The Avondhu - By The Fireside
INTO CIVILIAN LIFE
The time for escape came and all the careful planning was put into operation. On Thursday afternoon of November 10th, 1921, the escape commenced. The selected personnel were all IRA officers and others with local/seafaring knowledge, they were Dick Barrett, Ballineen, Co. Cork; Paddy Buckley, Araglen; Tom Crofts, Cork City; Jack Eddy, Ardmore, Co. Waterford; Henry O’Mahony, Passage West, Co. Cork; Bill Quirke, Fethard, Co. Tipperary and Moss Twomey, Clondulane, Fermoy. All were in ‘A’ block bar Bill Quirke who feigned illness in ‘B’ Block and was confined to bed, he made his way to ‘A’ Block and another prisoner took his place. The next hurdle was that this left ‘B’ Block one prisoner short, as always, the count was done on the top floor first and when this was done, a trap door made during the destruction riot was used to drop a prisoner down to the lower floor to ensure that count tallied. When the count was done in ‘A’ block shortly after 5pm, bricks were removed at the rear of ‘A’ Block close to the Sally Port into which the escapees entered, easily removing the cut barbed wire. The remaining prisoners replaced the blocks.
Next was to wait, as all the months of surveillance and observation came to the fore. Timing was key and the best time selected to cross the moat and scale the outer wall with a home-made ladder made from the remnants of the destruction riot, was determined when the evening light faded and before the search lights came on. As the seven waited patiently in the tunnel, they heard the sentries overhead giving all clear commands, this was their cue in pairs to quietly cross the moat, scale the outer wall via the makeshift ladder and drop down to the outside. This was repeated until all were out. Then down to the shoreline and in single file, follow the shoreline clockwise.
Next stage was to get to an unused boat on the shoreline that had been noted during intelligence gathering. However, it wasn’t in good shape, not to mention that it would take considerably more than seven men to lift it to shore. This plan was abandoned, and they continued their way towards the pier. It was guarded and they retreated to a disused piggery to discuss available options. In doing so, an off-guard British soldier came to the door with his girlfriend. Like the escapees, they were trying to be discreet as they were on a courting mission. Remarkably they didn’t enter the building which surely would have scuttled the escape, but lingered for an hour in the doorway.
The seven escapees could only wait patiently and quietly inside, some praying that the courting couple would move off. When they did, the escapees headed to the shoreline and pier looking to take one of the boats, but all were chained and locked. The risk taking intensified as they discreetly crossed the guarded pier and noting a boat off the pier by itself, Jack Eddy swam out, but it was anchored; he returned but swam back, penknife between his teeth and heroically started cutting away at the rope and despite dropping the knife in the bitter cold November waters, finished cutting the rope by biting away the last strands. He next swam back to the others with boat in tow. All jumped in and with makeshift oars and oar locks moved quietly away from the Spike Island towards Cobh avoiding the searchlights and the circling motor launch. With Henry O’Mahony’s local knowledge they landed at Belmont Army huts just east of the town and away to safety.
After the escape Paddy returned to Liam Lynch’s area and fell in line with fellow IRA volunteers entering Fermoy Barracks for training. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Paddy took the anti-treaty side. However, like many of his comrades the hunger strikes and the beatings in Spike Island took effect and Paddy was confirmed to bed for eight weeks with pneumonia and headaches. He did return to active service doing intelligence work and was appointed as auctioneer by Thomas Hunter, with a view to taking stock of the surplus material in Moorepark and Kilworth Camps with a view to selling. He was arrested by Free State troops in August 1922, but only spent a few weeks in Kilworth Camp as Dr Barry, Kilworth intervened due to his deteriorating physical condition.
Paddy continued with the Republicans when physically able, but only returned home to Coolmohan when the constant raids on his home stopped in April 1923.
Paddy Buckley settled back into civilian life, working for Cork County Council, building his own house in Church Street, Mitchelstown, and married Mary Ann Hartigan from Dromleigh in Ballindangan Church in February 1925. Donie and Michael were born in the following years. But life took a terrible turn for Paddy with Mary passing in January 1931 at the young age of 36, after only 6 years of married life. Paddy returned to Araglen, living in Gortnaskehy and ran a grocery shop as he reared his family. He passed away in in September 1970 at the age of 77 and is buried in Kilcrumper Cemetery.