28 January 1921
The most important event to take place in the Inniscarra area during the war of Independence was the Dripsey Ambush. The IRA had discovered that an Army patrol travelled from Macroom to Cork on Friday mornings, passing through Dripsey at about 9.00am. They decided that they would ambush this patrol on Friday 28th January 1921, and they selected a suitable place a few hundred yards west of Godfreys Cross. The IRA forces were to be posted behind fencing on the northern side of the road and on the high ground to the rear. They would cut trees which would then be held upright by ropes, and these would be released, trapping the army tenders between them. Scouts were to be posted on the surrounding hills to give warning of the approach of the military from any direction.
The by-road heading north from Godfreys Cross would be used as an escape route through Peake and Aghabullogue to the IRA base camp at Kilcullen, which is situated between Rylane and Donoughmore.
There were 68 men in the IRA party, who had been in training in Kilcullen for the previous two weeks, and they were commanded by Captain Frank Busteed. In addition, there were at least 7 other men deployed as scouts or road-blockers. They were armed with shotguns and rifles. They had moved two families who lived near the site of the ambush out of their houses and Jack Sweeney, head of one of those families, was allowed to go to work at Sheehan’;s Grocers in Coachford where he told his employer about the intended ambush.
During the hours of darkness on the night of 27th January, the IRA moved from their base camp at Kilcullen to a deserted farmhouse not far from Carrignamuck Castle and, shortly after 6.ooam the following morning they took up their positions at the ambush site and at the look-out points on the surrounding hills. It was a bitterly cold January morning as the waiting began.
That morning, Mrs Mary Lindsay of Leemount House, who held strong loyalist views, heard of the ambush during a visit to Coachford. She was on her way to Ballincollig for a newly-introduced military inspection of her car (a measure introduced by the British to cut down on the commandeering of cars by the IRA). When she told Mr Sheehan of her plans, he advised her not to go through Dripsey and Inniscarra and when she asked why, he told her of the intended ambush. She told the local priest, Father Ned Shinnick, what she had heard before returning home. From there, her chauffeur, James Clark, drove her to Ballincollig to warn the army authorities. Meanwhile, Father Shinnick informed the local IRA command to tell the ambushers that the British had been informed of their plans.
Father Shinnick was known to be anti-IRA and the leaders of the IRA ambush party decided that the warning was just a ruse on the part of the priest to get them to abandon their ambush.
The British, seventy men of “C” Company of the Manchester Regiment led by Lt Colonel Gareth Evans (along with Lieutenants Sykes, Orgill, Todd and Vining) left Ballincollig at about 3.30pm and drove to Dripsey Cross, where Col Evans divided them into five sections. Two he despatched via Dripsaey to Peake, accompanied by two armoured cars, their mission to patrol the Peake-Coachford Road and cut off the retreat northwards. One section accompanied Col Evans along the main road and the other two took to the fields to the north and south of the main road.
The soldiers were seen approaching the ambush site at about 4.15pm and the IRA commanders, realising they had been outflanked, gave the order to retreat and the ambushers headed northward leaving a rearguard to cover them. Due to their superior knowledge of the local area and the onset of darkness, most of the IRA men escaped. Eight of the IRA men were captured along with two local men, Eugene Langtry and Denis Sheehan, who were not involved with the IRA. Those captured were Jim Barrett (Donoughmore), Thomas O’Brien (Dripsey), Timothy McCarthy (Donoughmore), Daniel O’Callaghan (Dripsey), Jeremiah O’Callaghan (Aghabullogue), Denis Murphy (Donoughmore), John Lyons and Patrick O’Mahony. Two other IRA men, Timothy O’Riordan and William Lucey, were wounded but managed to escape. Six of the captured men were wounded, with Jim Barrett being seriously injured. The prisoners were taken first to Dripsey and then on to the Barracks in Ballincollig.
The trial, or Court Martial, was held at Victoria Barracks in Cork from 8th February to 10th February. There were eight prisoners on trial (including Sheehan and Langtry), Jim Barrett and Denis Murphy being badly injured and unfit to stand. Langtry, Sheehan and Jeremiah O’Callaghan were found not guilty, whilst the other five, Daniel O’Callaghan, Patrick O’Mahony, Timothy McCarthy, Thomas O’Brien and John Lyons were found guilty.
On the night of the 17th February, IRA men entered Leemount House and removed Mrs Lindsay and her chauffeur, James Clark and took them to a house in the Rylane area. An intensive search was carried out by the authorities but, with the hostages being moved from house to house, without success.
Mrs Lindsay, under duress, signed a letter which was sent to General Peter Strickland, the Commander of British Forces in Ireland, stating that if the IRA prisoners were executed, Mrs Lindsay and Clark would be shot. The letter was ignored and, on the morning of 28th February the five condemned men were shot by firing squad at Victoria Barracks and the bodies were taken and buried at Cork Jail.
Denis Murphy’s court martial was held on 9th March and he was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to 25 years penal servitude. Jim Barrett died of his wounds on 22nd March.
On 11th March, Mrs Lindsay and her chauffeur James Clark, were shot and buried in a common grave deep in the mountains. The following night Leemount House was burned down.
This memorial was built on the site of the Ambush.