National Army Soldier (Sergeant Major) Jeremiah Mahony or O’Mahony


National Army Soldier (Sergeant Major) Jeremiah Mahony or O’Mahony (aged 51) of Killarney Road, Millstreet (Millstreet) 

Date of incident: night of 4-5 Jan. 1923

Sources: Death Certificate (Millstreet District, Union of Millstreet), 5 Jan. 1923; CE, 6, 8, 10 Jan. 1923; FJ, 6, 8 Jan. 1923; Evening Herald, 6 Jan. 1923; Belfast Newletter, 6, 8 Jan. 1923; II, 8, 11 Jan. 1923; Millstreet Attack Report of 8 Jan. 1923 from Headquarters of First Southern Division to GOC of Cork Command, CW/OPS/04/01 (Military Archives); O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 207; Keane (2017), 345-46, 421; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 28 July 2017).   


Note: Sergeant Major Jeremiah Mahony was killed in action while fighting for the Free State in Millstreet on the night of 4-5 January 1923. The forces of the anti-Treaty IRA led by Liam Lynch and Tom Barry staged a carefully planned attack on National Army troops (about fifty members of the newly arrived First Western Brigade) in that town, beginning about 10:30 p.m. on 4 January 1922 and continuing until about 5:30 a.m. on the following morning. National Army Soldiers occupied four posts in the town: the wireless station at Minor Row, another post in Main Street, a third in the old (and previously burned) RIC barracks, and the last—their headquarters—at the Carnegie Free Library.

The Irregulars quickly overran the Minor Row post, seriously wounding the sentry with Thompson-gun fire, taking other soldiers prisoner, and cutting wireless communication with places outside the town. Then the Irregulars took control of the Main Street and police-barracks posts. But in spite of all their efforts to capture it, they were unable to dislodge the twenty-six National Army Soldiers from Carnegie Hall. In their attack on this headquarters post, however, the IRA men mortally wounded Sergeant Major Mahony, a native of Millstreet. Five of his comrades in the various posts were also wounded. The Free State prisoners captured at the outposts were soon released and returned to their units. See CE, 6, 8 Jan. 1923. 

In a subsequent account of the Millstreet clash published by the National Army, the Irregulars participating in the attack were said to have numbered about 150, of whom 7 were reportedly killed and 19 wounded—figures reputedly confirmed by the medical doctor ‘who attended the Irregulars in the attack’. In their assault on the Main Street post the Irregulars were said to have used ‘Thompson and Lewis machine gunfire, incendiary bombs, rifle grenades, and tracing bullets’. The Free State defenders in Carneigie Hall were said to have located thirteen machine guns among the IRA attackers, who also reportedly used a hose to pump petrol into the building, followed by incendiary bombs and tracing bullets in an effort to start a fire. The garrison in Carnegie Hall ‘had to smother outbreaks of fire as well as defend the post’. Lastly, the claim was made that in the successful ruse by which ‘a lady’ and ‘a priest’ had fooled the two sentries at the wireless station at the outset, Commandant Liam Lynch himself had posed as the priest. See CE, 8 Jan. 1923.

The National Army report on this attack at Millstreet indicated that Sergeant Major Mahony had been killed while putting out a fire; the report also claimed that six Irregulars had been killed during the assault. See CW OPS/04/01, Millstreet Attack Report of 8 Jan. 1923 from Headquarters of the First Southern Division to the GOC of Cork Command (Military Archives). 

Sergeant Major Mahony was interred with full military honours on 6 January beside his Fenian father James Mahony (who had been ‘closely connected’ with the 1867 rising) in the small cemetery adjacent to St. Patrick’s parish church in Millstreet. His coffin was borne ‘on the shoulders of the comrade officers and men of the gallant little garrison who fought with the deceased in the defence of the Carnegie Hall on the previous Thursday night’. The large funeral ‘made a round of the main portion of the town and was representative of all classes and creeds in the town and district.’ See CE, 10 Jan. 1923. 

Sergeant Major Mahony of the First Southern Division of the National Army had previously served two tours with the British army, the first prior to a discharge in December 1910 and the second from October 1914 to September 1919. He was reportedly from Wales. See  http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 28 July 2017). He was a former pensioner of the Royal Irish Rifles. See Death Certificate (Millstreet District, Union of Millstreet), 5 Jan. 1923;

Sergeant Major Mahony’s death certificate indicated that he had died instantly of laceration of the brain and shock stemming from gunshot wounds received while defending his post against attack on 5 January 1923. He died aged 51 at the Carnegie Library in Millstreet. He had previously served in the British army with the Royal Irish Rifles. See Death Certificate (Millstreet District, Union of Millstreet), 5 Jan. 1923. 

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