Should we commemorate Auxiliaries at Kilmichael? An update

Published in Blogging Irish History, Revolutionary Period 1912-23

There are historical commemorations all year round, and the significance of these will surely intensify in the course of the ‘decade of centenaries’. But how inclusive will these commemorations be, and how inclusive should they be? A case in point is the Kilmichael ambush of 18 November 1920.

In early August The Southern Star reported on a planned refurbishment of the Kilmichael Monument by the Kilmichael Historical Society and the joint Kilmichael and Crossbarry Commemoration Committee. This related to concerns about the refurbishment plans. These apparently included a plaque to the 17 British Auxiliaries killed in the ambush, who were to be named individually, along with a 2.2m metal outline of a 1920 Crossley Tender – the vehicle used by the Auxiliaries – in a new area near the existing monument, which was reported to be in poor condition and in need of repair.












It’s inevitably controversial, given the brutal reputation of British paramilitary police such as the ‘Black and Tans’ and Auxiliary Division during the War of Independence; the latter unit burned down much of Cork City in retaliation for Kilmichael, and their commanding officer, General F.P. Crozier, resigned in disgust at their activities, which were widely condemned in both Britain and Ireland. The following articles from The Southern Star and The Irish Examiner give a flavor of the debate. In doing so they also highlight the importance of local and national media in explaining historical events and facilitating public debate around them. It is something worth pondering in the light of current proposals by the Minister for Education to abandon history as a compulsory subject at Junior Cert level. This may lead to fewer numbers taking it as a subject at Leaving Cert level, which is bound to have an adverse effect on public knowledge of history during this decade of centenaries. In any event, this is a debate worth following.

As a update to the above piece, the Secretary of the joint Kilmichael and Crossbarry Committee responsible for the upkeep of the Kilmichael Monument has responded to reported concerns in the media in August on the refurbishment plans and has repeatedly said, in both letters to the Southern Star and Irish Examiner and interviews in both papers, that there will be no plaque commemorating the Auxiliariesm that both sides will not be named and there will be no model of a Crossley Tender erected. They are planning to repair the monument and landscape the surrounding area with new information boards and other additions to the site. There has been a call from some for an widely advertised open meeting to discuss the proposed wordings: watch this space.

Originally from Bere Island but now based in Cork City, Mary Sullivan has a particular interest in Irish history.


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