ON THIS DAY: 21 January 1921: The Drumcondra Ambush

An encounter between eight young volunteers from the 1st Battallion IRA and a large body of the Black and Tans took place at Tolka Bridge in Drumcondra on 21 January 1921 during the War of Independence. The volunteers set out to ambush the Royal Irish Constabulary patrol which used that road to travel from their base in Gormanstown, Co. Meath. Led by Frank Flood, a mere 19 years old, the ambush was to take place at Binns Bridge but when it appeared that the Black and Tans were not coming, the party left there and headed to Tolka Bridge in Drumcondra Village. They set up a new ambush position just north of the bridge, opposite St Patrick’s National School, between Richmond Road and what is now Clonturk Park.

However, the police and British army unit received two tip-offs informing them of the planned ambush and this prior knowledge changed the course of what might have happened. The volunteers were about to abandon the ambush when a lorry of soldiers approached from the North, heading into the city. The volunteers decided to attack firing shots and throwing a grenade. They soldiers returned fire, but then the Black and Tans arrived in motor cars and an armored car at the rear to cut off the volunteers escape.

5 of the volunteers (Flood, Doyle, Bryan, Ryan and O’Sullivan) tried to make their escape down Richmond road where they were met with more Auxiliaries /RIC; they were forced up into Gracepark Road where they were captured. All of the prisoners had guns and ammunition and Frank was also found to have a grenade in his pocket.

Michael Magee, 24 years of age, escaped with Seán Burke racing over to Clonturk Park, but Michael was shot by Auxiliaries, mortally wounding him. He was captured and later died of his wounds. Seán entered a local house and convinced the Auxiliaries who tailed him, that he was a member of the family. Mick Dunne and Christopher O’Malley also escaped.

The 5 captured volunteers were court-martialed that lasted 2 days, convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. On 14 March, all of the men, save for 17-year-old Dermot O’Sullivan were hanged in Mountjoy Prison. O’Sullivans sentence was commuted due to his age.

No member of the crown forces was killed and the volunteers execution attracted much sympathy both at home and abroad. On the day they were hanged, a work stoppage took place in Dublin and thousands gathered outside the jail in protest.

They were 4 of the ‘The Forgotten Ten’, who were executed and buried in unmarked graves on unconsecrated ground. The Forgotten Ten is the term applied to ten IRA volunteers who were executed in Mountjoy Prison by British forces following courts martial from 1920–21 during the Irish War of Independence.

On 4 October 2001, The Forgotten Ten were afforded full state honours with a private service at Mountjoy, followed by a requiem mass at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. The cortège passed through the centre of Dublin and was witnessed by tens of thousands of people. 9 of the 10 were reinterred in Glasnevin Cemetry, and 1 in Limerick.

In 2018, Dublin City Council voted to name the bridge in memory after Frank Flood. The bridge, a three-arch structure, was built in 1818 to replace an old eight-arch bridge and was never formally named. It is now known as the Frank Flood Bridge.


Lieutenant Francis “Frank” Flood, 19, executed

Thomas Bryan, 24, executed

Patrick Doyle, age 29, executed

Bernard ‘Bertie’ Ryan, age 20, executed

Frank Flood, Thomas Bryan, Patrick Doyle, Bernard Ryan

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Mick Dunne, escaped

Seán Burke, escaped


Mick Dunne, Seán Burke

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Michael Francis ‘Mick’ Magee, 24, died from his wounds

Dermott O’Sullivan, age 17, captured but sentence commuted due to his young age


Historic photo of the bridge in Drumcondra Village


Frank Flood Bridge from the River side


Plaque on the Bridge after the renaming of the bridge in March 2018

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