Student revolutionaries

Seamus Murphy was the officer commanding the Galway Brigade of the IRA from 1917 to 1920. He was very conservative and vetoed a lot of proposed operations. He eventually moved back to Dublin where he was heard complaining that he could not get any Galway men to fight.

At one stage he made tear gas for the University College Galway Company of the IRA and he nearly blinded himself in the process. This company took part in the ambush on the Lough George barracks in May 1920. “Paddy Mullins was in charge. Nicko Ryan was the local commandant. The British captured one of our scouts who was the son of a head constable of the RIC. He said he was meeting a girl and he was acquitted.

“We ran into a mixed party of peelers and soldiers near Annaghdown when we had 30 to 35 men, all of them students. Liam Shortis, Mick Walsh, nephew of Dr Tom Walsh [professor of pathology UCG and a leading Sinn Féin figure in Galway], was the student who carried the mine to the barracks wall. It made a hole in the wall but the peelers put up Very lights (flares ) at once. Seamus Murphy came along during the operation. He said what we were doing was mutiny; so he and Paddy Mullins had a row.

“We started to the lake, Lough Corrib. We ran into the relieving body from Galway who had cleared our road blocks. The scout captured was named Hubert Croghan, a medical student. As he was halted he dumped his revolver. He was a ‘clean tin whistle’ when the British lorries came on. Tony Togher was an engineer who threw away his coat when he was crossing a wall. There was an order to scatter and get back to Galway. We told the countryside we were Claremen so as to divert suspicion. We tipped along towards Galway. I was in contact with a fellow, Connolly. I decided to lie low and we slept in a quarry. A girl brought us in our tea and she told us that Johnny McNiff, one of our lads, was asleep in her house.

“A scout brought us to Annaghdown, Connolly, Seamus Murphy, Paddy Mullins company O/C, Mick Walsh, Liam Shortis, etc. The boatmen took us across to the west side of Lough Corrib. All the boys were on time for their lectures. No one was missing from the college so no arrests were made. In Galway the idea was that it was Claremen who had come over on the job. Jack D’Arcy, Mick Walsh, and Paddy Mullins were court-martialled for mutiny by the brigade staff. Walsh cleared out to Canada and that broke the back of the College Company.

Some extracts there from an interview Jack Comer gave to Ernie O’Malley which features in a new book entitled The Men Will Talk To Me, Galway Interviews by Ernie O’Malley, edited by Cormac O’Malley and Cormac Ó Cómhraí and published by Mercier Press. The other interviewees were Petie Joe McDonnell, Jack Feehan, Christie Macken, Paddy Duffy, John Madden, Pat Margetts, and Nora Loughnane. The book records their experiences in the War of Independence and the Civil War in the city and county and is a very valuable insight into the period. Highly recommended. It will be launched in Kenny’s Bookshop tomorrow evening at 6pm and all are welcome.

Our photograph today, courtesy of the Hardiman Library, NUIG, is one of the illustrations in the book and shows members of the College Company drilling on the park in front of the archway in college.

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