Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Students add a chapter to Irish history books

An ambush in Soloheadbeg in Co Tipperary is famously where the first shots were fired in the Irish War of Independence, but the location of the last action is not as clear-cut.

Now a group of transition year students have unearthed documentary evidence that it may have happened not too far from their own doorsteps.

The students at Pobalscoil Inbhear Sceine in Kenmare, Co Kerry, discovered that the last ambush of the War of Independence happened in Killarney, outside what was then the Glebe Hotel on Monday, July 11, 1921, at 11.45am. Just 15 minutes later the ceasefire came into effect.

Each year transition year students at the school complete a history project and for the past three years have been helped by local senator Mark Daly.

He suggested they base it on Lieutenant Denis Tuohy, a local hero from Gortalassa who was killed in May 1921.

"The idea behind it was to get the British army's account," Mr Daly said.

The students then drafted a letter to the First Battalion Royal Fusiliers, City of London Regiment, that was based in Kerry between 1920 and 1922.

However, when the students read the archive, it opened a whole new can of worms.

Unluckily for British soldier Sergeant C E Meares, had he even delayed whatever business he had that morning with his colleague Sgt F G Clarke, he may have survived the war.

On the morning before the ceasefire was to come into effect, both men walked down to the town to order goods.

According to the records: "On arriving at the centre of the town they were held up and shot in cold blood by about half-a-dozen citizens with revolvers. Sgt Meares died of his wounds the next day, but Sgt Clarke is now happily, recovered."

The fusiliers' archive was edited by JP Kelleher who concluded: "It is accurate to say that the action by the volunteers in Killarney was the last ambush."

Annie Cooper (16) said her involvement with the project and its findings has ignited her interest in history.

Shane Larkin (16) added: "I knew a fair bit about the War of Independence so I really enjoyed it."

In the Royal Fusiliers' version of events, the British were outnumbered 10 to one, which would have meant there had to be 280 IRA volunteers versus 28 Crown soldiers. In truth there were only 27 volunteers, which also included Tom McEllistirm, who later became a TD.

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