BALLYCARNEY village was the scene of a very poignant commemoration ceremony recently when the centenary of the bombing of the local bridge was acknowledged.
A large crowd gathered at the bridge to hear Wexford historian, Barry Lacey, give an account of what happened at the bridge at around midnight, on Thursday, February 1, 1923, when the people of the village and surrounding areas were awoken to the sound of a large explosion.
The damage to the bridge was very obvious the following morning with the newspapers at the time reporting how the middle arch was ‘blown to smithereens as if it were matchwood’.
While nobody was injured in the bombing there were reports that one local lorry driver had a very lucky escape having driven over the bridge just before it was blown up.
Mr Lacey spoke of how the damage to the bridge caused massive disruption at the time as the bridge formed the major crossing point on the main road from Gorey to Kilkenny.
A short time before the bombing in Ballycarney, the bridge at Scarawalsh was similarly damaged causing further disruption for travellers.
A newspaper article at the time reported how the explosion was heard in Enniscorthy, such was its ferocity. A report also noted how the bridge at Ballymackessy on the main road between Enniscorthy and New Ross was ‘completely wrecked’ the previous Friday, having also been damaged a short time previous.
Outlining the circumstances surrounding the Ballycarney incident Mr Lacey highlighted to those in attendance at the commemoration that in the days and weeks following the outbreak of the Irish Civil War, on June 28, 1922, fighting broke out across the country between the forces of the newly established Irish Free State and the anti-Treat, IRA.
He said that while the early days of the conflict were characterised by large-scale, urban warfare, the late 1923, anti-Treaty forces were made retreat from towns and villages to more rural areas where they adopted guerilla warfare tactics.
"This included making the movement and general everyday activities of the Free State forces as difficult as possible, and that included the destruction of numerous road and railway bridge,” said Mr Lacey.
It was under such circumstances that the bridge at Ballycarney was bombed and badly damaged. It was one of many incidents in which the Civil War hit home in County Wexford.
The bridge in Ballycarney was constructed in 1780 and is attributed to the Oriel Brothers of New Hampshire. It’s the 24th bridge, out of a total of 33, that cross the Slaney river from its source in the Wicklow Mountains to where it enters the sea at Wexford harbour.
It’s also the only bridge over the river that has walk-in areas for pedestrians and while it has eight arches there are also two, smaller flood relief arches visible on the Tomgarrow side of the river.
The commemoration ceremony was very successful and members of Enniscorthy Historical Re-enactment Society were in attendance to give the day a very authentic feel.
The organisers of the commemoration were delighted with its success. They produced a commemorative booklet to mark the occasion and it was also very well received.