During the Irish War of Independence, the Ballymacoda company of the I.R.A. was part of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion – designated as company ‘O‘.
The records available from the ‘Military Service Pensions Collection‘ for the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion indicate that the commander of the Ballymacoda brigade was Captain John Ahern, with Lieutenant Matt Walsh as second in command. Note that these were likely the last officers in charge of the company when the records were compiled after the War of Independence. There is evidence of previous commanders contained in the witness statements taken by the Bureau of Military History. For example, the witness statement of Joseph Aherne, captain of the Midleton company, makes reference to Pat Gumbleton being commander of the Ballymacoda company at one point. The company was 60-strong – comparatively larger than other similar areas, for example the Ladysbridge (‘I’ company) and Killeagh (‘J1’ company) groups each had 35 members, and Carrigtwohill (‘D’ company) had 32.
There is some evidence to be found of the activities of the Ballymacoda company in the witness statements of the Bureau of Military History. The statement of Patrick J. Whelan, who was Vice Commandant of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, 4th Battalion, provides evidence that the Ballymacoda company was involved in the attack on the R.I.C. barracks in Cloyne on May 8th 1920. The objective of this raid was to obtain arms, and it was successful, with the R.I.C. surrendering the barracks and their guns being secured. However, based on the account of Whelan the men from Ballymacoda got a bit over excited in the aftermath of the raid:
We fell in on the Main Street and sang the “Soldiers song”, with great gusto. The boys from Ballymacoda were in great form. but were foolish enough to identify their presence by shouting, “Up Ballymacoda”, until ordered to stop by Mick Leahy.From Patrick Whelan’s account of the attack on the R.I.C. barracks in Cloyne, May 1920
There is also evidence, from the witness statement of Edmond O’Brien who was a member of ‘C’ company (Shanagarry), that members from the Ballymacoda company participated in a failed attack on a lorry travelling between Youghal and Ballycotton, at Ballylanguane, Shanagarry in August 1920, with the plan being to dig a trench across the road, capture the lorry with minimal damage, switch uniforms with the occupants, and drive to Ballycotton in disguise in an attempt to capture the R.I.C. barracks there. However, this plan ultimately failed when the lorry arrived sooner than expected and was able to drive over the half completed trench with just a few shots being fired by the attackers.
O’Brien’s witness statement also describes the building of a ‘dug out’ (for concealing arms and ammunition) at Shanagarry in late 1920. In order to make the dug out waterproof, specific materials would be required which were not easily available at the time. O’Brien describes the successful raid on a partially built and sparsely guarded aerodrome at Ballyquirk, Killeagh where members of the Shanagarry company, assisted by members of the Ballymacoda and Ladysbridge companies overpowered the guards and secured cement and corrugated iron for the purpose of waterproofing the dug out.
Perhaps the most famous member of the Ballymacoda company was Richard (Dick) Hegarty of Moanroe, Garryvoe, and his story has been told many times in much better words than I can express here. In September/October 1920, a flying column was organized within the 4th battalion. The flying column was to be composed of men already on the run, or men in imminent danger of arrest, and Richard Hegarty was a member from its formation. In the worst loss of life suffered by the I.R.A. during the War of Independence, the flying column was to be decimated in February 1921 at Clonmult, when the farmhouse they were billeted in was surrounded by British forces.
So, there is plenty evidence available of the activities of the Ballymacoda company and their involvement in key operations and events in East Cork during the War of Independence, but what of the members themselves? The following is a list of the 60 recorded members of the Ballymacoda company. This list is compiled from the pension records available from the Military Service Pensions Collection. Please see the notes below.
- This data is transcribed from a very old (1930s), handwritten document, so it may contain transcription errors.
- Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the names presented by searching the closest reference point – the 1911 Census of Ireland – the data in the Address column is compiled from these Census records.
- Where the Census records returned multiple matches, e.g. a person of the same name and appropriate age living in a different townland in the locality, all results are included.
- As names are transcribed from a handwritten document, 4 entries are only partially legible – these are captured at the end of the table for completeness.
- Except for the illegible entries, the names appear in the same order as in the pension records.
|John Hennessy||Ballymakeagh, Monagoul, Mountcotton or Shanakiel|
|William Hennessy||Mountcotton or Shanakiel|
|Pat Murphy||Glenawilling, Shanavagoon, Ballymacoda or Ballydaniel|
|Martin Walsh||Barnfield or Knockadoon|
|Pat Shanahan||Knockadoon or Ring|
|John Condon||Ballyskibbole or Ballymacoda|
|James Walsh Snr||Unknown|
|James Walsh Jnr||Unknown|
|Richard Condon||Ring or Ballyskibbole|
|William Walsh||Knockadoon or Shanakill|
References & Further Information
Military Service Pensions Collection, Cork No. Brigade, 4th Battalion, Military Archives of Ireland
Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1449, Commandant Patrick J. Whelan
Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 1367, Joseph Aherne
Bureau of Military History, Witness Statement 623, Edmond O’Brien