History of Dysart & Ruan

An Ruadhán - The Alder

 An Ruadhán - The Alder. Ruan is a small village, and was the first stop on the old west Clare Railway which was operational until 1961. 
Situated close to Dromore Lake and woodlands (covering close on 1,000 acres), the area has a rich historical and archaeological heritage. 

Dromore is renowned for its diversity of flora and fauna. The five lakes of Dromore are one of the country’s prime fishing areas. 
The wood is a wildlife sanctuary and the animals of the forest include badgers, pine martens, squirrels and foxes. 
Two self guiding nature trails of approximately one hour exist within the woodland, starting at the main car park. 

Attack on Ruan Barracks

The attack was carried out by the Mid-Clare Brigade of the IRA in the early hours of the morning of the 14th October 1920.  They gained entrance as a constable goes for the milk and leaves the back gate open.  There were 13 RIC men in the barracks.  One RIC man was killed (Constable  John Longhead) and two others are wounded (Constables Roddy and Farrelly).  

Two other constables are reported missing - while one re-appears another (Constable  William Carroll), according to Abbott, is not heard from again. However, Barrett claims that Carroll joined the IRA and was wounded at the Monreal ambush on 18th Decemebr 1920. 

There were 32 IRA men in the attacking party with many others blocking roads in the vicinity. Among the arms captured by the IRA are 15 rifles and 14 revolvers.  The captured RIC men are released after they are drilled and give undertaking not to engage in reprisals.  

Among the IRA men were Joe Barrett, Sean Casey and Ignatius O'Neill.


“The Castles and Towerhouses of County Clare”.

By Martin Breen and Ristéard Ua Cróinín.

As this web page is of interest mainly to Ruan parish, we will deal only with those castles and towerhouses which pertain to the area. 

We have been surveying and recording these structures, of which there are approximately 230 sites and ruins, for over 20 years with the long-term view of publishing our findings in book form. Each castle is dealt with in 4 parts: Architectural description, measured and drawn survey of each site, history and photographs. 

We hope you enjoy the article and that there is something of interest to you all. 

The castle which we have chosen is Moyree Castle, near the village of Ruan. It was owned by a branch of the ruling O’Brien family during most of its life, though as usual it was later disposed of to other families after the 1641 Catholic Rebellion. The castle is in still good condition, mostly due to the great care and attention which its late owner, Mr. Frank Brew, bestowed on it during his lifetime. For his tireless work in maintaining and preserving this castle for future generations, and indeed for his contribution to local history and folklore, he deserves our gratitude and thanks. 

So read on and enjoy the history.

If you have any comments please feel free to email me at: mbreen.ennis@eircom.net

Moyree Castle

The castle of Moyree was an O'Brien stronghold.  According to Westropp it belongs to a slightly later date than the period from 1450 to 1500 which has been called the "golden age" of castle-building in Thomond.(1)  He uses Moyree as an example when dealing with the different features of castles in Co. Clare.  He cites it as an example of  (a) a castle with a bawn, (b) a castle with fireplaces fitted into older windows, and (c) a castle with the various types of defence features incorporated into its building which are common to many other castles in the county.(2)

In 1570 the castle was owned by Turlough O'Brien, brother of Conor, 3rd Earl of Thomond.  In that year Turlough was apparently in high favour with the government and was security for the peaceful behaviour of several of the principal gentlemen of the county.(3)  Turlough O'Brien had a turbulent career with the English Government.  In 1576 he was detained in irons by the Queen's deputy, Sir Henry Sidney.(4)  He obviously regained favour again as he was sheriff of Co. Clare from 1578 to 1580.  He was suspected of treason and arrested in March, 1580.(5)  An order was sent to the president of Connaught saying, "Turlagh the Earl's brother and late sheriff of Clare to be by you committed to the provost marshall or any other jail."   Despite a large bribe being offered for his life, he was hanged at Galway, in May, 1581, after enduring more than twelve months imprisonment.  It was been suggested that some all-powerful influences were at work for his destruction in order to prevent a war of succession in Thomond such as took place a short time before on the accession of Donough, 2nd Earl (Turlough's father).  In any case Turlough's brother Conor, 3rd Earl, died that year and his son Donough, who had been reared at the English court, succeeded as 4th Earl.  Turlough's son, Teige, was executed in 1596 "after having been a long time engaged in plundering",  perhaps trying to avenge his father's death.(6)

                  Moyree Castle Turrett                                                                                                   Moyree Castle Ground Floor

The castle list for 1574 records that Moyree was the property of the Earl of Thomond.(7)  The castle remained the property of the Earl and in 1620 a conveyance of some land at Moyree is recorded to Teige O'Brien at Dromore, brother of Donough, 4th Earl.(8)  In 1641 Moyree was owned by the O'Griffeys and O'Hehirs.  They retained ownership after the Catholic Rebellion of 1641, a period during which most of the old Irish landowners lost their property for their part in that rebellion, to the new English settlers.(9)  A letter from the O'Brien papers dated 1706, from a Mr. Hickie to Sir Donat O'Brien, enquires about some land exchange at Moyree for land in the Burren.(10)   Westropp records a legend of fratricide at Moyree, where an O'Brien defended himself against his avenging kindsman, Sir Donat O'Brien about 1660-1680.(11)  He also records lightening damage at Moyree in 1899 when a bolt of lightening passed down the chimney, bursting the arch of the fireplace, killed several pigs in the lower room and also struck the nearby farmhouse.(12)  The castle was inhabited in 1837(13) and O'Donovan records in 1839 that it was in a tolerable state of preservation, though he did not say if it was still inhabited.(14)

The English traveller and writer, Thomas Dineley, recorded some curious stories on his journey through Co. Clare in 1680.  At Moyree he noted the following tale "It is discoursed also, and by very credible persons, that at Muyree castle, in this county of Clare, twords Galloway side, was taken a prodigious Pike with two Ducks in its Gorge or Belly, one whereof was so fresh, that took out and roasted prov'd a very good dish."(15)

Westropp also provided us with a drawing of the castle in 1899 showing that it was then roofless and also showing the corner machicoulis which has since been removed.(16)

Moyree  Castle:- References

 (1)T.J.Westropp, The Lesser Castles or Peel Towers of Co. Clare. p352.  (2)Ibid p356.  (3)Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 1913 p342.  (4)Ibid p34.  (5)J.R.S.A.I. 1890  p69.  (6)J.R.S.A.I. 1913 pp343-344.  (7)The North Munster Journal. 1910. Vol. I,  p83.  (8)John Ainsworth. The Inchiquin Manuscripts. No. 1017.  (9)James Frost. The History and Topography of Co. Clare. p489.  (10)I.M. no. 267. (11)Peel Towers p361.  (12)Ibid p359.  (13)Samuel Lewis. Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. Vol. I. p335.  (14)Ordnance Survey Letters of Co. Clare.  vol. I p43.  (15)The Journal of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society. vol. VI 1867 p77.  (16)Peel Towers  Plate XVII

 Moyree Castle (Magh Righe = The Field of Plunder - (Frost))

CL 018-12---, 018-/09/3, 13786/19026, Castlequarter (Inchiquin), Moyree Castle (in ruins), (1916), O.D. 0-100.

Tower House and Bawn:

Moyree Castle which stands at the SW corner of a quadrangular bawn over-looking the Moyree River to the S is one of the most complete tower houses in Co. Clare.  Standing on a rectangular base (12m N-S and 8.3m E-W) it rises through six storeys (narrow section) to a height of c.18m including the gables over the N and S walls.

Built of squared limestone rubble set in mortared erratic courses on a base-batter the tower house contains very finely cut features e.g. doorways, loops, quoins, fireplaces etc.   The main pointed arched doorway under a relieving arch in the N wall gives access to the entrance lobby under a rectangular murder-hole covered by three removable flagstones.  To the W is the vaulted porter’s lodge (Axis N-S) with a narrow window in the N wall.

The main chamber contains three large squared and splayed embrasures for loops in the E, S and W walls.  The E embrasure has been broken out in the past while the W embrasure once served as a fireplace, the remains of an external chimney can be seen above the loop.  There is a narrow vertical cutting in the N wall of this room beside the N.E corner.  The function of this is unclear but it may have been an attempt to create another chimney.

To the E of the entrance lobby is the stairwell passage through a damaged pointed arched doorway.  Many of the stairs have been replaced in concrete, in an admirable fashion by the owner, Mr. Brew, providing access for visitors to the upper storeys.

The stairwell is lit throughout by loops in the N and E walls with an angle-loop at 3rd floor level.  As the wooden floors are gone it is possible to see up through the narrow chambers in the tower.  The floors rested on corbels in the N and S walls except the 4th floor lock-up chamber which had floor boards resting on a continuous angular stone wall-plate projecting from the N and S walls.  The ceiling of this room is vaulted (axis E-W) but the vault is holed badly.

Access to the narrow rooms from the stairwell was originally through narrow pointed arched doorways but these were blocked up, probably in the 17th century to create chimney flues to serve two very fine fireplaces inserted on the 2nd and third floors.  The 2nd floor fireplace which is made of carved limestone with a stone mantle contains a pair of small ambreys in each side of the chimney.

An entrance from the narrow section to the wider section of the tower house was broken out at 1st floor level and stone steps were installed under a wide arch, the full width of the tower house which supports the garderobe passage above.  The main room on the 1st floor once had a very large fireplace (2.25m wide) against the W wall but only the jambs remain.  The room is lit by three loops in squared and splayed embrasures, the loop in the S wall having been removed probably to accommodate a larger window  (a 17th century mullion is lying on the ground floor).  This window was later blocked up again to reduce its width.

The loop in the W wall is close to the S.W corner to accommodate the large fireplace.  This may indicate that the fireplace at this level (1st floor) was an integral part of the structure, unlike many other tower houses where fireplaces were an afterthought.  This fact may help date the tower house to the early 16th c.  Also in this room is a double ambrey in the S.E. corner.  The floor above was carried on square joists (0.3m x 0.3m) set into walls and supported by a wall-plate resting on corbels in the E and W walls.  There is a lot of roughcast rendering finished in a lime putty remaining in this room which may have been brightly painted.  It was known locally as “The Red Room”.

The main chamber on the 2nd floor stood on wooden floorboards.  The wall of this room narrowed by c.8cm. to allow the boards to rest on the “shelf” of the wall below.  This room is lit by three round headed loops in squared and splayed embrasures.  There are double ambreys in the S.E and SW corners.  There was a fireplace in the W wall, now removed, but it is unlikely that it was contemporary with the building.  There are two garderobe passages, one above the other, between the 3rd floor and the solar.  The lower one is entered from the stairwell through a narrow pointed arched doorway or from the main room through a lintelled doorway.  The upper passage is reached from the stair well and is covered by parallel flagstones under the floor of the solar.  There is a slop stone in the E wall and both garderobes empty through a shaft in the W wall.

A similar window was installed in Dysert O’Dea Castle, in the same wall, at the same level.


             Moyree Castle Stairs at Top Floor                                                              Moyree Castle Wallwalk


Access to the solar or upper main room is gained through a pointed arched doorway from the stairwell.  Immediately beside this is a similar narrow doorway which leads upwards to the wall-walk.  Therefore one could only reach the battlements by entering the solar first.  The room is lit by four tall double-light, mullioned windows with ogee-heads set in finely cut arched, splayed embrasures - one in each wall.  The E wall also contains a narrow loop near the SE corner and a slopstone near the NE corner.  There are ambreys in the W wall at the N W and SW corners and evidence that there once was a fireplace in the centre of the W wall - replacing an original ambrey.

The S gable is carried on a triple blind arcade protruding c.40cm from the wall and springing from a pair of corbels on each side of the window.  The N gable stands on a wide arch spanning the room from the W wall to the stairwell.  At the centre of this arch is a narrow chute from the wall-walk outside the gable.

The wall-walk is reached through a narrow lintelled doorway from the stairwell and gave access to the battlements around the roof including a bartizan above the SE corner and a machicoulis over the main doorway.  The wall-walk is covered with narrow overlapping flagstones sloping outwards.  The tower house was built in two sections above the base batter, (a common feature in Co. Clare tower houses) but after the 3rd floor it was completed as one section.

The Bawn

The bawn (c50m N-S and 30m E-W) stands on raised ground above the surrounding fields and most of the foundations are intact.  The S and E walls are skirted by the Moyree River and a complete but badly cracked turret, containing four shot-holes, remains c.4m E of the tower house.  This turret may have defended the corner of a smaller bawn (as at Ballyportry) but little evidence of this remains.  Some masonry near the entrance to the bawn may have been part of a gate tower.

Surveyed Feb. ’96


Ruan 1837

Ruan is a small village situated close to Dromore Lake. It derives its name from "Ruan", an old Irish term for the alder tree which was used in olden times to dye wool red. 

The parish of Ruan-Dysert on the fringes of the Burren is an area steeped in history and lore.

Fairs were held at Ruan on June 17th and September 26th, the latter being one of the principal sheep fairs in the county. 

At Dysert and Ruan are stations of the constabulary police.

In 1837 about 660 children are educated in two public schools at Dysert and Ruan, and about 70 in a private school. 

According to Guy's Directory of 1893 Sergeant John Kelly was in charge of Ruan station-

Schools teachers were:-

Hugh Brady; Miss Bridget Reynolds

Gentry and Clergy.

Flannery, Rev Danl, P P, Cahirlough

Monahan, Rev Jas, C C, Dysart

Kelly, J B, Port house

Architect and Builder.

Foley, Thomas, Ballymacrogan


Foley, James
McGann, Daniel
Purcell, Annie


Crowe, John, Ballyogan, Crowe, Martin, Ballyteige, Foley, John, Ballymacrogan
Guthrie, Michael, Foilrim,Guthrie, Patrick, Ballyteige, Hanrahan, John, Drumcavan
Hehir, John, Drumcavan, Hehir, Michael, Ooankeagh, McGann, Daniel, Lissyline
Markham, John, Tullymackan, O'Brien, Daniel, Bealanalicka, O'Brien, Daniel, Thornville
O'Brien, Henry, Ardcarney, Pilkington, Ml, Ballymacrogan, Reynolds, Timothy, Rinneen.

In more recent years the opening of the marts led to the demise of the fairs which had brought a wealth of colour and excitement to the village.

A new school was opened on the outskirts of the village in 1977 and the revamped old building remains in service as the local Community Centre. The Community Hall provides a focal point for local activities such as boxing, badminton and social events.

The area has a rich cultural and sporting tradition with Irish music and hurling receiving special attention.

The game of hurling was not played in Ruan long ago but the game of football was.

All the young men of the parish used to come to a certain field after dinner on a Sunday and they used to make two teams, one from each side of the parish - those north & east of the village on one side and those from the south & west of the village on the other.
The ball was thrown in by the Curate of the parish who acted as referee. They had no goal posts as we have now but they kicked from one end of the townland in which the field was to the other. If the ball went over the wall into the next townland it counted as a goal. 

There were no points in those days. The referee scarcely ever blew the whistle for fouls. It was only when a row started (which was often in those days) that he interfered, and when he had restored peace the game re-started. They continued at the game until dusk and then returned to their respective homes. They played in different townlands on different Sundays. 

The ball used was bigger than that now used. It sometimes consisted of a pig's bladder covered with leather by a local shoemaker and was scarecely round.


Parish of Dysart  1837

A parish, in the barony of Inchiquin, county of Clare, and province of Munster, 41/2 miles (N. W.) from Ennis, on the road to Corofin ; containing 7279 inhabitants. This parish was formerly called Dysert O’Dea, from its having been the territory of the sept of that name. It comprehends the subdivisions of Inagh and Ruan, and contains 23,417 statute acres, as rated for the county cess, of which a large portion consists of coarse mountain pasture. There are about 300 plantation acres of common, 100 acres of wood, and 100 acres of bog. The waste land consists chiefly of crag and underwood, and several hundred acres are covered with water, there being a number of lakes that in winter overflow the adjoining land to a considerable extent. Limestone abounds, and is burnt for manure; and the state of agriculture is gradually improving. The river Fergus runs through the greater part of the parish, through Tedane and other lakes, to Clare Town. Fairs are held at Ruan on June 17th and Sept. 26th, the latter being one of the principal sheep fairs in the county. At Dysert and Ruan are stations of the constabulary police. A court for the manor of Inchiquin is occasionally held by the seneschal, for the recovery of small debts. The gentlemen’s seats are Toonagh, the residence of C. O’Brien, Esq. ; Tierna, of Hewitt Bridgeman, Esq. ; Port, of H. O’Loghlen, Esq., Carhue, of E. Synge, Esq. ; Fountain, of E. Powell, Esq. ; Rockview, of R. O’Loghlen, Esq. ; Cogia, of T. Lingard, Esq. ; and Drumore, the property of R. Crowe, Esq. The parish is in the diocese of Killaloe : the rectory forms part of the union and corps of the prebend of Rath, and the vicarage, part of the union of Kilneboy. The tithes amount to £250. 13. 9., of which £165. 1. 23/4. is payable to the rector, £83. 17. 11. to the vicar, and £1. 14. 71/4. to the prebendary of Tomgraney. There is a glebe of one plantation acre. In the R. C. divisions its northern and middle portions form the union or district of Dysert ; and the south-western portion (Inagh) gives name to a district, which also includes the parish of Kilnemona. In the former district are the chapels of Dysert and Ruan, and in the latter, those of Inch and Kilnemona. The chapel at Ruan was rebuilt by subscription in 1834. About 660 children are educated in two public schools at Dysert and Ruan, and about 70 in a private school ; to that at Dysert, E. Synge, Esq., contributes £24 per annum. Of the ruins of the 
churches of Dysert, Ruan, and Kiltala, the first is distinguished by its antiquity, and by the richly sculptured Saxon arch forming the doorway. Near these ruins are the remains of an ancient round tower, of which 30 feet are still standing ; about 20 feet from the ground is a doorway, and 10 feet higher are the remains of another ; at each stage the dimensions of the tower diminish, and outside the second story is a projecting belting-course. An ancient cross lies on the ground, bearing the effigy of a bishop, supposed to represent St. Monalagh, and other figures. A short distance from the ruins of Dysert church are those of the castle of that name, formerly the residence of the O’Deas ; and at Mahre, Ballygriffy, and Port, are the ruins of similar castles : those of Port, standing on the verge of a lake, have a picturesque appearance. In a house in this parish, the ruins of which can scarcely be traced, the old song to the air of "Carolan’s receipt for drinking whiskey" is said to have been composed by three poets, of whom a ridiculous story is related concering the manner of writing it. For an account of the ancient sepulchral monument on Mount Callan, which extends into this parish.


Image of O'Briens Castle, Dromore WoodDromore Wood, Ruan, County Clare            

Located on the edge of Dromore Lough, O'Briens Castle is a 17th century tower house (in runins) located in the 400 hectare 
Dromore Woods nature reserve.

Ruan Barracks 17th October 1920

As the East Clare Brigade was busy trying to break the British spy network in Feakle the Mid Clare Brigade of the I.R.A. had found a republican sympathiser inside the R.I.C. garrison at Ruan who was willing to defect. Sean Casey, the Adjutant of the Mid Clare Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, had been approached by R.I.C. Constable Bill Caroll from Roscommon who was stationed at Ruan R.I.C barracks. Caroll claimed that he wanted to defect to the I.R.A. and could get the I.R.A. inside the barracks. The I.R.A. had to be careful in their dealings with Caroll as the possibility remained that his approach was part of a planned British ambush to trap the I.R.A.
Sean O Keefe and a number of other I.R.A. officers were detailed to interview Caroll and assess if he was a genuine defector: “Early in October, 1920, I went to Ennis to meet Joe Barrett by appointment. Sean Casey, a national teacher in Ruan, then Adjutant of 2nd Battalion, was also present. Casey had come to report that he was in touch with one of the R.I.C. stationed in Ruan Constable Bill Caroll who appeared to be very much in sympathy with the I.R.A and willing to cooperate with us in the capture of the R.I.C. station to which he was attached. After a long discussion it was agreed that Casey should again sound Caroll and ascertain definitely from him if he would be agreeable to assist us in case we decided to try and capture the station. A week or so later a further meeting took place in the Clare Hotel, Ennis, and this time Constable Caroll, in plain clothes was present, as were Frank and Joe Barrett, Sean Casey and Myself. Caroll impressed us as being a sincere type of young man who was sorry for having found himself in the R.I.C. at that stage. He declared himself in sympathy and said he attempted to resign from the police force. He was then asked to describe the internal lay out of the Ruan R.I.C. station, how the garrison at night time and give details of the military equipment of the station. He also mentioned that he would be on night duty on the third week of October along with an elderly R.I.C. man named Wilmot, and that Wilmot would be leaving the station every morning about half past seven to get milk from a neighbouring house owned by people named Callanan. There was a general discussion at the meeting on the information supplied by Constable Caroll and it was decided there to attempt the capture of the barracks. …Constable Caroll was most anxious that none of the police would be shot during the course of the raid. He was assured on this point and special instructions were given to the men chosen to enter the barracks that shooting should only be resorted to only when it was absolutely unavoidable. No definite date was settled on at the meeting for the attack. Caroll was told that he would be notified of this date later on.”
Following the meeting with Constable Caroll, Frank Barrett carried out a night time examination of the Ruan R.I.C. barracks and the surrounding area with Sean Casey. Though they moved cautiously around the outside of the barracks their presence disturbed the Callanan’s dogs which barked incessantly. The dogs would certainly make a much louder din if a large force of I.R.A. Volunteers moved into their positions to attack the barracks and this might alert the R.I.C. Barrett decided to poison the Callan’s dogs a few nights before the attack, as an added precaution the I.R.A.’s raiding party would remove their boots and approach the rear of the barracks in their stockings. On the 15th of October Frank Barrett had completed his arrangements for the attack and sent word to Constable Caroll, through Sean Casey, that the attack would take place three nights later.
The R.I.C. barracks at Ruan had been a thorn in the Mid Clare Brigade’s side for some time. It was an important part of the British forces system of defences, situated six miles from Ennis, it controlled one of the main approaches to the town and was a great hindrance to the movement of the I.R.A. arms, ammunition and supplies through the area. The barracks also served as a clearing house, for gathering and processing intelligence information. Ruan barracks was a two storey solid stone building stationed by an R.I.C. sergeant and thirteen R.I.C. constables. The building was surrounded by a stone wall and an almost impenetrable barrier of barbed wire entanglements which reaching seven feet high in some places. Barbed wire screens also sloped down from the upper storey of the building and all the barrack windows were covered by bullet proof steel shutters and were sandbagged as an extra precaution.
Constable Caroll had told Frank Barrett at the meeting in the Clare Hotel that every morning when Constable Wilmot left the rear of the barracks to collect milk from Callanan’s home a hundred yards behind the barracks, he pushed aside part of the barbed wire entanglements which stretched from the outer barbed wire defences to the block of out offices containing a fuel shed and toilet. This section of barbed wire was left open until Constable Wilmot returned a few moments later. The I.R.A.’s plan was to capture Constable Wilmot when he left the barracks at half past seven and enter the barracks compound through the gap he had left open behind him. Once inside the barbed wire defences Constable Caroll would open the barracks door and thirty I.R.A. Volunteers armed with revolvers would enter the barracks and capture the sleeping R.I.C. men and destroy the building. The Sergeant slept downstairs while the remaining eleven R.I.C. constables slept upstairs in two rooms. The village of Ruan is about four miles from Corrofin which was garrisoned by a force of R.I.C. and Black and Tans. Ennis had a very large garrison of British military and R.I.C. these forces had motor transport and could be in Ruan within the hour if they were alerted. Members of the 1st and 5th Battalions of the Mid Clare Brigade were responsible for blocking the roads leading to Ruan. A large force would be needed to capture Ruan Barracks and Frank Barrett mobilised selected I.R.A. Volunteers from the 2nd , 3rd and 4th Battalions would form the main force which would carry out the raid on the barracks.
The I.R.A. Volunteers selected for the attack assembled at ten o clock on the night of the 17th of October four miles from the R.I.C. Barracks at a disused house near Barefield owned by the Costelloe family. The 5th and 6th Battalions had mobilised their Volunteers for the attack at O Brien’s house in Kilfenora on the previous night so many of their men had mobilised that Sean Mc Namara had to select a number of them to go to Ruan the next night and ordered the rest to mobilise on the 18th in Kilfenora and hold themselves in readiness to act as a reserve force in an emergency. At Costelloe’s over fifty men had mobilised, including Sean Moroney and Mick Tuohy from the Mid Clare Brigade who had been told about the planned operation by Laurence Allen. Barrett assembled all the I.R.A. Volunteers present and explained to them the exact details of the planned action. At four that morning they moved off towards Ruan led by an advance party of ten Volunteers and five scouts. The I.R.A. Volunteers from the 1st and 5th Battalions were already at work blocking the roads leading to Ruan. To prevent British forces rushing to Ruan or attempting to encircle the I.R.A. a widespread system of roadblocks was put in place. The outer line of defence was a far-flung ring of twenty stone barricades built across all the roads leading to Ruan, some of them as far as ten miles from the village. Inside these barricades the I.R.A. constructed a second series of roadblocks by building more stone barricades and felling trees across the roads leading directly to Ruan. Each of these road blocks was guarded by a section leader and I.R.A. Volunteers armed with shotguns.
Half a mile from the Barracks the I.R.A. stopped at a wood on the Dromore estate, took their boots off, and marched silently into Ruan in stocking feet. It was still dark at six o clock when the different I.R.A. sections took up their positions behind the outer wall of the barracks. Hidden from the view of the barracks windows, the I.R.A. waited for over an hour in a tense silence for Constable Wilmot to leave the barracks on his morning errand to fetch the milk. Just before half seven they heard the sounds of movement inside the barracks yard. In the still morning air Frank Barrett could clearly hear the noise of the back door of the barracks being shut and the barbed wire entanglement behind the barracks being pulled open. A moment later Constable Wilmot appeared carrying a bucket, he had gone about thirty yards towards Callanan’s house when he was held up by Peter O Loughlin and two other I.R.A. Volunteers Jim Quin and Frank Keane:
“We were there half an hour or so when the policeman emerged from the barracks for the milk. He was taken completely by surprise and surrendered without fuss.”
Within seconds of Constable Wilmot’s capture the first sections of the raiding party rushed down the concrete passage and through the gap in the barbed wire entanglements to the back door of the barracks. Constable Caroll had watched the capture of Constable Wilmot from the barracks and immediately opened the door and led the republicans inside. William Mc Namara led his section up the stairs with his revolver drawn and entered the first of two dormitory rooms which housed the eleven R.I.C. constables: “In less time than it takes to tell, we were in the upstairs rooms where the police were fast asleep. In the room in which I was one of the police Constable Longhead jumped out of bed on being awakened and appeared to be making an attempt to get his rifle from the rack over his bed when a shot rang out which mortally wounded him. Another policeman was slightly wounded in the leg. In the other room Sergeant Mc Carthy, who was in charge of the garrison, also made an effort to fight, but he was deprived of his revolver before being able to use it.”
Sean O Keefe’s section which entered the other upstairs room also met resistance from the R.I.C. but this was subdued without any further killing: “In the room where I entered with my section the occupants were all asleep and were roused by shouts of ‘hands up’. One constable named Ruddy did not comply and threw himself out of bed. He was fired at and wounded, but this bullet also wounded another constable named Farrelly. … We took possession of all the rifles and revolvers we found lying in racks on the bedroom walls.”
Constable John Longhead was carried downstairs into the barracks yard but died from his wound within minutes. He was a native of Sligo. The eleven other R.I.C. men were ordered to dress, taken down stairs at gunpoint and led to a nearby house where they were made as comfortable as possible given the circumstances. In their search of the barracks the I.R.A. captured fourteen Lee Enfield rifles, fourteen .45 Webbly and Scott revolvers, two shotguns, one automatic pistol, two Verey light flare pistols, twenty four Mill’s Bomb grenades, a thousand rounds of .303 ammunition, and seven hundred rounds of .45 ammunition. Fourteen police bicycles and a large amount of official R.I.C. documents and intelligence papers were also taken. and brought to the brigade’s arms dump in Crusheen.
When the barracks had been thoroughly searched the building was set on fire using a supply of petrol taken from Murty Kelly’s shop. As the first flames of the fire took hold, Ignatius O Neill arrived at Ruan by car with three other I.R.A. Volunteers from the 4th Battalion of the Mid Clare Brigade. They had intended to take part in the operation but had to take a wide detour on their journey from Lahinch to avoid British patrols and roads trenched by the I.R.A. One of these volunteers, Frank Molyneaux, a chemist from Ennistymon was taken to the three R.I.C. constables injured when the barracks was captured and he dressed their wounds. The remaining R.I.C. men were being held as prisoners in front of the barracks when O Neill arrived. William Mc Namara from Ennis was one of their guards “Most of the R.I.C did not appear to be unduly upset over the fate that had befallen them, but Sergeant Mc Carthy was very annoyed and refused to give an undertaking that there would be no reprisals.” On hearing this O Neill couldn’t resist the temptation to give them ‘a small dose of their own medicine.’ Frank Barrett watched as O Neill gave the R.I.C. men the order to ‘fall in’ for foot drill: “All complied with alacrity, with the exception of the senior sergeant who obstinately refused to be drilled by an I.R.A. officer. O Neill a former Irish Guardsman … was not the type who would readily tolerate disobedience to a military command that he might utter. The recalcitrant sergeant was possessed of some rudiment of wisdom however, for he did not persist in his attitude and sulkily ‘fell in’ with the others before it became necessary for O Neill to apply some persuasion. Up and down the narrow road marched the bewildered police, their nailed boots on the road re-echoing in the crisp October air. Half the village watched in astonishment as the peelers ‘jumped two in response to orders bawled out by o neill in a parade ground voice that would have been the envy of any sergeant major who could have heard it. … It was an occasion that will be long remembered in Ruan.”
When O Neill had finished drilling the R.I.C., Constable Wilmot and Constable Caroll were separated from the group who were told that the pair were being kept as hostages to prevent reprisals by the British forces. The R.I.C. were told that Wilmot and Caroll would be shot and the houses of local unionists burned if the R.I.C. engaged in reprisals for the burning of the barracks. The real reason for taking them hostage was to deceive the British as to Caroll’s part in the attack and provide cover for his defection to the I.R.A.
With the demolition of the barracks completed by the fire the R.I.C. Sergent and his men were again warned about the consequences of reprisals and then taken to houses in the village and given breakfast. They were warned not to leave these houses for an hour. The I.R.A. force was dismissed by Barrett and broke up into different sections which departed for safe houses in their own areas. As a group of I.R.A. volunteers from the 4th Battalion narrowly avoided entering an ambush that the British Army had laid at Shallee on the Ennistymon road.
Bill Caroll was to be posted as an I.R.A. Volunteer in the Ballyvaughan area of the Mid Clare Brigades 6th Battalion. Sean Mc Namara and the other members of the 6th Battallion withdrew from Ruan taking Caroll and Constable Wilmot with them as ‘hostages’ to Diffley’s house at Carron in north Clare: “At Carron we held a mock Courtmartial for Constable Wilmot’s benefit. The ‘court, decided to release him and to ‘detain’ Constable carol as a hostage. Constable Wilmot was told he was to convey word to his authorities that if there were any reprisals by the British troops as a result of the Ruan attack that Constable Caroll would be executed. We not had the problem of ensuring that Constable Wilmot would get back safely to some R.I.C. station so we decided that it would be best that he should be taken to Gort in county Galway. This task was left to myself to arrange. One of the most reliable men in the Battalion, Mick O Loughlin of Ballyvaughan, had a motor car and I got him to drive myself and constable Wilmot from Carron to Tirneevin Cross about three miles from Gort. Before parting from his guard at Carron, Constable Wilmot insisted on shaking hands with all his captors and was most profuse in his thanks for the good treatment he had received. On the way towards Gort I kept reminding him of the decision given at his courts martial, and told him a bit of a colourful story of how the I.R.A. had compiled a list of the most prominent unionists in county Clare who, as well as who, as well as ‘Constable’ Caroll, would all be shot if there were any reprisals by British troops for the capture of Ruan Barracks, and that the counter reprisals by us would also include the burning of the houses of these Unionists. Constable Wilmot promised to convey all I had said to him, and he seemed to have done so, too, with good effect because there were no reprisals.