An Irish Republican Army flying column, no. 1 Column, South Leitrim Brigade of the I.R.A., carried out an ambush on the Black and Tans, at Sheemore, near Carrick on Shannon, County Leitrim. The British suffered numerous casualties, and admitted one fatality, a captain in the Bedfordshire Regiment, although local sources claimed several more were killed.
The Black and Tans later ran amok in Carrick on Shannon, burning and looting. Among the premises they burned were Carrick on Shannon Rowing Club and the Premises of the Local newspaper, the Leitrim Observer.
It was a very cold, but dry March morning in the year 1921. As the congregation made their way out of Gowel Church from the First Friday Mass they were confronted by a convoy of between thirty and forty people made up of Black and Tans, military and police. The men were lined up for searching on one side while a lady took care of the women. There was no panic and as nothing was found,there were no arrests. Gowel Church had been singled out that morning as a likely place for members of the South Leitrim Flying Column to slip in and make their First Friday.
There was an added reason why they should go there. Rev. Fr. Edward O’Reilly, who was curate of Gowel, was also unconcealably friendly towards the volunteers. The R.I.C.(Royal Irish Constabulary) probably knew this and that the volunteers would go to church where they would be welcomed. After they searched the interior of the church the party remounted three Crossley tenders and continued on its way back to Carrick-on-Shannon.
About a mile and a half down the road, on the slopes of Sheemore, a group of no. 1 Column, South Leitrim Brigade of the I.R.A. awaited them. On the eve of the First Friday, March 3, 1921, no. 1 Column was in the Drumshanbo-Kiltubrid area. A tip-off was received from Joe Nangle of Drumshanbo that the tans had intended to search Gowel Church the following morning. At dawn, on that morning, they moved to the Sheemore area through Keonbrook.
There were seven in all; Brigadier Sean Mitchel, who was in command, Charles E. McGoohan of Ballinamore, Michael Geoghegan of Aughacashel, Mattie Boyle of Carrick-on-Shannon, Michael Martin of Ballinamore, Joe Nangle of Drumshanbo and Harry McKeaon. They all took up positions behind a low wall which ran on the brink of an eighty foot high rock face on the side of Sheemore. From their positions they were looking down four hundred yards from the road. They lay and waited. As the noise of the approaching lorries grew louder they prepared for what was to be a successful engagement for the fight for independence.
At the command from Mitchell they opened fire. The tans then jumped from the lorries in confusion and took cover behind a wall which ran along the road. The police ran despite the shouts from the soldiers to stand their ground. The officer in command tried to use field glasses to spot the positions of the I.R.A. when McGoohan shouted, “leave this shot to me,” and with deadly aim lowered the enemy.
After three quarters of an hour the I.R.A. withdrew. The British made no attempt to follow them. Instead they gathered up their dead and wounded and returned to Carrick. Mention must be made of the brave Miss Early from Effrinagh who risked going back to the scene of the ambush for an article believed to have been a handkerchief one of the ambushers left behind which might prove to be of use to any tracker dogs.
After the ambush it remained for the locals to face the consequences; burnings, reprisals. It is impossible to say how many English were killed at Sheemore. The estimates are from fifteen to twenty and one officer killed. As is the case of so many ambushes, one will never know.