Today in Irish History, 1920.
18 year old Kevin Barry would become the first Irish rebel to be executed since the 1916 executions. Kevin had taken part in an ambush causing the first British soldier deaths in Dublin since the 1916 Easter Rising.
Kevin Barry’s interest in the nationalist movement began at a young age, by the age of 15, he became a member of the Irish Volunteers. By the age of 16 he was organising raids in British warehouses and his most successful raid seen the kidnapping of 25 British Soldiers, which led him to a major promotion to Section Commander.
Kevin Barry’s path of military success was to be short lived however as in September 1920, he took part in a raid, which went horribly wrong. Whilst attempting to ambush British Soldiers to loot their rifles and ammunition, a street gun battle began and ended in the deaths of three British Soldiers.
During the gun battle, Kevins gun jammed; he took cover under the military lorry to clear the blockage, stood up and fired again, killing a soldier, before a further jam caused him to duck once more. While Kevin was clearing the second blockage, his comrades had melted away escaping mounting gunfire.
Barry hid under a truck as the British searched for him and was discovered when a passer by, concerned for his safety underneath the huge vehicle, inadvertently warned the soldiers of his whereabouts.
Barry found himself in the hands of the aggrieved British party he had attacked. He was driven to a nearby British base in the North Dublin Union, alongside one dead soldier and two mortally wounded.
At the barracks, the British authorities began to interrogate him, determined to discover the names of all of those involved in the ambush. Barry gave them his name, address of South Circular Road and occupation as a medical student. He refused to answer any further questions. The soldiers reverted to torture to glean the information they required. He was beaten up, threatened with a bayonet, and left with a dislocated elbow but, according to evidence at his court martial, he refused to give any information.
It was ordered that Kevin Barry be tried by court martial. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging on 1st November 1920. It is recorded that when being pinioned and blindfolded he objected to both processes, saying that as a soldier he was not afraid to die”
It was said that scores of Barry’s fellow students joined the Irish Volunteers on the day of his execution. His comrade and friend Frank Flood was buried alongside him four months later. They were joined in the plot by Patrick Moran, Thomas Whelan, Thomas Traynor, Patrick Doyle, Thomas Bryan, Bernard Ryan, Edmond Foley and Patrick Maher, all of whom were also hanged in the same prison for their part in the War of Independence. As a group they became known as The Forgotten Ten.