People often ask how Galbally and district was already such a nationalistic area when the War of Independence began. My opinion is that it has to do with a branch of the IRB being there from the early 1900s. The IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) was formed in1858 by such men as James Stephens, Charles J.Kickham and John O Leary. Despite a failed Rising attempt in 1867, the spirit of the IRB stayed very much alive and it took a leading part in the 1916 Rising. The Galbally branch remained active and my father Paddy Lynch and a friend Mick Scanlon travelled to Dublin in Easter 1915 to meet Tom Clarke and Sean Mac Diarmada (later to become two of the seven signatories to the 1916 proclamation). The main advice was recruit more and train more. There is a picture of the Galtee Battalion training camp in my book.
Aherlow Through Time
There are many variations of the name Aherlow: Atherloe, Ahirloe, Aherla, Arlo and some others. However, ask any local what or where is Aherlow and, without hesitation, you will be told that it is that part of the united parishes of Galbally in county Limerick, and Aherlow in county Tipperary. You will probably also be told that it runs from the townsland of Gurtavoher in the east, to a little beyond the village of Lisvernane in the west. You may also be told that a united parish it well may be, but that the rivalry between the two places can be intense, in particular when the blue and gold of Tipperary faces the green and white of Limerick in a hurling championship match.
The origin of the name Aherlow is anything but clear. There are at least two schools of thought in relation to it. Some claim that it comes from ‘the glen of atharla’ or ‘the glen of the heifer’. Others hold that the name pertains to three pre-Milesian tribes – the Crothaige, the Artaighe and the Eatharlaighe – that occupied the Glen area. Some variation or other of these names may have given the Glen the name Aherlow. Personally I very much favour the tribal derivation. There is more general agreement as to how the name ‘Galtees’ evolved. The original name of the mountains was Crotta Cliach or Sliabh na gCrotta Cliach. The name Galtees is comparatively modern and was certainly not in use in any records before the 16th century. It is probably derived from the Irish word “Coillte” (wood) Slieve na gCoillte – Slieve Goilthe – the Gailthes – The Galtees.
The War of Independence
There was much disappointment among the volunteers when word was received in rural areas that manoeuvres due to take place on Easter Sunday 1916 were called off. In the end, the 1916 Rising was confined to Dublin. However, small groups that had been organised to assist in the Rising, continued to drill and whenever possible to acquire arms. The South Tipperary and East Limerick Brigades were products of this activity. It should be remembered that the numbers involved in these brigades was quite small. There was a lot of opposition to “those volunteers” and even in 112 the Glen the number of “trusted houses” was small. For many the War of Independence began following the ambush at Soloheadbeg on 21st January 1919. The latter is a small village about 6 miles west of Tipperary town on the road to Limerick.
There were many ‘incidents’ in the general area of the Glen of Aherlow in the two to three years after Soloheadbeg. In some, ‘professional units’ such as Dinny Lacey’s Flying Column were involved. In others, local volunteers made life very uncomfortable for the Crown forces in a variety of ways. Reprisals followed many of the incidents.