“The Tower that Captain Mackey Sacked”

Then one of them stepped up to me and he asked me did I know
The Green hills of Tipperary or the Glen of Aherlow
Or could I tell where Crowley fell, his native land to free
Or the tower that Captain Mackey sacked, down Erin’s lovely Lee

Monning Tower which was attacked by Captain Mackey's Band of Fenians in December 1867

Monning Tower which was attacked by Captain Mackey’s Band of Fenians on December 27th 1867

In a recent excursion the Rebel History Group followed in the footsteps of the Bold Captain Mackey of the Fenian Brotherhood who in December 27th 1867 Captured and Sacked Monning Tower along the Train line between Fota island and Cobh.  It is recorded that Monning Tower is in fact the only Martello Tower to be attacked or see any action at all in Ireland.


Many who travel on the train line between Cork and Cobh will be familiar with this lonely outpost that has long been abandoned, but how many know its history? It is one of Five Martello Towers in Cork Harbour, Rossleague, Belvelly, Monning, Haulbowline and Ringaskiddy,  such was the British State’s fear of Invasion from France in the early 1800’s.  Built in 1813 it boasts 8ft thick walls, however these were not enough to keep out the Fenians who rowed up from Passage West and having hid away their boat they stormed the tower capturing its stockpile of Gunpowder and weapons. The Soldiers inside were warned not to leave until morning and that if they did they would be shot by a man posted outside the Tower.

The Mills painting depicting the attack

The Mills painting depicting the attack

The Fenian Rising of 1867 failed, like many of our efforts,  but it did not stop the men in Cork carrying on the fight.  About a month before the Monning Tower attack, on November 28th Fenians in Cork struck Mr Richardsons shop in Patrick St, making off with 120 revolvers and 8 snider rifles! A few days after they hit the Tower, another Gunmakers in Patrick Street, a shop owned by Mr Henry Alport, was raided, there they took over 70 brand new revolvers, having secured those guns and put them offiside they returned to the shop to collect the ammunition, Mr Henry Alport was held at Gunpoint throughout, when the deed was done they fled through the side streets off Patrick St,  the alarm was eventually raised,  however it was useless, the Fenians were gone!

The arms raids may have been a headache for the British, but the Sacking of the Martello Tower, like Captain Mackey’s Capture of Ballyknockane Police Barracks was a strike against an offical post of the British Government ! Both in Ireland and England it made the papers, it was a major embarassment to the British and must have been a morale boost to the IRB around the country!

The Entrance

The narrow entrance

When tried on the charge of Treason Felony of being connected to the Fenian Brotherhood, from the Dock William Francis Lomasney “Captain Mackey” said this “…….I would only repeat the powerful, touching and simple words of Michael Larkin, the Martyr of Manchester, who, in parting from his friends said, ‘God be with you Irishmen and Irishwomen’ and the burning words of my old friend Edward O’Mara Condon , which are known throughout Ireland and the world  ‘God save Ireland’  And I too would say, ‘God be with you Irishmen and women ; God save you, God bless Ireland; and God grant me the strenght to bear my task for Ireland as becomes a man. Farewell! ” After which the Judge sentenced Mackey to a term of 12 years penal servitude.

Historian Walter McGrath at Monning Tower in 1972

Historian Walter McGrath on a trip to  Monning Tower in 1972. Photo courtesy of D.P. Barry.

Monning Tower in 1972

Monning Tower in 1972. Photo courtesy of D.P. Barry.

A view from the Back of the Tower which shows the drainage protrusions

A view from the back of the Tower which shows the drainage protrusions

One of the more colourful figures in the Fenian Movement due to his daring exploits and reputation for chivalry, William Francis Lomasney was born in  Ohio, America.  His parents came from Castlelyons, near Fermoy.  Republicanism was in his blood it seems, his Great Grandfather was killed in the Rebellion of 1798!  He was sent to Millbank prison for 12 years,  however  he was released under the General Amnesty of 1871. A veteran of the American Civil War he came to Ireland to join the ill -fated Fenian Rising.  Known for his courage and bravery in the cause of Freedom,   Mackey was to die fighting for Ireland, in an attempt to blow up London Bridge, he was killed in the premature explosion in 1884.

William Francis Lomansey "Captain Mackey"

William Francis Lomasney “Captain Mackey”

Today Monning Tower stands alone between Fota island and Cobh, surrounded by thick bushes its only inhabitants, birds. It is off limits to the public because it is so inaccessible and due to its proximity to the train tracks , it would be nice to see it restored and maintained as a national monument so that we could pay tribute to the daring deeds of Captain Mackey’s men.


For more photos of Monning Martello Tower go to our Facebook page where you will see the Monning Tower Album.  Many thanks to Carl for the loan of the Camera and of course a special thanks to the man with no name.

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