THE recent unveiling of a memorial in Newcestown to commemorate 99 years since an ambush took place there on October 9th 1920 also brought to the fore the subsequent British Army reprisals that took place there a fortnight later.
The memorial includes information boards explaining the events as they unfolded, which led to the killing of two British soldiers from the notorious Essex regiment led by Major Arthur Percival.
The Newcestown Ambush was remarkable for the fact that it was an unplanned encounter and was deemed a significant success for the IRA.
However, two weeks later, on October 21st four houses in the village were burned down by British forces as reprisals following the ambush on October 6th.
‘Following the ambush tensions were very high and people were afraid to sleep in their homes and most stayed outside the village by night,’ said Imelda Sheehan of the Newcestown Historical & Heritage Group.
‘Their fears were realised when on October 21st, a party of British military, wearing masks, arrived in the village,’ added Imelda.
The soldiers burned the local public house to the ground and burned the nearby private dwelling of the owner. Fortunately, the O’Sullivan family were not present.
‘The British then travelled to Corcoran’s and Lordan’s, where the IRA were billeted on the night of the ambush,’ she continued. ‘They burned the hay and straw belonging to Corcoran’s. They went to Lordan’s searching for volunteers and Mrs Lordan and her two daughters were dragged from their beds and interrogated. Some of their furniture was broken and the military attempted to burn their house.’
Throughout the following months, the military carried out frequent raids in the Newcestown area. IRA volunteers were arrested and taken to the Bandon barracks.
During this difficult period, the local Cumman na mBan played a critical role in supporting the prisoners and their families.
Meanwhile, the recent unveiling of the memorial drew a large attendance to the local parish hall.
Chairman of Bandon Kinsale Municipal District Cllr Alan Coleman paid tribute to the ‘strong vibrant community’ in Newcestown and to all members of the Newcestown Historical & Heritage Group for spearheading the project.
Guest speaker Dr Gabriel Doherty from the School History at UCC also congratulated the committee on their work which he described as a ‘phenomenal achievement.’ He said they were very wise to unveil it a year ahead of the 100th anniversary of the War of Independence.
Committee members also extended their thanks to everyone who volunteered many hours and long days to build the memorial, to ensure the ambush will not be forgotten.