New Book By Local Historian Tells Story Of The Ballymacandy Ambush

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A NEW book on the Ballymacandy Ambush of June 1921, where a senior figure in the IRA in Tralee was the only casualty on the IRA side, has just been published by a local author and historian.

Owen O’Shea’s book tells the story of the ambush which happened in mid-Kerry just weeks before the War of Independence ended.

Jerry Myles.

Jerry Myles from Moyderwell, who was later chairman of the John Mitchels GAA Club, was badly wounded in the ambush at Ballymacandy between Milltown and Castlemaine on 1st June 1921 and which features in the new book by Owen.

Continued below…


Five of the Crown Forces were killed in the ambush which claimed the life of the last Black and Tan to die in Kerry during the War of Independence.

Constable John Stratton McCormack was mortally wounded in the attack involving dozens of IRA members from mid-Kerry, Castlegregory and Tralee and lay bleeding in a cottage near the site of the ambush for several hours after the incident.

The ambush involved IRA, Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan units from Milltown, Keel, Callinafercy, Kiltallagh, and senior Kerry No. 1 Brigade members from Castlegregory and Tralee who had spent months in a hideout in Keel on the Dingle Peninsula.

Jerry ‘Unkey’ O’Connor

Among the Tralee IRA members involved were Jerry ‘Unkey’ O’Connor, Paddy Paul Fitzgerald, Thomas O’Connor, Big Dan O’Sullivan, Dan Jeffers, Michael O’Leary, Billy Mullins and brothers, Billy and Jerry Myles.

Jerry Myles, later secretary of the Kerry County Board and chairman of John Mitchels’ GAA Club, was the only IRA casualty at the ambush, sustaining a nasty bullet wound which impacted his health throughout his life.

Paddy Paul Fitzgerald

“Many of those from Tralee who were involved in the attack had spent months hiding out at ‘The Hut’ in Fybough in Keel. They had been forced to leave Tralee in the days and weeks after the ‘Siege of Tralee’ in November 1920 and were under the command of Paddy Cahill, a Sinn Féin TD for Kerry,” said Owen.

‘Ballymacandy: The Story of a Kerry Ambush’, published by Merrion Press, is the definitive account of one of the most important events in the Anglo-Irish War in Kerry and includes extracts from diaries, IRA pension applications, private correspondence and previously unpublished accounts from local IRA leaders like Dan Mulvihill, Jack Flynn and Tom O’Connor, who was officer commanding on the day.

It describes the dramatic events in the lead-up to the ambush and how the local IRA were plotting a major assault on the Crown Forces for several months.

Billy Mullins

Among the five killed was RIC sergeant James Collery, a father of nine children who lived at the Square in Milltown and who died at the hands of those who were his neighbours, as the War of Independence in mid-Kerry reached a bloody climax.

“This was a story I grew up with and I always wanted to know more about what happened at Ballymacandy, near my homeplace, on 1 June 1921. I have tried to tell this story from many perspectives, that of the IRA gunmen, the widow of the RIC constable, the hard-nosed District Inspector, the terrified civilians of my home village, the women of Cumann na mBan, the priest who prayed into the ears of the dying, the IRA’s informer within the police, and the schoolboys who watched as the remains were loaded onto carts,” said Owen.

Ballymacandy offers an insight into the planning and execution of an IRA ambush, the critical and overlooked role of Cumann na mBan, the dangers faced by the policemen in Ireland at the time, the motivations of the men who lay in wait on the roadside, and the villagers who were, unusually and remarkably, saved the brutal reprisals which had become synonymous with the dreaded Black and Tans in 1921.

Author Owen O’Shea

“I am immensely grateful to the relatives of those involved in the ambush for sharing memories, correspondence and documents. Many of those who took part in these extraordinary and traumatic events rarely or never spoke about what happened but now, thanks to newly published archive material as the centenary of the ambush approaches, their stories can be told.

“I hope the book will contribute to a wider knowledge and understanding of these events during such a pivotal period in our collective history,” said Owen.

The online launch of the book will take place on Monday, 24th May at 8.00pm. Details on

• ‘Ballymacandy: The Story of a Kerry Ambush’ by Owen O’Shea, and priced at €14.99 is published by Merrion Press and available from as well as Polymath, O’Mahony’s and Easons, Tralee.

One Comment

  1. Mairéad Fernane says:

    A great and informative read.
    We were always told our uncle’s (Big Dan O’Sullivan) Involvement but I was unaware of the true background and location etc.
    Driving to Cahersiveen yesterday was a different than usual experience for me as I identified different locations mentioned in the book. Thanks Owen.