ONE hundred years ago this month, members of the East Clare Brigade of the IRA undertook one of the most daring ambushes undertaken in this county during the War of Independence.
In the late afternoon of January 20, 1921, members of the East Clare Brigade led by Michael
Brennan, ambushed a patrol of RIC and Black and Tans at Glenwood House on the road between Sixmilebridge and Broadford. Six members of the Crown Forces were killed in the ambush. The IRA suffered no casualties, but the reprisals that followed the ambush are remembered as an orgy of violence and resulted in the burning of up to 21 homes in the locality.
The pandemic has forced centenary commemoration plans to go on hold and a memorial sculpture has been created for the site. This year, the ambush has been privately remembered by many of the family of the 37 IRA volunteers who were involved in the ambush, as well as the wider community and all of those with an interest in the birth of the State.
Among the family members is the daughter of one of the flying column members, Martin ‘The Neighbour’ McNamara. His daughter Peggy Scally, who has been living in Mullingar for close to seven decades, remembers her father with huge pride and has regularly attended commemorative events in her native Clare.
Martin, from Kilkishen, had previously been captured and incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs for his IRA activities, and had been on hunger strike for a time before being released. Witness statements from the Bureau of Military History show that Martin also took part in the September 1920 attack on Scariff RIC Barracks. Peggy said her father was “known up and down” the west of Ireland for his bravery.
Peggy believes that her father fired the first shot in the Glenwood Ambush. “He was a great shot, and hit the driver of the convoy,” she said.
Peggy’s parents met as the War of Independence raged, both of them displaying huge courage. After Martin was shot in the leg in an incident in Kilkishen, he eventually got to hospital, still pursued by Crown forces. Nurses, among them Mary Hassett, told the authorities that Martin was a man who had been injured on a building site.
As well as providing food and medical care IRA members on-the-run, Mary said, in an application for a pension, that her efforts had led to the capture of a former Black and Tan who had been spying on the IRA in Clare.
After their marriage, the couple had nine children, including Peggy. Mary tragically passed away after an illness at the age of just 48. Martin, who had taken the pro-Treaty side during the Civil War, and joined Irish Army, eventually left the force. After his wife’s death, he travelled to Australia where he worked at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. He died in 1973 and was buried in Australia, next to the grave of a brother of Terence Mac Swiney, the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork.
“He never talked about the IRA or the War to any of us,” Peggy said. “We heard it all from our mother.” Following his death, The Connacht Tribune, described him as “one of the most fearless fighters” among the IRA in Clare.