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The Coolbawn Ambush


“Supported by the Department of Tourism,  Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 initiative.”

Author and Historian Eoin Swithin Walsh looks at what is arguably the most talked about event that happened in Kilkenny during the War of Independence - the Coolbawn Ambush, Castlecomer, County Kilkenny.

The-Coolbawn-Ambush---Kilkenny---June-1921.mp3 (size 49.9 MB)

'The Coolbawn Ambush that was planned for Saturday, 18 June 1921, should have been one of the largest altercations of the War of Independence era, not just in Kilkenny, but in the whole southeast of Ireland. That's if everything went according to plan; but things did work out for the IRA. Instead, the hunters became the hunted, the ambushers became the ambushed.

At Coolbawn, which is four kilometres northeast of Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny,  the IRA hoped to attack a Crown Force convoy delivering gelignite to the Wolfhill coal mines. However, disaster struck. By the end of the day, two IRA men had lost their lives  - Seán Hartley from Glenmore and Nicholas Mullins from Thomastown - while one man, James Doyle of Graiguenamanagh, was badly wounded and captured. Both the Kilkenny No1 Flying Column and the 3rd Battalion Castlecomer IRA led the ambush. The leaders on the day were George O'Dwyer from Coon, John Walsh and Michael O'Carroll from Graiguenamanagh, while Garrett Brennan of Castlecomer led the local IRA. Find out the full story of the Coolbawn ambush in this podcast; what was supposed to happen and what did happen.  Also what occured in its aftermath, including the burning down of loyalist, Florrie Dreaper's home and the funerals of the IRA casualties'. 

Nicholas Mullins and Sean Hartley


George O' Dwyer                                                                               Some Castlecomer IRA Men

    George-O-Dwyer-1884-1948      Some-Castlecomer-IRA-men-1921

Castlecomer Military Barracks                                                   Coolbawn Memorial and Ambush Site

 Castlecomer-Military-barracks  Coolbawn-Site