Treacy shot in Talbot Street, 14 Oct 1920

price-talbot-fake

The above photo had been thought for many years to be a news photo of G A Price in action in Talbot Street, just before he was killed on October 14, 1920. However during restoration work by the Irish Film Institute it became apparant that this dramatic picture is not a real engagement between a British agent and the IRA but a still from a 1926 film called 'Irish Destiny'. Rather than being British agent Lt Price opening fire on the IRA, it is actor called O'Hara playing an IRA man on screen.

On the 11th of October 1920, Treacy and Breen had escaped from a house owned by Prof Carolan which had been raided by the British. Tracey and Breen had been wounded. Breen had had to be taken to hospital for treatment under an assumed name, but Treacy was not as badly wounded. Treacy was told to join 4 or 5 members of the Squad for his own protection, but arrived late. He arrived at the safe house, Republican Outfitters in Talbot Street, Dublin, too late, and most of the Squad had gone.

On 14 October 1920, the Squad, along with Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, planned to assassinate Hamar Greenwood, and General Tudor. They met in the back of Clancy’s shop, "The Republican Outfitters", in Talbot Street. When they received intelligence that neither of the officers would be present at the intended event, the operation was called off. As some of the Squad was leaving they met Seán Tracy, and informed him of events. Tracy continued on towards the shop. Tracy was in the process of planning the rescue of Dan Breen, who lay wounded in the Mater Hospital. Tracy had been followed to the "The Republican Outfitters" by British Intelligence, and he had failed to notice.

The members of the Squad had not moved very far before they heard the shots ring out. A raid on the shop had been planned, and Tracy had arrived just before the soldiers. Clancy was at Nelson's Pillar when he saw the trucks filled with soldiers pass, he surmised that the shop was to be raided, but had no way of warning his comrades.Tracy, along with two civilians, was killed in the incident.McKee only narrowly avoided capture, by escaping on a bicycle during the confusion at the time of the shooting.

Retrospetively it is difficult to be sure who did what. But British Intelligence men Major Carew and Lt. Gilbert Price, were responsible for the action. Carew was the senior of the two, and I conclude that it was Carew who was running the raid. Another Intelligence man Francis Christian is also named

Treacy was caught in the street when the British raiding party arrived in Talbot Street. Two lorry loads of helmeted troops arrived in Talbot Street. They may have been supported by an armoured car, but this is not clear. Price jumped out of a lorry and closed on Treacy. There were shots. Treacy, Price and two innocent bystanders fell dead. It would appear that there were revolver shots, followed by a volley from the troops. Treacy dashed from the doorway of the “Republican Outfitters”drawing a gun as he ran. (Horgan reports seeing this, and is the most reliable report I have seen) After a few sharp, staccato barks, a fusillade of firing broke out, scattering screaming spectators in a wild stampede. The man with the gun and another man in civilian clothes sprawled fatally wounded within 15 yards range.

But too much confusion and deliberate spin by both sides makes it impossible to know the exact sequence, nor do we know if there was a tip off that Treacy was there or whether the shop, known as an IRA safe house, was just recieving a "normal" raid. On balance Price appears to have known what was happening, so I assume British intelligence knew who they were attemptng to detain.

There is an IRA report that there was another British death, Sgt Francis Christian, but I can find no evidence for this. He does not appear in Irish Death registers. I assume this is an incorrect report. He was wounded and got compensation

treacy death

Death of Price or Treacy by Horgan

The Irish Destiny photo is not from the 16 year old Horgan. But Horgan was there and leaves an account and another photo. This is Horgan’s own account of how he took the picture in Talbot Street:. ‘ When Len Maunders took time off—generally to go to the pictures—I would ask his permission to try out his £40 Minimum Palmos camera. The modern press camera costs five times that amount [i.e. in 1957] but £40 was a lot of money in 1919-20. Len granted the usual permission to try out his camera, and so here I was with a fully loaded pukka Press camera and a free afternoon.  I had locked up the office [at 35 Henry Street] and gone down the stairs before the Maunders could reach the cinema queue. Whether to turn right towards Mary Street or left towards Talbot Street was decided by the source of light which was clouded and dull. Meandering down Earl Street, I paused at the junction of Marlborough Street with the vague notion of meeting former classmates breaking early from the Central Model Schools. I would doubtless have swanked [i.e. showed off] the posh camera. Suddenly came the familiar whine of a Crossley tender, followed by a lorry load of tin-hatted troops. They dashed into Talbot Street and I turned instinctively in hot pursuit as other youngsters follow the fire brigade.

With a screeching of brakes, the vehicle halted near the Masterpiece cinema and soldiers with fixed bayonets poured onto the roadway, driving pedestrians and surprised shoppers in front of them on every side. Miraculously I found myself inside the cordon and crouching behind the meagre shelter afforded by the plate-glass porch of Moran’s drapery store. On the opposite side of the street a figure dashed from the doorway of the “Republican Outfitters”—pitifully exposed—drawing a gun as he ran. After a few sharp, staccato barks, a fusillade of firing broke out, scattering screaming spectators in a wild stampede. The man with the gun and another man in civilian clothes sprawled fatally wounded within 15 yards range. Trembling, I sighted the prostrate form in the view-finder and pressed the trigger. I did not know it at the time, but the central figure in this gun battle was Sean Treacy.

“Get out of here” was the next coherent impulse, and in a matter of seconds I found myself in the lingerie department of Moran’s store. Several people were injured and an officer swinging a revolver came into the shop with a blood-spattered civilian for screening [i.e. summary interrogation/search to check whether they had incriminating material or might be worth detaining for further questioning]. His glance fell upon the bare-kneed, bare-headed boy [i.e. Horgan had not graduated to wearing long trousers and a hat, both being seen as marks of manhood] clutching a leather case which might easily have contained things more lethal than lingerie. “You run home, sonny”, he said, beckoning a Tommy to put me outside the cordon. And did I run!

Back in the darkroom I developed the precious plates in a paroxysm of fright, occasioned not by the exciting experience but by anxiety about manipulation of the camera and Bert Maunder’s oft-repeated admonition—“The picture is the thing”.  Had I drawn the slide? Had I done this and that at the right time? Minutes of suspense culminated in the hypo-happy moment of realisation that I had the most dramatic picture of the day, of the week—perhaps of the year. When the Maunders returned from the cinema I presented them with a fait accompli that took their breath away, and, of course, there was no holding me now, I was on my way.

So Horgan did take a photograph at the scene of Treacy’s death in Talbot Street, which achieved worldwide circulation, but the reference to a ‘prone body’ shows the Irish Destiny shot is not that picture.

The 'Republican Outfitters' was at No. 94 Talbot Street. A small bronze shield above the door commemorates the spot today.

British Intelligence Dublin Castle