Facing British Reprisals -- Part 7: Trauma at The Burgery

Prior to the firing squad death of Hickey, there appear to have been few reprisals for I.R.A. ambushes -- with the notable exception of the Hampshires running amok in Youghal after the November 1920 Piltown Cross engagement. This may very well have been attributable to the general chivalry displayed by Lennon’s column. Ironically, the killing of Hickey to avoid enemy reprisals may have been the breaking of an unspoken covenant between the I.R.A. and Crown forces in Dungarvan.

Above: Black and Tans searching suspected Irish Volunteers, possibly staged for a British propaganda film.

Reprisals were undertaken near the initial I.R.A staging position, some one-half mile from the ambush, at Dunlea's of Ballycoe.  The widow Dunlea and her daughters were evicted, and the soldiers then set about destroying the house (right) and its contents. On the walls of the partially demolished home was written:

Hickey and Redmond (sic)
Up the Buffs
God save the King

Virtually destroyed, near the actual Burgery ambush site, was a thatched cottage belonging to Mrs. Morrissey. A similar fate was afforded Miss English's house at Abbeyside (92).

Read Part 6: 'To the Hills and Valleys He Loved So Well'

Like Constable Prendiville, the released Captain Thomas was, in the words of Mick Shalloe, to prove “his untrustworthiness,” in this case “by burning and looting shops and houses in Dungarvan the following night.” In tandem with the Tans, the British military broke up furniture of the Moloneys of Bridge Street, Boyles of O'Connell Street and Fuges of Mary Street. In cases where levies had been imposed, owners escaped reprisals by paying the fines. April the 12th witnessed the Tans running amok by torching Fahey's of Abbeyside and the Strand Hotel.  (93)

The ambush at the Burgery drew notice at Dublin G.H.Q., where the release of Thomas was not viewed kindly. Pax Whelan reportedly was threatened with a court martial for "allowing" Thomas to go free after being captured.

You bloody fool, Collins (pictured left) said to me afterwards in Dublin. You should not have let them go. You are a disgrace to the movement.  Don’t blame me, I said. It was the decision of George Plunkett. (94)

Whelan observed, “everyone knew George was very humane.” This was in reference to his chivalrous conduct at the G.P.O., the heroism he displayed upon his return to the ambush site and his release of Thomas based on a no-reprisals pledge.

Cork O/C Sean Moylan referenced this unwritten policy:

No British prisoner falling into the hands of the I.R.A. anywhere was ill-treated. Irishmen with arms in their hands captured by the British were always executed. The British soldiers so captured had always been freed. (95)

Dublin G.H.Q. took no further action against Whelan.

Leaving a sour taste, no doubt, was when, on 28 April 1921, “Captain Donald Victor Thomas, the Buffs” was awarded the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.)  “in recognition of gallant conduct in the performance of military duties.” The gallantry most likely may have occurred at Durrow in the March 3 IRA attack or on the front during the Great War. (96)

Reportedly, at that time, it was possible for officers to nominate themselves for the award. Due to downsizing, he was compulsorily retired, in early 1922, from the British army, leaving, it has been reported, without paying his officers-mess bill. He was also pursued by Merry’s of Dungarvan for a drinks bill of five pounds. Emigrating to South Africa, he died there, circa 1930.     

Pictured, The barracks used by the RIC and Black and Tans inside Dungarvan Castle.

In mid-May, Jack O’Mara left his rifle and revolver with the column before he set off for a change of clothes at his Knockboy home, not knowing

that there was...a raiding party of troops from Dungarvan . . . hidden in a graveyard opposite my house. As I entered my home I was immediately taken prisoner. . . . The house was searched most carefully and a Volunteer membership card of mine discovered. I was taken in to Dungarvan barracks, where I was kept for two days, during which time I was closely examined as to my Volunteer activities.

Taken to the military barracks in Waterford, he was “examined” by an officer who

was notorious for his ill treatment of Republican prisoners.  This man hurled abuse at me for being, as he said, concerned in the murder of a decent man, Sergeant Hickey of Dungarvan. This blackguard, Yeo, then preceded to beat me savagely with a stick on the head, face, neck, back and arms. Following the beating, I was thrown into a cell, where I had to lie on the floor on my stomach, it being impossible for me to lie on my back because of the beating I had received.

He was informed that he was to be held at Ballybricken gaol in anticipation of the arrival of a military witness who would testify as to his presence at the time when Hickey was captured and taken away to be executed. Before the witness turned up, the truce of 11 July 1921 was signed. Some five months later, at Christmas 1921, O’Mara was released. (97)

Read Part 8: Epilogue


92. Murphy, op. cit., pp. 91 - 92.  

93. Ibid.

       Shalloe, op. cit., p.14.  

94. MacEoin, op. cit., p. 138.

95. Moylan, op. cit., p. 136.

96. The London Gazette, “Central Chancery of

       the Orders of Knighthood” (Tuesday, the 31st of May, 1921).

97. O’Mara, op. cit., pp. 8 – 9.


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