On the 31st October 1919 the Trim and Longwood IRA Companies attacked the police barracks in Ballivor to obtain arms. Ballivor Barrack was situated in the middle of the village in the middle of a row of occupied houses and occupied by one sergeant and four constables
The IRA had good information on the routine of the police in the barracks. The plan decided upon was that one of the volunteers would approach the barracks door and knock. When challenged he would give the name of one of the local men and when the door was opened the door would be rushed by the Volunteers. All roads into the village were to be picketed and telegraph wires cut. General Headquarters were asked to send a car with a reliable driver for the removal of arms and equipment.
The car from General Headquarters was late in arriving so Mooney and the men from Trim Company started on bicycles, dividing into small groups of two or three to avoid attracting attention to their movements. They met the Longwood men at the agreed meeting point and Mooney detailed each man’s duty to him. The car from General Headquarters caught up with the Volunteers. Reaching Ballivor the main body approached the Barracks and divided into two sections, some of them succeeding in getting into the rear. The others went to their posts at the road junctions and ensured that nobody would leave the village while the attack was going on. Paddy Mooney, Pat Fay and Stephen Sherry went boldly to the door, knocked and on being challenged gave the name of one of the locals who was in the habit of calling to the barracks in the evening. The door opened slightly and when the policeman realised it was not the man whose name had been given, he pulled his revolver and tried to shut the door. Mooney ordered him to drop his gun and open up and at the same time called in the others to push the door in. There was a rush, then a shot and the policeman dropped. Constable William Agar was shot through the heart and died instantly. In the meantime the Volunteers at the rear led by Harry O’Hagan and Joe Lawlor attacked the back door and the barracks was taken. Mooney’s first act was to attend to the policeman but he was already dead.
Aged thirty five Constable Agar came from Carlow. His father was evicted from a farm at Coolnakisha near the Kilkenny-Carlow border during the land war and the family went to live in the town of Carlow. The dead constable had been working for Mr. E. Boake, Tullow Street, Carlow and was very popular. He joined the RIC about 1907. Constable Agar was buried at St. Mary’s Church in Rathvilly, Co. Carlow. He left a widow Florence and a seven year old daughter, Violet.
Mooney had the body removed to one of the rooms. The other two policemen present were locked inside the day room and then all the arms and ammunitions and other materials of use were collected.
Volunteers gathered a revolver, five rifles, revolver pouches and a large quantity of ammunition and made a hasty getaway in the direction of Kildalkey.The outposts on the approach roads had done their jobs well and one of those detained was the other policeman returning to duty. He was brought to the barracks and locked up with the others. A search was made for the sergeant but he could not be found. Séamus Finn said “This was a disappointment as it was intended to give him a lesson which would ensure that his behaviour, which was not good in the raids on the homes of Volunteers in Trim and Athboy would improve.”
Sgt McDermott at door of Ballivor Barracks
The Volunteers numbered about fourteen Volunteers including Commandant Paddy Mooney in charge, Paddy Fay, Harry O’Hagan, Joe Lawlor, Joe Kelly, Stephen Sherry of Trim Company, Pat Giles, Larry Giles and two others M. Fagan and McEvoy from Longwood Company.
The morning after the raid Paddy Lalor and five others were arrested in Trim and taken in for questioning. But they were released shortly afterwards. The police wanted to avoid any further escalation of activity in the area. In Ballivor a jury of local people said the police were always popular in the area and did their duty impartially. An old man, named William McKeown, said that about 10 o’clock on Friday night he was going to the village pump to get water, when two men, who were standing near the police barracks, cried out, “Go back; if you come on you will be shot! ” He ran back, and immediately afterwards heard a shot. Other evidence showed that a motor-car was seen in a wood near the barracks that evening. The jury found that death was due to rupture of the heart caused by a bullet deliberately fired by some person unknown. Bishop Gaughran, Bishop of Meath invoked the curse of God not only on the perpetrators of such foul deeds but also on all who actively co-operated with them. Six men were arrested the next morning in Trim for questioning about the death of Constable Agar but were released without charge.
On 1st March 1920, at Trim, Mr Justice Pim awarded £2500 to Agar’s family – £1400 to Florence and £1000 to Violet. On 9th April 1923, Florence married James Brookes, club steward, of Springfield Road, Belfast, with whom she had two more children. Violet was awarded a further £288 towards her education in 1927.
In the spring of 1920 the small police barracks such as Ballivor were abandoned and the police moved to the larger towns. Ballivor Barracks was burned by the IRA on Easter Sunday, 3 April 1920. John McGearty restored the building and used it as a dwelling.
National Museum: EW.4534: RIC carbine captured at Ballivor, Co. Meath. Stamped on the brass plate on the butt “2 ’05 / RIC / 9022. ( A similar rifle is shown in the photograph)
Meath Chronicle – The Ballivor Raid
Meath Chronicle Page 1 Kells Saturday November 8th 1919
Almost at the same hour as the raid took place in Dillon’s Bridge another raid progressed at Ballivor, a village some half a dozen Irish miles from Trim. In this connection one of our representatives who was in Trim on Saturday writes:—
AN EARLY ACCOUNT.
At about 10 o’clock on Friday night a daring surprise attack by masked men was made on the police barrack at Ballivor, when the orderly, Constable Agar, was killed by a bullet wound through the heart, and a number of rifles and ammunition were carried off by the raiders. The village, which is situate about six miles to the west of Trim, is one of the most tranquil of Meath villages, and the unfortunate occurrence has therefore caused a terrible sensation amongst the inhabitants. Indeed the sad news in Trim on Saturday was believed only by those who had visited the scene; the police even had no confirmation of the report up to 3 o’clock in the evening. It appears from information gleaned from the police at Ballivor that at about 10 o’clock on Friday evening a knock came to the door of the police barracks, which was answered by the barrack orderly, Constable Agar. Before opening the door he asked who was there, and the reply came, “It’s all right.” He then opened the door, and the next moment a shot rang out, and the constable staggered into the day-room, where Sergeant Mac-Dermott and another constable were sitting. The only words he spoke were “Oh! I’m shot!” Some of the raiders guarded the door of the dayroom whilst others rushed upstairs to the ammunition-room and carried off all the firearms and ammunition, which included five rifles, five bullet pouches, one revolver and a large quantity of ammunition. The attackers then made good their retreat, and so far, despite minute inquiries and investigations, no clue as to the perpetrators of the act has been found, and no arrests have been made. The raid appears to have, been well planned and organised, because the barrack was surrounded front and rear, and the telegraphic wires were cut beforehand.
Rev. Father Farrell. P.P., Ballivor, referring to the occurrence at Mass on Saturday morning, condemned it in the strongest language at his command, and said he felt sure that no one from that parish had hand, act or part in the foul murder.
The deceased constable was a native of County Carlow, aged about 33 years, and married only since last May. His wife, with whom great sympathy is felt, is but a very short time residing in the village.
On Saturday evening the Police Inspector-General, Mr. Byrne, Dublin, the Assistant Inspector-General, their private secretaries, the County Inspector, District-Inspector Molloy, and about one hundred police, were on the scene and making investigations.
Visiting Ballivor on Monday when the inquest was held, we had an opportunity of inspecting the scene of the unfortunate occurrence, which is deplored by all right minded people. The people of the locality are loud in denunciation and declare, emphatically, that no person in the district had hand, act, part, or sympathy with the outrage. The Ballivor barrack is situated in the centre of the little village which on ordinary occasions is almost deserted but on Monday there was a large crowd gathered. Police were there in force and many relatives of the deceased constable. To understand how Constable Agar met his death it must be borne in mind that the front door of the barrack is in two sections. When the constable opened the door he did not open both sides, he just turned the part of the door near the latch back a bit. The shot was then fired and as far as we could see must have richoteted off the door and entered and passed through his heart and body and was finally embedded in the sixth step of the stairs which fronts the door. The constable having fallen into the day room which is to the right immediately inside the front door the raiders presumably rushed up stairs leaving one of-their number holding the door of the day room where Sergt. McDermott and two other constables were. The police fired out through the day room door, the person holding the door must have stood up straight against the wall and so escape injury. The arms and ammunition were in a room upstairs on the left hand side. The door of this room was locked and the raiders evidently burst it in and went away with their booty. At the inquest on Monday the full details were given and we give below a comprehensive report o( the proceedings. The post mortem having been completed the remains were removed by motor to Carlow. The utmost sympathy is felt for Const. Agar’s young wife and other relatives on the tragic occurrence which is deplored and condemned by all sections. The most pathetic feature of the whole thing is that Constable Agar, who was married last May, had only succeeded in getting a house in Ballivor a day or two before his death.
Mr. D. J. Corry, J.P., Coroner for South Meath, opened the inquest on the body of Const. William Agar at the Police barracks, Ballivor, at 11 o’clock on Monday. The following were sworn on the _Jury:—Messrs. James Bracken, (foreman), J. Smith, W. Cox, E. Farrell. J. McGarry, G. Lewis, C. Lewis. Bernard C. Parr, M. J. Fox, D.C., H. Lewis, R. Gill. H. Douglas, C. O’Keefe. M. Dixon, Peter Dorgan.
The Constabulary were represented by County Inspector Howe and D.I. Molloy, Trim. Mr. F. C. O’Reilly, Solicitor, represented the next of kin of deceased.
Sergeant Terence Mc Dermott swore—I knew the deceased Constable William Agar. I last saw him alive at 10.10 p.m. on the 31st October. 1 was in the day-room at the fire with the deceased and two other constables—Shannon and Leonard. The deceased , who was barrack orderly, went to the front door of the barracks to answer a knock. This was at about ten past 10. He opened the front door, which leads to the street, and immediately he opened the door two shots rang out, and he shouted “I am shot! I am shot!” staggered into the day-room, and raised his hands, and in half a minute fell partly on his back, dead. I ran to the day-room door that leads to the hall, and immediately I did, I saw a crowd of men rushing into the hall. They were wearing masks. One of the masked men caught the handle of the day-room door and prevented me from going out. I and two other constables tried to ,open it, but we could not. I then got the revolver of the deceased constable, which was lying on the table. There were six cartridges in it, and I stood about four feet away and fired four shots through-the door. I kept two for later on.
I heard them tramping up the stairs, going into the dormitory where the arms were. They remained about two minutes, and came downstairs. The door of the day-room was apparently held till the last man got out When the door was released I went out and saw men at the corner, and fired two shots after them. I would say say there were fully twenty men rushing round the corner towards Kildalkey. I then came up to the room and examined the men’s dormitory. I found that all the arms and ammunition had been removed from the room by the raiders. The arms included five carbines, five swords.. , ..rounds of carbine ammunition , .. rounds of
revolver ammunition, one service revolver, two shot-guns – one single and one double-barrelled – one hundred rounds of safety cartridges for the shot-guns. Continuing, the sergeant deposed that he saw these arms on the table about an hour before, when the door was locked. He subsequently found that the door had been forced open. He then went to the post office to put the wires in motion, but the telegraphist was unable to get a message through. I expressed the opinion that the wire had been cut, and the next day it was found that the wire was cut at Kill, about a quarter of a mile away.” The telegraphist did not live at the post office, but some distance up the Kildalkey road, and while he was “going up he heard two shots up the Kildalkey road. The deceased constable was in Ballivor ten days, having been transferred from Navan on the 21st October. He was about five years in Meath, and was married last May, but could not get a house, and Mrs. Agar just arrived a few days before the occurrence.
Replying to Mr. O’Reilly, the Witness said the other two constables were in the room all the time, and they could not get out on account of the way the door was held.
Constable Shannon gave corroborative evidence. He said he heard a shot and a whistle after the raiders came down, and a great thud along the street. He saw the face and the hands of the man who grabbed the day-room door. The face was masked.
Sergeant Mc Dermott (recalled) said he could not identify any of the men. The man who put his face in through the day-room door was masked, but he could not say if the rest wore masks as he only saw their backs when they were running away.
Constable Leonard gave evidence that everything was peaceful and quiet in the barrack that night until 10 o’clock, and relations were peaceful between the police.
Replying to Mr. O’Reilly, he said he heard Constable Agar asking who was there before he opened the door, and he heard a voice outside saying something, but he could not tell what.
William McKeown, an aged man, gave evidence that he lived in the village, and on Friday night, about 10 o’clock, he was going for a bucket of water to the pump, which was beside the barracks. When he came to the middle of the street, passing over to the pump, he saw two men standing at the barrack on the footpath, and they walked over and told him to go back, putting up their hands at the same time. Witness stood (or a minute, and one of the men said, “If you go forward you’ll be shot.” Witness then turned and ran back home, and when he got inside the door he heard a shot. He couldn’t tell what sort of men they were, or what sort of clothes they wore; he could see nothing only their shapes.
Coroner—I happened to be out pretty late that night, and I did not think it was so dark that you could not see if a man was wearing a mask. I don’t suppose the electric light in Ballivor would blind your eyes?—No, but my eyesight is not too good in the daylight let alone in the dark.
Coroner—Are you sure they were not two women who accosted you?—I thought at first they were police.
Coroner—Was the voice that spoke familiar to you ?—No.
Coroner—Did you notice did they carry any arms?—I don’t know. Foreman—Did you see anyone else in the village only these two men?—No; I didn’t delay altogether only about two minutes. To Mr. O’Reilly—He subsequently came to the conclusion that they were not police. Foreman—Were’ you satisfied, that they were not police when you ran away?
A juryman asked if the police .noticed anything suspicious in the village before the occurrence or did they see any strangers about? Sergeant McDermott—No; we didn’t see any strangers about. Mr. Fox (a juryman)—Have you any idea how these twenty men got away?—Not the slightest, and I have no knowledge of where they came from.
Mr. Fox—Was there any talk about two motor cars being seen about? Witness—There was one .motor car. D.I. Molloy—I don’t think that is evidence. Mr. Fox—There might be an impression that the crime was perpetrated by people in the locality, whereas it is universally condemned here, and the people would like to have it shown that it was the act of strangers. Coroner—You will have every opportunity of relieving your district of the shame. Another juryman said there was talk about a second motor car being seen, and he asked if the police had inquired about that and what was the result. Sergeant McDermott said he had made inquiries. Coroner—What is the result? D.I. Molloy—I object. Coroner—As President of the Court I hold that the question is permissible. It is due to the people of Ballivor that it should be answered, and the police would welcome the remarks of the jury that there is no sympathy with the crime or perpetrators here.
Mr. Lewis (a juryman) Everyone condemns it.
D.I. Molloy – The sergeant has answered that there was one he heard.
Sergeant McDermott – I heard that there was one car a certain distance outside the town about .. o’clock.
..l. you saw thirty men run …. gone when you saw them.
Sergeant McDermott – The last of them would be about thirty yards away.
Mr. Fox – Of course the straight road runs for two or three hundred perches.
Mr. Robert Agar, 33 Oxmanstown Road, North circular Road, Dublin, a brother of the deceased was called but the Coroner said they already had evidence of identification, and Mr. Agar and the family were represented by Mr. O’Reilly, solicitor.
Replying to Mr. O’Reilly witness said his family came from Rathvilley, county Carlow.
A short delay now occurred, during which Dr. Green, Athboy and Dr. O’C. O’Reilly performed a post-mortem examination.
Dr. J.W. Greene, Athboy, stated that in conjunction with Dr. O’C. Reilly, Trim, he had that day made a post-mortem examination of the body of the deceased. There was a bullet wound entering the body on the right side of the breastbone, between the third and fourth ribs. Passing through the right ventricle of the heart, emerging through the right shoulder blade behind. There was a lacerated wound on the left wrist, probably caused by the bullet which afterwards punctured the heart. There was a lacerated wound about an inch long on the back of the head but not penetrating the skull. This was probably caused by a blow or fall. In his opinion death was due to rupture of the heart, caused by a bullet wound and death must have been instantaneous. “We did not find the bullet, because it passed through the back. There is a bullet mark on the staircase, which is probably caused by that bullet.”
Dr. O’C. O’Reilly corroborated.
Mr. O’Reilly, solicitor, addressing the jury, said there was one ray of light surrounding this awful tragedy, and that was the fact that William McKeown came forward to give evidence. That showed that in the locality of Ballivor a crime like that was not popular, and was not approved of. He came forward to prove that he himself was ordered to leave the street, and he gave his evidence very fairly and very candidly, but he could not assist them much. He (Mr. O’Reilly) was there to say on behalf of the next-of-kin that they were satisfied that the late Constable Agar was on the best possible terms with the people of the locality, and they also wished to express appreciation of the observations made by some of the jurymen that day, as showing that there was no sympathy with the crime. He hoped that a brighter “day would dawn for Ireland, and that those responsible for these crimes, which were recurring in different parts of Ireland, will come to realise that they were not advancing the position of our unfortunate country one iota, but were rather retarding it and ruining the cause of the country, in which they should all try to live in peace and amity. They all deplored the loss sustained by this poor young widow, aged 28 years, and sympathised with her and with the aged parent living in Carlow, who was mourning the loss of her boy, whose only crime was doing his duty by his King and country.’
Foreman—The jury wish to associate themselves with the expression of sympathy. The Coroner said he had only to ask the jury to return a verdict on the evidence, evidence which he believed was conclusive. He had intended making a few remarks, but Mr. O’Reilly had eloquently given expression to all their views, and he had now only to say that he was entirely in sympathy with Mr. O’Reilly’s remarks. He was satisfied that he had voiced the feelings of the people of the district in regard to the crime, and he would add that it was the general wish that the perpetrators should be brought to justice. He (Coroner) need not go into the facts, and he had no need to direct them. They knew how the unfortunate man came by his death. That it was deliberate murder there could lie no doubt. Foreman—Of course the jury acquiesce in the findings of the doctors that this man received his death by a gunshot wound inflicted by some person or persons unknown. Coroner—Would you add “deliberately fired”? Foreman—Certainly. Mr. Lewis—Deliberate murder. The jury, without retiring, returned a verdict that deceased came by his death from rupture of the heart caused by a bullet deliberately fired by some person unknown. County Inspector Howe—As the County Inspector of Constabulary, on behalf of the County Meath force I extend our sympathy to the bereaved young widow and relatives of our deceased comrade. Constable Agar was a kindly, inoffensive, good-natured man, and was beloved by the people among whom he served as by his comrades. He died, as he lived, with a kindly act, and, gentlemen, you have seen his reward. Foreman—The jury wishes to be associated with the expressions of sympathy to Mrs. Agar and family, and they also sympathise with the police, who were always popular with the public, and did their duty impartially.
Most. Rev. Dr. Gaughran, Bishop of Meath, speaking at 8 o’clock Mass in Mullingar Cathedral on Sunday, said from outrages such as these, and from similar ones that have lately taken place up and down through the country, it is evident to me that there is a society engaged in this diabolical work. Such work is sure to bring God’s curse not only on the perpetrators of such foul deeds, but also on all who actively co-operate with them. Murder cries to Heaven from the days of Cain, and it is as foul as ever to-day in the eyes of God. Let the raiders put themselves in the place of that policeman whose soul was sent, in a moment, without any preparation, before God in judgment, where the sentence passed is to last forever, and in that position let them realise the height and breadth and depth of the malice of their crime. Is it any wonder that the Scripture represents the souls of the slain as crying out with a loud voice and saying, ” How long! O Lord, holy, just and true, wilt thou not judge and avenge our blood on those that dwell upon earth?” “Murder,” proceeded his Lordship, “is an usurpation of God’s authority; it is a grave injustice to God, and this is the reason why God so emphatically declared that He Himself will strictly avenge it. Do the perpetrators of these crimes expect to secure thereby any benefit for the Country? What benefit could a country secure from crimes that make an enemy of the Omnipotent God? What benefit could come to the country from crimes that are representing Irishmen to be as savage and uncultivated as the bushmen of the forest? .May God open their eyes to see their folly; may he give them the grace to see that it is not by such crimes that the wrongs of our country are to be righted, but in patient, confident trust in God’s right arm.”
Remains being put in hearse
NAVAN GUARDIANS’ CONDEMNATION.
At the meeting of the Navan Board of Guardians on Wednesday, Mr. Glennon presiding, Mr. Rowan said he thought it was their duty to express their opinion of the deplorable outrages which had occurred within the county since their last meeting, for seeing that one of them occurred within their own union the matter was brought particularly home to them. He was convinced he was voicing the opinions of the vast majority of the Nationalists of Meath in deploring and condemning in the most emphatic manner these outrages. He was but giving expression to the views of all who had the welfare of their country at heart in saying that he believed that these crimes did not emanate from the friends of Irish freedom (hear, hear). The demand of the Irish people for the right of self-determination was at present claiming the attention of the civilised world, and their cause was winning. It did not matter whether it bore fruit in a large measure of Home Rule or in an Irish Republic, they knew that they would get the management of their own affairs (hear, hear). Having world-wide sympathy at their back, they had to look for the motives that actuated the perpetrators of these outrages, and they should concede that they could not have emanated from friends of the Irish cause (hear, hear). They could only emanate from those opposed to them, and who were prepared, according to their speeches, to stop at nothing to prevent Ireland getting her rights. No friend of the Irish cause could have any sympathy. with such abominable outrages, and there must be a motive underlying them. That motive was palpable—to blacken the Irish character in the eyes of the sympathetic world at the back of the demand for the attainment of Irish aspirations. He remembered the Fenian movement, and to that movement was tacked on a secret society. Talbot, who was ostensibly a pious Catholic, inveigled a lot of young men into a secret conspiracy of murder and it was proved when these unfortunate dupes were brought to trial that Talbot was in the pay of the British Government. Later still they had James Carey, and he (Mr. Rowan) believed thev had similar forces at work to-day to counteract the good and favourable impression made on other nations in the struggle for the just rights of the country. So he would repeat no friend of Irish freedom could be legitimately charged with these abominable outrages. They had in the Irish movement at the present day men as pure and as honourable as ever took part in a cause, and did they think for one moment such men would countenance such atrocities. He would say it was a libel on the Irish race, and he would say it was the duty of every Irishman to repudiate such base insinuation. What good, he asked, would the few arms and ammunition got in these wayside police stations be even were an insurrection contemplated. It was farcical to think that they would be of any use against the armed forces of England. It was quite evident the motive was to blacken the Irish character, and show to the world that the people were not fit for the government of their own country. They had the evidence before them in the movement in the North of Ireland against the Home Rule Bill, about which so many rejoiced. Leaders of that movement, on platforms and even in Parliament, said (hat they would try every remedy within and without the law to prevent that Home Rule Act becoming operative. He believed, and many believed with him, that these atrocities were the work of not the friends but the enemies of Irish freedom (hear, hear).
Mr. Owens said as an Irish Nationalist who would go as far as any and further than many to attain the freedom of the country, he felt that a stigma rested on them for those crimes perpetrated at their very doors. He called them murder, and condemned them as such. Were they doing any good for the country? He said they were not; they were rather carrying on the game of the Ascendancy. There was no Irishman, no man with a drop of Celtic blood in his veins, would stoop to the crime of cowardly murder. He did not believe it was in any Irishman to commit such a crime as deliberate murder. Proceeding, he referred to the case of Sergeant Sheridan. They had an army of 70,000 young Englishmen in the country; he admired them, and would not say a word against them; but they would go back to their own country full of the knowledge of how this country was governed. They had all heard of Charles Bradlaugh, who was on duty in Ireland, and returned home to England a convinced and rebellious Radical because of what he saw in Ireland. He (Mr. Owens) would say to the people to treat the English soldiers decently, treat the police decently; there were decent men amongst them, and they were only doing their duty; they were not to blame, the Government was to blame. They would not even make operative the little Home Rule Act they passed, and the Irish people had now advanced in their demand, but he believed if Sinn Fein were offered full Dominion Home Rule it would be accepted. He admired Sinn Fein for sticking fully to their demand until they got an offer. That was now proved to be the only way, but he believed if the Government liked a reasonable settlement could be secured.
The following resolution was then proposed by Mr. Rowan, seconded by Mr. Owens, and passed: “That we, the Navan Board of Guardians, desire to place on record our emphatic condemnation of the murders and outrages that have recently taken place in this county, as well as in other parts of the country. We also wish to express our conviction that these outrages are committed, not by the friends of Ireland, but by the deadly enemies of our race, whose avowed object is to defeat and thwart our claim to self-determination, now recognised as our Heaven-sent right by the people of the whole world.”
Mr. Wall said he was glad to sec Mr. Rowan bringing in the resolution, as he looked upon him as a Sinn Feiner at the last election; he did not, however, see any of the Sinn Fein leaflets denouncing these outrages, but he saw within the past three weeks where one of them advised girls not to have, anything to do with the Irish police. He (Mr. Wall) supported the proposition, which he was glad to see Mr. Rowan proposing, but he would also like to see some of the leaders of Sinn Fein in denouncing the outrages. He agreed that they were not getting much fair play from the English Government.
Mr. Bowens, supporting the resolution, wondered if the parties who raided Lismullen barracks knew that they were within a few hundred perches of where St. Patrick first preached Christianity in Ireland. He did not believe that any Christian could go there with murder in his heart, and fire through the window at these inoffensive policemen as these men did. They were not Christians, they were pagans.
The Chairman also associated himself with the resolution.
Mr. Bowens said Constable Agar, who was murdered at Ballivor had been stationed at Navan, and was known to many of them as a quiet, inoffensive, decent young man. He proposed that the Clerk be directed- to send to the widow and other relatives an expression of the Guardians’ sympathy.
Mr. Rowan, seconding, said he did not know Constable Agar personally, but he had conversations with several who were patients in the hospital at the same time as he was during the influenza epidemic, and they paid high tribute to him. When he became convalescent he was indefatigable in helping the other patients.
The resolution was passed in silence.
Editorial Meath Chronicle Saturday November 8th 1919
The sympathy of the people of Meath, without distinction of’ creed, class or polities, goes out in unmeasured grief to the young widow and relatives of Constable Agar, who was foully done to death at Ballivor on last Friday night. We have no desire or intention of minimising the enormity of this terrible crime, which is condemned by every Christian Irishman. The late Constable Agar did not belong to the religion of the majority but he discharged his duties, as far as we can learn, fairly and tactfully, and he earned the respect of all who met him. The lamentable event is rendered all the more pathetic by the fact that eh married only last May and it was but a few days before his death that he had set up house in the peaceful and tranquil village of Ballivor. His young widow, in her unspeakable sorrow, has certainly the heartfelt sympathy of the public. With regard to these raids on police barracks it is hard to understand what purpose they are calculated to achieve, and we have heard no words but those of denunciation in respect of them. We confess that we are far from convinced as to where the direct responsibility lies. We maintain that it is a cruel slander to attempt to lay the onus on any political organisation. In fact it seems to us that such outrages are devised for the purpose of discrediting the national cause and retarding the achievement of the national aims. Our country is triumphing along purely constitutional, lines; the world is being asked to judge of its justice, and we have no fear of its verdict. A just cause, as ours is, does not requireto be buttressed by crime, or bloodshed, and such events as those at Dillon’s Bridge and Ballivor are likely to alienate international sympathy, which has been aroused by the outrageous dragooning tactics of the British Government here. Our cause has been fought with clean hands, and we say it is still being so fought. Sinn Fein has nothing to do with these outrages, and we resent with all earnestness, the suggestion that it has any knowledge of them. Were we convinced that such crimes were perpetrated by organised Irishmen we would bow our heads in shame; but we have no proof of such. There are alternatives which we do not care to mention, but it is public property in other localities where such murders were committed that the responsibility did not lie with the people. In some instances there may be private vengeance, and to hold a district, not to say a nation, responsible, is the acme of injustice. Whether the Government will take punitive action in Meath we do not know at the moment of writing, but this we do know, that Meath repudiates responsibility for the outrages; as public journalists we speak for our County in this matter and denounce the crime with all the vigour at our command and, at the same time, we say the perpetrators must be looked for elsewhere. As we remarked, our cause is a just one and as such, does not require to be advanced by the pathway of criminality. Holding such, we declare without fear that wherever the responsibility lies, it does not rest with the supporters of the national demand. At the inquest on the murdered policeman the jury, thoroughly representative of the district about Ballivor condemned the outrage, and it was clearly proved that the locality was blameless in the crime. In that condemnation we join and as Ballivor is faultless in the matter, so we say are the people of Dillon’s Bridge for the attack on the barracks there, and the people of Meath generally in respect of both. We feel that in this matter we have a duty to perform on behalf of the people of Meath, and that duty is to denounce the outrages and repudiate on their behalf any responsibility for the. Should the English Government take repressive action we have only to bear it, fortified with the knowledge of its injustice and conscious in our own rectitude, and that such measures will only further show to the world how this country is governed.
Simultaneous with the raid on the Lismullen Police Barracks, another but far more serious attack was made, on the Ballivot Police Barracks on Friday night, resulting in the tragic death of the barrack orderly, Constable Wm. Agar, and the capture of practically the entire equipment, arms and ammunition in the station. Ballivor is a small village, 3 miles from the- Hill of Down Railway Station on the main line of the M.G.W. Railway, and is practically on the borders of County Westmeath. It is in the Trim police district, and the police barracks was occupied by one sergeant and three Constables — named Leonard, Shannon and Agar. The sergeant, (T. McDermott) is a married man, and his family reside in one wing of the Barrack, which is practically an ordinary house, two-storey high on the side of the village street. The front door opens into a small hall, with a stairs in front leading to the rooms overhead. To the left, of the Hall is a door leading into the sergeant’s private quarters. To the right is another door leading into the day room, at the back of which is a kitchen with another door leading into the yard. The stairs is a short and straight one; and terminates in a little lobby or landing, to the left of which is a room in which the police store their arms and belongings to the right of the landing are the sleeping quarters of the few men. This brief description is- necessary, to explain the occurrence that took place and: how the raiders’ plans carried out so well! Shortly after 10 o’clock a knock came to the barrack front door. In the day-room were Sergeant McDermott and the three constables. Constable Agar was barrack orderly—that is he was on guard duty for the day, and he was the only; armed man, having- a revolver, in his holster. They were seated on a form before the day-room fire. The village is an exceedingly quiet one, and at that hour everything was still, the few publichouses . having been long closed up for the night. When the knock came Constable Agar got up and walked to the door and asked who was there. The sergeant’s son, William, from the other room on the left; heard the words “It is alright.” The constable opened the door, and immediately he did so, a number of men rushed in, the constable was shot at close range instantly and staggered a few paces into the day-room, collapsing on the floor with his lifeblood gushing out from a wound in the heart. All he said was “Oh, I am shot!” Another shot aimed, at his head struck the sixth step of the stairs. The few policemen, rushed to the dayroom door, but the men in the hall pulled the door and held it fast from the outside and the police, were effectively, trapped.
Then while- some held the door tight, others rushed up the stairs, into the room on the left, seized all the rifles, ammunition and other equipment, dashed down the stairs, and quickly made their exit from the barracks, being soon after lost to sight in the darkness. When the door was pulled over, the police rushed to get out but the persons outside had it firmly closed. The sergeant seized the dead constable’s revolver and fired 4 shots, with what effect, he does not know.
The entire occurrence lasted less than a few minutes. It transpires that the sergeant’s son opened the door from his room but the men ordered him in and it was also shut. He saw ‘ masks on the men’s faces. The .. raiders’ had the barracks completely surrounded, the back door being also kept tight. Some time before the occurrence some motor cars were observed passing through the village and they stopped a short distance away from the barracks,; near the Church on the Athboy road. There was nothing unusual in this, as there is considerable traffic via the Hill of Down station, and people going to the fairs in the Meath towns employ motors to convey them to and from the Hill of Down station. When the-police got out on the street to their the alarm they found that the wires to the Hill of Down had been cut, and so telegraphic communication was impossible.
Meantime the scene, in the day room was a tragic one. The dead constable was placed on the table. His death was instantaneous and he was past human aid.
Word was sent to the Trim police for help and all the available police force of Trim, with District Inspector Molloy was sent to the village. The acting County Inspector, Mr. Rigg, and Navan police arrived per motor about 12 o’clock on Saturday. The D.I. (Mr. Taylor) from Mullingar and more armed police arrived about 2 o’clock and soon after the Inspector General, Mr. Byrne, his private secretary, and the assistant Inspector-General arrived per motor from Dublin. An investigation was then conducted into the occurrence. It transpires that 5 carbines, 2 shot guns, 1 revolver, 150 to 200 rounds of ammunition, 5 pouches, and some other articles of equipment were taken away by the raiders, who are estimated at numbering 20, and had two or more motor cars to assist them in their escape. The police, so far, are without any clue as to the identity of any of the attacking party. The attack was well planned and effectively carried out.
At the two Masses on Saturday morning the Rev. P. Farrell, P.P., Ballivor, referred to the sad tragedy and in the strongest terms denounced the outrage. He was sure the murder was committed by strangers. No one in the parish were in any way connected with it. The dead constable only arrived in Ballivor on the 21st October from Navan on transfer. He was married in May and his wife only arrived in Ballivor three or four days before the sad tragedy.
Ho had secured a house at Elm Grove, a short distance outside the village. The poor woman is paralysed with grief and the sympathy of the entire locality goes out to her in her sorrow. The deceased had 12 years’, service and was a quiet, inoffensive and popular .policeman. He was not stationed in Navan, having previously been, stationed in Longwood where he was also highly esteemed. The sad affair has cast a gloom over the entire’ locality and unfortunately has lowered the good name, of the county which, up to the present, has been singularly free, from crimes of any sort. In Trim the occurrence is condemned on all sides. The parties responsible, for the two simultaneous attacks travelled from far outside the county, and :it is confidently believed that they had no connection with the county in any shape or form.
Sergeant’s Sensational Story
The inquest on the late Constable Wm. Agar, aged 35, of Rathvilley, Co. Carlow, and lately stationed at Ballivor, Co. Meath, was opened by Mr. D. J. Corry, J.P., Coroner for South Meath, on Monday. There were present—C. I. Heard, R.I.C, Navan; and D. I. Molloy, Trim; on behalf of the Crown; and Mr F.C. O’Reilly, solr. appeared for the _next of kin. The following jury was empanelled: Mr. Jas. Bracken (foreman); Jn. Smith, Win. Cox, Ed. Farrell, Jn. McGarry, George Lewis, Chas. Lewis, Bernard C. Parr, M. J. Fox, D.C; Henry Lewis, Rd. Gill, Benjamin Douglas, Chris. O’Keeffe, Michael _Dixon and Peter. Dargan.
Sergeant Terence McDermott swore: I knew the deceased, Constable Wm. Agar. I last saw him alive at 10.10 p.m. on 31st October. I was in the day room at the fire with the deceased and two other constables—Shannon and Leonard. The deceased who was barrack orderly went to the front door of the barrack to answer a knock; this was at ten minutes past 10; he .opened the front door which leads to the street and immediately he opened the door two shots rang out and he shouted: “I am shot! I am shot.” and staggered in to the day room, raised his hands, and in half a minute fell partly on his back dead. I ran to the day-room door that leads to the hall and immediately I did I saw a crowd of men rushing into the hall; they were wearing masks, one of the masked men caught the handle of the day-room door and prevented me from going out; I and the two other constables tried to open the door but could not. I then got the revolver of the deceased constable that was lying on the table; there were six cartridges in it and I stood about four feet, away and fired four shots through the door. I kept two for later on. I heard them tramping up the stairs and going into the dormitory where the arms wore; they remained about two minutes and came downstairs; the door of the day-room was apparently held till the last man got-out; when the door was released I went out and saw the men at the corner and fired two shots after them. I would say there were fully twenty men rushing round the corner towards Kildalkey. I then came up to the room and examined it. I found that all the arms and ammunition had been removed from the room by the raiders; they included five carbines, five swords, 100 rounds of carbine ammunition; 8 rounds of revolver ammunition; 1 service revolver; two shot guns, – one a single and one a double-barrelled; 100 rounds of safety cartridges for shotgun. I saw these arms on the table about an hour before; the door had then been locked but I now found that the door had been forced open. I went the Post Office to put the wires in motion but the telegraphist was unable to get a message through and believed that then ire had been cut; it was found next day that that was so and that thewire had been cut at Kill about a quarter of a mile away. Miss Nixon, the telegraphist,; did not live at the Post Office, but some distance up the Kildalkey road and while I was going up I heard two shots on the. road. The constable was here ten days, having been transferred from Navan on 21st Oct. I know him to be about five years in the county; he was married last May but could not get a house till now, and Mrs. Agar just arrived here a few days before the occurrence. Mr. O’Reilly—Were the other two constables in the room all the time. Witness—They were.. Mr. O’Reilly —They could not get out on account of the way in which the door was held. Witness—No.
Constable John Shannon sworn, corroborated the sergeant’s, evidence; he said that after the raiders came down he heard a shot and a whistle being blown; there was a great thud along the street. He saw the face and the hands of the man who grabbed the handle of the dayroom door; the face was masked.
Sergeant McDermott, recalled said he could not identify any of the men; the man who put his face in ‘the day-room door wore a mask but he could not say if any more of them wore masks; he only saw their backs when they were, running away.
Constable Francis Leonard was called. Coroner—Was everything peaceful and quiet in the barrack on Friday evening up till about 10 o’clock?—It was. Coroner —And peaceful relations between you and the other constables?—Oh, yes. The constable fully corroborated the sergeant’s evidence. To Mr. O’Reilly—I heard Constable Agar before he opened the door asking who was there and I heard a voice outside saying something but I could not tell what. D.I. I can produce a civilian who was standing by at the door when the constable was shot.
William McKeon swore that he lived in the village. On Friday night about 10 p.m., he was coming down for a bucket of water to the pump which is beside the barracks; when he came to the middle of the street, passing over to the pump, there were two men standing at the Barracks on the footpath and they walked over and told him to go back putting up their hands at the same time. I stood a minute, – the witness continued, with the bucket in my hand and one said “If you don’t go back you’ll be shot.” With that I turned and nearly ran back home and when I went inside the door I heard a shot. Coroner—Can you say what sort of men they were or what clothes they wore. Witness—I could see nothing only the shapes of the men. Coroner—I happened to be out pretty late that night, and did not think it was so dark that you could lot see if a man was wearing a mask; I don’t suppose the electric light in Ballivor was blinding your eyes. Witness—No; but my eyesight is not too good in the daylight let alone in the dark. Coroner —Are you sure it was not two women who accosted you? Witness—I thought first it was two police who were on duty. Coroner—Was the voice that spoke familiar in any way?—No. Coroner—Did you notice did they carry any arms? Witness—I do not know. Foreman-Could you see anyone else, in the village only these two men? Witness—No; I didn’t delay altogether only about two minutes from the time I came out till I went back. To Mr. O’Reilly—When I heard what the men said to me I was satisfied that they were not the police. It was only because I often saw the police standing, around the Barracks I thought they were police. When he was challenged he knew it was another thing and ran away on the spot. Foreman—Were you satisfied it was not the police when you ran away. Witness—I was. Coroner—It takes a local man to get it out of him. To a Juror (Mr. Fox)—Sergeant McDermott said he did not notice any strangers about the place on the evening of the occurrence. Mr. Fox—Have you any idea how these 20 men got away? Sergt. McDermott—I have no knowledge. Mr. Fox—You see the impression of the evidence would be that it was the people of the locality, and everyone here condemns this outrage and people would like that there would be some evidence submitted to show it. Coroner?—You will have every opportunity afforded you of ridding your district, of the shame and humiliation of this outrage. I suppose that is the general feeling? Mr. Lewis—I heard that there were two motor cars. The sergeant said he had been making inquiries. The D.L said he did not think the sergeant could give evidence as to his inquires. The sergeant said he heard here was a motor car on the street about 10 p.m. Mr, Fox—How far away were the men gone when you saw the last of them? Sergt. McDermott—About 50 yards.
After luncheon, Dr. J.W. Greene, Athboy, who with Dr. J. O’C. O’Reilly held a post-mortem examination swore—In conjunction with Dr. O’Reilly, I have today made a post mortem examination on the body of Wm. Agar; there is a bullet wound traversing the shirt and under vest entering the body on the right side of the breast bone between the third and fourth ribs. It passed through the right ventricle of the heart and passed out through the right shoulder blade behind. There is a lacerated wound on the left wrist probably caused by the bullet which afterwards penetrated his heart. There is a lacerated wound on the back of his hand which was probably caused by a blow or a fall. Death was due to rupture of the heart caused by the bullet. The witness added that they had not found the bullet which had-passed through the body. Dr. O’C. O’Reilly, Trim, corroborated.
Mr. F. C. O’Reilly, solr., who appeared for the next of kin, said he represented the next-of-kin of this unfortunate young man, the tragedy of whose death they were, now investigating. If there was one ray of light in the tragedy it was the fact that William McKeon came forward and gave evidence. The evidence which he had to give was not perhaps very valuable, but it did show that in the locality of Ballivor a crime such as they were now called on to investigate was certainly not approved of. He came forward like a man and told a piteous tale of how he himself was stopped and ordered to leave the street; he gave his evidence fairly and candidly but could not assist them much in the finding of the perpetrators. They were not here to find out the perpetrators of the foul tragedy which had been carried out in their midst; he only wished to say that the next-of-kin were satisfied that the late Constable Agar was on the best possible terms with the people of the locality; they were aware of that on their own knowledge and they also appreciated the observations made that day by the Jury which showed that no sympathy existed in this part of the country with crimes such as of late had been committed in other parts of Ireland. It might not be relevant, but he would say that these crimes were abhorred by all Christian Irishmen and some time it would be realised that the perpetrators of these deliberate outrages were not in any way advancing the cause of our unfortunate country one iota but rather were they driving us back and if he might say it in his humble opinion ruining the cause of our country in which we all should live in peace and amity and good will. They all deplored the unfortunate loss that Constable Agar’s young widow—28 years of age—had sustained, and down in Carlow an aged parent of 70 years mourned the loss of her boy whose only crime, if they could call it such was doing his duty to his king and country. The Coroner said that the evidence was clear and he thought conclusive. He had intended to say something but Mr. O’Reilly had said so much and said it so well that there remained nothing for him to say. He had already expressed his pleasure at the remarks made by the Jury which showed that they abhorred the crime and had no sympathy with it, and it was the general wish that the perpetrators might be brought to Justice.
Everythng was clear before them and there was no contraction of views that the act was deliberate there could be no doubt; and that it was murder – there could be no doubt; these men came to the barracks with intent and that put the act outside manslaughter or homicide. The Foreman of the Jury concurred with the medical evidence that the constable received his death from a bullet fired by some person unknown. Coroner —Would you further add that it was fired deliberately? Foreman — Certainly. A Juror—Deliberate murder, I would say.
County Inspector Howe, R.I.C, said they must extend their sympathy to the bereaved young-widow and the relatives of their deceased comrade; he was a kindly and inoffensive man, loved by his comrades and liked by the people amongst whom he served. He died as he lived doing a kindly act and they had seen his reward! The foreman said the jury wished to add their sympathy to that of the County Inspector. They also denounced the crime as horrible and had great sympathy with the police who were always friendly with the people and did their duty impartially. The Jury then found that the deceased, Wm. Agar, came to his death by rupture of the .heart caused by a bullet deliberately fired by some person unknown.
Seamus Finn, Adjutant, Meath Brigade, I.R.A.
Seamus Finn, Adjutant, Meath Brigade, I.R.A. recalled years later: It was in the autumn of 1919 that we decided to strike at some outlying R.I.C. posts. Ballivor Barracks was situated in the centre of the village and stood in the centre of a row of occupied houses. The information about the movements of the police here was very definite. We also knew the names of certain men who foregathered there almost every night, and the plan decided on here was that one of the Volunteers would approach the barracks door and knock. When challenged he would give the name of one of the local men, and when the door was opened it was to be rushed by the other Volunteers who would be lying handy and so gain entrance. The attacking force was to be covered by the rest of the Column, and all roads out of the village were to be picketed and telegraph wires cut. G.H.Q. were asked to send a car with a reliable driver for the removal of arms and equipment which was expected would be captured.
So for our plans and the night fixed for the four jobs was October 31st 1919 – Hallow Eve. On the day before – October 30th – the following officers travelled to Dublin to go into all the plans with officers attached to G.H.Q. in Dublin – Sean Boylan, Brigade O/C, Seamus Finn, Brigade Adjutant, Comdt. Mooney, O/C 2nd. Battalion, Comdt. M. Fox, O/C 3rd Athboy Battalion and Comdt. P Loughran, O/C Navan Battalion, Loughran procured a car in Navan, travelled, via Athboy where he picked up Finn and Fox, thence to Trim where Mooney joined and then direct to Dublin….
Only two cars were asked for and Q.M.G. McMahon promised that they would be on hand, one for Ballivor and one for Bohermeen. It was arranged that both these cars would be at the appointed places – Trim and Athboy – at 8 p.m. on the following night. The 3rd Athboy Battalion asked for four revolvers and some grenades and they were handed over before we left the conference. Arrangements were gone into for the contact between the cars and Trim and Athboy on their arrival ….
The hour fixed for all the jobs was 9 p.m. The execution of our plans did not work as smoothly as we anticipated, and in one instance only was a complete success scored. This was in Ballivor where the men from Trim Battalion, under Comer. Paddy Mooney, succeeded in capturing the barracks, but not before being forced to shoot the policeman who was on guard. The following is an account of what happened.
The car from G.H.Q. was late arriving so Mooney and the men from Trim Company started on bicycles, dividing into small groups of two and three to avoid attracting attention to their movements. They met the Longwood men at the appointed place and Mooney detailed each man’s duty and post to him. Before they reached Ballivor the car which had been contacted by Pat O’Hagan arrived. Reaching Ballivor the main body approached the barracks and divided into two sections, some of them succeeding in getting to the rear. The others went to their posts at the road junctions and ensured that nobody would leave the town while the attack was taking place. Mooney, accompanied by, I believe, Pat Fay and Stephen Sherry, went boldly to the door, knocked, and on being challenged, answered, giving the name of one of those who were in the habit of calling. The door was opened slightly, and when the policeman realised that it was not the man whose name was given he pulled his revolver and tried to shut the door.
Mooney ordered him to drop his gun and open up, and at the same time called to the others of his party to push the door in. There was a rush, then a shot and the policeman dropped. In the meantime the Volunteers at the rear, led by Harry O’Hagan and Joe Lawlor, attacked the back door and the barracks was theirs. Mooney’s first act was to attend to the policeman, but he was dead. He had him removed to one of the rooms before proceeding to finish the job. The other two policemen present were locked up and then all the arms and ammunition and other material of any use were collected and driven to the dump already prepared. The outposts which were stationed. at the road junctions around the town had done their job well, and among the people detained was the other policeman who was returning from duty. He was brought to the barracks and put with the others. A search for the sergeant was then made, but although it was diligently carried out he succeeded in hiding himself away so well no trace of him could be found. This was a disappointment as it was intended to give him a lesson which would ensure that his behaviour, which was not so good in raids on the homes of Volunteers in Trim and Athboy, would improve.
The following is a list of the men who part in this job Comdt Paddy Mooney in charge, Paddy Fay, Harry O’Hagan, Joe Lawlor, Mick Giles, John Mooney, P. Duignan, Paddy Lawlor, Joe Kelly, Stephen Sherry of Trim Company, Pat Giles, Larry Giles and two others, M. Fagan and McEvoy from Longwood Company.
Longwood Volunteers Memories
Due to the continued shortages of arms, it was decided to capture Ballivor Barracks. The raid on the barracks, which took place in 31st October 1919, was a joint effort by two companies; Trim and Longwood. The Longwood company were to guard the approaching roads to Ballivor. At about ten o’clock that night Mooney, Pat Fay and Stephen Sherry approached the front door of the barracks, knocked on the door, and gave a password used by those on good terms with the police. They also gave the name of a local farmer, saying that he had come in to report a cattle drive, which was quite common in the area at the time. The ploy was successful and Constable Agar opened the door, he tried to close it again, but in the ensuing melee he was shot through the heart and died at once. The rest of the group rushed the barracks from both front and rear. The sergeant and two constables were locked inside a day room by the Volunteers. Others of the raiders quickly gathered a revolver, five rifles and a large amount of ammunition and made a hasty getaway, in the direction of Kildalkey. Michael Giles was with the Trim Company who rushed the Barracks and Pat and Larry Giles, Mosey Fagan, Pat Corrigan took part, from the Longwood Company. Agar’s death was regretted by all who took part. He had only been in Ballivor one week, when the incident took place. The Meath Chronicle condemned the incident ‘Meath repudiates responsibility for these outrages and every decent citizen has a duty to denounce them’. There was also strong condemnation from the local councils. Nor was there support from amongst the general public for the Volunteers’ action. Fr. Farrell, PP of Ballivor condemned the activities from the altar the following Sunday. Bishop Gaughran at early Mass in Mullingar Cathedral on the Sunday following the raids invoked the curse of God on those involved: ‘the society engaged in this diabolical work’ he raged, ‘brings God’s curse only on the perpetrators of such deeds but also on all who actively co-operate with them.’ (With thanks to Mary Hayes)
Colonel Joseph V. Lawless
Lieut. Swords Coy. up to 1916; Brigade Engineer Officer Fingal Brigade later; Commissioned Officer National Army and member of Investigating staff of Bureau, 1954.
Colonel Joseph V. Lawless recalled later: I, with the other car, would go to Trim to meet Captain Mooney who would be in charge of the party which was to attack Ballivor Barracks. I did not know Mooney, nor was I familiar with the town of Trim, and the night was dark with a drizzle of rain falling. It would not do, under the circumstances, to drive around Trim making inquiries for the local Volunteer commander, so Kearns decided to accompany me. I drove the reliable Ford car that had seen us through the Collinstown raid, reaching Trim without incident about 9 o’clock where Kearns located Mooney and his lads awaiting our arrival.
I was introduced to Jack Mooney, a medium-sized stockily built man, who impressed me at the time as a capable individual with plenty of quiet self confidence. The only other one of the party I remember was a tall thin lad named Lawlor, who, I believe, afterwards became a member of the Gárda Siochana. Lawlor was excited at the prospect of a fight and kept talking a lot as we drove along. It was probably the others telling him repeatedly to shut up that impressed his name on my memory.
They piled into the car – four of them I think there were – and we set off for Ballivor, about eight miles distant, where some other local Volunteers were to meet us. I gathered from Mooney as we went along that he hoped to take the Ballivor R.I.C. barracks by surprise, but Lawlor’s interjections indicated that he would be a very disappointed man if we did not have a fight.
Arrived at Ballivor we turned up a byroad to the right just before coming to the barracks. There the car was parked; the lights, which were fed direct from the dynamo in the old Ford system, going off when the engine stopped. The remainder of the party, some five or six men, met us there and Mooney then explained in a few quiet words what each man would do.
There was a scout already watching the barracks and another man in close touch with him, so we were assured that all the police – five, with the sergeant – were inside and there was no sign of alarm on their part.
An advance party of three men including Mooney then moved softly towards the barracks, followed by the remainder about twenty paces in rear. The two men with Mooney stayed close to him, but out of view when he knocked at the barracks door and asked to see the sergeant. The young constable who came to the door in response to the knock opened it cautiously a few inches and seemed about to close it again when Mooney drew his revolver and ordered him to put his hands up. I think that the constable became so flabbergasted at this that he just stood still in the middle of the doorway as if rooted to the spot. That hesitation was his undoing, however, for the men following Mooney, who had been watching the performance with taut nerves, moved up at once and one of them, pushing his gun past Mooney, shot the policeman dead. Stepping over the body the remainder surged into the barracks where the other police surrendered without a word.
The man who was shot was obviously beyond human aid and so there was nothing left to do but collect the arms, ammunition and equipment in the barracks and put as much distance between us and Ballivor as quickly as possible. We felt rather sorry about the shooting of the constable as we could realise afterwards that his hesitation was due more to his frightened surprise than any intention of resistance. But, then, if he had managed to delay the entry of Mooney and the others while the other police grabbed hold of their rifles, it might have been another story.
The captured rifles, ammunition and equipment was loaded into the car and as many of the men as we had brought who could do so squeezed in also. We drove back to Trim, where we left the men and the captured material, and headed for Dublin. Considering it advisable to avoid the main Dublin road, we turned east towards Fingal and, as it was then very dark and raining, lost our way among the byroads, so that it was in the small hours of the morning we arrived in Dublin without further incident.
Agar’s Gravestone Rathvilly Church of Ireland churchyard Plot 3 in the new section. Inscription reads: In loving memory of our dear father William Agar, late of Coole, Rathvilly. Died April 8th 1913. Also his loving wife Mary died July 5th 1921. Also their son, William. Late RIC Ballivor, Co. Meath. Died October 31 1919. As we loved them in life Let us not forget them in death. Erected by their loving daughters Sarah Harvey and Francis Fenton.
Constable William Agar
William Agar was born on 24th August 1882 at Coolnakisha the son of William Agar and his wife Mary Harpur who later settled at Chapelstown, outside Carlow. The elder William lived in Chapelstown at the time of the 1901 & 1911 census. He received compensation for the loss of a farm in Coonakisha by his father Thomas Agar. He then bought a farm in Rathvilly where he died in 1922, which explains why the unfortunate policeman was buried at St. Mary’s, Rathvilly. In the 1901 Census, the future Constable William Agar is listed, with the wrong age, as a draper’s assistant and living in Carlow (but not with his parents). By the time of the 1911 Census he was stationed in RIC barracks in Galway. His future wife Florence Noblett lived with her parents Joseph (gardener) and Mary Jane; they were originally from Wicklow (1901 census). Violet Mary Agar was born to the couple 30th August 1913. William and Florence were married at St. Paul’s Church, Dublin on 22 May 1919. Under the rules of the force policemen had to apply for permission to marry and had to wait for a certain period of service before they were granted permission. Constable William Agar’s brother was also in the RIC and lived in Chapelstown. Agar was about to be posted to Derry before his death.
Constable Agar left a widow Florence and daughter Violet. On 1st March 1920, At Trim, Mr Justice Pim awarded £2500 to his family – £1400 to Florence and £1000 to Violet. On 9th April 1923, Florence married James Brookes, club steward, of 166 Ainswoth Avenue, Springfield Road, Belfast, with whom she had two more children. Violet was awarded a further £288-18-8 towards her education in 1927.
The Carlow Nationalist also comprehensively covered the murder on 8th November 1919: Carlow Policeman Killed. On Friday of last week the R.I.C. Barracks in Ballivor, County Meath, was attacked by a number of masked men and a quantity of arms taken. The police defended, but the raid was short, sharp and decisive. The Sergeant was wounded, and one of the police, Constable W. Agar, was shot dead. Constable Agar belongs to a family well-known in Carlow. His father was evicted from a farm at Coolnakisha near the Kilkenny-Carlow border during the land war, and the family came to live in the town of Carlow.
The dead constable was for a long time in the employment of Mr. E. Boake, Tullow Street, and was very popular. He joined the R.I.C. about 12 years ago. When the evicted tenants were being restored Mr. Agar, the deceased’s father was given a farm near Rathvilly. Since then he has purchased a larger holding. On Monday the remains were conveyed by R.I.C. motor hearse to Rathvilly, and were met by a large number of County Carlow constabulary and contingents from the neighbouring districts of Wicklow and Kildare. The interment took place on Tuesday and the funeral was large. Amongst the chief mourners were the dead constable’s three brothers. Mr. Townsend, District Inspector and Mr. J.C. Ryan, Resident Magistrate were also in attendance. Rev. Mr. O’Callaghan officiated at the graveside. Constable Agar’s headstone in Rathvilly was found to have been toppled over and fragmented in three places in the autumn of 2012. The gravestone was restored.
Mrs. Agar and her father at Elmsgrove, Ballivor.
Constable John McGearty was at home in Leitrim when the road was made. He was ostracised by the other contstables and never promoted after that – perhaps as a result of somehow being involved in providing information. But he denied any wrong doing.
Public opposite Barracks Walsh in Coachman’s or greyhound was supposed to have provided information to the Volunteers – he was given a military honours funeral.
Shannon was supposed to have been away from the barracks and it was him that was picked up by the Volunteers at a road block. It is said that the intruder gave Shannon as the name when he came to the barrack’s door.
Maureen McGearty was in Trim forty years ago when she saw an old white haired blind man, with a stick trying to cross the road. Being the Good Samaritan that she is she went over and helped him across the road. When they had reached the other side the old man turned to thank Maureen and asked her who she was? She replied you would not know me. “I am from Ballivor.” He started to cry and whispered “Ballivor 1919.” He was one of the Lalor brothers.