MEN from different companies of the Mid Galway Brigade at a training camp. Three men from this photo took part in the ambush: Thomas 'Baby' Duggan is first on the left in the front row. Image from Revolution in Connacht by Cormac O Comhrai.

A century ago: the Kilroe ambush

By Mary Burke
JUST after 6 o’clock on the morning of Tuesday January 18, 1921, a large party of IRA volunteers from four local companies including Castlegar and Claregalway left a disused house in Aughclogheen and proceeded across the fields towards the Galway-Headford road. It was dark and bitterly cold.
The men had arrived at the house at 10pm the previous night, travelling surreptitiously via back roads to the pre-arranged meeting point. They spent an uncomfortable night on the concrete floor of the old house, drenched to the skin and hungry, as they had nothing to eat, but they were intent on their assigned task.
At a secret meeting in Claregalway Cemetery presided over by Thomas “Baby” Duggan, Quatermaster of the Castlegar Company, it had been decided to attack the patrol of Auxiliaries travelling to Headford the following day. It was usual for police to leave Galway for Headford every Tuesday as it was market day.
According to Michael Newell who was O/C Galway No. 1 Brigade in 1921, he organised the ambush at the request of Louis Darcy of the Headford Battalion. Newell’s statement to the Bureau of Military History in 1951 is very precise on the logistics of the attack.
Gunning’s Wood at Kilroe near a bend in the road about four miles from Headford was chosen for its strategic advantage; it was quiet countryside, wooded on both sides of the road behind strong stone walls and it provided good coverage for a retreat. The names of the 45 men who took part in the Kilroe Ambush are listed in the Mid-Galway Brigade Activity Report.
Read the full feature in our January 13, 2021 edition available to purchase at

More from this Topic