Ignatius O’Neill, O. C. of the 4th Battalion of the Mid Clare Brigade

Ignatius O’Neill was born in Miltown Malbay, Co Clare in 1896, son of Hugh and Ethel O’Neill (nee Hynes) general merchants in Miltown at the time. He was educated locally and at Blackrock College in Dublin where, as well as being an excellent student he excelled at all sports including athletics and rugby. On completion of his studies, along with two local friends he emigrated to America, and on the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914 crossed the border into Canada and joined the Irish Guards.
Posted to the western front in 1915 He served at Ypres and the Somme where he was wounded in action. Repatriated to the U.K. to recover from his wounds, he returned to Ireland where he joined the 4th Battalion of the Mid Clare Brigade. He quickly established himself as a valuable member of the unit proving to be an excellent instructor and organiser. Because of this and his previous military experience he was quickly promoted to the rank of Commandant and appointed O. C. of the Battalion.
On 22nd February 1920 in an ambush on the R.I.C. at Crowe’s Bridge near Inagh he received a leg wound, and his comrade Comdt. Martin Devitt, Vice O.C. of the Mid Clare Brigade was mortally wounded. On 22nd September 1920 Ignatius O’Neill commanded Volunteers of the 4th Battalion in the Rineen ambush between Miltown Malbay and Lahinch when a Crossley tender carrying six R.I.C. men was attacked and all the occupants killed. In the withdrawal and rearguard action fought under heavy fire from British military reinforcements who arrived unexpectedly on the scene, O’Neill, and Volunteer Michael Curtin, were both wounded and had to be carried from the scene. They were attended to by Dr Michael Hillery at Moloney’s house in Lackamore. Ignatius later recuperated near Kilfenora and received further attention from Doctor Pearson of Lisdoonvarna while Michael Curtin was cared for in the Moy company area.
Ignatius O’Neill recovered quickly and took part in the capture of Ruan R.I.C. Barracks on the 20th October, and the Moanreel Ambush on 18th December 1920. At a Battalion meeting December 1920 O’Neill resigned as Commandant of the 4th Battalion citing exhaustion, but there were also alleged disagreements with Mid Clare Brigade staff. One of his last military actions with the 4th Battalion was in his native Miltown Malbay on the 31st March 1921, when a Black and Tan was killed and another seriously wounded.

Civil War

Ignatius O’Neill fought on the Free State side during the Civil War and saw action in a number of engagements including the bombardment and shelling of the Four Courts in Dublin. At the conclusion of the Civil War he remained on in the National army, and for many years afterwards was chief instructor at the Military College, Curragh Camp, Co Kildare, serving until shortly before his untimely death in 1939. In 1923, during the Civil War, Ignatius married Mai Lehane, of Cregg, Lahinch, a member of Cumann Na mBan and sister of Pake and Donal, comrades in arms at the Rineen Ambush.
The marriage was to take place in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary but an unusual occurrence took place while the wedding party was in route to the wedding venue, Described in an article in the Clare Champion of the 26th of August 1922 Retirement Comdt Ignatius O'Neill resigned from the army in March 1939 for health reasons. He died at his residence in Bray Co. Wicklow on the 10th of June 1939, he was aged 43 years. He was buried with military honours at Callura Cemetery, Lahinch R.I.P. In September 1957 at the unveiling of a monument (left) at the site of the Rineen ambush Capt.
Seán Burke, Adjutant of the 4th Battalion said: "Ignatius was a physically strong man with his heart in the right place and whose qualities as a leader and a soldier were beyond doubt. His unwavering moral and his sharp sense of humour endeared him to the people. "