Soloheadbeg is a small rural townland that lies between Limerick Junction Railway Station and Dundrum village in South Tipperary. On this day in 1919 it was the scene of an ambush.

Local constables James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell were the armed escort for a horse drawn cart containing a load of gelignite from Tipperary Military Barracks for blasting at Soloheadbeg Quarry.

A group of masked men of the IRA’s 3rd Tipperary Brigade, including Dan Breen, Sean Hogan, Seamus Robinson and Sean Treacy, sprang the ambush. The constables raised their rifles and were killed by the IRA men who took the rifles, ammunition and the load of gelignite.

The following day Martial Law was imposed and the British Government offered a reward of £1,000.  Wanted posters for Dan Breen were posted outside every police barracks in the country.

So began the Irish War of Independence.

The song below is evocative of the era.  It describes the plight of one of the IRA men who would not accept the Free State solution and chose to fight the Irish Civil War.  It is very popular with the Tipperary Hurlers, and my son learned to sing it in school in 5th class (age 11).

The Galtee Mountain Boy: by Patsy O’Halloran

I joined the flying column in nineteen and sixteen
In Cork with Seán Moylan, Tipperary with Dan Breen
I’m arrested by Free Staters and sentenced for to die
Farewell to Tipperary, said the Galtee Mountain Boy

We went across the valleys and over the hilltops green
Where we met with Dinny Lacey, Seán Hogan and Dan Breen
Seán Moylan and his gallant men, they kept the flag flyin’ high
Farewell to Tipperary, said the Galtee Mountain Boy

We trekked the Wicklow Mountains, we were rebels on the run
Though hunted night and morning, we were outlaws but free men
We roamed the Dublin Mountains when the sun was shining high
Farewell to Tipperary, said the Galtee Mountain Boy

Oh I’ll bid farewell to old Clonmel, I never more will see
And to the Galtee Mountains that oftimes sheltered me
The men who fought for their liberty — who died without a sigh
May their cause be ne’er forgotten said the Galtee Mountain Boy

No Camping


Two paths lie before me,

I may walk either.

One is arduous and steep,

fraught with peril, dark and rocky.

It rises to a high and lofty place.

From there I could gaze upon the world

and breathe deeply of success.

I could marvel at my achievement.

But many have fallen on that path.

They slide into oblivion below

howling pitiful screams.

Others stop along the way

unable to proceed, standing

perched on that inhospitable ledge

like fledgling gulls

about to plunge.

The other path is smoother

along a valley floor.

The scenery is banal

and well trampled.

Life down there is crowded

although it is comfortable and safe.

Too safe perhaps for some.

He who walks that road

will never climb the mountain

and many die at last

never knowing if he could.

So here I stand

in a beautiful spot

where two roads face me.

I wish that I could rest here

the better to make my decision,

it being so important.

But a sign lies on the verge

which forces me to choose

and move along.


Copyright D. Clancy (1988)