Drumboe Castle in Stranorlar was built by Sir Ralph Bingley after he bought his estate from Robert Redington in 1622. The large manor had four towers and protected a ford in the River Finn near the location shown in the cover photo of this website/blog. In the 1800s, Drumboe Castle was the residence of Sir Edmund Hayes, a strong anti-Catholic member of parliament from 1831 to 1860. During the Irish Civil War (1922-23), it was used as an army headquarters of the Irish Free State in its battle with IRA forces opposing the treaty that ended Ireland’s War of Independence with Great Britain. As headquarters for the Irish Free State in County Donegal, Drumboe also served as a prison for captured IRA soldiers.
The Irish Civil War began almost as soon as the Anglo-Irish treaty was signed in January 1922. The treaty gave Ireland a degree of independence from Great Britain but required the partition of six counties in Northern Ireland because of the large population of British loyalists residing there. From 1922 to 1923, fighting took place throughout Ireland between the Nationalist Free State troops and those who wanted to continue war with Great Britain for the complete independence of Ireland (all of the counties of Ireland).
In County Donegal, the (anti-treaty) IRA established its headquarters in Glenveagh Castle. The Free-State troops maintained its headquarters in Drumboe Castle. Charlie Daly, originally from County Kerry, crossed into Donegal with his men to oppose the Free State troops. The war in Donegal was going poorly for the IRA in the fall of 1922, and Daly was told to pull out. He and seven of his men were captured with weapons and ammunition in a cottage near Errigal Mountain on November 2. The eight were imprisoned in Drumboe Castle where they were court-marshalled and sentenced to death on January 14, 1923.
On March 10, 1923, a Free State officer was shot and killed in Donegal. Although the killing was probably unrelated to the civil war, it was blamed on the IRA. In retaliation of the killing, Charlie Daly and three of his men were taken from their prison cells and executed by ex-British army veterans on March 14. Those executed that day were: Charlie Daly (County Kerry), Daniel Enright (County Kerry), Sean Larkin (County Derry), and Timothy O’Sullivan (County Kerry) . The four, all loyal soldiers of Ireland in its war of independence, are known as the “Drumboe Martyrs.” Their last letters to their parents and siblings are poignant and touching. You can read them at:
The Civil War ended in May of 1923 when the IRA’s Chief of Staff ordered his men to drop their arms and return to their homes. I believe that the remaining four prisoners who where sentenced to death at Drumboe were released the following year. (There were 12,000 republican prisoners kept in various locations after the war. Many remained in prison until July 1924.)
Over 1000 died during the Irish Civil War.