This day 100 years ago the Lady Wicklow, carrying 450 Free State Troops (the newly formed Irish Army that was pro-treaty), landed at Fenit in Co.Kerry. Among them was granddad, who had volunteered that July. This photograph of the landing at Fenit was taken by George Morrison. The soldier at the top of the gang plank looks very like granddad but it is hard to be sure. In the previous week the fighting had shifted from the capital to the South West where the anti-treaty IRA were digging in. The landing at Kerry was one of a number designed to take the IRA by surprise from the rear. In this they were successful and its said the war was decided that summer. However the fighting continued there for over a year and included some atrocities on both sides, particularly in March 1923. Granddad never talked about Kerry but according to Richard McElligot of the Dundalk Institute of Technology writes that …
“The National Army’s seaborne landing in Co Kerry and subsequent capture of Tralee on August 2nd 1922 would indeed be one of the bloodiest single days of combat it experienced in the Civil War. Yet in the end the success of this gambit changed the course of the conflict and doomed the anti-Treaty IRA to eventual defeat.”
But as with Russia granddad never talked much about Kerry and I have not come across his name in any records. I think he was staioned near Killarney. The one story he mentions I recount in my book based around his Russian adventure and strangely it is connected to Russia too…
Granddad typically had little to say of Kerry and he did not write any account. He did relate the curious episode when he came face to face with an enemy, one he had made in far off Russia. As the man in question pulled up to a checkpoint in his ass and cart, granddad recognised him as someone he had last seen in Russia, in a bar, most likely in Novorossiysk. A fight had erupted between them after which they swore to kill each other if they saw one another again. What passed between them at the checkpoint has been lost. Perhaps it illustrates how small the world really is or how one man fighting his neighbour is a story as old as time. Or perhaps it just tells us that you can never stop Irish men fighting. I would like to think there, in the midst of the sorrow and bloodshed they managed to laugh off their brawl and carried on their separate ways.
Granddad would successfully apply for the Garda Siochana from Kerry in summer 1923.
Civil Wars: From Dublin to South Russia & Return Journey is available widely online and to order at bookshops globally.
Doyle, Tom. The Summer Campaign In Kerry (Mercier’s History of the Irish Civil War) . Mercier Press. Kindle Edition.
Harrington, Niall, (1992), Kerry Landing: August 1922, Dublin: Anvil Books.
McElligott, R., (2022), The story behind the bloodiest day of combat in the Civil War, on RTE [website], available at https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2022/0802/1313446-civil-war-august-1922-national-army-kerry-fenit-lady-wicklow-/?fbclid=IwAR3qopOoMhJbXvZUusCFLhj3z1oxYEB2DXygbwStl9Y7MMN4fOytsrd2ym4 [accessed 02/08/2022]