlough, who was the commander of the 4th Northern Division of the IRA.

Above from Mercier Press Publications.


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  • Model: BI-800-129
  • Shipping Weight: 400gms
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This product was added to our catalog on Monday 06 January, 2014.