01 Jul 2022

Trip Through time: What was 'The Great Escape' from Dundalk Jail?

Looking back at Dundalk's past, with former Democrat editor Peter Kavanagh

Trip Through time: What was 'The Great Escape' from Dundalk Jail?

Answers to last week's questions:

Where in Dundalk was Simmons' Hotel?

This was a small private hotel in Francis Street, between Williamsons' hardware and the entry leading to Gogarty's ironmonger's yard, run by a person named M. Simmons, from about the beginning of last century up to about sixty years ago. I am not sure if 'M. Simmons' was a man or a woman but suspect that she was a widow, as I recall that there was a lady in charge by the late late 1950s of what was a guest house for commercial travellers.
About this time a dentist named D.B. Simmons, whom I think was her son, had a surgery in the building and a dental mechanic called Peter Kieran had a work shop in the basement. There may have been an earlier dentist's surgery but am not sure?

Where is 'Meeting House Lane'?

This is the short street leading off Linenhall Street, opposite the 'Peace Park' on the Fair Green. It is one of the oldest named streets in Dundalk and was near to the site of the 'Blind Gate' of the walled town. It is named after an old hall where the local Presbyterian congregation had their first meeting place in Dundalk town, established in about 1700. Some old maps refer to the present Linenhall Street by this name.

Where was Laurence Place?

This was a small cul-de-sac off Bridge Street, opposite the top of the Castletown Road which was demolished after World War Two. There were about a dozen small houses along it, built about the beginning of the nineteenth century. It seems to have been originally known as 'Lawrence Row', which may have been the name of a builder.

What was 'The Great Escape' from Dundalk Jail?

This was the escape of Adjutant General Frank Aiken and over 100 republican members of the 4th Northern Division of the I.R.A. who opposed The Treaty, in the early hours of the morning of July 27, 1922. These men had been among the party that had first occupied Dundalk Military Barracks when the Britiah Army left in April 1922 but had been been arrested in the Barracks by Free State troops after the start of the Civil War in late June. The escape was organised by John McCoy, from Mullaghbawn, second in command to Aiken, who had avoided being captured. The escape was made through a four foot hole blown in the wall along the Ardee Road, while Aiken and his men were allowed to be in the exercise yard.

Questions for next week (about old Dundalk hotels) :--

Where was 'Bullock's Hotel' and what was unusual about it?
Where was 'Arthur's Hotel' established in 1773?
Where was 'Sibthorpe's Hotel' and why was it historically famous?
Where was 'London's Hotel'?

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