The Dillon’s Cross Ambush and the Burning of Cork
“We bombed them in the Abbey, we bombed them in the Glen.
We bombed them up in Dillon’s Cross, they bombed us back again. We bombed them in the “Wessie” and we bombed them in the Parade, And we gave them who began it in the First Cork Brigade”
Dillon’s cross, on Cork’s Northside, (named after the Fenian Brian Dillon, who lived on the junction himself), is barely two miles out of the city centre, and is a fairly quiet junction where Ballyhooley road up from St Luke’s meets the Old Youghal road, it was here on the night 11th of December 1920 a party of Auxillaries were Ambushed by the men of the First Cork Brigade IRA as they made their way down from what was then known as Victoria Barracks. Coming just two weeks after the Kilmichael ambush, this must have been another major blow to the morale of British Forces, who seeking retribution, burned Cork to the ground and Murdered the Delaney Brothers in their home.
The Ambush scene in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley was modelled on this type of attack, whereby a Volunteer would step out on to the path of the oncoming Lorries and wearing a Macintosh coat similar to that of British Soldiers call for them to Halt. Around 8pm on that night Michael Kenny waved the Lorries down, blew the whislte, the ambush had begun, they were met with bombs and revolver fire from behind the wall of O’Callaghans Field, before the Volunteers made good their escape down into Gouldings Glen, they left one British Soldier Dead and a dozen injured without sustaining any injuries themselves, according to Florie O’Donoghue an Ambush had been lain two weeks before but had not happened. After much thuggary, harassment and violence towards the people of Cork the notorious K Company were dealt a significant blow.
The attack only minutes from the Headquarters of the British Army in Cork, showed how daring, and dangerous the IRA were becoming in an urban setting. As Florie O’Donoughue recounts in the book “Rebel Cork’s Fighting Story 1916-1921 Told by the men who made it”, “The Difficulties Faced by the IRA in operating in the city in this period were immense. Enemy Forces had Barracks in all parts of the city; they were equiped with fast cars, lorries and armoured cars, in which they could swoop on any part of the city at short notice. They were, of course, vastly superior in numbers and armament to the IRA. One thing which they lacked, which the IRA had in generous measure – the co-operation of the people – and without it they were blind and impotent. That a group of armed men could frequent a particular locality for long periods day after day without their presence being remarked upon was inconceivable. Yet IRA men frequently did duty of this kind, and no word was ever passed to the enemy……”
The Delaney Brothers, Con and Jeremiah.
That fateful night saw the murder of two Volunteers Cornelius and Jeremiah Delaney, a group of up to ten men entered the family farm in Dublin Hill and a number of them having gained entry to the house went upstairs to the room where the brothers were sleeping, they were ordered up and asked their names, when they answered they were shot. Their Uncle William Dunlea was also injured in the attack. The men were active with the F Company First Cork Brigade and the family Farm was used as Dump for arms.
Following the Ambush the Auxilaries went on a rampage of Destruction and drunken violence, one of the first houses to suffer was Brian Dillon’s home on the cross, all efforts to put out the fires at Dillon’s cross and other areas of the city were prevented by the British. People were shot at for attempting to save their houses. Though the Ambush may have been the excuse the British wanted, they degree of organisation that lay behind the Rampage indicates that maybe it was on the cards anyway as Florie O’Donoughue states ” It is difficult to say with certainty whether or not Cork would have been Burned on that night if there had not been an Ambush. What appears more probable is that the Ambush provided the excuse for an act which was long premeditated and for which all arrangements had been made. The rapidity with which petrol and verey lights were brought from Cork Barracks to the centre of the city and the deliberate manner in which the work of firing the various premises was divided amongst groups under the control of officers gives evidence of organisation and pre-arrangement”
The British response on the night was one of both Drunken mayhem and organised terror, the latter being the main aim of the game, when dealing with a hostile population the British counter-insurgency effort generally turns to outright terror to subdue the population, with innocent people being the targets, nothing new in Ireland as far the British were concerned. The devastation they brought upon the city that night was immense, dozens of businesses were destroyed and hundreds of homes gone. Thousands were left jobless. It’s hard to imagine Cork City like that today, decked out in all its Christmas cheer, what must it have been like to witness the city engulfed in flames? Organised mobs of murderous men shooting off guns randomly at people. People out in the streets, their homes a ball of fire.
Whilst we live in relative peace today, Ireland remains partitioned and occupied, betrayed at every oppurtunity by the Gombeen men, who in little over a years time will try lay claim to the lineage of 1916 and at the same time they will tell us to forget the past and move on, one thing is for sure, the republican people of Cork will never forget the Delaney Brothers, the boys who brought the fight up at Dillon’s cross or those that suffered the night they sacked our city, for they will be remembered with pride long after the enemies of Ireland are dead and buried.