Wexford’s Civil War: The Destruction of the Bridges

Map of damaged bridges

In July 1922 the anti-Treaty IRA began a concerted campaign of bridge destruction in Co. Wexford, which continued sporadically until March 1923. Its main aim was to impede the Free State army’s ability to move around the county, and to make the area generally ungovernable. In this regards it proved a highly effective military tactic, as the Free State army had a considerable advantage over the anti-Treaty IRA when it came to vehicles, especially armoured cars and lorries. 

Blowing up bridges severely curtailed the ability of these Free State vehicles to move freely and this handed some initiative back to the IRA, who in contrast, travelled mainly by foot. To date we have identified at least 65 bridges which were damaged during this period and these are individually catalogued in a gazetteer below.

Scarawalsh bridge, blown January 1923

The bridges were typically blown up, but sometimes more basic methods were used, such as excavating deep trenches across the bridge-span or setting wooden structures on fire. The bridge at Rathaspeck, Murrintown was trenched on at least three separate occasions, while the large wooden bridges at Wexford town and Mountgarret, New Ross were burned, leaving them unusable for much of the Civil War.

In some cases, large amounts of gelignite appear to have been used to destroy the bridges, as the explosions were heard at a considerable distance. For instance, when the bridge at Scarawalsh was blown up, it was heard 4km away in Enniscorthy[1], while the detonation of the Lightwater bridge, near Piercestown was heard for ‘many miles’.  Unsurprisingly, such large explosions proved a threat to nearby property and livestock. Cottages were damaged at Coolattin, Bunclody[2] and Wellingtonbridge[3], when adjacent bridges were blown, while two bullocks were killed by flying debris when the Taylorstown railway viaduct was destroyed[4].

Ballycarney bridge, blown February 1923

As well as hampering Free State army movements, the destroyed bridges also provided ideal locations for the anti-Treaty IRA to set up ambushes.  In July 1922 The Southern Star newspaper  reported that a party of Free State troops inspecting a damaged bridge at Ferrycarrig were fired upon and two soldiers were wounded[5]. A month later a Free State lorry attempting to cross a broken bridge at Ballymacar, New Ross was also attacked[6]. The soldiers had left the vehicle and were placing planks across the damaged structure, when the anti-Treaty IRA opened fire. 

No one was injured in this instance, but a fatality did occur at Aughnagan, Taghmon in November 1922. The Free State soldiers had again disembarked from their vehicle to place planks across a blown-up bridge when they were ambushed by the anti-Treaty IRA. In the ensuing fire-fight, Private Peter Hogan, a Free State soldier from Carlow, was shot dead[7].

Aughnagoppel bridge, blown February 1923

Damaged bridges could also prove dangerous to unsuspecting travellers. For example, at Battlestown, Ramsgrange, a destroyed bridge over the River Dungulph left the local post mistress unconscious after she unwittingly ‘cycled into the chasm’[8]. Similarly, at Rathmacknee, Piercestown, a motorcyclist was injured when he tried to drive over a broken bridge[9], while at Kiltrea, Caim, a Ford car was badly wrecked when it crashed through another destroyed bridge[10].

Even worse was to occur at Kiltrea in March 1923, when Michael O’Brien, a native of Caim, drowned while attempting to traverse the still partially-demolished edifice. Unsurprisingly, damaged bridges were also a danger to livestock, especially cart horses.  In July 1922 an attempt to cross a bridge at Aughclare left a pony fatally wounded[11], while another cart horse was injured while trying to navigate Edermine bridge[12], Bree in 1923. Similarly, an escaped horse drowned while trying the cross the destroyed bridge in Wexford town in December 1922[13].

Kiltrea bridge, blown July 1922, Michael Roche drowned here in March 1923

The widespread destruction of bridges also caused considerable hardship for local communities, who found their access to villages, towns and markets severely restricted.  As a result, considerable pressure was put on Wexford County Council to carry out repairs[14]. However, due to the ongoing lawless nature of the countryside, this was not always possible. For example, the bridge at Wexford town was severely damaged by the anti-Treaty IRA in July 1922, when a circa 90ft span of the structure was burned. The County Council quickly employed a contractor to carry out repairs, but construction work was repeatedly stopped due to threats from the anti-Treaty IRA. When this didn’t deter the workmen, they were fired upon by snipers[15]. Unsurprisingly, this halted all work on the bridge and repairs only resumed when the Free State army took over the project and provided a constant military guard.

Similarly, men repairing a bridge at Woodville, New Ross, were accosted by anti-Treaty IRA gunmen, who forced the builders to destroy their own work[16]. Even when repairs were successful, they often didn’t last long as the often IRA returned and damaged the bridges again. For instance, the bridges at Scarawalsh, Moneytucker and Ballymacar were all attacked on a number of occasions.

[1] The Free Press, 3rd of February 1923, p. 5

[2] Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/489

[3] Claim made in June 1936 under the Damage to Property Act

[4] Compensation file: FIN/COMP/2/25/584

[5] The Southern Star, 29th of July 1922, p. 4

[6] The Free Press, 26th of August 1922, p. 4

[7] Mac Suain, S. (1995) County Wexford’s Civil War, p.50

[8] The Free Press, 22nd of October 1922, p. 5

[9] Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/505

[10] The Free Press, 7th of October 1922, p. 4

[11] Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/572

[12] County Council Minute Books, 1922


[14] Wexford County Council Minute Books, 1922

[15] The Free Press, 16th of September 1922, p. 5

[16] Wexford County Council Minute Books, 1922

Provisional Gazetteer of damaged Civil War bridges

1.            Ardcandrisk bridge 1, Glynn

This bridge was damaged in July 1922 when a 12-foot hole was blown in the arch. However, it remained passable on foot (source: County Council Minutes).

2.            Rathaspeck bridge, Piercestown

It was damaged a number of times over the course of the Civil War. The first occasion was in July 1922 when explosives were used to blow a large hole in the bridge. Afterwards it was impassable to traffic but the underlying arch remained intact (sources: County Council Minutes & The Free Press). 

3.            Ballymackassy bridge, Clonroche/Davidstown

The bridge was blown up in January 1923 and again in February 1923, when it was very badly damaged (source: The Free Press).

4.            Aughnagoppel bridge, Clonroche

he bridge was blown up in February 1923 and largely destroyed (source: The Free Press).

5.            Moyne bridge, Enniscorthy

In October 1922 the Irish Independent reported that a temporary repair to Moyne bridge, Enniscorthy was destroyed by the anti-treaty IRA (source: The Irish Independent).

6.            Scarawalsh bridge, EnniscorthyThe bridge was blown up in January 1923, when two explosions were heard 4km away in Enniscorthy. This was the second time it had been damaged (source: The Freeman’s Journal).

7.            Munny/Money to Kiltilahen bridge, Askamore

Destroyed by ‘irregulars’ (anti-Treaty IRA) in July 1922 (source: County Council minutes).

8.            Ballydaniel bridge, Camolin  

In October 1922 an unsuccessful attempt was made to blow up the bridge. This left a hole in the centre of the roadway but cars were still able to pass on either side (source: The Freeman’s Journal).

9.            Ballymitty bridge, Ballymitty

The bridge between Ballymitty and Wexford town was damaged in January 1923 (source: The Irish Independent).

10.          Taylorstown railway viaduct/bridge, Loughnageer, Foulksmills

Three arches of the railway viaduct were completely destroyed by explosives on the28th of August 1922. Two bullocks belonging to Mr James Stafford were killed when the brick arches collapsed (source: Compensation file: FIN/COMP/2/25/584).

11.          Cranford Bridge, Cranford village

This bridge was blown up in August 1922 and then damaged again in February 1923 (source: The Free Press).

12.          Newtown bridge, Wexford

The bridge was damaged in July 1922 when two holes, circa 6ft square, were blown in the centre arch (source: County Council Minutes).

13.          Hayestown/Clonard Great bridge, Wexford

Minor damage was caused to the bridge when a hole was blown in the road surface. This was quickly repaired (source:  County Council Minutes).

14.          Brownscastle bridge, Taghmon

The bridge was completely blown up in January 1923 (source: The Irish Independent).

15.          Lightwater bridge, Killinick

I was blown up in July 1922 and the explosion was heard for several miles (source: The Freeman’s Journal). Evidence of a rebuild is visible in the bridge wall.

16.          Pallas East railway bridge, Clonroche

This railway bridge was targeted a in July 1922 (source The Freeman’s Journal) and in September 1922.

17.          Gorey railway bridge (north of town)

The railway bridge was blown up in July 1922 (source: Irish Independent).

18.          Barrow Railway Bridge 

The railway viaduct between Wexford and Waterford was left unusable for the duration of the Civil War. The anti-Treaty IRA opened the drawbridge and then damaged the lifting/closing mechanism. The railway service was unable to lower the bridge again.

19.          Aughnagan bridge, Taghmon

This bridge, which was blown up by the anti-Treaty IRA, was also the scene of a fatal ambush. In November 1922, a Free State soldier, Private Peter Hogan, was killed by a sniper while trying to traverse the damaged structure (source: Nationalist and Leinster Times).

20.          Balliniry bridge, Ramsgrange

The County Council minutes record that this damaged bridge was repaired in April 1923 (source: County Council minutes).

21.          Ballycarney bridge, Enniscorthy

One of the main bridges across the River Slaney, it was blown up in February 1923 (source: The Free Press). Today a rebuild can still be discerned in the two central arches.

22.          Drannagh bridge, Oulart

In March 1923 a trench was dug in the road surface, which measured circa 2ft deep by 5ft wide. As the dug down the anti-Treaty IRA hit a concrete capping over the bridge arches, which they couldn’t break, so they knocked down the side walls instead (source: The Free Press).

23.          Glynn bridge, Raheenduff, Oulart

The bridge was destroyed in March 1923 (source: The Free Press)

24.          Ballymacar bridge, New Ross

The bridge was trenched in August 1922 and then blown up in February 1923 (source: The Free Press). Now possibly gone due to recent works associated with New Ross bypass. The bridge was the site of an ambush in August 1922 when a Free State lorry attempted to cross the broken structure using planks. An anti-Treaty IRA unit opened fire on the Free State soldiers, but no one was injured(source: The Free Press). 

25.          Coal Channel Railway Bridge, Rosslare

This railway bridge was damaged by explosives in August 1922 (source: The Evening Herald)

26.          Aughclare/Aclare bridge, New Ross

One pony was fatally injured at Aughclare, County Wexford due to an accident while crossing a bridge which was partially destroyed on 17 December 1922. (source: Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/572)

27.          Rathmacknee bridge, Piercetown

One motor cycle was damaged due to running into a bridge that had been blown up at Rathmacknee, County Wexford on the 25th of July 1923 (source: Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/505).

28.          Garranstackle/Macmine bridge, Bree

This bridge was badly damaged in July/August 1922 (source: The Free Press) and again in Janary 1923. A clear rebuild is visible in the side walls.

29.          Moyeady/Coolattin Bridge, Bunclody 

The bridge was damaged July 1922, but remained passable to traffic (source: County Council Minutes). It was blown up again on 25th of August 1922 when Annie Abraham’s cottage was also damaged by flying debris (source: Compensation Files: FIN/COMP/2/25/489).

30.          Mountgarret Bridge, crosses the River Barrow to the north of New Ross

This largely wooden bridge was attacked repeatedly over the course of the Civil War (see county Council             Minutes). The first time was in July 1922 when the centre of the bridge was burned, however, it remained passable to traffic (source: The Free Press). A claim was subsequently made in September 1922 for loss of earnings due to the River Barrow being blocked to shipping because of the damaged bridge at Mountgarret (FIN/COMP/2/25/190).

31.          Inch railway bridge, Inch

The railway bridge at Inch was blown up in July 1922 (source: The Freeman’s Journal).

32.          Broadford Bridge, Ferns

The bridge was blown in July 1922, completely destroying a six-foot arch span (source: County Council Minutes).  Later that month, a Free State army convoy was delayed for over an hour when it tried to traverse the broken bridge (The Free Press).

33.          Ballinatray bridge, Courtown 

The bridge was damaged in July 1922. The roadway was blown up but the bridge’s arch was not injured (source: County Council Minutes).

34.          Strahart bridge, Bunclody

The bridge was attacked in July 1922 (source: The Free Press). Although damaged it remained passable for wheeled traffic (source: County Council Minutes).

35.          Ryland bridge, Bunclody

Damaged in July 1922 (source: The Free Press)

36.          Glasslaken bridge, Bunclody

The bridge was damaged twice in July 1922 but remained passable for wheeled traffic (source: County Council Minutes)

37.          Kilrush bridge, Kilrush

Damaged in July 1922 (source: The Free Press).

38.          Templeshanbo bridge, Ballindaggin

The bridge as ‘pulled down’ in July 1922 (source: County Council Minutes).

39.          Kiltrea bridge 1 (road past pottery), Caim

The bridge was blown up in July 1922 (source: The Free Press). Centre arch was almost completely gone (source: County Council minutes). In October 1922 a Ford car belonging to Michael Roche was badly wrecked when it crashed through the broken bridge. Even worse was to occur at Kiltrea in March 1923, when Michael O’Brien, a native of Caim, drowned while attempting to traverse the still partially demolished bridge (The Free Press & Freeman’s Journal).

40.          Kiltrea Bridge 2, Caim

The second bridge at Kiltrea was blown up in July 1922. Afterwards a single arch was completely gone (source: County Council Minutes).

41.          Woodville bridge, New Ross

A single arched bridge at Woodville was destroyed July 1922. Workmen attempting to repair the bridge were subsequently stopped by armed men (source: County Council Minutes).

42.          Ardcandrisk bridge 2, Glynn (close to the railway bridge)

In July 1922 an 8 ft hole was blown in the bridge arch. The remainder of the structure was quite shaken and dangerous (source: County Council Minutes).

43.          Finogue Bridge, Piercestown 

In July 1922 a hole was blown in the bridge arch. It remained accessible by foot but cars couldn’t traverse the bridge (Source: County Council Minutes, spelled Tinogue).

44.          Ballybrennan bridge, Killinick

The bridge was destroyed in August 1922 (source: The Free Press).

45.          Mullinderry bridge, Foulksmills 

A bridge over the Owenduff River was demolished in October 1922 (source: The Free Press).

46.          Milltown bridge, Saltmills

This bridge was blown up in October 1922 (source: The Free Press).

47.          Ballinaboola Bridge, Ballinaboola

The bridge was blown up in December 1922 (source: The Free Press).

48.          Dunbrody railway bridge, Campile

The bridge was damaged for a third time third time in August 1922 (source: The Free Press).

49.          Ratheenagurren bridge, Gorey 

The bridge was trenched in July/August 1922 (source: The Free Press).

50.          Carriganeagh bridge, Gorey

The bridge was trenched in July/August 1922 (source: The Free Press).

51.          Tinnock railway bridge, Gorey

The railway bridge was blown up in July 1922, this blocked the road beneath (source: The Free Press) Railway bridge destroyed, on leading road between Gorey and Arklow, traffic completely stopped (source: County Council Minutes).

52.          Killurin railway bridges, Glynn

Various railway bridges were damaged at Killurin during attacks on the railway infrastructure (sources: Nationalist and Leinster Times, July 15th, 1922; Evening Herald, July 11th 1922). Rebuild visible on a bridge leading to Killurin pier. 

53.          Munny/Money to Askamore bridge

Destroyed in July 1922 (source: County Council Minutes).

54.          Deeps/Killurin bridge, Glynn                    

The bascule (draw bridge) was raised and the wooden decking burnt‘ (source:  County Council Minutes). The bridge remained closed for a number of months. 

55.          Wexford town bridge

This largely wooden bridge was destroyed in July 1922. The bascule (drawbridge) and two adjoining spans were burnt, leaving a gap of about 90ft. Traffic was completely stopped (source: County Council Minutes July 1922).  ‘Mr. Charles Kelly, Duke Street, Wexford, a horse, his property, which he had recently bought in Oulart managed to get out of the stable on the night of the 25th November 1922, and apparently with the idea of getting back to Oulart, went along the New Bridge and fell into the sea from the place where the Bridge is at present broken‘ (source: County Council minutes).

56.          New Ross town bridge

This bridge was slightly damaged in July 1922. The drawbridge was raised and the gear mechanism interfered with. However, afterwards they were able to lower the drawbridge and this allowed traffic to cross, although it could not be raised again (source: County Council Minutes).

57.          Battlestown culvert, Ramsgrange

In October 1922 stone flags which had been covering a culvert/bridge over the Dungulph river were removed. Miss Doyle, the local post mistress, ‘cycled into chasm’ and was left unconscious (source: The Free Press).

58.          Ferrycarrig bridge, Ferrycarrig

‘County Surveyor mentioned that some injury had been done to the bascule (drawbridge) of Ferrycarrig Bridge, but the leaf of the bascule had been lowered by the Military and the Bridge was now passable‘. An attempt was made to burn the wooden decking of the drawbridge; however, the bridge was quickly repaired by the military (source: County Council Minutes). In July 1922 The Southern Star newspaper reported that a party of Free State troops inspecting a damaged bridge at Ferrycarrig were fired upon and two soldiers were wounded.

59.          Bolany bridge, Monaseed

The bridge was attacked in July 1922 but very little damage was done and traffic continued as normal (source: County Council Minutes).

60.          Clogh bridge, Clogh

In July 1922 a bridge circa one mile north of Clogh, on main Gorey Road, was blown up. Six spans were completely destroyed (source: County Council Minutes).

61.          Loughard/Loughgar bridge, Killinick

A bridge on the main road from Wexford to Forth was damaged July 1922 (source County Council Minutes).

62.          Wilton bridge, Bree

Not mentioned in reports, but the ridge contains a very obvious repair to its central arch (in poured concrete) which is suggestive of bomb damage.  It is located in an area of intense IRA activity during Civil War. A very similar repair was carried out on a bomb-damaged bridge in Kiltrea, Caim.

63.          Edermine bridge, Bree

In August 1922 the gearing on the lift span (drawbridge) was damaged (County Council minutes).

64.          Staplestown bridge, Taghmon 

On November the 16th 1922 a Free State army was forced to traverse this damaged bridge using planks (source:              The Free Press).

65.          Wellington bridge, Wellingtonbridge

Wellingtonbridge railway bridge was blown up in March 1923. A Mrs Forrest made a claim for damage caused to her house by flying bridge debris (claim made in June 1936 under the Damage to Property Act).

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