independent

Monday 12 November 2018

The Sack of Balbriggan to be commemorated

A MASS and wreath laying ceremony will take place in Balbriggan to commemorate the Sack of Balbriggan which took place on the terrible night of September 20, 1920.Members of the Fingal Old IRA Commemorative Society, relatives of those deceased and members of the public can join a Colour Party in the car park opposite St Peter and Pauls Church at 11.40am on Sunday, Septe

By Donncha MacRaghnaill

A MASS and wreath laying ceremony will take place in Balbriggan to commemorate the Sack of Balbriggan which took place on the terrible night of September 20, 1920.

Members of the Fingal Old IRA Commemorative Society, relatives of those deceased and members of the public can join a Colour Party in the car park opposite St Peter and Paul’s Church at 11.40am on Sunday, September 21.

Mass will take place at 12 noon before the Colour Party and band will parade to the monument at Bridge Street where a wreath will be laid.

The commemoration, organised by Commemorative Society, will end up with photos and memorabilia associated with this period on display at the Bracken Court Hotel, where refreshments will be served.

The rampage by the notorious ‘Black and Tans’ on the night of Monday, September 20 was in reprisals for the deaths of District Inspector Burke RIC and his brother Sergeant Burke who were shot dead while in Smyth’s pub, Balbriggan earlier that day.

The sack began around 11pm as lorries loaded with Black and Tans arrived in the town from the barracks at Gormanston and directly proceeded to shoot, burn and loot the town in a systematic spree of horrific violence.

In Clonard Street, 20 houses were destroyed leaving helpless and terrified inhabitants to flee into the fields surrounding the town.

Several pubs were looted and burned including Derham’s Pub and McGowan’s pub on George’s Hill.

Local businesses were also targeted with Deeds and Templar Hosiers, an English-funded company, completely destroyed.

This factory had employed 130 workers and an additional 180 who did work for it from home, according to Pat O’Neill who complied a factual account on the Burning of Balbriggan.

There was only one house targeted on Hampton Street and it was that of John Gibbons, who was taken for questioning concerning the shootings earlier that day.

Also at the barracks was the town’s barber James Lawless, both men protesting their innocence.

They were later taken to Quay Street where they were beaten to death, their bodies found the next morning as the smoke from burned out town still rose in an eerie silence.

A terrified population sought refuge wherever they could, many going to Dublin to stay with relatives as news of the carnage spread throughout the land.

Others with nowhere to go or those who did not want to leave slept in makeshift straw homes in the fields around the town.

On Thursday morning, a local businessman, Mr Gallen, paid for families with no homes to travel to distant relatives.

A subsequent inquiry put the blame firmly at the doorstep of the British forces and awarded compensation to the families of Lawless and Gibbons of £1,750 each, which was to be paid by the ratepayer.

Also levied to the county was damages totalling over £80,000 with costs for Deeds and Templar which an inquiry heard had left 200 unemployed and would take two-and-a-half years to rebuild.



Numerous other claims were settled for destroyed businesses, homes and damages to other property incurred over the night of Monday, September 20.

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