Richard Sheane was the proprietor of Sheane Brothers & Company, an engineering firm and foundry in Wicklow Town. Born to Richard and Susan Sheane of Coolnakilly, Glenealy in 1871, Richard married Alice Haskins in 1908 and they lived at Morton’s Lane, Wicklow Town with their two children Sydney and Margaret. Richard died in 1955 at the age of 84.
By kind permission of the Wicklow Historical Society – published in Wicklow Historical Society Journal Vol. 3. No.1. 2002.
Liberty Hall Bombarded
This being the second day of the Spring Show I again started for Ballsbridge, accompanied by my brother Tom who with his wife and children, had tried to get to Newry, the day before via Amien St., but could not, and had been compelled to return to Co. Wicklow. He now intended to have another try by himself, and if he could not get a train, he and I had planned to leave Dublin about 3 p.m. and motor to Newry.
We reached Ballsbridge about 10 o’clock, and learned that there had been very fierce fighting during the night, and that early that morning Liberty Hall had been bombarded by the Naval yacht “Helga”, and that about 2000 troops were en-route from Kingstown, where they had been landed from England.
The advance Guard of these reached Ballsbridge about 11.50 and stopped for a short rest in the roadway fronting the Ballsbridge premises. These men were nearly all Sherwood Foresters. After about ten minutes rest, they again fell in, and marched away in the direction of Pembroke Road, accompanied by the prayers, and good wishes, of our undefended crowd in the Showyard. You must please understand, that for two days, our sole visible means of defence, consisted of a canvas fire hose attached to a hydrant in the Central Hall, the water from which the Superintendent proposed to direct upon the rebels, if they attempted to come to close quarters, but I must confess that most of us had very little faith in this means of defence, and were rather relieved, that there was now a prospect of rifles and bullets instead of hose, and water to come between us and the troops of the newly proclaimed Irish Republic, some of whom we could see on the previous day tearing up the railway line at Lansdowne Road, quite close to the Showyard.
Soon after the first lot of troops marched away, another detachment came in sight, and having reached the front of the Show premises, they stopped as the first lot had done, and certainly if men ever needed a rest, they did. The poor chaps were almost completely done up by their tramp along the hard road from Kingstown, under a blazing sun, and carrying their ninety pound kit. On this occasion we were ready for them with refreshments viz -sandwiches, minerals, and cigarettes. The first lot had not so good a reception, as they came upon us unawares, but these had a better time, in fact as one jolly young Tommy remarked “They were living like gentlemen”.
’Coolness Under Fire’
After about 10 minutes rest, this detachment moved off city-wards, and as the main body had now come up, there was a column of troops as far as we could see, in the direction of Kingstown.
Just as the head of the column reached about the centre of the bridge, they were met by a volley of rifle fire from the house in front of them, and about 200 yards distant from the place where we were standing. One man fell on the bridge, and this appeared to be the only casualty.
As the snipers continued to fire on them the troops got orders to take cover. A firing party ran forward, and lying about three feet apart in a line across the roadway, commenced firing at their attackers.
We were all greatly struck by the coolness of these young soldiers, who were nearly all under fire for the first time in their lives
We were all greatly struck by the coolness of these young soldiers, who were nearly all under fire for the first time in their lives. We noticed no hesitation, and no panic, even when met by that first unexpected volley. They coolly marched to their appointed places, and their only anxiety appeared to be to get to grips with the rebels.
The whole column was now of course halted in the roadway, and although most of them were within range of the rebel fire, they were more intent on opening tins of corned beef, and making some sort of a meal than in worrying about stray bullets. They kept on advising us civilians to keep away from the railings, but showed no anxiety about themselves, although they were out in the roadway, and in the direct line of fire while we were in comparative safety, locked away inside. For we civilians had all been shepherded in off the roadway when the battle begun, and the gates locked on us. At one time it seemed quite possible that we might have to remain in the Show grounds all night, and my brother and I had made up our minds to remain in the car. We had brought some sandwiches with us, and could have eaten the lot at 2 o’clock, but kept about half of them, along with some tea in a Thermos Flask, to have later on in the event of our being besieged for the night.
Most of the troops now in front of the Show premises, belonged to the Notts, and Derbyshire’s, and were accompanied by a party of Engineers, with trenching tools, also by a company of Bombers, and a detachnent of the R.A.M.C. with stretchers.
In conversation with some of the men, we learned that the 2000 troops landed in Kingstown that morning, were entering the City by three routes, viz – along the Railway line, – by the main road via – Blackrock, – and via – Foxrock, and Donnybrook. Troops were also pouring in from the Curragh, bringing field guns, and before night fell over the City, it was occupied by at least ten thousand troops.
The Battle Of Ballsbridge
About 1 o’clock we noticed signs of activity among the soldiers in the roadway, and found that two flanking parties were being sent out; one round by Donnybrook, with bombs, and the other by Lansdowne Road, and Haddington Road.
From this time until about 4.30 o’clock, there were frequent exchanges of rifle fire, between the soldiers on the bridge, and the rebels resulting in eight casualties among the troops, one being fatal. Between 4.30 and 5 o’clock we could hear rifle fire, coming gradually nearer at the northern side of the rebel fortress, this culminated in four, or five heavy explosions, shortly after 5 o’clock. These we afterwards learned, were bombs, which were thrown by the military into the house held by the rebels.
Starting For Home
This finished the first battle of Ballsbridge, and soon after the troops moved on, nearer the City. We then got a gate opened to let out our car, and started for home about 5.50 p.m.
My brother had of course, again to return to Co. Wicklow, as it was now too late to start for Newry; but as there was no prospect of my doing any business at the Show, we arranged, that I should drive him and his family to Newry on the following day, or at least to some town on the road North from which they could get a train to their destination.
A Few Amusing Incidents
There were a few amusing incidents which came under our notice, during the progress of the battle, which served to raise a laugh; although our immediate surroundings were anything at all but amusing.
Just as the first detachment of troops came along I noticed one old gentleman, climb up on the railings, and waving his hat while the tears stood in his eyes, he shouted “God bless you boys, I’m glad to see you come”. He had evidently had his doubts about the efficiency of the Fire Hose.
Later on, while we were waiting for the flanking parties to get round and during a lull in the rifle fire, we heard a dull heavy rumbling in the direction of Ringsend, which someone insisted was the report of Naval Guns, bombarding some part of the City, and he was pretty generally believed, until one bystander, more observant than his companions, discovered that it was an empty Sanitary Cart, passing along the road right in front of us. During the ensuing volley of derisive laughter the Naval Gun expert disappeared from the scene.
A little later still, and just about the time when the flanking parties were getting into touch with the fort, we were all startled by a couple of very loud reports coming from the direction of the Showyard immediately behind us. It looked as if the rebels had outflanked the flankers and come up on our rear. The more nervous individuals among us, were trying to make up their minds, as to whether it were better to face the foe which we could see before us, or wait to be killed by the one we could hear behind. However, it turned out to be all right when someone remembered the presence of an Agricultural Tractor in the Machinery Paddock, which had been back firing all the morning, and had evidently begun to play at the same old tricks again.
Just about 4 o’clock and during a pause in the firing, I noticed a gentleman come riding a bike from the direction of the Pembroke Road; he was evidently under the impression, that he had passed all the danger points, and came riding quietly along; but he was about the most astonished man you ever beheld when he turned for the bridge, and saw a line of rifle muzzles facing him. He was on the shady side of fifty, and with a fairly well developed corporation, but he made a half turn to the right, and did a 20 yard sprint out of the line of fire in record time.