Later eye witness testimony suggested that they returned to the post office where they made inquiries as to whether there was a telephone there, and on being told there was not, they went out. They returned shortly after, and one of them made enquiries as to how long it would take a telegram to reach Dublin. They then returned to the bank about 2.10. pm.
Wolfe remained with Mr. Doyle in the boardroom, which is where the safe was located, when a knock came at the door. Wolfe answered the door, and was confronted by one of the men, the smaller of the 2, who had a .45 Webley revolver pointed at him. Wolfe then put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a tiny automatic. In the ensuing commotion, a young clerk by the name of Shade jostled the invader as he shot at Wolfe, which resulted in a miraculous escape for Wolfe, and he was lucky that he was not hot in the breast!
One of the attackers tried to obtain the keys from young Mr. Cecil Shade, but did not succeed in doing so. Young Shade kept ‘fumbling’ with his keys on pretence of not being able to find the correct key, until a whistle sounded and the 2 men left. It later emerged that Shade had in fact thrown the key of the safe ‘out the back’ through an open window. It was noticed by Shade later that ‘all through the men seemed quite cool and deliberate in all their actions’. Mr. Smyth the taxi driver also noted that ‘their general bearing gave the suggestion of respectability and good up-bringing’ and the bandits appeared to have been of a better class.
It also later emerged that Mr. P. Corcoran, the cashier, said that when ordered to put up his hands, he lifted all the cash he could and stooped down under the counter, and put it under the cover of waste paper. Meanwhile, Mrs. Wolfe, who had heard the shots from upstairs, rushed down. When she arrived in the hall, she saw the taller of 2 invaders with a revolver, and ‘she grasped the situation at once’. She proceeded towards the hall door where the invader followed her, ordering ‘If you do not go back, I will shoot you!’ Courageously, she ignored his threats and went out onto the street and began shouting for help.
Afterwards, a bystander, John Harborne (armed with a gun), rushed up, just as O’Halloran fell, and fired at the raiders, but missed his targets, and they reached their car without further hindrance, which remained outside the post office. They entered the post office about 2.20 pm and one man was shouting where was the driver. It turns out Smyth had still been in the pub, but, having finished his drink, left the pub to have a cigarette on the street while waiting. It was then that he noticed both his car doors open, which alarmed him. After running to the car, he found one of the 2 men sitting at the wheel, while the other was trying to start the car. Upon Smyth’s arrival at the scene he was ordered into the car to drive, and it was only at this point he realised something was amiss. He had not heard anything out of the ordinary in the town while he was there, presumably because he had been in the pub.
Mr. Thomas Doyle, who had been in the bank when the attack was initiated, informed the military who were stationed about a mile from the town after O’Halloran was shot, and a number of them gave pursuit. He also sent his private car in pursuit.
After Smyth entered the car, they told the taxi driver to ‘drive like hell for Dublin’. When they arrived at Terenure, they asked him to stop at the next public house, the Templeogue Inn, in Templeogue. When they got out, and were half-way across the road, going into the public house, they asked him would he have a drink, and he accepted. Inside, one of them asked for his name, and when he gave it, they wrote it down on a postcard and said nothing else. When the drinks were finished, they asked how far was it to the city. Smyth replied that it was a mile to Terenure, and 4 miles to the Pillar. They then re-entered the taxi until he reached the first shop at the corner at Terenure and the Crumlin road, where they got out. They refused to pay the £5 fare and said they would send the fare to him, and proceeded to walk in the direction of Kimmage road. The taxi arrived back at the garage in College St. Station about 3.30 pm, having been out just short of 3 hours.
News of the shooting reached the Army Camp in Tallaght, where Army officers left the camp and held the Naas road at Clondalkin, and the steam tram road at Tallaght. It appears the blue taxi made it through Tallaght before the blockade, as eyewitness account confirm seeing a blue car driving through Tallaght between 3 and 4 o’clock. Later information also suggested that less than 10 minutes elapsed from the time the taxi was noticed passing through Brittas to Dublin until a section of the Dublin Metropolitan Police arrived by another road. Had there been telephone communication available in Baltinglass, journalists of the event felt that the invaders would have been apprehended ‘easily’.
In the meantime, Guard O’Halloran was examined by Dr. Kenna and Dr. Cruise. Before being examined by Dr. Kenna in the barracks in Baltinglass, he had lost a lot of blood. The trail of blood could be seen from the spot where he fell to the barrack. He was also attended at once by Rev. P. O’Hare, C.C. O’Halloran had been shot in the abdomen, with the bullet exit wound close to the right buttock. His injuries were very serious and he was brought to the Curragh Military Hospital, arriving there about 5 p.m. On Monday night an operation was performed on O’Halloran by Capt. William S. Coffey, and he was reported to be progressing favourably. It later emerged that during the course of the operation it emerged that ‘several loops of the intestines had been perforated and badly lacerated’.
Patrick O’Halloran died 24 hours later at the Curragh Hospital on Tuesday about 3.30pm. At the time of his death he was 29 years of age, was the second son of a family of 2 sons and 2 daughters. His father was dead, and his mother had a shop at Georges Street, Gort. Before joining the guards, he had been employed on the GSWR and had also been connected with the local Volunteers. The newspaper report of his death also informed that he was ‘a man of athletic build and good appearance’. Guard O’Halloran came with the first batch of guards on 16 November 1922 to Baltinglass. He was described by his comrades as a ‘very efficient, brave, and temperate young man…and was held in the highest esteem, not only by his comrades, but by all the townspeople’. He was also a member of the Sacred Heart Sodality.
Further research determined that Patrick Joseph O’Halloran was born 15 May 1896 to Patrick O’Halloran and Catherine Loughrey. At the time of his birth his parents lived on George Street, where his father ran a pub. Patrick Senior had married Catherine Loughrey on 12 September 1886 in Kilbeacanty, his residence at the time of the marriage given as ‘Feacle’, with Catherine’s residence given as ‘Gortacornane’. He had an older brother Michael, a sister Margaret born 19 January 1894, and a sister Delia born 28 January 1900. Patrick was the third born of four children.
At the inquest of O’Halloran’s death a Curragh jury returned a verdict of ‘wilful murder’. Mr. A. Cullen, State Solicitor for Wicklow, said the facts showed that Guard O’Halloran played a brave and glorious part. The bandits’ attempts to rob the bank were foiled and frustrated, but unfortunately guard O’Halloran lost his life. Patrick’ siblings Michael and Delia were present at his inquest. They had arrived at the Curragh at 11pm the previous night, and were shocked when they learned of their brother’s death. The remains were removed after the inquest to Gort, from which the funeral took place on Thursday after 10 o’clock mass to Shanaglish. General Eoin O’Duffy, Commissioner of the Civic Guard or Garda Síochána (from 1922-1933), was present and delivered an oration at the graveside. A guard of honour from the Depot, with the Civic Guard band, was also present. While in Shanaglish cemetery O’Duffy made the following speech; ‘I am being asked every day why we do not arm the Civic Guard. In reply now to the people from the grave of Guard O’Halloran – Take your courage in your hands, stand fearlessly with the Garda in carrying out the laws of the people. If it is your wish that the Garda should be armed with revelvers for a time to cope with this robber menace. We are at attention to obey the people’s will: but, armed or unarmed, I can promise we will stand by you to the end’. Although O'Halloran had been born in Gort, he had ties to Beagh, as he would likely not have been buried in the parish cemetery otherwise.
Both Kevin O’Higgins and President Cosgrave spoke of Guard O’Halloran’s bravery at a Cumann na nGaedheal Convention just days after his death ‘I think you will agree with me when I say the Civic Guard has a right to be proud of Civic Guard O’Halloran..’ said President Cosgrave in his tribute.
Numerous newspaper accounts noted that Baltinglass was about the only place within easy reach of Dublin where there was a bank with a substantial sum of money, and where telephone communication could not be availed of in an emergency. Later witness interviews suggested that the two invaders had previously stayed in Mr. John A. Harborne’s hotel, Bridge Hotel, on 15 December, just a month before. Later investigations revealed that no man named Doyle had stayed in the Ormond Hotel in Dublin, and no men answering the description of the two men who used the taxi, stayed at the hotel. They used the hotel telephone, which was a public telephone at the main entrance, and available to any passer-by.
By 9 February 1924, 6 men were arrested in connection with the bank raid in various parts of the country. Two men were taken into custody by the Guards in Dublin, 2 in Naas, 1 in Dundalk and 1 in Roscrea by the military. Four of the men were subsequently released from custody. The names of the 2 men detained were John O’Beirne (originally of Cork) of Usher’s Quay, Dublin; and Daniel Hegarty an ex-soldier of the British Army and of the National Army, a native of Kilcock, having an address of South King Street, Dublin. They were charged on suspicion and remanded in Mountjoy Prison.
Five days later, on 14 February, Peter Jordan, of Adamstown Co. Wexford was arrested in Dublin Street, Monaghan and was brought to Dublin. A section of the flying squad of the Dublin detectives under Chief Superintendent Nelligan and Inspector O’Driscoll proceeded by motor to Monaghan at 2 a.m. on the 14th, and arrested Jordan by 5.30 a.m.
He was later identified by the taxi driver as one of the 2 men whom he drove to Baltinglass. When charged with the murder, he made a statement confessing his participation in the raid. In searching his Dublin address, at St. Paul’s Street, the police found an automatic pistol, said to have been the one taken from the bank manager, Mr. Wolfe. Dublin detectives also visited Athlone on information that the second man concerned in the raid was in hiding there. He had however disappeared, but as a result of further inquiries he man was traced to Liverpool where he was arrested. He gave the name of Felix McMullan, of Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh. A subsequent search at Kimmage, acted on from information offered by Jordan, found McMullen’s gun, trench coats and caps which Jordan said had been used in the raid. McMullen was later arrested by Inspector O’Donnell in Liverpool on the 17th February. He was apprehended in a lodging house in the Irish quarter of the city.
On 19 February, two ‘respectably dressed young men named Felix McMullen of 24 South William Street, and Peter Jordan of 29 St. Paul’s Street’ were charged with the murder of O’Halloran and the attempted murder of Mr. Wolfe.
In mid-July 1924, Peter Jordan (29) and Felix McMullen (26), both ex-officers (Captains) of the National Army were indicted for the murder of Patrick O’Halloran at Baltinglass on 28 January. Colonel Patrick Dalton had been the officer commanding McMullen in the National Army and found McMullen a very good officer (in fact a ‘first class officer’), sober and reliable. Patrick Cox, a member of the old IRA testified McMullen was a strict T.T., a good Catholic and honest. During the course of the trial it emerged it was Jordan who had played ‘Doyle’ and it was he that was the architect behind the scheme. John Jordan, brother to Peter the accused, said his brother’s character as a teacher and in the Army was excellent. He also testified that his reputation since he left the army was exceptionally good, and there had never been anything against him. Ironically, both Felix McMullen and Peter Jordan had applied to become Gardaí but were refused for some reason.
McMullen had testimonials in his Garda application from Major-General McKeon and others testifying to his good character.
The jury took just 40 minutes to return their verdict of not guilty for Peter Jordan, and guilty for Felix McMullen. McMullen was sentenced to be hanged to death on 1 August. McMullen was reported to have displayed no emotion after the result. Between 1923 and 1954 the Irish state executed twenty-nine people convicted of murder. Almost all executions were carried out in the hanghouse of Mountjoy Prison by members of the Pierrepoint family.
Jordan got ten years’ penal servitude and ‘20 strokes of the lash’ for his part in the attempted bank robbery and murder of O’Halloran. Jordan was a young man of respectable family. His father was a national school teacher and it was the intention of the son to follow in the same profession. He ‘got mixed up with a movement’ and under General O’Duffy, he entered the Army.
By 25 July, after the trial of her son’s murderers, Catherine O’Halloran (Patrick’s mother) applied for compensation for the death of her son. She stated that her]son had contributed £5 a month from his pay towards her support, as well as sending presents and giving her money when he was home on holidays. She now lived with her daughter who was a draper’s assistant. Her eldest son Michael was in employment in Dublin, but she was not receiving assistance from him. At the hearing, Superintendent Meehan stated that the deceased had a splendid record and had very bright prospects in the service. Unfortunately for Catherine, her application for compensation was denied.
The Kildare Observer - Saturday 2 February 1924, pp. 2-3
Derry Journal - Monday 04 February 1924 p. 6 column 3
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser - Saturday 09 February 1924, p. 2, column 4
Northern Whig - Monday 18 February 1924 p. 5 column 3
Derry Journal - Monday 18 February 1924 p. 5 column 4
Derry Journal - Wednesday 20 February 1924 p. 5 column 3
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser - Saturday 01 March 1924 p.9 column 1
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser - Saturday 08 March 1924 p.7 column 3
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser - Saturday 12 July 1924 pp. 5-6. Column 5
Weekly Freeman's Journal - Saturday 19 July 1924 p. 3, column 3
Northern Whig - Wednesday 23 July 1924, p. 5, column 4
Kildare Observer and Eastern Counties Advertiser - Saturday 25 July 1925 p. 2 column 5
Civil Birth, Marriage and Death Records