#OTD in 1921 – 18–19: Burgery Ambush: West Waterford IRA under Pax Whelan, George Lennon and George Plunkett from Dublin HQ, ambushed a convoy of Black and Tans returning to Dungarvan via the Burgery.

‘Comeragh’s Rugged Hills’
(Pat Keating)
It’s long years since I bade farewell
For it is my sad fate
Our land oppressed by tyrant laws
I had to emigrate…
When on my pillow I recline
On a foreign land to rest
The thoughts of my dear native home
Still throbs within my heart
When silence overcomes me
My dreams they seem to fill
Of my dear native happy home
Nigh Comeragh’s rugged hills


The Burgery Ambush was an ambush carried out by the IRA on 18–19 March 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place near Dungarvan, Co Waterford. On the night of 18–19 March 1921, IRA volunteers of the West Waterford flying column ambushed a British military convoy at the Burgery, about a mile and a half northeast of Dungarvan. The convoy included Black and Tans and a Royal Irish Constabulary Sergeant, named Michael Hickey. In overall command of the IRA unit was IRA GHQ Officer George Plunkett. Also present were West Waterford Brigade Commandant Pax Whelan, ASU leader George Lennon, and Mick Mansfield. Fighting took place on the main road, and the enemy retreated and then ran pursued by some of the Volunteers and were caught after a short chase. Among those captured were Captain DV Thomas and Sergeant Hickey, who had been acting as a guide, as well as some private soldiers. Hickey was later killed by an IRA firing squad with a sign reading ‘police spy’ affixed to his tunic, as he had been warned on a number of occasions to refrain from certain activities and had failed to do so. Meanwhile Other prisoners including Captain Thomas, the commander of the British garrison, were released. The lorry and the car were set on fire.

While all this was going on an old itinerant flute player called ‘Seanacawl’ wandered on to the scene. He was told to leave, which he did. When the Volunteers regrouped at about dawn at Kilgobinet, ‘Seanacawl’ arrived on the scene. Again he was advised to leave and obliged. Commandant Plunkett, who was with the Column remarked: ‘Well, one thing he can say is that he saw the English running from the Irish’.

After the ambush, a group of volunteers under Plunkett returned to search for any armaments left behind by the British forces. Crown forces who were now searching the area engaged the IRA party; IRA volunteers Seán Fitzgerald and Pat Keating were shot dead. A Black and Tan, Constable Sydney R. Redman was shot dead during the return fire. When Keating was hit, George Plunkett left his position while still under heavy fire and carried Keating to cover. Plunkett also performed a similar brave act, during the 1916 Easter Rising. He dashed out of the GPO and went to the assistance of a British officer, wounded during the fighting. 

Featured Image | George Lennon with fellow IRA veteran Roger McCorley in 1939, Courtesy of Waterford Co Museum

Image | Pat Keating and Seán Fitzgerald Burgery Memorial

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