Raid on Carolan House, 12 Oct 1920
Times Report, 1920 Oct 12
On the 12th of October 1920, Treacy and Breen were hiding at Fernside, 37 Upper Drumcondra Road, a safe house owned by Professor Carolan. Professor John Carolan, lectured in the nearby St Patricks teacher-training college. The house was small, two-storeyed and had a long back garden (since built over). The house was raided by a unit of nine mixed troops and intelligence men under Lt Philip Attwood. In the ensuing shootout, two British officers were killed (Major Smyth and Captain White), as was the owner of the house, Dr. Carolan. Treacy and Breen escaped through a window and shot their out. The badly injured Breen was smuggled into Dublin's Mater hospital. Treacy had been wounded but not seriously.
Dalton's WS says that Breen and Treacy were followed from Flemings of Drumcondra to Fernside by a tout called Robert Pike.
The raid on Prof Carolan's house in Drumcondra was carried out by 9 men under Lt Phil Attwood and included RD Jeune, Major Smyth, Capt White (who was also killed), Corporal Worth (wounded) and Michael ? (recorded as firing his revolver in the garden). Witness statements come from 6 men and do not appear to include either Corporal Worth nor Jeune (presumably as he had same evidence as Attwood, witness 8). 3 men wen to the top floor and were in the elderly lodgers room, "Witness 3, Witness 4 and Capt White), 2 men were shot as they went past the door where Breen and Treacy were hiding (Major Smyth and Corporal Worth and witness 5 was with them), 2 were downstairs questioning Carolan and guarding the hall (Witness 6 and witness 7) and 2 men were in the back garden (Attwood who was witness 8, and Jeune, not called)
Professor Carolan was "shot by mistake while being questioned" according to Jeune who was there and Carolan died a few weeks later from the wounds.The balance of probability is that this is true - Witness 4 states that he used force in his testimony. My feeling is that Carolan was shot by Breen and Tracy while being used as a shield by witness 5. He was later shot, probably accidentally while being interrogated by witness 4.
Dan Breen was in the house, but escaped badly injured and died in hospital. Sean Tracy also escaped, and was killed a few weeks later in Talbot Street incident. . The two of them escaped by jumping from the second floor room they were in, through the glass conservatory rook which broke their falls. The height of the jump can be seen in the photo above.
At 2am the raiding party went to the Professor Carolan's house, Fernside, Drumcondra, Dublin. Fernside is on the corner of Home Farm Road and Upper Drumcondra Road. It is the detached house fronting on to Upper Drumcondra Road, with a conservatory on the Home Farm Road side. The house goes under a different name to-day.
The Professor let them into his house, where they went firstly to Carolan's bedroom in which his wife was sleeping. They then went to the second flight of stairs and it was there that Osbert Smyth was murdered, along with Captain A P White of the Surrey Yeomanry. Both men were believed to have been shot by Sean Treacy and possibly Dan Breen. Smyth had a torch alight on his belt when he entered the back bedroom, and was immediate shot though the heart by Breen. In the resulting confusion, Capt White was killed and Corporal Worth wounded.
A few minutes later Jeune was in the garden and heard a single shot, which was the "unfortunate accident" in which Prof Carolan was wounded, and later died of these injuries. Attwood and Jeune were in the garden at the back of the house to cut off any retreat by the occupants.to cut of, when they heard the shots from inside
Breen and Treacy jumped out a side window of the house and fell through the conservatory roof, sustaining many cuts. Making their way along St. Marys Road (now Home Farm Road) they eventually separated. Treacy going to an address at Inchicore Road and Breen to a safe house at Finglas. Breen was eventually brought to the Mater Hospital for treatment and the nuns there hid him from the authorities. Treacy left Inchicore one week later and made his way to Talbot Street, but was shot dead there by the British.
A court of inquiry was held with regard to the deaths of Major Smyth and Captain White in the King George V Hospital, presided over by Major Harding DSO MC of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Captain R F Bridges RAMC examined the two men's bodies. The examination on Osbert Smyth's body showed that a bullet had gone through his chest, through his liver and exited from the right side of his back. The second bullet went through his back from the left side, through his right lung and then through a vertebra. Death was due to shock and haemorrhage. His body was removed from the King George V Military Hospital with full military honours and placed in a mortuary van attached to the train at Amiens Street Station from whence it was taken to Banbridge.
- Witness 1. Went to the hospital to identify the bodies of Smyth and White. Does not give any other evidence. I assume this was the man in command, but who did not actually take part in the raid.
- Witness 2. RAMC doctor, Capt R F Bridges, giving medical evidence on the bodies.
- Witness 3. A Captain (from bits left uncensored in the report). Knocked at the door, spoke to Carolan, then went upstairs with 2 more of the raiding party. He found Mrs Carolan in bed on the first floor. He then went up to the top floor with the other two soldiers and saw 3 doors, 2 on his left and one facing him. He entered one of the rooms, switched on the light and found an elderly man in bed who said he was an ex-excise officer. This man was witness 9 at the enquiry, but basically "saw nothing". He told the witness that there were 2 young men lodging in the next room. At that point he heard a soldier (witness 7) outside the old man's room call out the name "Ryan". As he turned to exit the room he was in, a fusillade of revolver shots came from one of the other rooms, and Capt White fell back into the room on top of him badly wounded. At this point he and the other officer (witness 4) were in the room along with the wounded White. He tried to get help from the window, but nobody could reach the window without a ladder. After about 5 minutes Carolan entered with one of the raiding party (witness 5). Carolan then left with witness 5 and went out past the door from which the firing had come. Another shot rang out. The witness did not see what had happened as he was caring for Capt White. When he got to the door he saw Major Smyth lying wounded in front of the door into the room from which the firing had come. Carolan was lying almost on top of him. Witness 3 took Capt White and Corporal Worth to the hospital
- Witness 4 was the other man with witness 3 and White in the old man's room. From inside the room he saw Major Smyth open the door of the next room, and immediately get hit by a burst of gunfire. Capt White got to the door of their room first, he was immediately hit and fell back into the room. Witness 4 closed the door, and several revolver rounds came through their door. He heard breaking glass, more firing, and a few minutes later several people came into the room, accompanied by a man in a nightshirt who was told to lead the way into the adjoining room. As he got to the door there was a shot from the room, which was in darkness. The man fell across Smyth's legs. They backed into the room they had been in, and then heard another crash of glass and shots. Witness 4, then questioned the wounded Carolan about his house guests. Witness 4 appears to be senior to witness 3 in as much as he interrogated Carolan.
- Witness 5 was half way up the stairs when he heard shots, and Corporal Worth staggered down the stairs injured. He helped the injured Worth to the lorry. While there at the lorry he heard witness 3 call for help from the 2nd floor window, but it was not possible to get there without a ladder. He ran to the front of the house and saw a man in a nightshirt, Carolan, whom he forced to lead the way up to the top landing. They saw the body of Smyth there. Having entered the room with witness 3, witness 4 and White, he went on with Carolan, who hesitated. A shot came rom the suspect room, and Carolan fell wounded. Witness 5 retreated to the room that contained his companions. Witness 3, witness 4 and whiteness 5 carried White and Smyth to the lorry
- Witness 6 went into the kitchen and hall with witness 7. They learnt from Carolan that there was a young man called Ryan in the house. Witless 7 went upstairs calling the name Ryan. Witness 6 stayed downstairs searching, but then heard a number of shots and ran upstairs. His evidence is confused at this point. He saw something that made him fire at a door on his left (this seems to have been on 1st floor) and Corporal Worth fell down thee stairs onto him at that moment. He went back to the front door and remained on guard. He then heard a crash of glass
- Witness 7 questioned Carolan in the kitchen when the raiding party entered the house. When Witness 7 discovered their was a young man called Ryan living in the house he ran upstairs calling Ryan. On entering the room containing witness 3, witness 3 suggested that he try the end room. At this point witness 7s evidence is confused, as he ran down the short flight of stairs to that room, shots came through the door on his right. A soldier (Corporal Wirth) fell back on him injured. Witness 7 ran down to the garden to cover the window of the suspect room. Decided against that and came back in. Had a discussion with another soldier, Capt ? on the top floor (probably witness 3). After debating what to do, Witness 7 went down to the garden and stayed there.
- Witness 8 (this appears to be Attwood - and Jeune did not give evidence) was detailed with one other to go to the rear of the house. After about 8 minutes he heard revolver shots form the house. He heard someone call "I am hit". He ran into the house with the other man from the garden. They went through the conservatory and sitting room into the hall.. He went out to the front garden, and heard an isolated shot, followed by a crunch of glass, and more shots. He went round to his position at the back garden followed by some others. he re-entered the house and they did a search - all was quiet.. He handed over command of the scene to the commander of the reinforcements when they arrived.
The full Court of Inquiry report is here - they have censored it to remove names
Prof John Carolan died as a result of a bullet wound on 28 Oct 1920. One concludes that John Carolan's death was an accident, in as much as the Republican side never appear to have alluded to his death as a murder. The 1911 census above shows him living at another Drumcondra address in 1911 with his wife, 5 year old son and brother. He is given as a professor of Science and the Art of Teaching. History has recorded little about him.
Incidents involving British Intelligence in Dublin