THE MEMORY of a Limerick man who became the first IRA volunteer to die in the War of Independence was commemorated this Sunday.
The Meelick-Parteen and Cratloe Commemoration Committee unveiled a memorial at Knockalisheen, Meelick to honour the memory of Robert Byrnes.
A native of Limerick city and an officer in the 2nd Battalion Mid-Limerick Brigade, he was rescued from the Union Workhouse at Shelbourne Road (nowadays better known as St. Camilus’ Hospital) by Limerick City Volunteers on Sunday, April 6, 1919.
However, in the course of the rescue, he was shot at point blank range by one of the RIC men guarding him. Mortally wounded, he was brought to Knockalisheen and given refuge in John and Margaret Ryan’s farmhouse. Robert Byrnes died on the evening of Monday, April 7, 1919 and was later buried at Mount St. Lawrence Graveyard in Limerick on Thursday, April 10, 1919.
The funeral of Robert Byrnes was also unique in that the man in charge of the funeral cortège was Michael Brennan of Meelick, who was commanding officer of the East Clare Brigade, although Byrnes was an officer of the Mid-Limerick Brigade.
Robert Byrnes was the first man to die in the cause of Irish freedom following the outbreak of the War of Independence in January 1919.
The official unveiling of the Robert Byrnes memorial at Knockalisheen, Meelick took place this Easter Sunday at 1pm. An oration was given by Limerick historian Tom Toomey followed by a wreath laying ceremony. This was very much a community event and all were welcome on the day.
According to local Fianna Fáil county councillor Cathal Crowe, the Meelick-Parteen and Cratloe Commemoration committee pride themselves on being non-political. They come from many walks of life and are united in their interests in local history.