‘Recollections of the 1914 Kilcoole Gunrunning’ by Garry Holohan


“I think it was the week after the Howth gun-running, the following Saturday, I had another experience at gunrunning. This time it was at Kilcoole, County Wicklow, where a yacht-load of arms [were landed] which were collected from a German boat near the Roetigen Lightship.

At this time the Volunteer Headquarters were in Great Brunswick Street, now Pearse Street, near the Queen’s Theatre. I remember cycling [from there] with Eamon Martin to where Countess Markievicz lived at Surrey House, Leinster Road, Rathmines, where a number of Fianna delegates to the Árd Fheis were staying, and then proceeding to the Scalp, County Wicklow. When we reached the Scalp we met a large number of I.R.B. men having tea at Butler’s tearooms – I should say about forty. They had arrived by charabanc. There was also a number of cyclists. We had our tea. The cycling party moved off in the Wicklow direction. Up to this it had been a glorious summer day. We had not gone far when we got a heavy shower, and took shelter for a few minutes because we had no coats.


When we resumed our journey we were on a very steep hill, and I was holding on to the shoulder of Paddy Ward as I had bad brakes. For some reason I released my grip for a moment and shot away from his side. I gathered speed at a frightful rate, but I had no way of stopping myself. When I was on the steepest part of the hill I met a horse and cab coming towards me, but I managed to avoid it. Eventually the ground levelled and I escaped without an accident. I dismounted and waited for the party.

When they arrived they told me that they expected to find me smashed up. Shortly afterwards we met Liam Mellows, he was in the sidecar of a motor-bicycle, and was examining the maps’ with the aid of an electric torch. He was evidently in charge of operations, and instructed us as to the route we would take. I was told by Eamon Martin some years ago that the young man riding the motor-bicycle was Eamon de Valera. It was dark and I did not recognise him at the time.

I think we passed through Newtownmountkennedy, and eventually Paddy Ward and I were posted on a road which I was told connected Bray and Kilcoole. We had only one revolver between us, and our instructions were that if one or two R.I.C. men approached we were to allow them pass, but that if a large force arrived we were to fire on them.

It was now quite dark and we were very uncomfortable because we had no top coats, but the night was fairly warm. After a short time we heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and we decided to up-turn one of the bicycles, release the air, and pretend to be mending a puncture. The newcomers were two R.I.C. men on patrol from Bray.

Paddy Ward told them we were cycling from Wexford to Dublin, and asked them where we were and if there was any place we could put up for the night. They were very nice, directed us on to Bray and told us to go to a house opposite the barracks and say they sent us and we would get lodgings for the night. They then continued on patrol, after giving Paddy a supply of matches for his pipe, which was a part of himself and from which he always enjoyed the greatest satisfaction. When the two R.I.C. men reached the main party further on they were held up and kept prisoners for the night.

We had no other experience during the night, until a cyclist came to us at the dawn of day and told us to get home. I remember we cycled through the Glen of the Downs.

With the dawning of the day I saw a sight that made my heart jump with joy. I saw a large party of I.R.B. swinging along the road at a good pace in splendid marching order, with a rifle on every man’s shoulder. It was our dream coming true, “Out and make way for the bold Fenian men”.

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Garry Holohan – Image courtesy of Eamon Murphy and the Eamon Martin Collection.

Paddy and I cycled on to the Scalp, where a motor-load of rifles passed us. Bulmer Hobson was sitting in the back, and was very happy and satisfied looking. Eamon Martin was at the actual landing. The guns were brought in in small boats, and Eamon hurt his knee against one of them, as it was necessary for the men to wade out into the water to unload. The guns were brought to the home of Pádraig Pearse, at Scoil Éanna, Rathfarnham, and later distributed.” – Senior Fianna Eireann Officer Garry Holohan


Plaque image by Chris Dobson – Greystones Guide

The Scalp image – South Dublin County Library

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