Ballykissane Pier – Killorglin
Located on Ballykissane Pier is a monument to commemorate the loss of life of three Volunteers. In 1916 their car plunged into the sea while they were on the way to Cahirciveen in order to set up radio communications with Sir Roger Casement and the German arms ship the Aud. This is their story.
On Monday the 30th of October 1916, six months after the sinking of the Aud, a skeleton was washed onto a bank of the River Laune. Therefor the authorities were not supprised to learn that the man they had been actively seeking for so much time had finally come to the surface after drifting hidden under the summer river brine. Despite the skeleton being fully clothed, the police were still unable to identify the man, as the highly decomposed corpse had no head, only one arm and had both feet missing. Overall the remains were in pretty bad shape.
The trunk wore good quality gentleman’s clothing. When the clothing was searched, two gold half-sovereings and a soaked wad of old bank notes – more then the average amount of cash. The remains were later identified as those of Charlie Monaghan.
The story of these first casualties in the 1916 Rising is intriguing for a number of reasons, not least the great ‘what if’ factor of wondering what might have happened had their mission not ended so tragically arising from a Hardyesque case of wrong directions. On Good Friday 21st April 1916, five men set off from Dublin by train to Killarney, Charlie Monaghan, Donal Sheehan, Con Keating, Dennis Daly and Colm O’Lochlainn. According to the memoirs of Gerry Plunkett, they were to travel by car to Cahirciveen in order to seize control of the wireless station on Valentia Island. From there, the plan was that they would signal to the British Navy that a German naval attack was imminent on the Scottish coast. The purpose of this would be to distract the British naval presence from the Kerry coast , thus facilitating the landing of 2000 German rifles and 10 machine guns at Banna Strand from the U-boat ‘The Aud’. On board the Aud were a small group of Irish Republican’s led by Sir Roger Casement. They were then to liase with Austin Stack in Tralee, so as to ensure that the weaponry was distributed throughout the country to coincide with the Easter Rising in Dublin on Easter Sunday. The men travelling to Kerry from Dublin had each been selected for their particular expertise, Keating originally from Cahirciveen was a radio expert and had been a radio officer on a number of ships. Monaghan was a mechanic and a wireless installation expert, Sheehan had worked at the War Office and knew the Admiralty codes.
On arrival at Killarney the group transferred into two motor vehicles. Sam Windrim who had driven from Limerick City drove the first car, a Maxwell. He collected Denis Daly and Colm O’Lochlainn. Tommy McInerney also from Limerick City drove the second car, a Briscoe Cyclops. His passengers were Con Keating, Charlie Monahan and Donal Sheehan. Since Denis Daly knew the route, McInerney was to follow his tail-lights. However, as is often the case in life, plans began to unravel when a breakdown and a curious RIC officer held up the lead car. Somehow the second vehicle lost sight of the first car just outside Killorglin.
McInerney asked a young girl for directions to Cahirciveen. She told them to take the first turn on the right. Not knowing the road, Thomas mistook the turn which led to the quay. In the darkness he only realised his mistake when the two front wheels of the car went over the unprotected edge into the River Laune which is deep and wide at this point. It is said that in the moonlight, the reflection of the water resembled a continuance of the road. In the ensuing panic the car became unbalanced and fell into the river with its four passengers still on board. Totally disoriented Thomas McInerney started to swim heading in the wrong direction, only for the intervention of local man Thady O’Sullivan, who guided him back to the shore. At this stage it was clear that the three other occupants of the car had somehow become trapped in the vehicle and had sadly in all likelihood quickly drowned. Other local people such as Patrick Begley and his son Michael, an Irish teacher based in Limerick, had made strenuous efforts to rescue the but this proved impossible. Cold and disheartened, the one survivor and the rescuers gathered in the O’Sullivan’s kitchen. McInerney was advised to go to the RIC barracks and report the incident. Whilst away, McInerneys wet overcoat was picked up, and a revolver was discovered in it. Patrick Begley soon realised that there was more to the nights events than at first thought. At that moment the RIC arrived at the cottage, Begley hid the revolver by sitting on it under a cushion.
The RIC had arrested a man in Tralee and were alert to the possibility of some Fenian related activity in the area. McInerney stuck to his story that he had been driving tourists around Kerry and that he did not know the occupants of the car personally. On a wet Holy Saturday morning the bodies of Con Keating and and Donal Sheehan were located by fishermen. No trace of Charlie Monaghan was found until October, some six months later, when his body was discovered on an island in the River. That same morning McInerney tried to retrieve his revolver from Patrick Begley, but Begley said that if the RIC returned it would be better if he was not carrying a weapon. As predicted, they did indeed return and arrested Thomas McInerney. He was transferred after the Rising was suppressed to to the prison camp in North Wales, Frongoch, which was to be the destination of the bulk of those Republicans captured after the Rising. McInerney on release from Frongoch rejoined the IRA and was later killed in County Tipperary.
What we will never know is what would have happened if the unit had succeeded in their mission. Would they have managed to divert the British navy? If they had succeeded in this, then landing the weaponry at Banna would have had a greater chance of success. However to be fair, the arrest of Austin Stack in Tralee would have made distribution well nigh impossible, since he was the key link between the Aud and the local Irish Republican Brotherhood organisation. Nevertheless it is an interesting and little told tale, which is moving for the fact that it illustrates the way in which human error often plays a significant part in determining historical events.
Above; Ballykissane Pier and Monument
Below; Ballykissane Pier as it looks today.