Ireland lost two of its finest men on this date when John Hartley, Glenmore, and Nicholas Mullins, Thomastown, were killed while attempting to ambush a force of Black and Tans who were escorting explosives to the nearby mines.
The ambush had been set on the orders of Michael Collins who directed that pressure needed to be alleviated on IRA forces operating in Tipperary and Cork. These areas were bearing the brunt of the struggle and now north Kilkenny could distract British forces and lighten their comrade’s load.
However, as in many times before and since, informers’ work was well done and the IRA ambushers now became the ambushed. The Black and Tans were tipped off by a local woman landowner, Florrie Draper, and their commanding officer attempted to encircle the IRA column and wipe them out. That they failed to do so says a lot about the bravery and ingenuity of the IRA and the local Republicans around Castlecomer and beyond.
However, John Hartley and Nicholas Mullins were not so lucky and they gave their lives for Ireland on that sunny June day.
Ms Draper’s house was burned as a reprisal.
Photo: Coolbawn Ambush Memorial, Athy Road, Co Kilkenny