The Sack of Balbriggan 1920

September 2020 is a very significant date in Balbriggan History as it marks 100 years since the Sack of Balbriggan. Balbriggan & District Historical Society in conjunction with other local groups and Fingal County Council had comprehensive plans in place to commemorate this 100 year anniversary with public events in September.

Due to COVID 19 government restrictions at the time of writing it is still not clear what level of commemoration can take place but it is clearly our intention to ensure that this does receive a fitting, appropriate and meaningful commemoration even if that means that it, like so many other things, has to be adjusted or delayed.

In the meantime the following is an account of the Sack of Balbriggan for those who don’t know about this event. A fuller account can be found in our publication Balbriggan a History for the Millennium

The Sack of Balbriggan September 1920

The tragic events of the sack of Balbriggan by Black And Tans have left an unforgettable memory on the town. Peter Burke the Head Constable of the R.I.C was accompanied by his brother William a Sgt and they entered Smyth’s pub (now the Millrace Pub) for a drink. There are confusing accounts of what transpired there but shortly afterwards Peter Burke was shot dead and his brother William was seriously wounded. 

When word reached Gormanston Camp where the Black and Tans were stationed and a large body of them arrived in 2/3 lorries later firing indiscriminately in the streets. They stationed their vehicles outside the barracks on Bridge St (now the home of Ashling dry cleaners). They also burnt several houses and many families spent several nights sleeping outdoors in fear for their lives. 

They looted the business of John Derham (a local Town Commissioner) now the Medical Centre on corner of  Bridge St and Clonard St. and they burned several local businesses and several houses including 8 cottages on Clonard St (Known locally as Sinn Féin Alley).

Several licensed premises were also destroyed including Landy’s and the Gladstone Inn (now Harvest Pub and Milestone Inn). The Black and Tans were set on destroying the premises of Smyth and Co on Railway St however they burned down another factory,  

Balbriggan Sea Mills, built by the English Company, Deeds Templar. Only the factory chimney remains. 

Several locals were dragged into the barracks for questioning and 2 were murdered, Seamus Lawless a local Barber, and Sean Gibbons a dairy farmer. The plaque on Bridge St commemorates them. Both were buried in Balscadden cemetery. Peter Burke was buried in Glenamaddy,Co Galway.

Fulham Terrace has been named in honour of the bravery of Dr Fulham on the night along with the names given to Lawless and Gibbons Terrace in the town.

You can download our Sack of Balbriggan Memorial Calendar here Calendar 2020 BHS (9)