The Battle for Boyle, Co Roscommon – A Civil War Story

The Roscommon Republican Memorial erected in 1966 contains 41 Names of men who were killed or died in the period between 1916 and 1923 – there are several civilians listed who had no known political affiliations which is unusual but not unknown. 

The Republican Memorial at Shankill Cross is clearly visible from the road about halfway between Boyle and Tulsk. It was erected in 1963 just prior the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin. Most of the money collected to pay for the erection of the memorial came from amongst the Irish community in the USA. It was officially unveiled by Maguire

41 names of those remembered

The memorial lists 41 names, all men, who were killed or died in the struggle for Irish Independence. 38 men are listed as coming from Co Roscommon 3 others were from Counties Tipperary, Sligo and Westmeath but happened to lose their lives on Co Roscommon.

One of men listed William Partridge took part in the 1916 Rebellion as a member of the Irish Citizens Army and took part in the fighting at the College of Surgeons. He was interned in Dartmoor and later Lewes Prison where he was released from in April 1917 on health grounds. He died of tuberculosis in July 1917 in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, aged 43.

Three men listed were executed one under the British Administration in 1921 and two others, separately, under the Provisional Government in 1923 during the the Civil War.

There are two sets of brothers Patrick and Seamus Mulrennan and Michael and Seamus Cull all killed in the Civil War.

In all, other than Partridge, there are 28 killed in the 1919-21 period. These including 23 IRA Volunteers (one of whom died as a result of a motor cycle accident in August 1921 during the Truce) & 5 civilians; 12 killed during the during the Civil War including the two who were executed. There are no Free State officers or Volunteers listed on the memorial or civilians who were killed either accidentally or on purpose by Republicans.


Towards the end of June 1922 there were about 50 Irregulars, Anti Treaty forces based in Boyle barracks and a slightly smaller force, about 40 of Government or Pro Treaty forces garrisoned in the Workhouse. The tensions between the two garrisons in the town one either side of the river had been rising.  On the morning of Wednesday June 28th the Provisional Government forces commenced their attack on the anti Treaty garrison in the Four Courts. The following day Irregulars based in the Barracks began to become more active. They began patrolling around the town and setting up roadblocks on the roads leading into the town, stopping and searching vehicles. They also began ordering any Pro Treaty troops they came across back to their barracks.

Colonel/Commandant Alec McCabe (PT) was arrested at the Rockingham Arms hotel and taken to the Barracks but released shortly afterward.

On Friday June 30th 1922 the day the Four Courts garrison surrendered interaction between the two groups became more hostile. Brigadier Michael Dockery CO of the Pro Treaty Forces was roughed up in the town when he refused to raise his arms when ordered to do so by a small group of Irregulars. Jim Hunt’s car was stopped near the Abbey and he was taken into custody in the Barracks. Both forces seemed to be shadow boxing neither one wanting to be the first to start the violence. Notice of the surrender in Dublin was posted up in the Post Office but Irregulars soon arrived and tore it down.

On Saturday the Irregulars occupied James Darcy’s drapery shop on the corner of Patrick Street and the Green. They also took over the Northern Bank opposite and began to fortify both buildings. It was clear they were setting up strategic outposts for the forthcoming battle.

At 3am on Sunday morning, July 2nd 1922, the residents of Main Street and Patrick Street were awoken by groups of Irregulars leaving the Barracks and making their way toward the Mill. Here they crossed the river and made their way toward the back of the Workhouse covering the North and west of the building. A second force made their way up the Crescent and up to Cootehall  Street. Soon the Workhouse was surrounded. Without warning began to open fire and attack the building from the front and rear. The Pro Treaty troops caught unawares quickly armed them selves and began to fire back from the windows.

In charge of the Pro Treaty troops were Brigadier Michael Dockery, Vice Brigadier Hugh Lenehan, Commandants James Feely and Andrew Lavin. These officers rallied their men, many new recruits with no experience of being under fire and they kept the attackers at bay. Behind the Workhouse was the Boyle District Hospital where about 30 patients were caught in the crossfire. Brigadier Dockery made his way over to the hospital and spoke with Matron K. Devaney. She and Nurse Meehan and wardsmaid Mrs W. Harper together with their patients all tried to take what cover they could but were unable to leave the building.

Determined to stop the gunfire he made his way out the back door  with Volunteer Igoe and in an attempt to try and get everyone to stop shooting. They were shouted at by a group of Irregulars who asked who they were when Dockery replied he was immediately shot dead. Igoe took cover behind a wall where he remained trapped. The remaining Pro Treaty troops did not know what had happened and assumed Dockery and Igoe had gone for reinforcements.

The sniping and shooting continued and for over 12 hours the Workhouse garrison were under siege. Around 9am Matron Devaney and Nurse Meehan went out the back of the hospital under a white flag and retrieved Brigadier Dockery’s body.

Pro Treaty reinforcements on their way to Boyle from Strokestown were ambushed at Mount Druid near Belangare. Though they suffered no casualties their progress to Boyle was impeded.

By Sunday afternoon July 2nd the Irregulars had retreated and took over houses in Elphin Street, the top of the Crescent and Tarmon where they continued sniping at the Workhouse. Cmdt Lavin led a small party out of the building and captured an Irregular named Rathnee.

At around 7pm a Lancia armoured car complete with machine gun came into the town from the Croghan direction and made its way down Greatmeadow. It was commanded by Capt. F.F. McNabola from Carrick on Shannon.

Upon its arrival the Irregulars retreated from the Cootehall street area down the town back toward the Barracks.

On Monday July 3rd 1922 the town became gripped in a full scale firefight as Free State troops supporting the armoured car moved slowly toward the Bridge. They were subjected to sniper fire from various locations and buildings on the crescent as well as well fortified Anti Treaty positions located at the bottom of Green Street and in the National Bank opposite. During the course of the exchange Ms Ellen Nolan who was living over the family drapers shop on the crescent went upstairs to gather some belongings when she was shot dead through an upper window. A child in a cot in the premises next door was grazed by a bullet. Some other civilians were wounded in the continuing exchange of fire. Ms Nolan was 50 years old and possibly visiting the family home on a trip home from the USA.


The fighting continued through Tuesday and Wednesday as the Free State soldiers now well reinforced and with the aid of the armoured car “The Ballinalee” and captured some Anti Treaty Irregulars. Aware that the town was lost the Anti Treatites set the roof of King House on fire and retreated from the town in the direction of Sligo. Jim Hunt the Free State officer captured prior to the Battle was released and the town was then occuoied by Free Sate Forces.


On Thursday July 6th 1922 as the fighting in the town was coming to a close a Free State convoy of three wagons carrying more troops coming from Athlone was ambushed a mile outside the town at Ballytrasna. About 14 Anti Treaty men had occupied a house and opened fire on the convoy. The Free State soldiers leap form the wagons and took up positions returning fire. After a short gun battle the Free State soldiers surrounded the house and after running out of ammunition some of the attackers surrendered. At some stage, possibly as the prisoners were being rounded up Sgt Frank Balfe a Free State NCO from Athlone was shot dead. His body along with 14 prisoners continued on the journey to Boyle.

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