I have decided to write about this episode as at least 3 Beagh men were involved in this attack; namely Lieutenant Patrick Loughnane, and Volunteers Martin Holland and Thomas Regan. According to Patrick Glynn, Volunteer Lawrence Mannion of Beagh was also present for the ambush.
When the last R.I.C. man was within the ambush position, that is between the gate lodge and Castledaly Cross, a distance of about 180 yards, the Volunteers planned to open fire. This happened according to plan. Sergeant O’Driscoll leading the patrol, threw himself on the ground when he saw the guns pointed over the walls and then escaped injury, discharging his revolver in the direction from which the shots came. Following in single file were Constables Horan, who was the first to fall on fire being opened, crawled over the wall into an adjoining graveyard, where he was pursued by his assailants and shot dead. Constable Dunne was overpowered and his rifle seized after he ran out of ammo. Driscoll made his way to the church for shelter, and met Constable Keane, who remarked ‘I am done’. He handed the rifle to Sergeant O’Driscoll and told him to fire, while he attended his own wounds. The two men then made their way across the fields until they reached Roxboro, where they met Major Persse who took them in his motor to Kilchreest barracks where they reported the matter. Constable Dunne, on hearing the volley of shots ring out, also threw himself off his bicycle, when he was immediately pounced upon by three men, who kicked him while on the ground. Three revolver shots were fired at him and missed. His rifle was afterwards taken from his bicycle and fired at him without effect. While engaged in the struggle that ensued there were shouts of ‘Shoot him, shoot him’ across the wall. He managed to escape with Constable Gilmartin, and they were pursued for about 200 yards across the fields. Constable Gilmartin’s tunic was reportedly torn off him in the combat at Castledaly.
Daniel Ryan was in position between the church and Castledaly Cross, and was opposite the third R.I.C. man, at whom he fired. Eyewitness testimony suggests that Ryan hit this R.I.C. man low with his first shot. As he turned to mount the fence on the far side of the road, Ryan’s bullet hit its target and he fell, remaining where he fell. It appears that the R.I.C. man he shot was Constable Timothy Horan. Constable Horan died, leaving behind a widow and young family and was a native of Kerry. His cause of death (as reported by inquest into his death) was due to laceration of the brain caused by a bullet wound. Mrs. Margaret Hogan, his widow, last saw her husband alive in August. She later lodged a claim with Loughrea Rural District Council for £7000 compensation for the murder of her husband.
The two leading R.I.C. put up no resistance and their rifles were taken by the men at Castledaly Cross. The two remaining R.I.C. men were Sergeant O’Driscoll and Constable Keane. Constable Keane was wounded but escaped with his rifle through the church grounds. Keane was seriously wounded, was brought to Steven’s hospital in Dublin on Saturday evening. He was shot in the breast and right arm by 2 bullets. The Sergeant escaped through the field’s south-west of the church. A couple of the Volunteers followed them but did not succeed in hitting either of them. The wounded man who escaped through the fields did not die. It appears the raiders’ ammunition became exhausted in the early stages of the attack, and hand to hand struggles ensued, followed by unsuccessful attempts to shoot Constables Dunne and Gilmartin with their own rifles.
Daly of Castledaly rode on horse-back cross country to inform the R.I.C. at Kilchreest of the attack. The Kilchreest Parish Priest, Fr. Michael Corcoran, was going to the church to hear Confessions about 1.10 p.m. He found an R.I.C. man's cap on the road. In the church he was told that an R.I.C. man was dying outside. He hurried out and administered the last rites to the dying man. Reputedly, the man died almost immediately after being anointed. The I.R.A. collected 3 rifles and 5 bicycles once the attack was over.
Reprisals followed immediately, with at least 5 houses being burned out belonging to farmers residing in the Castledaly and Kilchreest districts. The R.I.C. also opened indiscriminate fire around the village, of Kilchreest. At midnight the same night they burned Carty's and Coy's dwelling-houses in Ballincurra, a quarter of a mile from the village of Kilchreest. They also burned Fallon's dwelling-house at Scalp, Castledaly. Fallon was questioned by the R.I.C. but he gave no satisfaction to the R.I.C., and the Cartys and Coys were known members of the Volunteers. The Parish Priest of Kilchreest. Fr. Corcoran, and Sergeant Cunningham of the R.I.C., succeeded in keeping the R.I.C. from burning the village of Kilchreest. Howleys homehouse at Cockstown, Ardrahan, was burned – the Howley boys were well-known I.R.A. men.
At a court case in March 1921 to prosecute the murderers of Timothy Horan, it was learned that all the male population in the district left their houses that night in fear of reprisals.
Some of the attacking party were identified by the surviving constables. One man named Bryan Moylan was arrested. P. Carty and Peter Moylan were also arrested on suspicion in connection with the shooting by 18th November. By March 1921, Peter J. Moylan and Michael Callanan, both of Crannagh, Loughrea, were arraigned before a Court Martial in Dublin, charged with the murder of Constable Horan, both declaring their innocence. They were defended by Tim Healy. According to statement by counsel, when Sergeant O’Driscoll first jumped off his bicycle and returned fire at the I.R.A. Volunteers he took particular attention of one of the men, who, he said, was Michael Callanan. Another constable, recognised Peter Moylan as one of the men. Moylan was not disguised, and the constable had known him for 6 or 8 months. As he recognised Moylan 3 or 4 men came over the wall knocked down and kicked this constable, but he broke away, and ran across the fields, shots being fired at him. From the description it sounds like Constable Dunne was the constable who identified Peter Moylan. Moylan's house was visited by Crown forces the same day and next day, but he was not there. When arrested and charged he replied, "I am innocent. I was in Loughrea that day." Callanan's house was visited on the 3 following days and he was not found, but he came later to the police barrack, and when charged said "I was working in the bog that day." They were acquitted on 31st March due to the lack of evidence against them.
A man named Nilan, residing at Castledaly, was subsequently arrested, and conveyed in a motor lorry to Kilchreest barracks with the remains of Constable Horan. Inspection of Horan’s body uncovered a large bullet wound in the back of his head, and 5 bullet holes in his cape.
In the early of Sunday morning, houses of prominent Sinn Feiners in Loughrea were searched. In one case a man named Regan, Kelly St, whose sons were sought but could not be found, was, it is alleged, beaten. The house of Mr. William Flynn, publican, was visited in search of his son, Mr. J. Flynn D.C., who was not at home. On Sunday afternoon, four young men named McQuade (Loughrea), Raftery (Caherlivine), Smith (Earlspark), and Leahy (Newtowndaly) were arrested and released towards evening. In response to notices posted in Loughrea on Monday morning warning the people to close their shops or abide by the consequences, business was practically suspended in the town on that day.
Interestingly, later witness testimony stated that Patrick Loughnane, instead of waiting for darkness, went straight home to Beagh Company area in broad daylight after the ambush. Many people thought he was seen going home from the ambush and the RIC got to hear of it. This was one explanation of why he and his brother were so brutally murdered. It is a logical hypothesis, as if correct, it is very likely he and his brother were tortured by the RIC in an effort to get from them the names of the other officers and Volunteers who took part.
Witness Statements from Thomas Keely, Daniel Ryan and Michael Reilly.
Early November 1920
An R.I.C. prisoner taken by the I.R.A., a man named Dempsey, was captured in his native village of Aughrim, a few miles from Ballinasloe while he was home on holidays in November 1920. Volunteers from East Galway escorted him to Derrybrien, and from there he was handed over to Lieutenant Dan Ryan and Volunteer Michael Reilly. They brought him to Ashfield House, Shanaglish, Beagh. Volunteers Patrick Loughnane and Lawrence Mannion both took charge of the prisoner there. While under there charge, orders came for his release. After he was released, he went into the town of Gort. It may be significant that shortly after the prisoner's release, R.I.C. and Auxiliaries surrounded the home of Patrick Loughnane and arrested him and his brother Harry.