23 July, 1920

23 July, 1920

23rd July - No Letter

Secret diary: Fri (Corbett . Wounded. Photo, present Brennan & poaching . RA finance . Adjt Dublin)

Official diary (23rd July): No entry

Location: Dr Corboy’s House Brookville Caherconlish

Back row, L to R: Paddy and Michael Brennan. Seated, L to R: James Brennan, CHTL and Joe Keane.

The 'photo' was the infamous 'proof of capture' picture that shows a frowning CHTL with his pipe in his mouth, sat on a chair surrounded by his IRA guards. Back row left to right: Paddy Brennan of Smithstown, who was a cousin of the Brennans of Clonmoney. Michael Brennan is on the right. Front row left to right: James Brennan who was the son of John Brennan, the 72 year old man who CHTL mentioned had sons in the Medical Corps. - CHTL was kept in his house. James played Bridge with CHTL. On the right is Joe Keane from Sixmilebridge.

The lads really shouldn't have been in the photo. It was a huge risk linking them with the captured general. It was clear, to those who knew CHTL, who had stage-managed this production.

CHTL with his sisters

CHTL was in his element, family photos show a similar pose that he adopted in snaps with his siblings. He would sit with crossed arms, a frown and a pipe stuck in his mouth, whilst those around him would be giggling. Family members would not be alarmed by the photo - here was CHTL fooling around. Those who didn't know the 'off duty' man would be concerned by the grim faced prisoner. His guards are not maliciously grinning in the photograph - they are probably trying to suppress their amusement at some silly remark that CHTL has made.

Young Joe Keane, in particular, thought the world of CHTL and told his son that the general had said that maybe when all the troubles were over they could meet up again. Joe instructed his son to try and contact the general which he attempted to do, many years later, but was told by the British authorities that there was no general of that name in the British army. Finally in 2012 Donal Keane, Joe Keane’s son fulfilled his promise to his father as best that he could when he met with me - one of CHTL’s granddaughters - at Hasting’s Farmhouse and renewed the family friendship.

Ruth and Donal in 2012

It seems that CHTL stayed in Paddy’s house in Smithstown, at some point. Local historian Tom Toomey thinks that maybe CHTL was held at the Brennan’s in Clonmoney on the 5th, 6th and 7th July, before he first went to Hasting’s farmhouse (8th & 9th) then at Brennan’s at Smithstown on the 10th, 11th and 12th, before returning to Hastings on the 13th and then moving on to Hartigan’s on the 14th. Mary Grogan, a local historian and author based in Newmarket and Fergus, has two independently sourced testimonies that General Lucas was held at Smithstown House. One is a taped interview with Ned Enright and the other from Jack Hogan. (See below)

Ita Brennan who played with the general was Paddy’s niece. Her father John Brennan was a medical Doctor who moved from Clare to Eyrecourt, County Galway where he practised. It was the Smithstown Brennans that were medics in the army during WW1: ‘two sons served in the R.A.M.C. during the war’ (CHTL, Official Report, 5th July). CHTL perhaps was confused about the number of Brennan’s that there were and couldn’t place them in the right families and homes! Ita Brennan, her sister Etna and brother Brendan Brennan were frequently sent for the summers to holiday with their cousins at Smithstown House. They had a dug out in the garden, which was covered by cut out grass, which was in case there was any raid by the British forces on the house.

Conor Lenihan recalled:

“My grandmother's family were cousins of Michael and Austin Brennan, leading figures in the IRA. However, one of the reasons why the General was held in this home [Smithstown], was because the authorities never drew the family connection.”

Wounded soldier & visit from R.I.C.

The mention of 'wounded' might be a reference to Tomas O Maoileoin, who suffered a slight injury during a skirmish with the enemy. Tomas had got on well with the general and CHTL would have noticed that he wasn't around and picked up on him being wounded.

I was wounded in Clare actually that time. I ran into a military patrol. This was the time that Lucas was down there, it was after we had handed him over to Brennan. We were just coming along the road and we saw this lorry coming. We took to the fields, and a lucky shot got me in the thigh. It was not very serious. I was taken into hospital at Limerick afterwards.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. STATEMENT BY WITNESS DOCUMENT NO W.S. 845 Tomas 0 Maoileoin, Vice-Comd't. East Limerick Brigade; Second i/c. East Limerick Flying Column.

Also happening around this time was a close encounter with an R.I.C. patrol.

One evening when the General was about a week in Caherconlish, a cycling patrol of R.I.C. called to the gate of the dispensary residence, and immediately, the guard began to barricade the windows, as it was thought that the R.I.C. had got information about General Lucas’s whereabouts. The doctor’s workman, Bill Hayes, was in the yard at the time and the sergeant in charge of the patrol called him and asked him if the doctor was home as he had some papers to be signed (the doctor was a magistrate). On being told that the doctor was away on holidays, the patrol withdrew. When the danger had passed, the General was informed of the reason for barricading the house and his luck in escaping a siege.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. STATEMENT BY WITNESS. DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1559. Witness Morgan Portley, Kishikirk, Caherconlish, Co. Limerick. Identity. Company Captain, Ballybricken, Co. Limerick. Battalion Adjutant.

Interestingly CHTL didn’t mention in his official report that a patrol had come to the house while he was there. Maybe the reason for this was that it would have placed him in a bad light - for instance why didn’t he make his presence known? Possibly he didn’t want to draw attention to the RIC patrol’s failure to find him; or that he was just relieved that a siege and a probable bloodbath had been avoided: one can only wonder at the true explanation.

After the close encounter with the RIC patrol the Limerick Battalion decided not to push their luck any further at Dr Corboy's house and to move CHTL on to McCarthy's house in Cahercorney.

Captain Portley continued the story in his Witness Statement:

Some days later, it was decided to transfer the prisoner to McCarthy's house in Cahercorney (East Limerick Brigade area). This house was about five miles from Caherconlish on the Limerick-Herbertstown road about two miles west of Herbertstown. transport for transfer of the prisoner was a pony and trap and Volunteers were posted at the various road junctions. The route taken was via Caherline, Caherelly and Raleighstown.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. STATEMENT BY WITNESS. DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1559. Witness Morgan Portley, Kishikirk, Caherconlish, Co. Limerick. Identity. Company Captain, Ballybricken, Co. Limerick. Battalion Adjutant.

Jack Hogan’s testimony

Local historian Mary Grogan, very kindly gave us permission to use the following:

As told by Jack Hogan to Mary Grogan:

"Jack lived in Cúirt na bEaglaise.

Lucas was captured as he was fishing by the Blackwater in the Fermoy area. His captors had acted impulsively. They did not want to shoot him. Instead they brought him through East Limerick to West Limerick. Arrived at Ringmoylan, which is near the Agricultural College reached by branching off for Pallaskenry from Rathkeale. It lies straight across from Shannon airport. They brought him by boat straight across the Shannon to Hogan’s of Moyhill, Jack Hogan’s fathers’ house. Lucas stayed about a week in Moyhill and then he was bought to Corbetts of Bunratty. He was shifted from there because arms and ammunition were hidden in the vault in Bunratty and it was a hot spot. He was moved instead to Brendans of Smithtown, to her house which 20 years or so ago made way for the new road. Then he was shifted to Hastings of Tullyvarraga.

It happened during Lucas is captivity that his daughter was expecting a baby. Lucas was concerned that she was all right. The captors got onto Jack Coughlan, an employee of the post office in Limerick city. Jack was married to Katie Hogan, and aunt of Jack Hogan. He got the driver of the mail coach to steal the date stamp from Kilmallock post office. He put in a telegram in Limerick to England with the Kilmallock stamp and intercepted the reply in Limerick, which said that mother and child were doing well. There was trouble in Kilmallock when the date stamp was missing. It turned up mysteriously the following day. Jack Coughlan was not immediately suspected though he was gaoled later for a month on suspicion of involvement. Lucas‘s son-in-law got a search going, but as it concentrated on the Kilmallock area it came to nothing.

The captors of Lucas decided they would release him. At a council of war they agreed they would bring him to do Doonass. Paddy Hogan of Smithstown was in the organisation of the release. They brought him from Doonass to Castleconnell across the footbridge and skedaddled back themselves.

Lucas in captivity proved to be a proper gentleman who gave his captors no concerns. In turn they gave him whiskey and allowed him to fish each day. Their kindness was rewarded. Never once did Lucas squeal on them.

The story is told differently in Michael Brennan’s The War in Clare.* In that account, Lucas was bought directly across the Shannon to Hastings house, leaving out the earliest stops at Moyhill and Bunratty. Also he says a window was left open and Lucas was allowed to escape. Jack Hogans version is supported by the account of his cousin Ned Enright.

Carrying revolvers and shotguns along with Jimmy Halpin Ballymartin, Pallaskenry, he [Ned Enright] guarded General Lucas as he was brought across the Shannon. They left Ringmoylan Pier and came across to within fields of Hogan’s of Moyhill in Cratloe."

As told to Mary Grogan by Jack Hogan of Caherteigue September 29 2008

*Michael Brennan The War in Clare 1922 -1921 9Dublin, 1980). P.104.

The Story of Newmarket-on-Fergus pp498/9 Published 2015, Columba Press.

Obviously it was the general’s wife who was expecting a baby, not his daughter, but that would have been an easy mistake to make as CHTL was quite old to be a new father. There was no son-in-law and it was the British army who was searching for him. However, these are minor details. CHTL was definitely moved to Moyhill and Bunratty, although it was just a couple of days once one compares the days and locations with CHTL’s diary which was recorded at the time. Considering how tense those days must have been for those who held the general, and what an unusual period in the war it was, it probably would have seemed to be longer than it actually was. Jack Hogan’s and Ned Enright’s memories were certainly better than Michael Brennan’s at recalling where the general was held in those early few days of his capture.

Hopefully we will be able to post the contents of the Secret Diary and the Official Report matched alongside each other with the dates they were written, the locations that CHTL was held in and the days that he wrote to Poppy. This overview should help make the picture clearer.

Show Comments