Centenary of “Noble Six” Remembered in New Book

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Tuesday 20th September marked the 100-year anniversary of the execution of six anti-Treaty IRA men on the mountains north of Sligo. It was fitting, therefore, that a new book about the men was launched that evening in Sligo town. 

The book, titled “The Six: the Lives and Memorialisation of Sligo’s Noble Six” was written by Dr James Bonsall (Fourth Dimension Prospection Ltd), Dr Marion Dowd (Atlantic Technological University) and Robert Mulraney (Independent archaeologist). The team decided to write the book earlier this year when they realised how little was known about the six men.

Dr Marion O'Dowd, Atlantic Technological University Lecturer and co-author of the book speaks with Senator Michael McDowell, nephew of Brian Mac Néill, one of the "Noble Six" killed 100 years ago.

In September 1922, the Free State Army began to close in on the headquarters of the North Sligo IRA at Rahelly House 12km to the north of Sligo town.

The IRA were forced to evacuate the house and retreated to Benbulben Mountain and safe houses in the vicinity. The army followed in close pursuit. On 20 September 1922, Brigadier General Seamus Devins, Divisional Adjutant Brian Mac Néill, Lieutenant Paddy Carroll and Volunteer Joseph Banks were captured on King’s Mountain and executed.

A few hours later, Captain Harry Benson and Volunteer Tommy Langan were killed on Benwiskin Mountain. In time, the six men became known as “Sligo’s Noble Six”.

The new book explores the lives of the six men based on contemporary newspapers, intelligence reports, military archives, audio recordings and interviews with relatives.

The book was launched by noted historian Dr Michael Farry in Liber Bookshop in Sligo town, with entertainment supplied by Carmel Gunning who sang a song written decades ago about the Noble Six.

The launch was attended by relatives of the men, including Senator Michael McDowell, nephew of Brian Mac Néill; Dr Jimmy Devins, grandson of Seamus Devins; and Aisling Kenehan, grandniece of Joe Banks.