Nine years ago, June 25, 2011, I delivered an address in Woodstock Gardens, Inistioge, County Kilkenny, in commemoration of George Brown of Ballyneale and Inistioge, killed in action in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War’s Battle of Brunete, on July 7, 1937. My address was entitled “Kilkenny in Defence of Two Republics”, where I also honoured two Kilkenny martyrs in an earlier War for Democracy, one of whom, Nick Mullins, was a kinsman of my late wife Annette:
“Last Saturday was the 90th anniversary of the deaths, on 18 June 1921, of Nick Mullins from Thomastown and Seán Hartley from Glenmore. They had been killed in action in the Coolbawn ambush near the Castlecomer coalfields, in one of the last actions of the 20th century’s first war for democracy – defending that Dáil freely elected in December 1918 and the Irish Republic it had ratified. My wife Annette’s grandfather – Martin Hennessy from Glensensaw, a few miles down river from here – was a cousin of Nick Mullins and soldiered shoulder to shoulder with him in that same War of Independence. Democracy remembers her sons…”
“As for those who portray the War of Independence, not as the war for democracy it most assuredly was, but slander it as some supposed sectarian war against Southern Protestants … let me nail that sectarian slander by reference to the struggle here in Kilkenny itself. In July 1921 a house was burned down near Castlecomer and its female owner banished into exile to England. Revisionists would have us believe that this was because the lady in question was a Protestant, but nothing could be further from the truth. That woman had, in fact, gotten off lightly, for she had the blood of Nick Mullins and Seán Hartley on her hands. Far from having any sectarian inclinations, when the Army of Dáil Éireann lay in wait, 90 years ago last week, to ambush the British Army of Occupation at Coolbawn, a Protestant workman came across the ambush party and was about to be detained until after it was scheduled to take place. But the IRA felt sorry for that Protestant worker’s pleas that he would be sacked by his employer if he did not show up for work, and they let him go. She, nonetheless, insisted that he explain why he had been at all late, and he was bullied into telling her of the Republican roadblock. No blame was ever visited on him for blurting out that information. She alone was held to be the villain of the treachery that followed, with her betrayal of the forces of the democratically elected government of the Irish Republic. She immediately set off for Castlecomer barracks to inform the forces of the Crown of what was afoot. They, in turn, were enabled to strike first with a surprise ambush of their own, killing Mullins and Hartley. It was in tribute to the integrity and bravery of Nick Mullins, and the high esteem in which he was held by adherents of all creeds in this county, that the daughter of a local Church of Ireland clergyman presented the Mullins family – in memory of Nick – with her own father’s original copy of John Mitchel’s “Jail Journal”.
See http://free-magazines.atholbooks.org/ipr/2011/IPR_September_2011.pdf – page 24 – for my address in full.
See https://stairnaheireann.net/2016/06/18/1921-coolbawn-ambush-thirty-six-ira-volunteers-in-kilkenny-tried-to-ambush-a-british-army-convoy-at-coolbawn-between-castlecomer-and-athy-traveling-with-a-mine/ and https://irishvolunteers.org/coolbawn-ambush/ and http://athyeyeonthepast.blogspot.com/2014/02/coolbawn-ambush-18-june-1921.html and www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/ira-volunteers-killed-by-british-forces-after-tip-off-by-local-woman-1.4036183 for more on the War of Independence’s Coolbawn ambush.
See http://irelandscw.com/docs-GB-MoR.htm for more on George Brown and the Defence of the Spanish Republic.