The Ballymacandy Ambush: 1st June 1921

9.30am: Twelve RIC and Black and Tans leave Killorglin RIC Barracks by bicycle to travel to Tralee to collect their wages. They are led by District Inspector Michael Francis McCaughey, a native of County Down.

Killorglin in the early 1920s

10.00am: The RIC and Blacks and Tans are noticed passing through Milltown and shortly after that, Castlemaine. Among the group is RIC sergeant, James Collery, who lives at the Square in Milltown with his wife and eight children.

11.00am: At his home at Brackhill, Dan Mulvihill of the Milltown Company of the IRA, receives information that the police party have passed through the area. He sends word to local IRA members to assemble and prepare for an attack.

Dan Mulvihill

11.30am: Word is sent to ‘The Hut,’ an IRA hideout high in the mountains in Fybough that an attack is imminent. Castlegregory’s Tadhg Brosnan leads about 20 men in the direction of Ballymacandy.

12.30pm The RIC and the Black and Tans arrive in Tralee to collect their wages.

1.00pm At her home at Boolteens, Cumann na mBan member, Nellie Foley sees known IRA members running in the direction of Castlemaine. She prepares a special first aid centre she has set up in her home to receive IRA casualties.

Nellie Foley of Keel Cumann na mBan

2.00pm IRA members from Milltown, Callinafercy, Kiltallagh, Keel and men from ‘The Hut’ including IRA men from Tralee and Castlegregory assemble at Castlemaine and are given instructions by Officer Commanding, Tom O’Connor to lie in wait on either side of the road at Ballymacandy

2.30pm The RIC and Black and Tans leave Tralee

Castlemaine Railway Bridge

3.30pm After having a drink in Griffin’s Bar in Castlemaine, McCaughey and his men stop briefly at the railway bridge in Castlemaine. They travel on towards Milltown despite warnings that an IRA attack was imminent.

4.00pm Just before 4pm, as they cycle through Ballymacandy, the order is given to fire by O/C Tom O’Connor. Within an hour five men are dead or injured on the road. District Inspector McCaughey and Sgt James Collery were killed immediately following soon after by Constable John Quirke.

Thomas ‘Totty’ O’Sullivan

4.30pm Among the first eyewitnesses at the scene are ten-year old schoolboy, Thomas ‘Totty’ O’Sullivan and his friend, Denis Sugrue. Annie Cronin and other members of Cumann na nBan arrive to help to clear up the guns and police documents from the road.

5.00pm Fr Sandy O’Sullivan, the curate in Milltown arrives at the scene, having heard the gunfire. He hears the dying words of Constable Joseph Cooney: ‘Tell the Glencar lads that it wasn’t I shot Joe Taylor,’ a reference to an incident several months previously

Dr Daniel Sheehan

5.30pm Dr Daniel Sheehan, local doctor and Medical Officer with the Kerry No. 1 Brigade, arrives and tends to the dead and wounded. With retired RIC sergeant, William Whinton, he arranges that the heavily bleeding constable, John Stratton McCormack be moved off the road and into Pensioner Shea’s cottage nearby.

5.45pm Annie Cronin of Cumann na mBan runs through the streets of Milltown warning civilians about the likelihood of reprisals and to stay inside their homes.

Milltown c. 1921

6.00pm At his home at Callinafercy House, Major Markham Richard Leeson Marshall is informed of the incident as he has tea with his wife, Meriel and the Reverend and Mrs King of Milltown.

6.30pm Large numbers of senior RIC, Auxiliary and Black and Tan leaders arrive at the scene. Those who escaped the ambush return along the railway line to Killorglin barracks.

Sgt James Collery (RIC)

7.30pm The remains of DI McCaughey, Sgt Collery and Constables Quirke and Cooney are removed to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Milltown. They are received by Fr Sandy O’Sullivan who maintained a vigil in the church throughout the night.

9.00pm Lt Snoxell of Ballymullen Barracks in Tralee arrives in Milltown and orders that a special train be sent from Tralee the following day to collect the remains of the four dead men as well as the injured Constable McCormack

10.00pm Dr Sheehan visits Pensioner Shea’s cottage to tend to the wounded Black and Tan and would do so several times that night.

Major Leeson Marshall

10.30pm At Callinafercy House, Major Leeson Marshall notes the events of day in his diary, adding: ‘Horrible ending to so good a day.’

The definitive account of the Ballymacandy Ambush now available:

Ballymacandy: The Story of a Kerry Ambush – Owen O’Shea (

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