The last raid for arms initiated by the Kilbeacanty Company of the I.R.A. occurred sometime about the end of September 1919. There was a retreat in Kilbeacanty Parish Church, and it was planned to go to carry out the raid after the close of the Retreat on the Sunday night. The target was Lord Gough’s gamekeeper, a 58 year old Scotsman named Robert Houston. According to eyewitness reports taken after the event, he was a tough, strong and exceedingly active man. It was reported that he was very wary due to a previous attempt to raid his place for arms, an order carried out by the direction of the battalion officers. It failed because Houston caught sight of the approaching raiders and put up steel shutters which he had for the windows. The raid was abandoned. Houston was reputed to be a very daring man who would shoot without hesitation in case of a raid on his house, a man that would put up good resistance if he got half the chance. He was a dangerous man as far as the raid was concerned. Lieutenant Daniel Ryan had said of him that if any man went into Houston's house wearing a mask he would come out a corpse.
Due to the knowledge that Houston was a wary and brave man and had his residence fortified, the volunteers decided to employ a ruse for a successful raid. There were seven members of the Kilbeacanty Company armed with shotguns and revolvers, and they decided to initiate their plan at 11 p.m. at night. Thomas Keely, Daniel Ryan, Michael Reilly and Patrick Glynn. According to eyewitness reports, they carried out this raid on their own initiative. The volunteers also brought a supply of paraffin oil to burn the house in case the raid was unsuccessful. There was no feelings lost by the Volunteers towards Houston as it was felt he was very hostile and openly helped the British authorities.
It was known that Houston was a great lover of horses, a quack horse doctor, and also that he was very friendly with a publican Canny in Killanena. This knowledge was used to great effect as Volunteer Patrick Glynn and Michael Reilly posed as Claremen and neighbours of Canny of Killanena. These volunteers were also unknown to Houston so made the ruse more believable. Michael Reilly did the talking as he was able to mimic the Clare accent, and Glynn accompanied him. The other 5 remained about 20 yards away, concealed in bushes.
Glynn and Reilly approached the back entrance to the house, where they came upon Houston’s older brother, Thomas (also a gamekeeper for Lord Gough), bringing in fuel for the fire, who enquired as to their late visit. They explained their horse was dying of the gripes and Mr. Canny had advised they go see Mr. Houston and ask him to attend the animal. The response was that it was very unlikely that Mr. Houston would see them at that hour of the night, but after some begging and acting by the Volunteers, Houston’s brother said he would inform his brother. He entered the house, followed by the two Volunteers into the back kitchen. A daughter of Houston was in the kitchen and screamed when she saw the volunteers. They left hurriedly and went to the front of the house. Houston must have heard his daughter, as he opened the hall door with a lit candle in one hand and a revolver in the other. Michael Reilly spoke at once and old him their ‘business’ and who had recommended he come. He instructed them immediately to leave the house, and asked how they had got in. They told him a man at the Castle directed them through the yard. He was just ten yards from both men and instructed them not to approach any closer. Both eyewitness accounts for Glynn and Reilly state that Houston seemed very suspicious. The men asked him to show them the way out and apologised for troubling him at such a late hour. He told them to return again in the morning if the horse wasn’t dead. They thanked him and asked him to hold the candle while they jumped the wall onto the main Ennis road.
He came down the steps from the hall door holding the candle high above his head. They had to pass him to get over the wall. When he was within ¾ yards, Michael Reilly reached for his .32 Colt automatic gun in his right hand. Although partly off guard, he was powerfully strong and attempted to throw Reilly over his leg, an attempt in which he failed. Reilly shouted for help, fearing Houston may get the barrel of the gun pointed towards his body. Glynn caught hold of him and the remainder of the party opened fire over their heads from their shotguns. Houston still did not give up his struggle, but eventually Reilly and Glynn succeeded in whipping the pistol out of his hand with a twist. Houston then reputedly said ‘I’m beaten’. Inspection of his pistol discovered it was fully loaded; six rounds in the magazine, with one in the breach. Houston had meant business, and it was lucky no one was injured during the struggle. Houston said, "If you don't know anything about that be careful with it", when he noticed the Volunteers inspecting the gun. Lieutenant Daniel Ryan asked Glynn to take charge of Houston while he and the others searched the house. Glynn and Houston paced up and down the avenue.
The volunteers proceeded to search the house and found boxes of mixed ammunition, but no arms. Houston told them that he had handed op his guns to the R.I.C. at Gort barracks, namely a shotgun and rifle. The Volunteers did not believe him, and threatened to shoot him. They brought him along with them for about a half mile, threatening to shoot him the entire time. Eventually, they made him stand against a wall and told him to say an Act of Contrition. Houston, standing to attention, believed the volunteers and plainly said ‘My God, I am sorry for the past’, and turning to the Volunteers, he said ‘shoot away now’’. The Volunteers, after hearing this, took his word that the guns had been handed up and let him go. The result of the raid was a small automatic pistol, about 100 rounds of ammo for the pistol, and 50 shotgun cartridges.
The known Volunteers involved in this raid were;
Daniel Ryan, Lieutenant
Thomas Keeley, afterwards Engineer Gort Battalion
Patrick Glynn, afterwards Vice Commandant Gort Battalion
Jeremiah Dwyer, a Co. Clare Volunteer
Late 1919 / Early 1920
The main Gort – Ennis road was blocked by felled trees at Lough Cutra. Eyewitness account do not remember the reason for the barricade, but it was likely in connection with some barrack attack in Co. Clare. When Lord Gough’s workmen gathered the next morning for work, the steward told them to remove the tress. One of the workmen, Volunteer Thomas Flanagan from Beagh Company refused, and the steward dismissed him. When the Kilbeacanty Company was informed of the incident, Lieutenant Dan Ryan, Volunteers Michael Reilly, Patrick Glynn, Volunteer Seamus Keely (later District Justice in Cobh, Co. Cork) and Thomas Keely went to Lough Cutra Castle and interviewed the steward. They threatened him ‘severely’, with the result that Volunteer Flanagan was taken back into employment the following day. It turned out the steward was one of the Houston brothers, but is not known which brother it was. While threatening Houston, the Kilbeacanty company succeeded in getting 13 rounds of ammo from his vest pocket. Dan Ryan and the other volunteers (excluding Thomas Keely) got more automatic ammunition in the house, some shotgun cartridges and a pair of old field glasses. When they returned, Houston said, "This raid was contemplated on me before now", but when questioned he would not tell where he got the Information. It was the volunteers’ belief that when he heard of other raids he took his rifles to the R.I.C. barracks for safe custody.
Sometime in early Spring, patrols of two or three R.I.C. went out from all local barracks and, as was usual, met the R.I.C. from next area. In most cases, they carried revolvers. Rifles were not carried by them at that period. The order was issued to all Companies to take patrols as they went in the Company area and, while not harming them, to disarm them. For this purpose, each Company Captain picked his strong men and this disarming was carried out without loss of life at Ballindereen, Ardrahan, Peterswell, Beagh. In each case, two .45 revolvers were taken with ammunition. Raids on big houses and gamekeepers' lodges were arranged and carried out, one at Chevychase in Kilbeacanty Company and one at Loughcutra in Beagh Company. Michael Reilly was in charge of Chevychase, and Dan Ryan was in charge of Lough Cutra. A rifle and shotgun, with gun ammunition, were got at Chevychase, and one small rifle, an automatic and about thirty rounds for same at Lough Cutra.
By September 1920, except for the few who meant to see it all through, the average Company dwindled down to, in most cases, ten men.
September / October 1920
I.R.A. Volunteers Michael Hynes and Seamus Davenport both scouted and watched the movements of the R.I.C. stationed in Kinvara. They noticed that the R.I.C. often went on the Doorus road for a mile or so. Lieutenant Kilkelly, Lieutenant Patrick Loughnane of Beagh Company and a few more took up positions on the Doorus road to disarm them. The R.I.C. patrol went to 200 yards of the place they were concealed behind the fence of the road and then stopped and turned about and returned to Kinvara. The patrol was discontinued after that. Lieutenant Kilkelly and several others waited in the same positions several nights, but they did not come out.
In September 1920, a dispatch from Daniel Ryan, Lieutenant of Kilbeacanty Company stated specifically that a lorry-load of the British Forces was to be attacked on the Gort/Ennis road at Lough Cutra and that the assistance of the Peterswell Company was needed. They were to be met by Lieutenant Daniel Ryan and given further instructions. About seven or eight members of the Peterswell Company, including Martin Fahey’s brother Company Captain John Fahey, went as requested to the appointed place; Kilifin Bridge. They waited there until the appointed time, 6 a.m., but nobody contacted them. They then went to the house of Daniel Ryan to see if they could learn anything further. He was at home and he informed them that the proposed attack was postponed, and he thought they had received word about the postponement.
At the end of October 1920, there was a planned attack on an R.I.C. patrol in Kilmacduagh. Men were mobilised there from Ardrahan, Peterswell, Kilmacduagh, Gort and Beagh Companies, with Battalion 0/C Thomas McInerney and Vice Commandant Peter Howley in charge. The following morning at daybreak they took up positions just inside both fences of the road. They were in four sections with about forty yards between each section. There were nine or ten men in each section. They remained there until about midday, and as the R.I.C. usually came the way long before this time they then withdrew and returned to their own company areas.
The information in this article is based on eyewitness testimony from Daniel Ryan, Thomas Keeley, Patrick Glynn and Michael Reilly.