One of the last acts of the War of Independence took place just outside Glenties in June 1921, when an IRA column ambushed a convoy of RIC and Black and Tans at Derries, Kilraine.
Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered along the N56 about a mile outside of Glenties on the Ardara side, to watch a re-enactment of the fierce battle at the site of the original attack.
The dramatic re-enactment was part of this year’s Glenties Harvest Fair Festival which has a particular focus on history and culture to mark the centenary of the Rising.
The idea for the re-enactment came from local man Ernan O’Donnell, who said he had heard stories of the ambush since his childhood.
“I’d have been hearing all the different stories since I was able to listen,” Ernan said.
In the 1921 ambush at Kilraine, an IRA column ambushed a convoy of RIC and Black and Tans who were on their daily patrol from the garda barracks at Glenties to Killybegs.
Yesterday’s re-enactment was carried out largely in real time, with Ernan narrating the action and sounds of gunfire filling the air from speakers set alongside the audience.
As the first steel-plated Crossley passed the junction of what is known locally as the High Road and the N56, shots rang out. A member of the Black and Tans was shot, later dying of his injuries at the county infirmary in Lifford.
One member of the IRA column was injured in the gun battle that followed, and taken to a nearby safe house.
As part of the ceremony that followed the re-enactment, two tricolours were raised, one on the hill where the ambush team had been and a second near the main road. The flags were raised by descendants of the family who had brought tea to the ambush party as they waited, and descendants of the family who had cared for the Volunteer that had been injured in the ambush.
Zachary Gillespie, who took part in the re-enactment, called it a great experience. “It was great to get involved in a piece of local history,” he said.
The annual Glenties festival runs through September 12th, and the committee would also like to see as many people as possible dressed in period clothing for the parade in Glenties on Sunday, September 11th, and for the fair day on Monday, September 12th.
See Monday’s Donegal Democrat and Donegal People’s Press for more.