Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

P.C./ Patrick/Patsy White d 1898-1923

Patrick Columba White was born in  Blessington, County Wicklow. His father Simon and mother, Margaret operated a grocery shop in the town.

A member of the Irish Volunteers, he served as an officer in local company, which was part of the 2nd Battalion North Kildare Brigade. On the onset of the Civil War, he joined the National Army and was posted to Portlaoise and later transferred to Tullamore before eventually being moved to Geashill, where pro-treaty forces had occupied and fortified the old protestant schoolhouse.

On 7 January 1923, White was one 14 troops under the command of Lieutenant John Lacey. who travelled to attend mass at Raheen Church. A Great War veteran, Lacey had joined the IRA in his native Laois during the War of Independence and been present at the Bonaterrin Hill ambush, the previous August when Lieutenant Matthew Cullen was killed by anti-treaty forces.

As the National Army column approached the Raheen Church they were subjected to heavy sustained fire at the Range Wall from an anti-treaty column under the leadership of North Offaly commander Sean McGuinness.

The Range Wall had been the scene of an earlier IRA ambush on crown forces during the War of Independence and National Army troops traveling to mass had been sniped there in late 1922. Sean McGuinness had used similar tactics, when shooting dead RIC Head Constable McEhill on his way to mass at Kilbeggan in 1921.

A Lewis Gun, which the anti-treaty column had hoped would give them an advantage as regards firepower jammed early in the ambush. The National Army detachment took cover and returned fire for 30 minutes until the attackers withdrew, leaving behind the machine gun and a commandeered motor car. Lieutenant Lacey, private Patrick Lynch from Ballyfore, private Patrick Mulpeter from Daingean and P.C. White were wounded in the attack. Fr. Seale the local curate administered spiritual aid to the wounded, who were removed to Geashill, Tullamore and eventually the Curragh Military Hospital, where Lynch died on January 12th and P.C. White passed away on January 18th.

 In his writings on the Civil War, historian Dr Philip McConway links the Range Wall ambush with the decision by Free State forces at to push ahead with the executions of Offaly IRA officers, Patrick Geraghty and Joe Byrne on January 27. Both men had been imprisoned in Portlaoise/ Maryborough prior to the ambush.

P.C. Whites remains were returned to his family in Blessington. The Leinster Leader reported…

On Sunday afternoon the funeral started from the Oratory. The cortege was headed by the fife and drum band from the Collins’. Barracks, Dublin, under Lieut. Switzer, and a guard of honour with arms reversed, under Capt. O’Doherty also, of Collins’ Barracks. The procession went at. a slow pace and when the Crosley tender bearing the remains reached Kilbride Cemetery, they were met; by the. Rev. Fr. O’Doherty, C.C., who officiated at the graveside. When the coffin was deposited in the family burial plot the firing party discharged three- volleys over his grave, and then the Last Post was sounded.’ (1) 

The author wishes to acknowledge the existing work of Dr  Phillip McConway and P.J.Goode on the Range Wall Ambush.


Sources:

1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/

Military Service Pension Collection. Patrick White 3D222. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

P.J. Goode. ‘A People’s Army: Cloneygowan, D Company Second Battalion Offaly No.1 Brigade Irish Republican Army 1919-1923’. (Cloneygowan) 2021.

Philip McConway. ‘Offaly and the Civil War Executions’ in Offaly Heritage Vol 5. 2007-08.

Philip McConway. ‘A fatal Civil War in Offaly and Its consequences’ Offaly Live online at https://www.offalyexpress.ie/news/tullamore-tribune/1031407/history-a-fatal-civil-war-ambush-in-offaly-and-its-consequences.html

Leinster Leader. 27 January 1923

Offaly Independent. 27 January 1923.

(1) Leinster Leader. 27 January 1923

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