The Ambush that Ignited the Irish War of Independence

By | June 23, 2019

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3rd Tipperary Brigade, IRA. Source: (Wikipedia)

A singular incident considered criminal by some and patriotic by others began the process of creating an independent, Ireland. But the cost was great.

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Royal Irish Constabulary circa 1900. Source: (

On January 21, 1919, Patrick Flynn walked in the rain beside a horse-drawn cart. He was rambling down an old dirt road that wound almost three miles from the town of Tipperary, Ireland to the Soloheadbeg Quarry. Farms and cottages predominated in the Irish plains lands, except for the quarry itself that sat on a hill. Some miles southward loomed Galteemore, the highest of the Galty Mountains between the counties of Limerick and Tipperary.

Flynn was not alone. He, being an employee of the Tipperary County Council, was in general charge of the cargo on the cart, but he also worked with a driver named James Godfrey. There were also James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell, officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). They bore loaded rifles and trailed behind the cart as rearguard.  

There was a good cause for the police guard since the cargo was 160 pounds of gelignite from the military barracks in Tipperary. The explosive was generally safe from accidental explosion, but that offered no protection from other problems in those dangerous times.