New Release: Archaeological Map of the 1921 Rosscarbery RIC Barracks Attack

Our latest map, part of the series commissioned by Cork County Council, examines the archaeological landscape of the March 1921 attack on Rosscarbery RIC Barracks. The work was undertaken by Abarta Heritage Ltd as part of Cork County Council’s Decade of Centenaries Programme supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. As with the previous maps, it is intended to serve as a starting point for those interested in the exploration, examination and future management of the archaeological remnants of these important sites.

The attack at Rosscarbery was carried out by IRA Volunteers of the Cork No. 3 Brigade Flying Column under the command of Tom Barry, himself a native of the town. Barry was fresh from leading more than 100 Volunteers into the famed engagement at Crossbarry just over ten days earlier. The engagement commenced on the the night of 30 March, when the IRA cut off the routes into Rosscarbery while a storming party moved in to take up positions around the Barracks. As a high-risk position, the RIC had heavily fortified the building and protected the approaches with barbed-wire. Stripping to their stocking feet, IRA volunteers successfully avoided detection as to place a large explosive at the front of the building. It was detonated a little after 1am on the morning of 31 March. The violence of the resulting explosion collapsed the front of the Barrack building, causing the deaths of RIC Constable Charles Bowles and RIC Sergeant Ambrose Shea. A protracted gun and bomb fight followed, as the surviving RIC engaged the IRA for a number of hours until the building was eventually given up. The victorious IRA paraded in the town square before withdrawing to the west and north, while a number of the wounded RIC were treated in the local convent.

The account of the explosion at Rosscarbery Barracks provided by RIC Constable Seccombe during the subsequent inquiry (National Archives)

The town found itself gripped in further tragedy only a few hours after the destruction of the Barracks. The Rosscarbery Fair was being held on the 31 March, and attendees were naturally drawn to the site of the inferno of the night before. Children playing in the smouldering wreckage discovered an unexploded grenade, which detonated when it was thrown aside by an RIC Constable on duty in the ruins. The resulting explosion mortally wounded local farmers Patrick Collins and George Wilson, together with Francis Fitzpatrick, who was just four-years-old. Patrick and George died on 31 March, with little “Franky” losing his battle for life in Cork’s Mercy Hospital on 2 April.

The Skibbereen Eagle report on the tragic death of Francis Fitzpatrick in the aftermath of the Rosscarbery RIC Barracks attack

While the Barracks is today no longer extant, much of the conflict landscape survives intact, notably the streets and buildings that were utilised by the IRA during the engagement and which are mentioned frequently in their accounts. Of particular note is the impact scarring identified by the Landscapes of Revolution Project on the buildings opposite the Barracks. Occupied by the IRA during the fighting, they still bear the scars of the fighting that engulfed the town a little over 100 years ago.

As noted above, these maps should be regarded as first steps towards the identification of archaeological elements of the Mallow Raid landscape, resources which can be built on into the future and serve as a tool for management and interpretation. We welcome any feedback or information with respect to site locations, additions or corrections to the mapping- if you would like to contribute please contact us by emailing info@abartaheritage.ie. Once all four sites have been mapped and published online, the Landscapes of Revolution Project will be organising an online talk to discuss the project and its results, so stay tuned for more details!

The Conflict Landscape of the Rosscarbery RIC Barracks Attack- Click to enlarge (Landscapes of Revolution/Abarta Heritage)
The Rosscarbery RIC Barracks Attack Mapping Project is funded as part of Cork County Council’s Decade of Centenaries Programme financed by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. It is being delivered by Abarta Heritage as part of the Landscapes of Revolution Project.

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