‘Something out of ordinary was afoot’ at Bweeng

AFTER Macroom, the biggest numbers to mobilise in Cork on Easter Sunday gathered at Bweeng, between Blarney and Mallow.

Here, there were companies from as far north as Castletownroche — 15 miles away — and Nadd, Donoughmore and Waterloo, all within five miles march of Bweeng.

The biggest company on parade there were the 75 men from Mourneabbey, the parish near Mallow where the Irish Volunteers’ Cork Brigade commandant Tomás MacCurtain spent his early years.

The 220 men who gathered at Bweeng Cross in mid-afternoon were under the command of area battalion commandant Patrick Twomey from Kilmona, who had been briefed on the plans a few days earlier by MacCurtain.

On that occasion, the Brigade leader went over details outlined earlier in April.

“He did not specify the purpose of the exercises, but it was clear to all of us from the particular care taken to ensure the most exact compliance with the orders issued that something out of the ordinary was afoot,” Twomey recounted to the Bureau of Military History in 1947.

While orders were awaited, the men were taken to a hill about a mile from Bweeng Cross and undertook some military drilling.

It was after this had been done and they returned to the crossroads, that MacCurtain arrived by car late on Sunday afternoon, or possibly approaching dark, to give the dismiss orders.

The mobilisation at Bweeng had been joined earlier in the afternoon by Michael Lynch from Tracton, who had taken instructions earlier from MacCurtain and his vice-commandant Terence MacSwiney near Béal na Bláth.

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The brother of Diarmuid Lynch — a key figure in the IRB’s plot to import the German guns — Michael Lynch was travelling on a motorbike whose sidecar was filled with explosives but which never got used.

He managed, however, to avoid his cargo being checked by police who were keeping a very close eye on proceedings, as his motorbike and some of the arms brought by the Volunteers were under guard by members of the Courtbrack company.

Like most of the other gatherings on the day, the rain-drenched turnout were quite poorly armed.

They carried only a few rifles, but did have 120 shotguns that were either owned by the Volunteers or borrowed from local farmers for what they had been expecting to be a two-day training exercise. There were also a few dozen pikes, all brought home again that evening, after MacCurtain dismissed the men.

He did tell them first, however, that they were to be ready for fresh orders and keep their weapons to hand.

But, as pressure mounted on MacCurtain and MacSwiney in the days that followed to have the Volunteers’ arms surrendered, fresh orders were sent out to the rural companies to dump their arms where they could avoid being seized.

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