ROINN COSANTA.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21.

STATEMENT BY WITNESS.

DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1060

Witness: Seamus Finn, Athboy, Co. Meath.

Adjutant, Meath Brigade, 1916-'17, vice 0/C. and Director of Training,1st Eastern Division.

Activities of Meath Brigade 1920-'21.

File No. S.2160. Form B.S.M.2

STATMENT BY MR. SEAMUS FINN, Athboy. Co. Meath.

 

Soon afterwards we faced another big test. It came in the form of tracking and capturing a gang of men who shot one of our lads. This occurrence happened in North Meath, along the Meath-Cavan border, and the young man who was killed was Mark Clinton, a very good Volunteer who belonged to a family which was rendering us great service. All his people were good and his uncle's house below Mullagh, where his sister Rose kept house, was always open to us and where we received wonderful hospitality. Some time earlier his uncle had bought a farm and Mark was helping at the work on it. There was some opposition to the sale of this farm and a group got together and decided to force Clintons to give it up. After failing by agitation they hired a killer who had been a sniper in France during the l9l4-l9l8 war. This man waited for a suitable opportunity, and one day while Mark was ploughing he shot him dead from a distance of about 40O yards.

This event caused a good deal of consternation in the locality and some days afterwards the R.I.C. arrested this man. They held him for some days and then transferred him to Navan where he appeared before a special court and was charged with murder. We were watching events very closely and had made arrangements with a friendly press man to keep us informed of what was happening. We were not surprised to learn from him that the proceedings at this court were not a serious matter and that the culprit would be released later in the evening. Seán Boylan, who was in Navan on that day, received this report, sent to Comdt. P. Loughran for a few Volunteers and decided to make an attempt to capture this man when he made his appearance in Navan streets. After a while the man was noticed leaving the barracks and making his way towards the railway station, obviously with the intention of travelling to Dublin. Boylan, Comdt. Pat Kelly and Volunteers Mick McKeon and Markey waited for him and found that he had gone into a public house on his way to the station. Markey and McKeon, armed with revolvers, followed him into the pub and after a short talk with him produced their guns and ordered him to go quietly. At first he showed some fight but a tap from McKeon quietened him. They rushed him out to where Boylan was waiting with a car and he was conveyed to "An Unknown" at the residence of our friend Peter O'Connor, Salestown, Dunboyne where he was kept under close arrest.

After some hours hard questioning, in which several of us took part, this man admitted the whole business and gave us the names of his associates, naming one man as the leader. We sent orders to the O.C. 4th Battalion – Pat Farrelly - to arrange for the arrest of these men, which was done expeditiously and successfully. They were brought to a place at Boltown, Kilskyre, where men from the 5th Battalion supplied a continual guard for a few weeks. When the news of these happenings became known, the R.I.C., aided by military, became very active and huge raids and encirclements began. The hunt was up and it became hot. The enemy forces got some inkling of the location of this "Unknown" and one morning some weeks after our men had made the arrests the enemy surrounded a big slice of country inside which this place was and after a house to house search came on it, only to find that our lads and prisoners had got away. This had been carried out by careful planning and hard going by the lads, who were hard pressed while doing guard on the prisoners who, incidentally, numbered seven.

We had planned ahead and had arranged for the next stop which was at a point six miles east of Navan at a place which the lads in that area named "Ballypousta". Its real name was "Slanduff”. The prisoners were kept there for another while and guarded by men from Navan Battalion until the enemy showed some signs of easing their offensive which was very intensive all over the county. After careful watching and more detailed planning ahead we succeeded in getting them away and eventually brought them all to 0'Connor"s of Salestown, Dunboyne, where we kept them until ready to go ahead with their trial. It had been a trying time on our men and they had acquitted themselves very well throughout.

We then submitted a full report to G.HI.Q. and told them that we intended putting the prisoners on trial for the murder of Mark Clinton. We asked for a direction and were told that, while we had done well in capturing and holding the culprits, they would have to give the matter more thought before permitting us to take extreme measures. However we went ahead and held a preliminary trial at which we produced all the evidence in our possession. Some of the prisoners broke down and the whole plot was revealed. We made a fuller report to G.H.Q. and asked them to supply officers to constitute a court. After some delay and much parleying they eventually sent us down an officer who was to act as senior court officer along with two of our brigade officers. This court sat at O'Connor's and tried the prisoners. All the evidence was heard and they were given every facility to prove their innocence but all of them, with one exception, a man who was the real ringleader, admitted their guilt and implicated the killer as the one who fired the shot. The leader eventually admitted his part in the affair too and the court passed sentence on them. The killer was sentenced to be shot, the ringleader was expelled from the country for life, while the others were sent to England for terms ranging from 7 to 15 years. All these sentences were duly carried out by us.

 

The enemy continued their search for these men for a long time after we had finished the case, and this continued activity made things more difficult for us as they seemed to know that something drastic had happened to them and were determined to find out who were the principals acting for us. They failed in this but their continual raids to discover our hide-outs made things very inconvenient for us, but we must have shaken them off successfully because they never came near Peter O'Connor's, where we continued to be always welcome and used as our headquarters.