Flor MacCarthy: A family on both sides

Fri Aug 6

A family on both sides of the 1921 Rosscarbery RIC barracks attack - Flor MacCarthy.

Mark Hennessy, News Editor of the Irish Times, joins Flor to discuss her family's experiences and the wider context.

Flor comments: "One hundred years ago, (March 30th 1921), two of my granduncles’ paths crossed in the famous attack which obliterated the RIC Barracks in Rosscarbery, Co. Cork. Sgt Ambrose (O’)Shea (46), my mother’s uncle, a father of 3 young sons, was killed instantly in the 400lb bomb blast. Jer Mac (24), my father’s uncle, known as ‘The Dauntless Man’ had quit his medical studies at UCC to join Tom Barry’s Flying Column, old IRA. He became Vice-Commandant of the 4th Battalion, 3rd West Cork Brigade and was one of those involved in the attack. Fierce fighting raged until dawn, when the garrison surrendered, the barracks ablaze.

The RIC lost two men that night, Sgt Ambrose (O') Shea and twenty-two year old Constable Charles Bowles from Kent. It's believed a third man, Constable Kinsella died of his injuries some time later, and 9 other RIC officers were injured. The death toll rose again the morning after the attack when a grenade exploded accidentally killing twenty-seven year old George Allen Wilson, a 60 year old local farmer, Patrick Collins from Derryduff, and a four year old child, Cornelius Francis Fitzpatrick from The Square, Rosscarbery.  The IRA suffered no casualties.

Ambrose was buried in secret in Baltimore where he'd been living; his wife & children left West Cork. Jer Mac left too, for the USA, never to return. Three decades later, just before a visit ‘home’ he was killed in Trenton, New Jersey. The two men had never met; they didn’t know eachother. With my parents’ marriage in the ‘50s, the families united; we’re the link between Ambrose & Jer - our granduncles...".

Flor MacCarthy is a broadcast journalist who presents political debates on Oireachtas TV (Irish parliamentary TV) interviewing politicians and academics in Ireland and abroad. A former news reporter and presenter with RTÉ, she contributed to a variety of current affairs and arts programming across the RTÉ schedule. Freelancing these days and with a passion for history, she has worked on several events in the Decade of Centenaries. Flor is from Skibbereen and lives in Dun Laoghaire.