#OnThisDay 1921 East Clare IRA planned to raid the Limerick train to take mail which would reveal the identity of a local spy. The eight IRA men had build a stone barricade across the tracks and put a red flag on top to stop the train. They would then board the train and take what they needed. They also had a man on the train that would give a signal to notify if there were troops on the train.
When the driver, a republican and supporter of the cause of Irish freedom, saw the barricade, he knew there must be an ambush about to take place but he also knew there was 30 British soldiers of the Royal Scots Regiment onboard and if the ambush took place, the IRA would be out numbered and certainly outgunned. He smashed through the stone barricade, which was for the best, as McCarthy did not see the signal from their man on the train.
As the train passed, McCarthy took a pot shot at a soldier on the train. This was a bad idea. The soldiers once they got to Cratloe station made all civilians disembark and at gunpoint forced the train driver to return to Woodcock Hill. McCarthy, knowing his folly, knew that they’d alert the local military barracks so enemy troops would swarm the area. He climbed a telegraph pole to cut the wire but the shears used broke. While another was being fetched, the train returned and the Scots trained their two machine guns and rifles on McCarthy. He was hit and fell to the ground. As the rest of the ambushing party scattered, Gleeson realised that McCarthy wasn’t with them.
Gleeson raced down the open field through a hail of British rifle and machine gun fire. He reached McCarthy and helped him to his feet. In a desperate attempt to escape, Gleeson drew his revolver and staggered uphill supporting McCarthy with one arm and firing back at the British soldiers with his free hand.
They had only covered a short distance when Gleeson was shot and both men collapsed to the ground. Gleeson was unable to continue but McCarthy managed to stagger on. Within a few seconds, the advancing British soldiers surrounded Gleeson and shot him dead where he lay. McCarthy carried on through the fields but was soon outrun and was captured and killed by Lieutenant A Gordan and a group of the Royal Scots, who shot him several times and stabbed him with their bayonets.
Christopher McCarthy (left) & Michael Gleeson (right).