Centenary Of Paddy’s Bridge Ambush, Ballinhassig
Writes Pauline Murphy
Midway between Ballinhassig village and Five Mile Bridge on the R613 you might notice a small stone bridge leading off in the direction of Ballinaboy.
Known as Paddy’s Bridge, it was the scene of an ambush 100 years ago which saw the deaths of two Auxiliaries and a brutal reprisal by crown forces against the local population.
On the 3rd of February 1921 four RIC Auxiliaries left their barracks at Ballinhassig and cycled to Ballygarvan for provisions. They were unable to get provisions in Ballinhassig village because the businesses there were boycotting them!
The Ballinhassig IRA Company found out about their travels and decided to ambush the RIC Auxies on their return journey. 16 Volunteers of the Ballinhassig Company went to Paddy’s Bridge and split into two attacking groups. One group were positioned at the bridge and another positioned up on the hilly rocky ground at the opposite side of the road.
The four RIC Auxies, Constables Fuller, Flaherty, Carter and Taylor, left their barracks at 11am and cycled to Ballygarvan. At around 1pm a sentry signalled to the ambush party that the enemy were on their way back. As the RIC Auxies reached Paddy’s Bridge the IRA volunteers launched their attack.
Constable Flaherty, who was the only native Irishman in the RIC Auxie group, had been cycling ahead of the other three constables who were English men and because of this he managed to escape. He had cycled past just as the signal was given for the attack and he missed the rain of bullets. Flaherty knew all too well that it was an IRA ambush and rather than turning around and taking on the ambushers he instead rode like hell back to barracks for backup.
By the time he reached the barracks the ambush was well and truly over. The ambush lasted just mere minutes. RIC Auxies Carter and Taylor had been shot and killed outright. Fuller was injured but escaped into the ditch by the River Owenabue and waded his way to safety. After the ambush the IRA volunteers collected the arms of the RIC Auxies and dashed off to a safe house.
RIC Auxiliary Constable William Taylor was 28 years old and from Yorkshire. He was an ex soldier who joined the auxies in November 1920. RIC Auxiliary Constable Edward Carter was the son of a police inspector from Blackpool England. The 19 year old worked as a hotel porter before he joined the auxies and was in Ireland just two months before he was killed alongside Taylor at Paddy’s Bridge Ballinhassig.
Following the ambush military from Kinsale and Ballincollig flooded the area. Homes and farms were raided from Tullibeg to Ballinaboy. Crossley tenders sped across the roads and roared into the farmyards of terrified people across Ballinhassig. Doors were kicked in and furniture broken. Roofs were set ablaze and several men, women and children suffered from the boots or butts of rifle hits.
On one occasion a lorry of crown forces speeding through Ballinhassig noticed a group of young lads playing hurling. They turned the lorry into the pitch and drove at the hurlers and spectators. The events of Bloody Sunday in Croke Park were still fresh in many minds and the sight of crown forces invading the hurling field in Ballinhassig caused an immediate scatter. No one was injured or killed but such an act instilled terror in the locals.
After the Paddy’s Bridge ambush the RIC Auxiliary force at Ballinhassig barracks was boosted from 16 to 30, making life very difficult for those living along the banks of the Owenabue.