Unpublished manuscript of Billy McAllister containing 'Some reminiscences of an Five Eight during the War of Independence' and 'The battle of Ashbourne'

Object Title

Unpublished manuscript of Billy McAllister containing 'Some reminiscences of an Five Eight during the War of Independence' and 'The battle of Ashbourne'

Unpublished manuscript of Billy McAllister containing 'Some reminiscences of an Five Eight during the War of Independence' and 'The battle of Ashbourne'

Date

1917

Reference

MCA 1

Level

File

Scope and Content

Good original unpublished manscript notebook of Billy McAllister comprising (1) 'Some reminiscences of an Five Eight during the War of Independence', and (2) 'The battle of Ashbourne',

(1) A 'five eight' was an ordinary volunteer in the Irish Republican Army (originally the Irish Volunteers). The author explains, 'There were about 30000 volunteers in the ranks at the height of the fighting, but the bulk of those carreid on their daily work and were called in as and when required. The real fighting was carried on by a relatively small number of picked men in each Brigade who were formed into Flying Columns and who were whole time fighters. The ordinary volunteers were called upon to help when a big job, such as an ambush or an attack on a barracks was being carried out. Some... selected to take part... others detailed to trench roads, cut telegraph lines... disrupt communications to delay reinforcements of enemy troops reaching the scene of the attack'., He goes on to explain that he was part of the crowed that welcomed Tom Ashe at Swords & Lusk on his release from prison. He goes on, 'That night... I became a member of B Coy, 5th Batt of the Dublin Brigade'. He explains that one of his tasks was to carry out raids on local mail, 'This discouraged the sending of information... to enemy forces... also be a source of information'. On one occassion he had written the words, 'Look out the IRA have their eyes on you' across a letter addressed to someone in his area from a Black & Tan at Gormanston Camp. He refers to an experience he had travelling across fields in the dark returning the mail bag that had been hijacked and his difficulties. He speaks of the calling off of a proposed ambush led by Charlie Byrne on the Belfast-Dublin mail train to capture rifles. It was decided that it was too risky due to the number of British soldiers abroad, He relates another attempt to clean our a septic tank at the grounds of Portrane mental hospital in North Dublin with a view to using the tank as an arms dump. It proved unworkable due to the stench of the sewage and after 3 hours or more working with a bucket and rope trying to empty it they gave up due to the smell - they had spend that time on their stomachs in the lashing rain in their vain efforts to succeed with their mission., He tells rather amusing stories about his mission to cut telegraph wires in the Donabate district. he goes on to say that there were just some of the kind of the jobs an ordinary volunteer had to do, 'dirty, unpleasant... no glamour and glory attached... still part of the general campaign and had to be done'. He expresses disappointment at not seeing any action - he later discovered that this was because his brother Benny (a commander in the same battalion of the North Dublin Brigade) had been asked by his father to keep his younger brother out of the firing line,

(2) This is an account told to Billy by his brother Benny. In this account he outlines what happened on the day - teh Brigade led by Cmdt. Ashe had attacked the R.I.C. barracks in Ashbourne. The police had surrendered, but because reinforcements arrived from the Navan road driection, Ashe's men had no time to disarm them. A five hour battle ensued, during which Billy's brother Benny was almost killed, but was saved when one of his comrades saved his life by shooting the policeman who was about to kill him. He gives considerable detail and mentions names of some of those involved, including one of the members who was shot in the lung and ladying dying througout the course of the battle. At the end when some of the volunteers were lining up police from the barracks against the wall to shoot them - Ashe called for an end to bloodshed and allowed them to return to their barracks, [From the bookseller's description]

Extent

1 volume

Physical Characteristics / Technical Requirements

Manuscript notebook written in a neat and legible hand

Access Conditions

Open access