Ambush at Bonniconlon in Co. Mayo

The years 1913 to 1934 were turbulent ones in Ireland and here in Bonniconlon was no exception. There was a Company of Volunteers formed in 1915 and re-organised in 1917 and there were upwards of 30 men in the company along with the women’s group Cumman na mBan.

They planned an ambush for the village in early April 1921 to engage the RIC and Tans who were expected to raid a dance in the old school on Sunday night 3 April 1921. The ambush was planned at a meeting in Corballa and there were volunteers from Bonniconlon present.

There were always close links between the two areas and after the attack on the Coast Guard Station in Enniscrone some the arms were brought to an arms dump in the Bonniconlon area.

On the night of the ambush the column were divided into two sections, one near the school and the other further out in a grove on the Ballina side. It was dark and no lorries/tenders approached the school; there were people walking in twos and threes into the school as the column waited.

There would have been nothing to report that night had it not been for the arrival of a tender at Walshe’s gate.

The volunteers at that position were not sure who was in it, an English accent and the sound of a rifle butt being left along the wall gave them away and there was some firing, the RIC and Tans near the tender retreated, but one of them was wounded and brought to the school, he was later given £1,500 for his injuries.

Later accounts would go onto say that two members of the RIC were wounded. After this the column was ordered to withdraw.

The school and the dancers were held for the night and there were shots fired at the ceiling that could still be seen up to the 1970’s. Some of the men were taken to Ballina for interrogation and the local Co-Op was taken over to where people were brought and questioned, some of them were roughly treated.

There were raids and searches in the area as well as Ballina in the week or so after the ambush.

It was reported on in The Western People and in The Ballina Herald, and the following February 1922, there were reports from the Malicious Injuries Courts where people were compensated for injuries inflicted at that time.

In later years from the 1940’s, 1950’s and into the 1980’s there were references to the ambush, the one major event in the area during The War of Independence.

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