The Scariff Martyrs

Christy Moore
Language: English

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From Mrs. Murphy of Tulla, Co. Clare

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In alcuni album anche intitolata The Bridge at Killaloe

90 years since shooting of Scariff Martyrs
By Michael Torpey

ON September 18, 1920, during the War of Independence, there was an attack on the Scariff RIC Barracks.

Communications were cut with the other barracks in East Clare and the attack began at 10 pm. Shots were exchanged but the IRA failed to capture the building. Two policemen received slight injuries and at 3am, the attack was called off.
Severe raids by the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries followed and many of the volunteers had to leave their homes and go on the run. They had a series of safe houses where they could rest and had developed a system of early warnings of possible raids by the authorities. One of the safe houses used was the caretaker’s quarters attached to Williamstown House on the shores of Lough Derg near Whitegate.
On November 16, the Board of Works streamer, The Shannon, sailed into Williamstown Harbour. No particular notice was taken of it, as the harbour was due for dredging. However, there was a force of Auxiliaries hidden below deck and they came ashore and surrounded Williamstown House. They arrested the caretaker, Michael Egan, and in his quarters captured Brud Mac Mahon, Alfie Rogers and Martin Gildea. They were officers of the Fourth Battalion, East Clare Brigade of the IRA and had been on the run since the attack on Scariff barracks and the reprisal raids. The four of them were brought by the steamer down the lake to Killaloe.
They were severely tortured, taken out onto the bridge at Killaloe and shot. Even the local clergy were denied admission to the barracks. On November 18, their families were sent telegrams informing them that the four had been shot while trying to escape. That was also the Government’s attitude and the chief secretary told the House of Commons that the crown forces were entitled to fire on people who were trying to escape and who refused to halt when challenged. Eventually the families were allowed claim the bodies and they were brought in four hearses to Scariff Church.
There was a strict 7pm to 7am curfew in force but in spite of that, the local council were determined to hold an inquiry. The coroner for East Clare, Patrick Culloo from Tulla evaded the curfew and convened an inquest in Scariff Church. They ordered a doctor to examine the bodies and he found that each had at least 17 bullet wounds, all fired from close range. The inquest jury returned a verdict of wilful murder by members of the crown forces.
On the Saturday, over 50 priests celebrated solemn requiem mass for the deceased in Scariff Church and they were buried together in the church grounds. Four lorries of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries surrounded the church and graveyard and mourners were forced to pass through a cordon leaving the church. The church itself was searched while the burial was taking place.
The capture and killing of the four men is remembered in the ballad The Scariff Martyrs, well known in East Clare, which has been recorded by Christy Moore in recent years.
The four Scariff Martyrs, Michael Egan, Brud McMahon, Alfie Rogers and Martin Gildea were shot by crown forces on the Bridge at Killaloe on November 17, 1920 – 90 years ago this week.
The dreadful news through Ireland has spread from shore to shore
Such a deed no living man has ever heard before
The deeds of Cromwell in his time I'm sure no worse could do
Than them Black and Tans that murdered those four youths in Killaloe

Three of the four were on the run and searched for all around
Until with this brave Egan in Williamstown was found
They questioned him and tortured him but to his comrades he proved true
And because he would not tell their whereabouts he was shot in Killaloe

On the twelfth day of November the day that they were found
Sold and traced through Galway to that house near Williamstown
They never got a fighting chance but were captured while asleep
And the way that they ill-treated them would cause your blood to creep

The hackled them both hands and feet with twines they could not break
And brought them down to Killaloe by steamer on the lake
Without clergy judge or jury on the bridge they shot them down
And their blood flowed with the Shannon convenient to the town

After three days of perseverance their bodies they let go
And ten pm the funeral passed through Ogonnolloe
They were kept in Scariff chapel for two nights and a day
Now in that place of rest they lie, kind people for them pray

If you were at the funeral it was an awful sight
To see four hundred clergymen and they all dressed up in white
Such a sight as these four martyrs in one grave was never seen
They died to save the flag of love the orange white and green

Now that they are dead and gone I hope in peace they'll rest
Like all young Irish martyrs, forever among the blessed
The day will come when all will know who sold their lives away
Of young McMahon and Rogers, brave Egan and Kildea

Contributed by DoNQuijote82 - 2013/5/4 - 19:55

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