Tuesday 16 October 2018

Historic break-out from Dundalk Gaol recalled

NINETY YEARS ago next Friday there was an historic break-out from Dundalk Gaol on the Ardee Road by antiTreaty forces under the command of Frank Aiken.

To mark the event, from Friday it will be possible to view the details of each of the 106 escapees from the gaol by going to www. louthcoco. ie and then link to Archives.

Otherwise, you can go (by appointment) to the County Archives in the Old Gaol, Ardee Road and view on micro-film the gaol register from which the record of each prision was sourced.

Local man Stephen O'Donnell recalls that with the ratification of the Anglo/Irish treaty in January 1922, Crown Forces began to evacuate in the 26 counties, and on April 13th those stationed in Dundalk Military Barracks moved out, but by mid-day the 4th Northern Division of the IRA under Frank Aiken took up occupation.

In June the Civil War broke out, and on July 16th proTreaty forces descended on the Barracks and with any casualties, took all prisoner. They were marched just over a mile, with a heavy escort, to the County Gaol, where they were detained.

Eleven days later on July 27 around 7pm, an explosive device was placed against the gaol wall along the Ardee Road. The prisoners were in the exercise yard, with Frank Aiken and a number of senior staff aware that a break out attempt was going to occur that evening.

On a signal from within the device was exploded and the wall was breached, with a sizeable hole appearing.

All the prisoners were free to make a run for it, and 106 escaped, but over the following days and weeks many of them were re-captured and reinterred in the gaol and other parts of the country.

A visit to the County Archives, either online or in person, will from Friday reveal more about those involved.