A TRAGEDY OF THE CIVIL WAR.
On the evening of 2 October 1922, as dusk approached, Ignatius
Redmond, a Lieutenant in the newly formed Free State army, was shot
dead on the roadside, at a place known as "The Kiln" two and a half
miles from Bunclody on the old Bunclody-Kiltealy road. He died from
a spate of bullets from handgun fired from close range. The tragedy
took place just before 7.p.m as Redmond walked southwards, towards
the Halfway House.
Nacey, as he was popularly known, was son of Laurence Redmond, a
tailor, and a native of Bunclody. His mother, Minnie (nee Kenny, of
Ram Street, Wexford, and a former schoolteacher) had died when Nacey
was a child and his father had re-married. By the time of the
tragedy there were four children in the second marriage. Nacey got
on well with his family as can be seen by the fact that he lived as
a favoured nephew with his step-mother's sister, Maggie Doyle, at
Carrigduff, just outside the town. He had been active in local
affairs serving as secretary to the local branch of the Transport
Workers Union. He had been prominent in the Sinn Fein movement and
had held the key post of secretary. By profession, he was an
insurance agent with a good "book" established in the area.
His first apparent break with his former comrades came when at
Easter, 1922, he presided at a pro-Treaty meeting in Bunclody. In
August he relinquished his position as Union Branch Secretary and
resigned from his Insurance post to join the newly formed Free State
Army. He was quickly promoted to Lieutenant and was assigned as
second in command at the Bunclody barracks. The barracks had come
under fire twice in the month of September. Sniper shots had been
aimed at the building and hand grenades had been thrown into the
barrack yard. The garrison had returned fire on each occasion but
there were no reports of casualties on either side. However, the
attacks were a portent of the unrest aroused by the signing of the
Treaty and clear statement from the Republican side that the armed
struggle was not over.
Redmond's Insurance round was being taken over by a man named John
Grace from Clonmore, Tullow, Co Carlow. They used to meet frequently
in connection with the handing over as Redmond introduced him to his
clients; On the fatal day Grace called to the Barracks at about one
o'clock. Redmond took a half day's leave. They spent some short time
together in the town and at about 1.30.p.m. Redmond, still in
uniform, set out with Grace on his round. This, according to Grace's
testimony at the Coroners Inquest, was their usual practice. Grace
had arranged a call at Foley's of Kilanure and they walked together
to Glaslacken, some two miles out from Bunclody. It became evident
that their movements were being watched. According to Grace's
testimony, two men who had been walking towards them turned into the
Crosses Lane as they approached. After travelling on a bit, Grace
testified, they looked back and saw that the tow men had returned to
the junction. When Redmond saw this, his suspicions were aroused and
he transferred his revolver to the breast pocket of his tunic
telling Grace that he would go back to Bunclody "in case these
fellows tried to cut me off". Grace went on via the Shannon Lane to
Kilanure and returned by the same route on his way to Rossard. Later
he returned via Kilmyshall arriving in Bunclody at 6.30.p.m. He
called to the Barracks where he had arranged to meet up with
Redmond, unaware of the fate that was about to befall his colleague
at about that time.
What happened to Redmond after he parted company with Grace is still
part of the mystery. In any event it would appear that he had ample
opportunity of making his way back to Bunclody had he wanted to.
There was a rumour that he was kidnapped and brought to an empty
farmhouse to face his accusers. The evidence does not support this.
The other and more likely version is that he went to a nearby house
which he was wont to visit before the "split" and where he was still
on friendly terms. He helped the women of the house to bring the
afternoon tea to a meithal working in the fields, some distance
away, saving the last of the Oat harvest. At the same time, a
Kangaroo Court, to decide his fate, was being held in an unoccupied
farmhouse close to where he and Grace had first seen the two men.
The deliberations of the Court went on for some hours and by late
evening, a notice had been posted at The Kiln:-
"NO SPIES OR TRAITORS MAY PASS THIS ROAD".
Just before nightfall, Redmond walked up the road in the direction
away from Bunclody; he must have seen the notice as he passed it by.
He was accompanied by a companion who may or may not have been aware
of the developing events. He parted company with his companion at
the Shannon Lane and a hundred yards further on he was fired on from
point blank range. A shot to the temple, another to the lower face
and a bullet through his right hand which he had obviously raised in
an automatic act of self protection, ended his life. He fell to the
road in a pool of blood and his assailant made off leaving him to
die. His killer must also have take his revolver; there was no sign
of it on his body after the shooting and it is unlikely that he was
travelling unarmed in the area after his experience earlier in the
afternoon. There is evidence of he having been advised by one of the
men (Michael Fitzpatrick) working in the “Meithal” and whose
suspicions had been aroused by the activity in the area, to get back
to Bunclody via the New Line and escape falling into any trap.
Redmond, however, felt that he was well able to take care of
First on the scene after the shooting was Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, a
14 year old girl who heard the shots and went to see what was amiss.
When she saw the body in a pool of blood she ran to seek help. She
met another young girl, Sarah Nolan, who was returning from a
farmers house with a pail of milk. A third young girl, Elizabeth
Murphy who was driving cows in the avenue leading to her home nearby
was also quickly on the scene. Miss Fitzpatrick, leaving the other
two to render what assistance they could to the victim, ran to a
nearby house but there was nobody at home. She went to another house
where she met a man who declined to become involved. She then met
another neighbour, Andrew Doyle, who accompanied her to the scene
and who testified at the inquest that he had heard the victim try to
mutter something. He sped on his bicycle to Bunclody for spiritual
and medical assistance and to report the occurrence to the
authorities. Also on the scene by this time was a young boy named
Peter Doyle who was going to meet his father, Owen Doyle, who was
engaged in road repair work for the County Council. The victim had
not yet been identified. Andrew Doyle was later to testify that even
though he knew Redmond he he did not recognise him at the scene
because there was so much blood around and darkness was closing in.
Fr Aidan Forristal, P.P. and Fr John O'Brien C.C. were quickly on
the scene. Fr Forrestal had some bitter words to say after he had
administered the Last Rites. The vengeance of God, he said, must
surely fall on the perpetrators of such an evil deed. No aspiration
could justify this foul murder. By that time a crowd had gathered
and the dead man had been identified. A military patrol from the
Barracks arrived and took possession of the body which they conveyed
back to Bunclody on a farmer's cart. An inquest was held next day in
the Town Hall. There was the usual testimony of identification and
evidence taken from those who were at the scene. John Grace was told
that while no shred of suspicion was attached to him, nevertheless,
he need not say anything, but if he did it would be recorded for
possible further use.
Seven local men were arrested and held for questioning. They were
removed to Enniscorthy under strong guard on that night. No charges
were brought against any of them and it may have been a case of
rounding up well known anti-treaty activists. It was generally
agreed that the killer or killers had got away. There was a civil
war in progress and things were far from normal. No one was charged
with the crime. The blame was inevitably placed on the shoulders of
his former comrades in the guerrilla movement who were now on the
opposite side of the divide. Those rounded up were:
Michael Reardon, a native of Bagenalstown, who worked as a
journeyman tailor with Owen Sheridan at Irish Street.
William Copeland who lived in Dormer's Terrace.
Sylvester Byrne, a native of Enniscorthy who worked as a clerk in
Dunne's, Market Square.
Edward Dunbar a native of Ferns and also a clerk in Dunne's.
Peter Sheridan, a tailor, brother of Owen Sheridan.
James Curran, Carrigduff, a potter whose forebears came from
Kilkenny. He had seen active service in Easter Week 1916 and Peter
Hughes, Church Road. All were released without charge.
At the inquest, one of the jurors had strong criticism "that nobody
seemed to have heard the shots being fired". This was a premature
comment; the shots had been heard by the three girls who arrived
first at the scene and by members of the Skelton family who were
unloading straw in the haggard of what was then an out-farm. Michael
Skelton, then a 12 year old lad, tells how his father shouted at
them to lie on the ground as the shots were heard from a field away.
The inquest was held less than 24 hours after the tragedy and
enquiries were just begun. It would seem that what the juror was
driving at was that the person who had been with “Nacey” a few
moments earlier did not seem to have heard the shots and implying
some complicity, or at least knowledge of the imminent murder. There
was also another factor not known to this juror. The Doyle's,
nearby, were carrying out repairs to the roof of their dwelling and
there was much crackling and breaking of slates all day. Patrick
Doyle who had been fencing in the vicinity of the tragedy had gone
home to his supper some time before the shooting. It was he who
later refused to go for aid pleading that he had no bicycle and that
he might get some blame because of his proximity to the scene. In
fairness to him it must be said that he never had any involvement in
the struggle and his refusal must be viewed in that light. There was
never any shred of blame or suspicion cast his way. If, in fact, he
had seen the assailant, he never divulged it and his secret, if he
had one, went with him to his grave many years later.
It is easy to be wise in hindsight, but it was a dangerous posting
for the young Lieutenant since many of his former comrades were
still in the armed struggle and resented vehemently the terms of the
treaty they saw as being imposed on them. Nacey Redmond knew these
men well; their hide-outs, their safe houses and most of all their
intelligence information and its sources. It was a high risk posting
and it cost him his life. He must have been aware of the risks he
was taking when he donned his army uniform to serve in his own area.
There were many tragedies of the civil war which touch the hearts of
all of us. This one became for me the most poignant and real as it
occurred so close to where I lived. I grew with whispered tales of
the sad occurrence as men gathered around the fire on winter's
nights with tales to tell and issues to debate about local
happenings. There was no television and little radio in those days
to bring stories of the outside world so local happenings fully
engaged our minds.
It was generally conceded that more was known of the murder than
found its way into the formal records. Now some 70 years later and
with but a few who have knowledge of that evening still living, I
decided to talk with them one last time and try to piece together
what knowledge still exists and to recount as far as I am able the
tragedy of that October evening some five years before I was born.