Sean South of Garryowen
“It was on a dreary New Year's Eve, as shades of night came down, a lorry load of volunteers approached the border town, there were men from Dublin and from Cork, Fermanagh and Tyrone, and their leader was a Limerick man Sean South of Garryowen...'' So begins one of most the famous and beloved Irish rebel songs of all time. The song commemorates the famous Brookeborough raid of December 31st 1957 in which Sean Sabhat (South) and Feargal O'Hanlon were fatally wounded.
It was one of the first operations of the IRA's Operation Harvest. Using an open truck on which a machine-gun was mounted, the IRA column entered the town intending to place mines and attack the barracks. Their mines failed to explode and they were raked with fire from the barracks. Seán South of Limerick, who was manning the machine-gun, and Fergal O’Hanlon of Monaghan, were mortally wounded and died from their wounds in a stone barn at nearby Attawark crossroads between Roslea and Brookeborough.
The deaths of South and O’Hanlon were the first IRA casualties of the campaign. Massive crowds participated in their funerals. Seán South’s funeral passed through Dublin where throngs of Dubliners gathered to pay their respects. An estimated fifty thousand attended in Limerick.
Their deaths were immortalized in two republican ballads, “Sean South From Garryowen” which is linked here and the “Patriot Game” written by Dominc Behan. We will have more on Fergal Hanlon tomorrow.
Enjoy the famous ballad, and have a happy New Years Eve!