The ransacking of Trim: Town burned in reprisal for IRA attack on barracks

A new book, published by Meath County Council and launching this week, 'Trim, September 1920' commemorates the centenary of the burning of the town of Trim by members of the Black and Tan force on 26th and 27th September 1920.

IRA activity, for much of 1919, involved capturing weaponry and freeing republican prisoners, while the Dáil set about building a state. In September, the British government outlawed the Dáil and Sinn Féin and the conflict intensified. The IRA began ambushing RIC and British Army patrols, attacking barracks and forcing isolated barracks to be abandoned. As part of that campaign Trim RIC barracks was raided by local Republicans and arms were taken.

Michael Collins described the attack on Trim barracks to Seán Boylan snr as ‘a very big job’.

The reprisal for this action came in late September 1920. The book, edited by librarian, Tom French, with a foreword by local historian and current councillor, Noel French, reproduces facsimiles of original courts martial and prison documents, contemporary newspaper accounts, stills of contemporary newsreel footage, and rare photographs of the town in the immediate aftermath of the burning. It also includes brigade activity reports from the Bureau of Military Archives, and excerpts of documents from Trim workhouse which show the impact the sack of the town had on the local population.

In the official preface to the volume, Jackie Maguire Chief Executive of Meath County Council, writes: "The period from 1912 to 1922 was one of the most eventful in Ireland’s history. From the campaign for Home Rule, through World War One and the Easter Rising of 1916 to the foundation of the Free State, this was a decade of great change. Campaigns for social reforms went hand in hand with political events. The Decade of Centenaries programme aims to commemorate the steps that Ireland took between 1912 and 1922 in a tolerant, inclusive and respectful way.

"In 2013, Meath County Council was delighted to return to print Oliver Coogan’s Politics and War in Meath 1913-1923, which appeared first in 1983. When that volume was reviewed in the Irish Press later that year, no less a commentator than the late great Con Houlihan wrote, ‘The peaks of history may be seen in parliament and in battlefields, but much happens quietly that only the patient chronicler can unearth.’ Our debt to Oliver Coogan’s scholarship and his passion for Meath’s history will never be repaid."

Ms Maguire continues: "Trim September 1920 is published on the centenary of the tumultuous events which occurred in the town of Trim a century ago, and forms part of County Meath’s Decade of Centenaries commemorations. By presenting contemporary accounts, documents and images, it is hoped that this book will contribute to our understanding of our history."

'Trim, September 1920' will be officially launched on Thursday 24th September at 6pm, in a virtual event on Meath County Library's YouTube channel. The event will be streamed through a private link. To receive the link, email events@meathcoco.ie.

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