Following the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, on 7 January 1922, it was anticipated that the British military would soon be vacating Renmore Barracks and it was suggested that the hospital – then situated in Galway Workhouse on Newcastle Road (now partly occupied by University Hospital Galway) – could be relocated to Renmore. The ‘Connacht Tribune’ of 21 January reported: ‘There is at present available a splendid almost new set of buildings at Renmore barracks. The men’s barrack rooms, of which there are eight very large ones, would make ideal wards. The officers’ quarters would house the whole hospital staff. The magazine and quartermaster’s house and officers would house the nursing staff or the nuns. There is a long range of married quarters with veranda which could be utilised as private wards. The place is lighted throughout with electricity. There is already a hospital there, outside the gates which could be used for isolating tuberculosis cases, or as a fever hospital. There is a church specially built for the accommodation of the barracks within a few yards of the front gate, and a station could easily be made to enable patients from any part of the county coming by rail to be deposited at the hospital gate, as the railway runs between the barrack and the military hospital.’ Any hopes of a new home for the hospital were soon dashed, however, when it was announced that the Irish Republican Army were to take over Renmore Barracks.
And so, in early February, the contents of the barracks were auctioned off. Among the eclectic items for auction was a grand piano, two cottage pianos, a three-quarter sized billiard table, an oak sideboard emblazoned with regimental crest, a mahogany letterbox, a glass case of birds, ten Ibex heads and a mounted ram’s head!
A formal handover of the barracks was arranged for Monday 13 February. Early that morning, Commandant Seán Broderick of Prospect Hill, a 22-year-old veteran of the War of Independence, visited the barracks to view the military evacuation. He then returned to Lenaboy Castle on Taylor’s Hill, the headquarters of the 4th Battalion (City Company) of the South West Galway Brigade, and sent Captain Seán Turke of College Road to Renmore with an advance guard to replace the military sentries. Later, Commandant Broderick took charge of 250 members of A, B and D Company of the 4th Battalion and, headed by the Salthill Industrial School band, they marched to Renmore.
Top L.: The IRA enter Renmore Barracks, Galway, 13 February 1922. This photo shows IRA officers leading members of A, B and D Company of the 4th Battalion (Galway City) of the South West Galway Brigade through the gates of Renmore Barracks; they were headed by the Salthill Industrial School band, whose members can be seen to the left of the photograph, who played ‘a selection of national airs’. A Company comprised volunteers from the heart of the town, from the Claddagh to Eyre Square. The volunteers in B Company were mostly from the Bohermore, Prospect Hill and Woodquay areas. C Company was the University Company, D Company came from the western suburbs of the city, and E Company was from the Aran Islands. The following weekend, the ‘Connacht Tribune’ reported: ‘As the companies were marched in the gate a large Republican flag was hoisted from the tower by an officer of the I.R.A., and cheers rent the air. The boys were warmly cheered, and there were shouts of “fáilte”. The guard turned out, fully equipped, and presented arms.’ Courtesy of Dún Uí Mhaoilaíosa
Top R.: Members of A, B and D Company of the 4th Battalion (Galway City) IRA on parade at Renmore Barracks, 13 February 1922. This photograph by Simmons of Galway appeared in the ‘Connacht Tribune’ of 18 February 1922, with the following details: ‘the battalion was marched to the parade ground, where several manoeuvres were gone through. Divisional Commissioner Brennan arrived and inspected the battalion, and also inspected the building.’ The same photo also appeared in the ‘Illustrated London News’ on 25 February with the caption: ‘Not yet fully equipped with uniforms: troops of the new Irish Free State army taking over Renmore Barracks, Co. Galway, from the Connaught Rangers.’ Originally from Co. Carlow, photographer Robert William Simmons established a photographic studio – Simmons & Lawrie – at Nuns’ Island in 1882. By the late 1880s, he had opened a ‘sale-room’ on Dominick Street. In 1902, Simmons added another premises at 6 William Street. Courtesy of Tom Kenny.
The ‘Connacht Tribune’ reported that ‘scenes of great enthusiasm signalised the taking over of Renmore military barracks on Monday by the I.R.A. As the companies were marched in the gate a large Republican flag was hoisted from the tower by an officer of the I.R.A., and cheers rent the air. The boys were warmly cheered, and there were shouts of “failte”. The guard turned out, fully equipped, and presented arms. Subsequently the battalion was marched to the parade ground, where several manoeuvres were gone through. Divisional Commissioner Brennan , arrived and inspected the battalion, and also inspected the building.’
An editorial in same edition went: ‘How few Irishmen, even amongst what is, perhaps erroneously, sometimes described as the “extreme section” thought they would ever live to see the day when British troops would voluntarily evacuate Renmore depot and an Irish civilian army would march in to take possession of it? Yet so history was made in Galway on Monday. We wonder how many of those who witnessed A. B. and D. Companies of the 4th Battalion I.R.A. marching to Renmore to the music of a band of Industrial School boys realised the full significance of the event. In three words, it meant that Ireland is free. Let those who wish decry the fact, the fact remains. The English forces are gone, never we hope to return – unless some mad act of folly on the part of our own sons should tear down the fabric of Irish freedom and security before it is properly erected.’
A little over a month after the takeover of Renmore Barracks the IRA split over the Treaty, and members of the anti-Treaty IRA (the Irregulars under the Independent Executive) seized control of barracks, evicting the pro-Treaty IRA (the Regulars under IRA GHQ), who afterwards occupied Galway Gaol.
This post is part of a series researched and written by Brendan McGowan as part of the Museum’s Decade of Centenaries series. If you have any further information about these photographs please leave a comment or contact Brendan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org