Fenian Attack on Kilmallock Barracks, 1867

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 1 (Spring 2003), News, Volume 11

In March 1867 the Irish Constabulary was preparing to defend against a strong Fenian rising in County Dublin, which could possibly spread around the country. My great-grandfather, Head Constable Richard Adams, with fourteen constables, was in charge of the constabulary barracks in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick. About 4am on the morning of 6 March 1867 the barracks was attacked by around 500 Fenians, under a ‘General Dunne’. They demanded its surrender, but were refused. They then tried to burn it down, but were prevented by gunfire from the constabulary. They continued attacking the barracks, with large groups of insurgents at the front and rear of the building, and about thirty men armed with pikes, out of the line of fire, at the gable end of the barracks. Head Constable Adams and the fourteen constables—helped by their wives, who lived in the barracks (including my great-grandmother)—kept the guns reloaded. A four-hour gunfight ensued.

Sub-Inspector Oliver Mulling was in charge of the Kilmallock district and lived in nearby Kilfinane. He was on his way to Kilmallock in a horse-drawn car, with three constables, when he heard the gunfire. He went back to Kilfinane, got another eight constables, and set out at speed for Kilmallock. When they arrived the attack was still in progress. The Sub-Inspector and his party spread out, and when they were in position he gave the order to fire. Two of the insurgents were killed and a number were wounded. Most of them threw down their weapons, and the pikemen took to the fields. The constabulary found two dead and a number of rifles and pikes. Sub-Inspector Mulling and all the constabulary available marched into town in pursuit of the insurgents, who scattered at their arrival. There were no more incidents in Kilmallock on that day, and the constabulary regretted that General Dunne had not been captured. Head Constable Richard Adams, RIC No. 5042, was awarded the Constabulary Medal for his bravery in defending the barracks, presented to him by the marchioness of Abercorn at the Constabulary Depot in the Phoenix Park. The Irish Times gave a long report on the ceremony, which took place in September 1867. It was a very important occasion for the constabulary, as after the presentation of medals the lord lieutenant informed those present that, as proof of Her Majesty’s satisfaction at the conduct of the Irish Constabulary, she had been graciously pleased to command that the force should thereafter be called the ‘Royal’ Irish Constabulary and that they should be entitled to have the harp and crown as badges of that force.


Patience Pollard Adams is a member of Edenderry Historical Society.

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