Kilmorna House, Co Kerry

Oh Mother Ireland, dry your tears
Be ever full of cheer,
Pray for those noble volunteers
Who fought to set you free.
When freedom comes to Ireland’s sons
Brave Irishmen will say
“Lay down your guns, the fight is won
At the dawning of the day”

The months of April and May, 1921 saw a lot of bloodshed in the parish of what is now Moyvane-Knockanure near Listowel in North Kerry. This was, of course, during the Irish War of Independence. On Thursday, 7 April, Mick Galvin, an IRA volunteer, was killed by British forces during an ambush at Kilmorna in Knockanure. The IRA had been lying in wait to ambush a group of British soldiers who were cycling to Listowel after a visit to Sir Arthur Vicars at Kilmorna House, his residence. Vicars had been Ulster King of Arms and custodian of the Irish Crown Jewels which were kept in Dublin Castle, the burglary of which in 1907, although Vicars was never seriously suspected of being involved in their theft, led to his ruin and, ultimately, to his death.

Found guilty of negligence and dismissed from his post, ruined socially and financially with neither position nor pension, Vicars, at the invitation of his half-brother, George Mahony, came to live in Kilmorna House. When George died in 1912, he left the estate to Sir Arthur’s sister, Edith, who lived in London. She decided that Sir Arthur could live out his life in Kilmorna. That he remained there during the War of Independence when British Forces and Sinn Fein activists were matching atrocities was foolhardy rather than courageous, and typical of the man who was generally regarded by the local people as a decent, if eccentric, gentleman. But he was also passing information on IRA activity to the British army.

On Thursday, 14 April 1921, Kilmorna House was raided by the local IRA. One of the party, Lar Broder, told the steward, Michael Murphy, that they had come to burn the house. Which they proceeded to do. However three members of the Flying Column led Vicars to the end of the garden and shot him. (One of his executioners, Jack Sheehan, was himself shot dead by the British army near Knockanure on May 26). Then on 12 May, Crown forces shot dead three members of the Flying Column at Gortaglanna, Knockanure, a short distance from Kilmorna (Patrick Walsh, Jeremiah Lyons and Patrick Dalton).

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