The following is taken from Wikipedia, Sept 2010.
The assault on the village's population by the British Black and Tans based in the nearby Gormanston military barracks on
20 September 1920 was one of the more infamous acts of the Irish War of Independence. This event, known as the
"Sack of Balbriggan", resulted in the destruction of 54 houses and a hoisery factory, and the looting of four public houses.
The attack received much international attention due to Balbriggan's position close to foreign news correspondents in Dublin.
A subsequent delegation from the United States pledged to rebuild thirty homes in the village and a local factory. Other
deaths followed during the war, most noticeably those of Séamus Lawless and Sean Gibbons who were bayoneted to death
by the British forces on 20 September 1920. A plaque on Bridge Street in the town commemorates their murder.
The Following is taken from the History page on Balbriggan.net
“Local Head Constable of R.I.C. Peter Burke (also described as Detective Inspector Burke)
had been attacked in a publichouse on Georges Square. In reprisal for this, a contingent
of the Reserve Force from Gormanston Barracks rushed to Balbriggan. Reports vary
widely as to the ensuing damage -19 or 24 or 45 or 54 houses were destroyed
(depending on thesource of the report), mainly in Clonard Street. The reports concur
that 4 public houses (at least 2 in Drogheda Street) were looted and that the
English-owned Deeds, Templer & Co.hosiery factory, an employer of 230 people,
was destroyed.During the events, two local men were arrested on suspicion of being
I.R.A. spies. These men, again variously described as ‘Séamus Lawless & Séan Gibbons’,
‘James Lawless & John Gibbons’, even ‘Séan Lawless & Séamus Gibbons’, died while
in custody. Once again, reports vary as to the manner of their deaths, some claiming
that they were shot while others assert bayoneting.” Even this very brief summation
(from our own ‘Sack of Balbriggan’presentation) highlights the disparity in the ‘factual’
reports which appeared in the English and Irish Press. If you remove all the emotive
terms used in the various reports - ‘insurrection’, ‘riot’,‘murder’ being but three - what
remains is that:-
• three men died.
• an English-owned Mill was destroyed, livelihoods being lost. (Deeds Templar)
• a number of dwellings and public houses/bars were destroyed.
That is really all which may be impartially drawn from all the accounts, in all the
newspapers, in all the books. So much depends upon individual perspective and perception.
The following is an account by Patrick Lawless, son of Seamus given to B.net by
James (Jimmy) Lawless.
I joined the 5th Battalion of the 85th Brigade (Fingal) IRA in the year 1917, in which year I
held the rank of volunteer. My O/C being the late Michael J. Derham TD. Subsequent to
joining I performed the following duties. Attended regularly at all the weekly meetings,
parades and drills, underwent the necessary training in camp and took part in volunteer
duties at the general election in 1918. Participated in gereral parade celebrating the
release of prisoners in May 1918, in which year I took the Oath of Alligience.
John Gaynor of Balbriggan was then my O/C. Further duties including the carrying of
dispatches to the following officers, Christopher Rooney, Naul. Patrick Purfield, Gormanston,
Joseph Kelly, Lusk and etc. Assisted in the general raid for arms and ammunition
in September 1920 during the course of which armed resistance was encountered.
Succeeded in securing arms and bringing resisting parties before republican courts
where they were fined sums ranging from £30 to £50. Assisted in the attack and subsequent
burning of Gormanston RIC Barracks 1919. Took part in Police duties at various sports
meetings held in aid of IRA funds up to the day prior to the
Sack of Balbriggan by enemy forces in which my father was murdered and
subsequently I lost my job and had to emigrate to the USA. Assisted in the enforcement
of the Belfast Boycott, particularly in the seizure of imported goods at railway stations
and the destruction of stores & fittings intended for the equipment of officers quarters
at Black & Tan camp Gormanston, such duties being carried out under the direction
of William Rooney Battalion Quartermaster. Patrick Lawless 29/5/35
Memorial Card of Seamus Lawless
Ironic, Deeds Templer (English owned) gutted by the “Tans”
The Gladston, now The Milestone
The same scene in 2010
1911 Census of Ireland, Lawless & Gibbons highlighted
We hope to add more to this page so if you feel you have anything to contribute, please contact us.
Thanks to Jimmy Lawless, Benton/Curtis and others who wish to remain anonymous for the material above.