Rathrobin House, Mountbolus was the most modern and one of the finest of the ‘Big Houses’ burnt by the anti-Treaty IRA during the Civil War of 1922-3. Its loss was a tragedy for the district and for its owner and builder Lt Col Middleton Biddulph. Today the house is a ruin and the intended tomb of the old colonel in Blacklion churchyard remains empty. Biddulph was a generous man of independent means and was not dependent on exacting high rents from his tenants and employees with whom he was on the best of terms. Much has been written of the trauma experienced by participants in the Civil War, of the needless killings and the executions (81). It was a shocking time for the two sides and many innocent people suffered also. Perhaps some of the post-Civil War trauma and the silence can be attributed to the consideration that the war may have been an unfortunate and costly mistake. It may have seemed so to some of the participants following the success of the Free State and Fianna Fáil governments in rolling back on the oath, dominion status and the ports in the 1930–38 period. Thus confirming the ‘stepping stone’ thesis. As with the Spanish Civil War (much more violent) there is, even now, a kind of Pact of Forgetting (Pacto del Olvido) with people wanting to move on and forget about something that should not have happened. Yet, it is important to record the events of that period and what brought about the shocking atrocities especially in Kerry. County Offaly had its share in these tragedies.Continue reading
civil war 1922-3
Sean MacCaoilte (John Forrestal): a Tullamore man on the delegation to Irish America, March 1922. By Dr Anne Good
With preparations for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement now underway, and especially with the historic visit of President Joe Biden to Ireland fast approaching, I find myself thinking again about the crucial importance of Irish America throughout our recent history. This is true not only with regards to current events, but also to the earlier part of the 20th Century whose decisions and conflicts so profoundly shaped the challenges we still face, as we work to maintain peace, stability and democracy across our island.
From the mid 19thCentury the Irish Independence movement was always closely connected with the huge Irish American population dispersed across many parts of the USA during and after the Famine, and those struggling for Independence benefitted from Irish America’s long standing and vital support for positive change in the country which so many Americans still called home. This dynamic was as true in the volatile situation of early 1922, of which I have written in my recent book, Fierce Tears, Frail Deeds, as it is now.Continue reading
A Civil War Ambush Centenary at Raheen, Geashill, County Offaly, January 1923-2023. By P.J. Goode
Oliver Mulpeter was heard to say he ‘would not miss it for the world’ and carrying the national flag which he proudly bore as the nephew of one of the wounded soldiers, he was among the first to arrive.
The commemoration was to honour soldiers of the National Army who were wounded in a Civil War ambush, two of whom died some weeks later. Relatives of all four casualties gathered for a roadside ceremony on a bitterly cold January day with traffic thundering past inches away on that busy road between Raheen and Geashill in North Offaly.
An honour guard of soldiers of The Irish Defence Forces Veterans group was present led by Declan Sheridan. They came to attention and gave the salute as the ceremony progressed – a poignant mark of respect to their comrades-in-arms of a century ago, their presence there an important and vital element of the event.
It was one hundred years to the day that the ambush took place at that spot, within sight of old Raheen chapel, on a bend of the road overlooked by rising ground. The ambush party opened fire with rifles and a Lewis gun from both sides of the road on a platoon of fourteen soldiers marching from their Geashill garrison to Sunday mass. Luckily the Lewis gun jammed, otherwise casualties would have been much higher.Continue reading