Over the past number of weeks a building on the south side of Liberty Square, Thurles, Co. Tipperary; last known as Griffin’s News agency and previously, during the 1920’s, Hickey’s pub, has now been demolished to make way for a new car-park entrance, in an effort to make Thurles town centre more pedestrianised.
The now demolished building did have some small, yet not insignificant history attached, which can be found when reading a statement from the Bureau of Military History, 1913-21 (Document No. W.S. 1454, File No. S.790), by witness James Leahy, Commandant, No. 2 (Mid) Tipperary Brigade, latter born in 1896 in the townsland of Tubberadora, Boherlahan, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.
James Leahy Writes: [Signed 3rd July 1956]
“I returned to business in Thurles early in 1917, and then went to work for Michael (‘Mixey’) O’Connell, as he was popularly called. O’Connell was a prominent Sinn Feiner and Irish Volunteer and his house in later days became the headquarters of the Mid-Tipperary Brigade.
Five masked and armed policemen raided the house of Larry Hickey, publican, Main St., Thurles, when they found the owner in bed. Re was ordered out in his night attire and when he reached the head of the stairs, he was tripped and thrown downstairs by an R.I.C. man named Jackson.
In the fall, Hickey’s neck was broken and he was in great pain at the foot of the stairs, when Sergeant Enright, who was in charge of the raiders, shot him dead, to put an end to his agony. Hickey was a well known republican in Thurles, and a detailed account of his shooting was given to me during the truce period, by Sergeant Enright himself.
While the raid in Hickey’s was in progress, (Night of March 9th 1921) another party of masked policemen visited the home of the Loughnane family in Mitchell St., Thurles, and shot dead in bed William Loughnane. This man along with his father and three brothers were active members of the local I.R.A. company.
On the same night, the Barry homestead in Turtulla (Today Thurles Golf Club), a short distance from Thurles, was entered by R.I.C. men in disguise. They were looking for Denis Regan, a workman and a prominent I.R.A. man. He had hidden in a ‘couchette’ (Latter a box type bed usually found in a house close to an open fireplace, with a lid which closed during the day to become a useful bench or large seat), in the house and when the police could not find him, they ordered Michael Barry to come with them, as they were going to shoot him, instead of Regan.
Barry had no connection with the republican movement and Regan overheard remarks made by the raiders. Rather than see his employer suffer on his account, Regan left his hiding place and gave himself up. Barry was then released while Regan was led into the yard, where the police fired six or eight shots at him. Though very seriously wounded, he survived and is still hale and hearty. (In later years Denis Regan became the hearse driver for the undertaking firm of W. H. Ryan). He (Regan) was treated by his employer’s brother, Dr. Barry, who was then in practice in Thurles and was always ready to answer a call when needed by the I.R.A.
I got a dispatch from the brigade adjutant (1921) requesting me to meet him that night at Larry Hickey’s (Latter later to become Griffin’s Newsagents), in Thurles, as he had some urgent communications to send to G.H.Q. which he wished me to see and sign.
I went on to Thurles, armed with a revolver. My going off to meet the brigade adjutant very nearly led to my capture and death. I made my way into Larry Hickey’s as arranged and was waiting upstairs for my colleague to put in an appearance, when a scout, who was posted to watch out for enemy raiders, shouted through the letter box of the door that a force of R.I.C. were searching “Mixey” O’Connell’s house next door. I waited for a while, thinking that if they found nobody in O’Connell’s, the police might move off.
Word came after awhile that they had gone. Concluding that O’Connell’s place (next door) might now be safer than Hickey’s, I went out by the back door to get into O’Connell’s back yard. The wall separating the two yards was about 8-feet high and I had my breast just on the top of it when I heard the order “Hands up”. In the light which was shining on me I could see a figure sitting on top of the wall a few yards away from me. He was a guard whom they had left on the place. As I was leaving Hickey’s the scout, again reporting through the letter box, shouted that the main raiding party was returning. Apparently the man by whom I was now confronted was left to keep an eye on developments at the back. On being challenged I dropped back into Hickey’s and crouching as low as I could, I ran down under the shelter of the wall to the lower end of the yard.
The guard was firing after me. From the corner into which I had crouched I had a clear view of my opponent. I drew my revolver and fired four shots at him. He quickly disappeared from view. Without delaying, I seized my chance and from the yard, ran down the garden (Latter soon to become part of the new car park) and out into the Mall. I went on to Barry’s in Turtulla, where I stayed for the night.
On examining my overcoat, I found that it had been penetrated by shots several times during the brief encounter. Next day, I heard that the policeman involved was wounded by my return fire.”