Burning of 'Ballinalee' armoured car

The gallant armoured car, the 'Ballinalee', got around and was hard to destroy.

The anniversary of the burning of the famous Ballinalee' armoured car has just gone by, and several regular readers have asked me to recall this event which has passed into local folklore during the past eighty years. It happened on July 13th, 1922 and in the course of my research, I came across an account by well-known local artist Bernard McDonagh who recalled the following:

"As the Ballinalee armoured car was left burning on the Ballintrillick Road on that July evening in 1922, I never thought I would see it in service again. I stuffed a mattress down the conning tower, followed by a gallon of petrol and thought I had seen the end of it", said Alphie McGlynn.

However, when the 1939'45 war broke out, there were few armoured cars in Ireland. I, (McDonagh) remembered seeing the "Ballinalee", then unnamed, pass through Sligo to Finner. With its Rolls Royce engine, here it was in service again, after being first in service in Egypt in 1918-a better car than the makeshift armoured cars then being pressed into service.

I was next to see the car in 1960 at the Curragh Camp Transport Museum alongside the "Slieve na mBan"-the armoured car associated with Michael Collins. Both cars are identical and both had been in Egypt in 1918.

One of the first people I spoke to in connection with the ambush at Lough Gill in 1922 was Sidney Gallagher who on a lovely Summer's day in 1938 came on a trip to Lough Gill. He had just come back from the Spanish Civil War which was coming to an end. These were dramatic times, for World War 11 was now looming. The following is an account by Councillor Sidney Gallagher, P.C., Mayor of Sligo 1966-'67; Chairman of Sligo Harbour Board for four years and former member of the Board for many years. "On the morning of July 13th 1922, I was Orderly Officer at Sligo Prison. I was approached by Comdt. Sean Adare and Comdt. P. Callaghan of Athlone. They asked my advice as to what route they should take to Ballymote as it was thought that some of the roads were mined. We travelled to Markree Castle and on to the town of Collooney, via Drumfin. I choose the bog line at Drumfin to Ballymote where we linked up with a flying column led by General Sean McKeon.

"After consultation, we left Ballymote and travelled back to Markree Castle at 8p.m. that night. We consisted of twenty-eight men and three officers. We travelled with the armoured car named "Ballinalee" and three Crossley tenders.

"On the morning of July 14th at 6a.m. we left Markree Castle and travelled the lake road. When we arrived at the townland of Rockwood, we were ambushed by surprise. I was travelling in the Crossley tender driven by Sergeant Jimmy Farrell and Comdt. Paddy Callaghan. I was in the centre, and both were shot dead beside me. The armoured car "Ballinalee" which was in the charge of Comdt. Sean Adare, accompanied by Vol. Jack Sweeney was sent to remove a tree which fell across the road. Both were killed in action, the driver was seriously wounded and the gunner had a hand wound. The whole action lasted for about one hour and most of the officers and men were seriously wounded".

The names of the dead were Comdt. Sean Adare, a native of Sligo; Vol. Jack Sweeney, Sligo City; Comdt. Paddy Callaghan, a native of Ballinalee, Co. Longford; .. Sergeant Jimmy Farrell, one of the most seriously wounded, and Sergeant Joe Conlon, a native of Sligo City who died some years later as a result of his wounds. Sligo Corporation named the new riverside walk in Sligo City Centre in memory of those officers and men who were killed in the Downey Rock ambush. The new walk is now known as Rockwood Parade.

Courtesy fo Seamus Finn and The Sligo Champion