Seán South of Garryowen

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2007), Letters, Letters, Volume 15


—With reference to the article in the Jan./Feb. 2007 issue, ‘Seán South of Garryowen’, I noticed a number of inaccuracies.
RUC Sergeant Kenneth Cordner was armed with a Bren light machine-gun,which he received on the day of the raid, not a Sten gun as stated.
The article also stated that all twelve volunteers refused to recognisethe court and got six months in prison. In fact only eight were tried.The four wounded men—Seán Garland, Paddy O’Regan, Vincent Conlon andPhil O’Donoghue—escaped before being brought to trial, the first threefrom the Mater Hospital and O’Donoghue from the ambulance bringing himthere.
There was no volley of shots fired at Seán South’s funeral. The IRA’sgeneral order no. 8 forbade military action in the 26 Counties, and asfiring a volley would be considered military action, a decision wastaken not to do so. I was present at the graveside on that day and canpersonally confirm that no volley was fired.
I am not writing this letter to nit-pick the article. I was delightedto see it in your magazine on the fiftieth anniversary of both thesenoble men. I just wanted to point out these facts in the interests ofhistorical accuracy.

—Is mise etc.,


—I thoroughly enjoyed the article on Volunteer South’s glorious attack on the forces of the oppressor in the name of Irish freedom. For the sake of balance, could I suggest an article on a heroic attack by a loyalist soldier? Perhaps Michael Stone’s courageous attack on Milltown Cemetery would be in keeping with the tone of the South account. I would be able to supply the words of a popular ballad commemorating this action if that would be useful.—

Yours etc.,
Co. Antrim

I presume Mr Wylie is referring to ‘The Ballad of Michael Stone’, with which the editor is familiar. It was often cited (but not sung) by the late and much-lamented singer and song-collector Frank Harte as an example of the loyalist ballad genre. While I suspect that Mr Wylie’s tongue is firmly in his cheek in making this suggestion, it is one worthy of consideration. Even for those who might consider South’s action foolhardy there is one obvious difference, however: while South and his comrades attacked a heavily defended RUC barracks (and paid the ultimate penalty), Stone attacked defenceless mourners at a graveside.


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