Collins’s last journey

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2011), Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 19

Collins getting into his car outside the Eldon Hotel, Skibbereen, on Tuesday 22 August 1922. His next stop was Sam’s Cross and then Bandon. (Cork Public Museum)

Collins getting into his car outside the Eldon Hotel, Skibbereen, on Tuesday 22 August 1922. His next stop was Sam’s Cross and then Bandon. (Cork Public Museum)

On that Tuesday morning, 22 August, the convoy lined up outside Cork’s Imperial Hotel’s military quarters as Michael Collins began his last journey. Emmet Dalton, National Army military operations director, saluted and spoke briefly to him before both mounted the Leyland vehicle. Collins jotted in his notebook: ‘Left at 6.15am—Macroom, Bandon, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Skibbereen’. As they journeyed they encountered many roadblocks and barricades—part of the anti-Treatyites’ (Republicans’) civil war strategy. Their difficult journey between Macroom and Bandon brought them through Béal na Bláth, where Republicans were assembling for a meeting on future strategy. Collins was recognised. Liam Deasy, First Southern Division adjutant, explained to Eamon de Valera (who had come for the meeting) that owing to enemy intrusion on ‘their territory’ Republicans would ‘most likely’ prepare ‘for an ambush’. Republicans had blocked all roads from Bandon leading to Cork city, except this one; therefore the Collins convoy would have to return by this road.

The last known photograph of Collins alive (seated at the back of the vehicle, with Emmet Dalton to his right), leaving Lees’ Hotel, Bandon, before heading to Béal na Bláth. (Cork Public Museum)

The last known photograph of Collins alive (seated at the back of the vehicle, with Emmet Dalton to his right), leaving Lees’ Hotel, Bandon, before heading to Béal na Bláth. (Cork Public Museum)

This is exactly what happened, except that for the Republicans the convoy had come too late, and for the convoy they had come too early.

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