A final footnote to Kerry’s ‘fighting story’

A final footnote to Kerry’s ‘fighting story’
Ballymacandy. The Story of an Ambush

by Owen O’Shea (Merrion Press €14.95)

Joe Carroll 

The first day of this month was the centenary of the IRA ambush at Ballymacandy of 12 RIC/Black and Tan policemen.

It was a one-sided fight with 59 listed IRA men against the cycling policemen who were coming back from Tralee to Killorglin with their wages. Five of the RIC men died, one of which, Sergeant James Collery from Ballymote, Co. Sligo, left a widow and nine orphans.

The site of the ambush, one of the last in Kerry before the truce, was a stretch of road between Castlemaine and Milltown. The cyclists were easily picked off by their assailants who were hiding on each side of the road. One IRA man was injured.

The author, a local historian, gives a detailed picture, of the growing tensions in the area as the IRA gradually drove the RIC out of smaller barracks to retrench in the larger towns. Reprisal burnings by the RIC and British forces following ambushes made life miserable for the natives. Most of the IRA brigades took refuge in the surrounding mountains supported by farmers.

Owen O’Shea has researched recently opened archives to show how the IRA members fared after independence as they sought pensions. Katherine, the widow of Sergeant Collery, was awarded compensation of £5,031 to bring up her seven surviving children in Limerick city. She died in 1971 and her son, James, a six-month baby at the time of the ambush, returned from his Holy Ghost missionary station in Kenya to celebrate her Requiem Mass.